Link's Crossbow Training Hands-On

Nintendo's mascot takes some time out of his busy schedule to offer his services as a crossbow instructor. We sign up for some classes.

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Link's Crossbow Training is another of Nintendo's unique titles that mixes gameplay with some learning. While not as compelling as, say, the Brain Age or Big Brain Academy titles, Link's Crossbow Training still offers useful instruction for the day you happen to be stuck in Hyrule with a crossbow. The game is set to be packed in with the Wii Zapper accessory for the system. We had the chance to spend some time with a few levels of a work-in-progress version of the game and zapper, and we're pleased with how it's shaping up.

The demo (and, we expect, the game itself) doesn't spend much time on story. You'll play as Link and go around shooting stuff, plain and simple. However, if visions of some of the less-than-exciting Super Scope games come rushing back to veteran players, take heart--Link's Crossbow Training seems pretty fun. The three stages we tried broke down into three basic types of shooting gameplay that worked well with the zapper. The first is your standard old-school rail shooting that takes you on a set route through an area and requires you to nail targets. The familiar game type is livened up by a combo system and branching paths. The points you earn from shooting a target vary according to how close to the bull's eye you hit it. In addition, you'll gain a multiplier that bumps up the points you earn as long as you don't miss a shot. Finally, if you're quick, you can fire on extra items for points and, in the case of scarecrows, open up alternate paths.

The second style of gameplay has you shooting around Link in 360 degrees as various enemies advance toward him. Link stands his ground and just rotates his area of fire according to an onscreen radar showing you where he needs to be facing. Though the odds can seem a bit overwhelming, you can pick up an Uzi-like power-up off of green skeletons, which lets you shoot a quick stream of shots for a limited time. The third style of play is the most active and requires you to move Link through an area and shoot a set amount of enemies before time runs out.

Control in the game is pretty easy to pick up, allowing you to shoot with the trigger and "zoom" your view with the Z button (bet you didn't know Hyrulian crossbows had their own built-in zoom features). For the second style of gameplay you just have to move your sights to one side of the screen, and your view rotates naturally. The last style of play works the Nunchuk's analog stick into the mix and lets you move and strafe with Link as in any third-person shooter. Overall, the version of the game we played handled pretty well, aside from the occasional odd angle not allowing us to move or see where we needed to. We expect quirks like that are fixable via calibration.

The visuals in the game are comparable to Twilight Princess and share the same pluses and minuses. However, the game's graphics are really just there to frame the solid shooting action, so they get the job done with some style.

The audio recycles a bunch of familiar effects from Twilight Princess to establish its atmosphere. You'll hear the usual array of cries and attacks from Link and his foes. Much like the visuals, the game's sounds and music are there just to keep the shooting action framed and don't get much more ambitious than that.

Based on what we played, Link's Crossbow Training looks set to be a solid companion to the Wii Zapper. The game has a decent amount of variety and keeps the action brief, engaging, and challenging. Link's Crossbow Training will ship this fall for the Wii, packed in with the Wii Zapper peripheral.

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