The Wii already has it's share of mini-game compilations available. Mario Party, WarioWare and of course Wii Play have come and gone on the Wii, and although they might not offer anything incredibly deep or innovative, they certainly sell well. So logically, the Wii Zapper along with Link's Crossbow Training should be a smash hit. Not only does it feature a variety of different shooting-style mini-game's and a potentially exciting new peripheral, but its backdrop is the world of Twilight Princess and it also comes in at the cheap price-point of $49.95. Crossbow Training seems like great value on paper, but how does the game stack up against the other offerings on the Wii?
The package contains the Wii Zapper peripheral along with the Link's Crossbow Training game. Along with the Zapper comes a nifty little instruction manual on how to properly place the Wii remote and Nunchuck into the shiny white plastic add-on. (You may think you don't need instructions, but it's not all as simple as it looks.) Once you've got your bits and pieces together, you're ready to go. The Zapper serves as a housing for your Wii remote and Nunchuck, nothing more than that - so it's essentially a well designed piece of plastic. Holding the Zapper is meant to emulate that of a light gun, and for the most part it does the job. It certainly does feel a little less intuitive than pointing and shooting the Wii remote the normal way, but it does make you feel more like you're holding a weapon, which is a good thing. More games will be designed around the Zapper in the future including the recently released Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, so it could definitely be worthwhile for every Wii owner to have one (although it's technically not essential to the gameplay.)
When you fire up Crossbow Training for the first time, you'll have the ability to choose out of single player or multi-player game modes. At first, you'll only have one level available to you out of the ten - earn a medal in each preceding level to unlock the next one until you've unlocked them all. It's worth noting that the levels won't be available in multi-player until you've earned the medals in single player, so make sure you plug through it alone at least once before inviting your friends over to have a go. Each level includes with it three stages that must be completed, and the stages vary between three different styles of play; on the rails shooting, a stationary Link that you must spin to shoot enemies around you and being able to completely control Link's movement as well as shooting.
The actual stages can be anything from shooting targets, fighting off skeletons that rise from the ground and fighting off a variety of different enemies as quickly as possible. As you unlock more levels, the stages get harder and harder, and some curve-balls are even thrown your way in the form of boss battles of sorts. The key to each stage is to earn as many points as possible, and racking up combos is the difference between 2000 and 20,000 points. Getting a combo simply requires you to shoot numerous targets or enemies in succession without missing any. Miss a shot, and the combo resets back to zero. This means that skilled players can find themselves getting unbelievably high scores, whilst others who don't have the same hand-to-eye co-ordination will find themselves with lower scores, even if they do hit all the targets eventually. This adds a little more depth to what is otherwise a simple game to complete, as people will want to go back and try to get higher scores again and again.
Like we said earlier, Link's Crossbow Training is, when it comes down to it, a compilation of shooting mini-games. Keeping that in mind, players who aren't interested in getting those high scores could easily have the entire game completed within an hour or so, and those players aren't going to have much of a reason to come back for more afterwards. There is the multi-player mode in which you and some friends can compete to try and get the highest scores on each stage, but unfortunately not at the same time. You can't shoot targets or enemies simultaneously, which means that you'll have to take it in turns to try and get the best score. This has obviously been designed with the idea in mind that there probably won't be two Zappers in the one household at the one time - at least not at this early stage - but given that the game can just as easily be played using the Wii remote in the standard way, it's a shame that having multiple players on screen wasn't at least implemented as an option.
As well as just pointing and shooting, there is also the option within every stage to zoom in the camera for a closer view while you shoot, which can really help when your target is just a little bit too far away. Some stages also give you the option for automatic fire, which means you can just hold down the trigger and shoot as if it's an automatic weapon rather than a crossbow, which helps and is quite fun when the screen gets crowded with enemies. Unfortunately, the stages where you directly control Link's movement can be awkward at times. If you're holding the Nunchuck the standard way it's not so bad, but if you're still locked in to the Zapper, it's cumbersome to have to use the Nunchuck to control Link while trying to shoot at the same time. The way you turn Link on the screen is also frustrating at times, as the crosshairs are used to actually push the screen from side to side, leaving you no real control over the camera itself. Often it takes a little bit longer than you'd like to change your perspective for this reason.
If you're a fan of Twilight Princess, or anything Zelda related, then it's likely you'll get some extra enjoyment out of Crossbow Training, as every mini-game is set in the world of Twilight Princess, including enemies and locations. The art style is also very similar, so at a glance, one could be mistaken for thinking this actually was Twilight Princess, as the only notable difference will be the obvious set of crosshairs hovering on the screen. The audio is also distinctly Zelda style, featuring themes and sound effects that we have come to know and love over the years. Nintendo always get presentation pretty much spot on with their favourite franchises, and it's no different here.
The Wii Zapper along with Link's Crossbow Training is undeniably a good deal for the Wii. Considering its very reasonable price, it's forgivable that the game itself is short lived. While the shooting games do have their flaws and the lack of a truly competitive multi-player mode is disappointing, fans of the Zelda universe will find enjoyment out of the themes here regardless. It's also one of those titles that is extremely easy for friends and non-Wii players to pick up and play and have a good time with. If this was priced at the usual $99.95, we'd be a little bit concerned, but given that it's only $49.95 for a fun mini-game compilation combined with a peripheral with some serious future potential, Link's Crossbow Training is definitely a game worthy of being added to your Wii collection.