Other: Wii Remote Plus Required
ESPN Sports Connection Review
With Nintendo using Nintendo Land as their mini-game collection launch title, ESPN Sports Connection represents the only way to get yourself a compilation of bite-sized Wii U sports games. Loaded with soccer, golf, baseball, football, tennis, and karting, is this title worth the investment?
What I Liked
A common theme you’ll notice as I dissect each sport within Sports Connection is that while I liked all the sports included in the game, they all have some big drawbacks.
When it comes to football, controlling it is pretty straight forward. The defense uses the GamePad to control your defenders in real time, trying to sack the quarterback or intercept a pass, while the Wii Remote controls your quarterback attempting to throw the ball. These both work about as well as you could hope for, but what holds it back is the basic nature of it all.
You only ever have two options of people to throw the ball to, which just feels like one too few. Out of your six person defense, you can only control three of those people. It makes management easy, but giving some sort of options to the people on the line of scrimmage would have been much better. If you do manage to make a pass to your receiver, you and the defensive player enter into a weird button tapping minigame that determines how much more yardage you get, offering no skill whatsoever. Lastly, the point after is an automatic thing, rather than having you do something on the touch screen to try to block the kick.
Tennis and Golf
You’re probably wondering why I put these two together. Well, tennis and golf are the two most overused games within a sports game collection and Sports Connection does them exactly the same as everyone else, with only marginal changes, but keeps them fun.
With tennis, you still swing your Wii Remotes to hit the ball, adding extra motion if you want to lob it or smash it. You can choose to forego the Wii Remote and use the GamePad, which has you swiping on the touch screen to perform your movements. It works well enough, though the Wii Remote is clearly the better option.
As for golf, it’s exactly what you’d expect. There are a handful of holes for you to go through as you hit the ball using the Wii Remote and try to get the best score. About the only improvement over Wii Sports is that you now know where the hole is in relation to the power of your shot, making it a little easier to judge where the ball will land.
Basically, you won’t be getting anything much different than you’ve played before, though they still offer plenty of enjoyment.
With Wii Sports, baseball is probably the game I spent the most time with. The pitch and swing mechanics were so intuitive, it was a blast to play with a friend. In Sports Connection, you still use the Wii Remote (Motion Plus required) to swing while the GamePad is relegated to pitching and fielding.
What hurts the baseball in this game is that the pitcher has the option to throw the craziest pitches. Since you just draw the path of the ball with the GamePad, you can do multiple loops before the ball reaches the plate, giving the hitter little chance. If everyone plays by the rules though, pitching and hitting is almost as fun as Wii Sports.
As for fielding, it takes a long time to get used to. By using the GamePad to field, you have to center a marker on the GamePad in order to catch the ball. It isn’t very easy to master and everyone who tried this out took about ten attempts to make their first catch. Honestly, fielding should have been axed because it feels unnecessarily obtuse.
Surprisingly, the best looking sport graphics-wise is also the blandest. With karting you are given a choice of 11 different tracks for which you and up to four friends can race in (the GamePad is the best option so keep it for yourself). Other than that, there’s really nothing here.
Sure, you can powerslide to build up your boost meter, but there’s no weapons, no hitting other cars, the tracks all seem like copies of each other, and there’s no boost pads or anything special. I still had fun with karting when lots of people were present, it’s just disappointing there was so little offered
This is one mode that absolutely screams for the use of two GamePads, or a Pro Controller at the very least. I say this because whereas the holder of the GamePad gets full analog control of their players, the Wii Remote holder gets stuck with the d-pad. The soccer playing built around it is easy enough — you shoot, pass, and can take out defenders, but trying to control a player in something this fast paced with something so limited as the d-pad will give the Wii Remote holder a serious disadvantage.
What I Didn’t Like
Loading Times and Graphics
I don’t really want to use the word atrocious when it comes to the loading times, though it’s an accurate description. Going from the button you hit to start the sport to actual seeing the game show up on screen will take a minimum of 20 seconds, and sometimes upwards of 60. For a game that is meant to be played in short bursts, they don’t really accommodate that very well.
What really doesn’t make sense about the loading times is how bad the graphics are. The diamonds, pitches, and fields you play all lack much detail and the avatars you can choose from are about as highly detailed as your Mii’s, though they do have limbs.
While ESPN Sports Connection may have some drawbacks that keep this game from being a must-have for Wii U owners, it does offer a lot of fun times. If you have a bunch of friends over, it’s easier to overlook the problems, with trying to beat each other taking the main focus.
ESPN Sports Connection was reviewed with a copy provided by Ubisoft.