Deca Sports Preview

Mar 26, 2008

Time to clear some shelf space by your copy of Wii Sports. Deca Sports offers a fantastic variety of new and well done Wii mote centered sports games to keep the good times rollin.

I had the chance to visit with the fine folks from Hudson two days ago to check out Deca Sports. Deca Sports is a title I do not think at this moment is on many people’s radar but it will be soon because it feels and plays like the natural successor to Wii Sports. By now I am sure most Wii owners have grown tired of the same 5 sports games on the Wii and are ready to play other sports titles while still encompassing the accessibility of the Wii. Deca Sports delivers on this front by offering ten various sports titles. The complete list includes badminton, kart racing, curling, snowboard cross, archery, supercross, beach volleyball, basketball, soccer, and ice skating. In addition, Hudson has managed to successfully strike the balance between ease of pick up and play and depth. The build I was shown was near complete ahead of the game’s May release. I got to sample pretty much everything the game had to offer in my two hours with the game in both single and multiplayer. However, most of my time was spent in multiplayer ( 7 of 10 games are up to 4 players) with a bit of single player via the Deca Challenge mode. I don’t want to spoil every game in Deca so I will go ahead and highlight some of my favs.

The first game I asked to try upon loading Deca up was basketball. I’m a huge basketball fan so the choice was fairly easy. The first thing you’ll notice is the simplicity of the menus and presentation which is very much along the lines of the Wii. The catchy title song does not hurt things other. It is one of those catchy tunes from Japan that you will have in your head all day after one listen walking around going “Everybody”. From the multiplayer menu you go straight into sport selection. Once that is complete Deca Sports reveals its first bit of complexity. Hudson has created 8 fictitious teams within the game each with their own specific characteristics. Some of the teams are quite amusing and as a huge Dodgeball fan I went straight for the Average Joe’s team. The strategy here is much like the old hockey classic Blades of Steel, players are split into either small, medium, or large players. Small players are typically faster but weak, larger players are slow but strong, and medium players are somewhere in the middle. In basketball, you choose 3 team members to go into a 3 v 3 match. Who you pick to play on your team will largely determine the play style that will work for you. The gameplay in basketball was simple and satisfying. The nunchuk’s thumbstick served as a means to move your player. Where the wand came into play was when for example you wanted to steal the ball. Just like in real hoops you have to wave your wand across the screens to have your player smack at the ball for a takeaway. Shooting also employed the same true to life mechanics of moving the Wii mote up to jump the down to release like a real jump shot. While simple, the timing of your release determined the odds of the ball going in. An example of Deca showing its pick up and play and depth cross. Dunks and layups are also possible if you shoot while near the basket.

Once I had selfishly had enough of the game I wanted to play I asked the Hudson guys what was popular in the office. With all the sports Deca had to offer I received a truly unexpected answer: Ice skating was all the rave back at Hudson. I never thought at this point in my video gaming life I would find a game based around ice skating entertaining but Deca really managed to pull off what I easily see becoming an addiction. In ice skating you choose a routine from three difficulties and a pattern is laid on the ice you have to follow. The more of the yellow dot pattern you follow the better your score. At some points in the patterns you will be presented with blue, green, or red circles which represent opportunities to do tricks. The goal once again is timing. Swing the remote once you are at one of these markers to perform a trick such as a triple jump or a spin. The closer you pull off your trick with good timing the less your skater loses controls. Miss badly enough and you will even end up with your behind on the ice. There’s one more element that adds to the fun in Ice Skating: like in real ice skating competitions the routines are timed. Miss too many jumps or veer off course and you won’t finish before the music ends leading to a penalty in the points.

Ice skating is where I also sampled one major component of Deca’s single player, Deca Challenge. Deca Challenge is part score competition mode and part training mode. Each sport will have a challenge for you to complete so that you can earn a medal in that sport. It’s sort of like going pro in Wii Sports for a particular sport. For ice skating, the challenge was presented as a rather simple hit all the dots in the time allotted challenge. What started out at a simple circle in 30 seconds soon became a figure 8 and that is when the real fun began scrambling to complete a stage with 1 second to go on the clock. Challenge tracks how far you have gotten and in what time you have passed each challenge. Say you finish that figure 8 with five seconds to spare on the timer you will be awarded that time as a bonus. The challenges will keep coming until you reach a final challenge or fail out.

Beyond just gaming with balls Deca also offers two racing mini games, kart racing and super cross. I had to try the Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Supercross game. Like most racing games on the Wii, the supercross has a player turning the wand sideways and using 2 to accelerate and 1 for gas. You will turn by tilting the wand. Racing on the Wii as a whole takes getting used to as the Wii is very sensitive to turns. I spent a lot of my play time crashing on the easiest dirt track. I would notice when I hit jumps I would come to stop and then it hit me. Deca adding depth again to what otherwise seemed straight forward. Like on a real bike while in mid air you must position your wand appropriately to land flat. Failure to do will cause a stall in your momentum and you’ll get passed.

Visually Deca gets it done. Like most Wii titles it looks very nice in 480p with no noticeable hiccups in the frame rate. The characters themselves all very much look like a standard set of Miis. The arenas are all nicely done in a Wii Sports esque fashion. You can even notice some of the detail and polish Hudson stuck in the game visually when playing some games such as volleyball. If you pay attention to where a ball last landed while playing a game of volleyball in Deca, you will see the crater of the prior points and also the sand will degrade a bit in areas most heavily walked on by your character.

Deca Sports hits shelves and May 2008 and is an excellent compliment and anecdote to Wii Sports. Many will draw direct comparisons between the two games and those who are looking for Wii Sports 2 need look no further than Deca. The sports games I played were easy to pick and play while still maintaining a bit of depth for those us hardcore gamers. It is a must have for party gamers and fans of Wii mini game games I think will really like what the game has to offer.

Tags: , deca sports preview, Hudson, Wii