Legend of Zelda fans probably would have never guessed that a spin-off, peripheral pack-in would be the first true "Wii-only" Zelda title. Link's Crossbow Training looked to capitalize on the Zelda fanbase while appealing to a mainstream audience in order to sell a piece of plastic that honestly nobody really needs. Thankfully, for the MSRP the bundle sells for, the title alone is worth the purchase.
In this psuedo-sequel to Twilight Princess, which is more akin to a stand-alone title taking place in the same Hyrule, Link has been blessed with a crossbow and sets off across Hyrule in an epic quest to ... break targets. Well actually, that's not all there is to it, of course. Within each of the nine levels the game contains are three stages that focus on the different modes of gameplay. One of the most common mode encountered is the Target Practice, in which the game perspective shifts into first-person, and players aim on screen to take out as many targets before the timer ends. Portions of these stages are stationary, though the transition between areas in the stage has the camera moving. Some stages in Target Practice are in constant motion, too.
Next up is the defender mode, which has Link stationary in the bottom-center of the screen, and players use the aiming reticule to take out enemies and rotate the camera angle in an effort to prevent enemies from reaching Link until the time runs out. Finally, there is the Ranger mode, which allows players complete freedom of movement within a three-dimensional level. The goal of these stages are to take out all of the enemies within the time limit for a bonus at the end. Of course, the primary lure of the game is the high score compoenent: the majority of the levels have no single objective except to get the highest score within the 90 second time limit. Some stages, though, do have a finite end which must be reached before the time limit expires. The two primary stages which deviate from the norm are two boss battle stages in which players must defeat the foe before they run out of time.
Of course, the game isn't all about high scores. Well, actually it is, and about seeing if players can obtain all the platinum medals in the game. Players can earn Brozne, Silver, Gold or Platinum medals for reaching a certain score in each level (set of 3 stages), and to progress on to the next unlocked level, players have to obatain a Brozne medal or better. Completionists and hardcore Zelda faithful may be expecting a secret bonus or unlockable content once all platinum medals are earned, but sadly, Nintendo didn't throw in any such extras. In fact, Nintendo must have rushed on this title due to so little time for development that they forgot to include a credits in the game!
Simply aiming the Wii Remote at the screen and press the B-button to fire arrows at targets, enemies, or innoncent Cuccos. The analog stick's Z-button can be used to "zoom in" much like most first-person shooters incorporate nowadays, and the mechanic is actually quite useful. As for earning high scores mentioned earlier, the secrety is to chain objects and enemies hit in a row. Ammo is unlimited (except when Link unlocks "uzi" mode where the crossbow has a limited supply of ammo that fires like an automatic), but simply firing away is not the best course of action. Stringing together every single enemy or target is the only way to achieve platinum medals, as well as clearing out all enemies to earn Triforce bonuses and finding gold rupees within each stage. But if brute force is your thing, hold down the B-button to charge a shotgun-like blast that wipes out hordes of enemies like they were nothing.
As for a story, there is none, so timeline theorists go ahead and crawl back into your caves. The original Legend of Zelda has more story than this sucker. Of course, that's not to say the game is not without its Zelda-esque charms. Players will get to revisit many of the familiar locales from Twilight Princess, some of which are now experience from a different perspective for the very first time, and some familiar friends and foes pop-up, such as Link's trusty steed Epona and the ever-deadly Darknut. The music is directly ripped from Twilight Princess, but for the elite hardcore nerds, the Wii Channel Menu music, title screen music, and menu select music are new entries into the franchise. The visuals somehow manage to be a bit more polished than in the Wii version of Twilight Princess, and manage to look fairly impressive in some parts.
Now, in this reviewer's opinion, the Wii Zapper tool is crap and a waste of time. Using the Wii Remote and nunchuk allowed for a more natural feeling of control, as the Wii Zapper felt light, small, and not very reliable. In fact, aiming accuracy while using the WIi Zapper was a bit off, even with calibration, whereas playing with the normal setup worked like a charm. Not to mention, that the extra length of chord from the Nunchuk peripheral has to be "packed" into a slot on the bottom of the device, which is a pain in the ass to keep redoing if you need to take the Wii Remote out for whatever reason. Oh, let's not forget that this Wii Zapper is not designed with the Wii "condom" in mind (aka the new Wii Grip sleeve), so if you're playing Super Mario Galaxy, and you want to switch over to Link's Crossbow Training with the Wii Zapper, have fun taking it off, then settiing up the Wii Zapper, and then taking it all apart and putting it back in the sleeve later on.
Bottom line, though, the game is fun and worth twenty bucks. Throw away the Wii Zapper, or sell it on eBay for 10 bucks, or see if GameStop will take it back for trade-in. It's worthless and you won't use it for long. But we won't let that completely penalize the game itself, which is fairly decent. It's very short, with levels lasting about 5 minutes, so the game is easily beatable within an hour of opening the thing and booting it up on your Wii. There is no story, so those Zelda fans looking for a deeper experience won't last long with the title, either. High score junkies, though, will eat this game up and competitive game sites and fan sites will be ablaze through the end of the year with fake high score photos and unbelievable superplay videos. But in the end, it's not even as deep as Wii Sports or Wii Play, and is just another mediocre Wii experience designed for instant gratification.
Final Verdict - 6/10
Don't even bother with the Wii Zapper, it's a gimmick. Link's Crossbow Training is an average shooter which provides short bursts of enjoyment, but overall is a fairly basic game with a few highlights. Doesn't bring anything new to the table gameplay wise, and rests too much on the fact that it is a "Zelda" game - a nice marketing ploy to ensure the thing sells.