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Best ways to play Wii light gun games

The reviews on this site are the text versions of the videos on my YouTube channel. The text based reviews use (if at all) very little pictures. Please follow the link to the corresponding video in order to see in game graphics.

Often the question is risen why light gun gaming went into a back seat and seemingly disappeared from the mainstream. The universal answer always seems to be the fadeout of CRT monitors, which were necessary to operate raster based light guns. Personally I disagree and I think this is just one facet of the story. In my opinion the introduction of the Nintendo Wii and the triggered events thereafter were at least as important. The light gun capabilities of the Wii Remote were lackluster with subpar accuracy and precision. This often caused game developers to ditch a proper calibration routine and to include an on screen cross hair in order to sustain a way to aim for the targets. Taking away aiming, precision and accuracy didn't exactly help the light gun games on the Wii to be fun.

Although I wanted to mention my controversial opinion, this is not yet the video to discuss the drought period in light gun gaming. Instead I want so show, what I personally think are the best ways to play light gun games on the Wii.

First we have to discuss the sensor bar. The sensor bar doesn't actually include sensors and hence isn't appropriately named. It merely houses two sets of infrared LEDs which act as two reference points for the light sensor in the Wii Remote. As such one can play Nintendo Wii without sensor bar just using two tea candles. The light sensor is often referred two as camera, but it is important to know, that the remote doesn't transmit any image information to the console but solely the measured positions of the two light dots. Some people think that they can see the life video stream of the Wii Remote in the settings screen, but this is solely the position of the two sources projected onto a grey stage. To better explain this I have built an infrared lantern with my logo. Filming it with my infrared camera it looks like this. If I point a Wii Remote at the lantern however the remote will just recognize it as one or multiple objects and will try to trace their movements. Sadly this tracking wasn't implemented with light guns in mind. When using light guns the player has to step surprisingly far back from the screen. This isn't caused by the technology itself. The Phillips Peacekeeper Revolver did a better job before the Wii and the Namco Guncon 3, the Ultimarc Aimtrak and the EMS TopGun did it better after the Wii. If during calibration problems occur my suggestion is to use customs reference lights and to use small screens, preferably in 4:3 aspect ratio. Personally I use a PowerA Ultimate Sensor bar, which allows me to increase the spacing in between the two light sources seamlessly. For very confined spaces I suggest to use a two part reference light, obtained by cutting a stock sensor bar in half and rewiring it. The lights are then taped to the display at half height, one piece per side.

The most popular way to play Wii light gun games is putting a Wii Remote into a gun cradle. The quality of these cradles varies greatly. Personally I would suggest testing them in person, to find a unit that has a trigger feeling which suits one's needs. Generally cradles that have the Remote rather high up and far back, are easier to calibrate. My prime example for a generic cradle which does this nicely is the VX Blaster from Venom. Usually the trigger feeling is not as nice as with dedicated light guns, because in the cradles the trigger moves a mechanism to press the B trigger of the strapped in Remote, rather than solely pressing an electronic switch. An important exception is the Nyko Pistol Grip that was sold in the so called Action Pak. Nyko Wand and Wand+ controllers can be electronically attached to these cradles. Hence the gun doesn't have to rely on physically pressing the existing Remote buttons using complex mechanical actuators, but directly accesses electronic switches instead. The hammer of the gun is a button. A switch on the grip lets the player swap the A/B button identity of trigger and hammer. Sadly the gun lacks sights, but very much like it is the case with PlayStation Move guns it is very arguable whether sighs are needed on Wii guns as the accuracy and precision are often so bad, that proper aiming is difficult anyways.

Speedlink, Pergiocar3 and Datel sold a notable cradle which has a built in Nunchuk controller. It is often called Precision FX and it is my favorite Wii gun cradle. The insertion mechanism is slick, the back sights are very usable, the Nunchak buttons are well placed and the trigger feels surprisingly nice. Competition Pro sold a similar cradle, but that one lacked sights. Almost the same cradle but with sights was sold by Mad Catz as "Z-Chuk Blaster". Another gun with built in Nunchuk was called Overshot Gun. Sadly in this gun the remote is rather far in the front which can cause issues during calibration if the distance to the screen is too low. If you like the Namco Guncon 3 you could also check out the Thrustmaster Dual Trigger Gun, which drew heavy inspiration from it. Personally I like the Nerf gun cradles, as they can be used as dart guns, while not in use with the Wii. Their handles are a bit short for adult hands and they are a bit rattly, but overall they work nicely. They are a great excuse to own a Nerf dart gun if you don't own one yet. Nintendo sold a cradle themselves called the Wii Zapper. I can't hold it comfortably, as the cable management compartment collides with my hand. That the cradle for the Nunchuk isn't detachable and the lack of sights make this cradle even less attractive to me. A very common cradle is shaped like a revolver. Personally I got the House Of the Dead Overkill branded one, sold by Big Ben. As with the Overshot Gun before the remote is rather far in the front and thus this gun is difficult to calibrate in confined spaces. Furthermore the rubber of the grip was made of a thermodynamically unstable material which since began turning into goo.

The choice of Wii Remote or clones thereof is of outmost importance because there are huge differences in accuracy and precision. The best thing one could put into a cradle is a Nyko Wand+. It is by far the most accurate and precise Wii controller. When using a Nyko Wand+ a cradle with sights isn't an absurd idea at all. However, as the Nyko Pistol Grip is compatible with the Wand+, the combination makes for a splendid Wii controller. The second best thing one can use is a Nintendo Wii Remote Plus. Please understand that the Motion Plus functionality in the latter two recommendations doesn't affect the accuracy and precision at all, when the game doesn't support Motion Plus. It is a fact however that these two devices with integrated Motion Plus outperform their non integrated Motion Plus counterparts in all regards, in every game independent of whether Motion Plus is engaged or not. They happen to be better, but that doesn't have something to do with the Motion Plus functionality. The ordinary Nintendo Wii Remote and Nyko Wand have a similar level of precision and accuracy.

There are Wii light gun solutions, that don't rely on insertion of a Wii Remote. All the functionality is built into them including the infrared sensor. The most common one is called Scorpion Vii and its shell is based on the Scorpion 3, which was sold by Blaze for the PlayStation 2. The switch on the side allows the player to swap the A/B button identity of the trigger and the button located under the D-pad. Personally I like the button placement, but I dislike the sight picture and the trigger feeling. To me the trigger is a bit too stiff. The accuracy and precision of the Scorpion Vii is about the same as the ones of the Nyko Wand and the Nintendo Remote.

Big Ben sold a gun which was licensed by Carl Walther to look like a P99. Interestingly a new shell was used and the gun isn't based on Big Ben's PlayStation 2 gun at all. The gun looks very nice, but feels a bit cheap. On the side is again a switch to swap the A and B button identities. The gun has an ambidextrous button layout, placing A/B, plus and minus on each side. Behind the back sight is a nice D-pad and below it are the 1 and 2 buttons. The home and power buttons are located right at the front sight. They don't interfere with aiming as they line up perfectly. Aiming isn't perfect however for another reason. A screw is located right in the back sight, which causes the groove to not be as deep as usual. The trigger is nice and clicky. Accuracy and precision of the gun are comparable to those of the Nintendo Remote Plus.

My favorite Wii light gun is the Crossfire Remote Pistol, sold by Penguin United. The gun's shell is a love letter to the Namco Guncon 2. The gun has a high build quality and feels very nice. The A button is ambidextrously located in the thumb cut out, which is an unusual yet very suitable placement for a button. The trigger is permanently mapped to B. It is tactile, clicky and feels great. The sight picture is very clear. Plus, minus, home and power are all located at the left hand side of the gun. Below the back sight is a very nice feeling D-pad and the 1 and 2 buttons. In terms of accuracy and precision the gun is similar to the P99. I clearly recommend this gun, but sadly it is very rare and it's unlikely to be found in the wild.

Pergiocar3 sold a MP5 controller which not only has a built in IR sensor but also a Nunchuk. The scope is removable, which allows the player to use the sights.

To summarize this review: Use candles to figure out whether you would benefit of a custom reference light solution. Cradles, which keep the remote far back and high up seem to work better than other cradles especially when the distance to the screen is low. If you don't succeed calibration try to use a smaller monitor. The best remote you can insert into a cradle is a Nyko Wand+. On the Nintendo Wii nothing comes close to this level of accuracy and precision.