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Platform: Nintendo Wii
Category: Sports

What better place to launch the first preview of the much anticipated Wii version of NHL 2K9 than Wayne Gretzky's Restaurant in Toronto, Ontario. As a first time visitor to this great restaurant, I felt the surrounding décor of memorabilia and accolade to “The Great One” really set the mood for the event. My excitement grew as I was directed to the open lounge located at the back of the restaurant where six Wii’s were setup with NHL 2K9 for our hands on preview.

When I first put my hands on the Wii Remote and Nunchuk it felt a bit unnatural to be playing a hockey game this way. The main reason for this is that I, and I am sure a lot of others, have grown accustomed to using the tried, true and familiar button system of previous editions of NHL 2K9. Switching to the motion based control setup of the Wii took some time to become comfortable with, however the controls are intuitive and easy to pick up and play with very little practice.

The Wii Remote is used for most of the basic actions you will perform in the game such as shooting, passing, fighting, and face-offs. Passing involves pointing the Wii Remote towards the player you want to pass to, and hitting the A button to perform a basic pass or the (-) button to perform a saucer pass. The passing system is my only major complaint with the game. With a quick paced game like hockey you don’t always have that much time to point to the player you want the puck to get to. An option I would have liked to see added to the game would be the ability to just pass towards the player I aim at with the analog stick on the Nunchuk. Wrist shots and slap shots are achieved with a simple flick of the wrist with the addition of holding down the B button to get some extra power for the slap shot. The longer you hold the button the harder the shot.

The Nunchuk’s analog stick moves your player, and also controls boost and skating backwards. If you shake the Nunchuk while in possession of the puck your player will perform a special move based on their skills and abilities. This special move could be a crazy deke or a spin move that will get you around the defence and in perfect shooting position to throw the puck into the back of the net.

Fighting in NHL 2K9 is by far one of my favourite features. You can wail away with your Wii Remote by throwing punches at your opponent while you control your balance with the Nunchuk so your player can keep on punching. Unfortunately, unlike the boxing games that have been released for the Wii you aren’t able to use your Nunchuk to throw left hand punches which is a little disappointing.

Once you have mastered the basic controls its time to move on to goaltending. You have to get pretty good at this because you will have to play as the goalie when you get into a shootout. The goalie is controlled by moving the Wii Remote back and forth and keeping the goalies zone green to cut down the possible scoring areas for the shooter.

Another feature I really enjoyed was the replay menu that comes up after you complete a game. You can watch a montage of replays in four categories: Three Stars, Hits, Goals and Key Plays. It’s a lot of fun watching the best plays of the game or seeing those crushing hits on your friends.

The Wii version of NHL 2K9 is built off of the Xbox 360 build making the graphics a lot better than you would expect for the Wii to produce. The crowd is typically their cardboard selves with a bit of motion, giving you a sense that you could play Guess Who at any moment. The close ups of the players are not as polished as I would have hoped they would be, but the players are still easily made out. Overall the graphics do not affect the playability of the game and you end up just enjoying the games controls.

The event came to a close with an appearance from the NHL 2K9 cover player Rick Nash, the captain for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and a surprise appearance from Ottawa Senator Centre Jason Spezza. Being a fan of the Ottawa Senators this was a pleasant surprise. Both guys signed autographs for customers and those in attendance at the event, posed for pictures and made sure that their fans were having a good time.

Overall NHL 2K9 is not likely to disappoint the die hard NHL video game fan and will hold some appeal to a new player and really give them a feel for the game. Get your copy of NHL 2K9 for the Wii this September 9th, 2008 and join in the re-invention of hockey on the Wii.

-John E


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