When Nintendo president Satoru Iwata unveiled the Wii Remote at the September 2005 Tokyo Game Show, most gamers immediately thought one thing and one thing only: "I hope to God they make a Star Wars game with that!"
How apt then that late last night, two years after we first began wrapping our heads around Nintendo's wand and with 2007's Tokyo Game Show just around the corner, developer LucasArts potentially made every male nerd's wet dream come true with the announcement that Star Wars: The Force Unleashed will be coming to the Wii as well as the Xbox 360 and the PS3 in Spring 2008. That's right, finally the wand we've been waving at our TV screens like donuts for a year will finally fulfil its true destiny and become a lightsaber.
It doesn't stop there either. Exclusive to the Wii version, which is being developed by Krome Studios, who are also handling the PS2, and PSP versions of the game, is a duel mode allowing players to use the Wii Remote in a head-to-head lightsaber battle with their friends. The Nunchuck will be used to control the player's Force powers. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? I'm thinking epicness, the trademark sound effects of the lightsaber booting up and humming in the air as you casually wave the wand coming out of the Wii Remote speaker, and those Force chokes, oh yes, Force chokes, implemented by slowly raising the Nunchuck.
Immediately fans hit the Internet to discuss the announcement, some with wide-eyed enthusiasm, others with an unhealthy dose of scepticism. "Can it even work?" seems to be a popular concern. While I won't get bogged down in the technical specifics of the one to one mapping (on screen movements match exactly your movements with the wand), if we simply look at the games that have already come out for the Wii, there is certainly cause for concern.
Most Wii owners will know first hand that there is, at best, a small delay between your actions with the wand and the action on screen. Most will admit that launch game Red Steel, which gave the player the opportunity to use a samurai sword, didn't set the world alight. Other games, like Harry Potter, which sees you waving the wand like a... err, wand, worked, but your didn't see Harry cast a spell until you triggered it with an appropriate motion. The less said about the latest Tiger Woods on the Wii the better.
Funnily enough, the baseball mini-game on Wii Sports is perhaps the closest thing we have so far to a fun lightsaber-ish experience, with the bat swings mimicking pretty closely your actual movements and with only a small delay. You can see why some have said Star Wars: The Force Unleashed will be nothing more than a port of the PS2 version with little or no real lightsaber wielding.
Right now, it's impossible to know if the game will be any good or not, with scant information on how the game will work available. But what we do know is that there is already a great deal of pressure on the developers to make sure the game works to a level deemed acceptable by the passionate Star Wars horde.
And we have this nugget from Jim Ward, president of LucasArts to give us hope: "The Wii is a great platform for The Force Unleashed, because the console's motion-oriented controllers really bring the game to life. We've worked hard to make the Wii version of the game unique in order to truly let you unleash the Force."
On behalf of all gamers across the Galaxy, Jim, I hope you're right.