We Play, You Play on Nintendo’s New Home Console, ‘Wii U’ – Hands-on Impressions


After a few months of speculation regarding the facts of Nintendo’s latest console — due out in 2012 — we’ve finally heard it’s official name: Wii U. Yes, it is a little strange hearing that name, but we might be able to get used to it as we all did with the Wii (well, most of us). The above image is of the Wii U console itself, but the console itself isn’t the most important feature, the controller is.

Nintendo is taking big risks again, doing things that others won't.

 

Thank the gaming gods there are four buttons on top, allowing for easy porting from PS3 and Xbox 360.

First off, as seen in Nintendo’s official press conference video, one of the developers said that it was the “swiss army knife” of controllers, because it does just about everything you could want it to do. For those who haven’t yet held it, you’re probably thinking that the controller weighs a ton. The truth is the complete opposite; it’s extremely light, and when holding it in my hands for the first time, it almost felt like I was holding an over-sized 3DS (no, I’m totally not kidding!). The controller has a touch screen, 4 trigger-like buttons up top, four face buttons, a gyro sensor inside, a directional pad, a camera on the front at the top, and (thankfully) two joysticks.

It seems as if, for the most part, they got just about everything right; I am a little worried about the joysticks though. The joysticks are short, and are basically stubby versions of what can be found on the Wii’s classic controller. My problem with the joysticks is that they pull towards the center quite a bit, so I’m not sure just how well they’ll work with third-person and first-person shooters. We will, however, have to wait until the final version of the controller along with a proper game to put them through their paces before casting final judgement; it won’t be sold until sometime in 2012, so changes could occur between now and then.

Hold the controller sideways for maximum ninja star-throwing capabilities.

So, what does the Wii U do that is different? Well, if you saw Nintendo’s press conference, you might have been in for some shock when the player onscreen laid the controller flat on their hand and started swiping at the screen, sending virtual ninja stars into the television (via the 6.2-inch touchscreen). The Wii U controller was also placed on the ground, displaying a golf ball and allowing the player to swing their arms to hit it (sensing the motion of the swing via the camera). The controller’s screen can be used similar to the DS’ bottom screen, allowing for inventory swapping, viewing of maps, making plays in a football game, etc. with the television acting more like the DS’ top screen, where the action takes place. Then there’s its capability of not even needing to use the television screen. I saw the Wii U Zelda demo played on the controller’s screen, and it was very, very detailed. The Wii U is also backwards compatible with Wii software, and along with that, Wii controllers will be able to be used along with the new Wii U controller for games that allow for a total of five players to experience something Nintendo has been attempting (and mostly accomplishing) all along.

“Battle Mii” was a demo Nintendo was showing off that I got a chance to play, which allowed a few players to take control of Miis dressed up in Samus Aran armor while the person holding the Wii U controller flew Samus’ ship around. The third-person shooter controls using the nunchuck and Wii remote were done very well, allowing me to aim around the world effortlessly. Another person who was playing with me, was flying Samus Aran’s ship with the objective of taking the Samus Miis on the ground, out. Oh, and did I mention that the ship also aims using the gyroscope that’s inside the controller? Battle Mii may end up being a part of a mini-game collection, or it may be a prototype of a bigger game, but I was impressed with the added gameplay functionality that the screen on the controller added.

You think you have good teamwork? Play Chase Mii to test that belief out.

“Chase Mii” was another mini-game demo that we got some hands-on time with. In it, four players who are using Wii remotes held sideways will play on the television (split four ways with a behind-the-character view) and attempt to catch the player who holds the Wii U controller. The person with the Wii U controller had a top-down view, and a map of the level which showed the position of the other players. Essentially, the four players who are chasing will have to work together to catch the other player, calling out to each other the opposing player’s current position, and attempting to corner them. It was surprising just how much teamwork was needed to catch the other player — we totally did not catch him (you’re just too good, Tommy).

 

For those of you who fear that Nintendo may not be catering to the core crowd of gamers, fear not, because third party developers look like they’ll be wholeheartedly jumping on board this time. I was in disbelief when I saw that Ninja Gaiden (either 3, or perhaps a brand new Gaiden), Darksiders 2, and Batman: Arkham City were coming to Wii U. Then there’s EA, which seemed to be throwing its hat (and coat) into the Wii U pile of support. Could it be that Nintendo now has full third-party support? For now Nintendo is probably safe and will be receiving most (if not all) of the multi-platform games that usually avoid the Wii.

Skyward Sword isn't even out yet, but somehow I'm still excited that there's another new one in the works for Wii U.

Nintendo hasn’t made any official announcements regarding their main titles for the system (outside of New Super Mario Bros. Mii), but there is a new Zelda on the way at some point. While some may be disappointed to not see more of what games they have in store for us, Nintendo have decided to hold their cards until the time is right (next E3?). The excitement of not only announcing a new system, but one that has so many interesting functions, is plenty for now. The Wii U will be making its retail debut in 2012 and the price has not yet been announced. Has Nintendo convinced you guys to buy one yet?

 

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Ryan Southard
Ryan Southard 776 posts

Ryan Southard is a video game enthusiast, dissecting games down to their tiniest details. Whether it's new or it's old, as long as it's awesome, he'll play it. Follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Southard <a href="http://nerdreactor.com/about/">Meet the Nerd Reactor Team</a>

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