After a less than stellar showing at E3, I’ve been skeptical about the Wii U.
The controller looked flimsy, the lack of multi-touch felt like a hindrance on gameplay and the depth of some of the titles seemed limited. But at a recent post-E3 Nintendo showcase in Toronto, I got some hands on time with the upcoming successor to the Wii and a few of my fears were put to rest.
One of my main concerns with the Wii U was its touch screen controller. In online images it looks cheap, flimsy and often ugly. Thankfully, it feels extremely solid in your hands and, even without multi-touch, it seemed to respond to my commands easily.
While playing NintendoLand, my player was throwing Ninja stars at an advancing army by sliding my finger across the touch screen. The title gets rather frantic as the difficulty ramps up and I was concerned the controller wouldn’t keep up with my constant swiping. Surprisingly, it was able to handle break neck swiping speed.
NintendoLand seems like it will be the kind of training title filled by Wii Sports for the previous generation console. But rather than being a simple collection of mini-games, NintendoLand has a level of depth and strategy to it which was refreshing.
Once you get into the main titles for the new system, the changes become even more apparent.
New Super Mario Bros. U looks great in high definition. I didn’t think that HD would alter the franchise’s visual appeal much, but it really does. The player can choose to use either their TV or the controller to play New Super Mario Bros. U and though the controller doesn’t support HD resolution, very little detail is lost on the controller’s tiny screen.
Graphically, Ubisoft’s Zombie U and Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition are probably one of the system’s most graphically impressive titles, which means they’re on par with current generation consoles and could be left behind when updates to PlayStation and Xbox finally hit the market in a few years.
Zombie U has players survive as long as possible while trying to complete objectives. If the player dies, they turn into a zombie, assume control of a new character and try to complete the original objective. Naturally, this means they you’ll end up fighting a zombified version of yourself. Weapons are selected using the controller, making it easy to see exactly which items you have.
Another Ubisoft title, Rayman Legends, includes the most innovative use of the Wii U interface. One player controls Rayman with a regular Wii U Pro controller (no touch screen), while the other controls a different character via the touch screen controller.
In one instance, the touch screen player needs to turn their controller on a specific angle to help the player controlling Rayman navigate a maze of spikes, providing a unique cooperative experience that I’ve never had before.
Project P-100 is a game that mysteriously wasn’t shown off during Nintendo’s big E3 press conference, but received significant attention from mainstream gaming media, anyway. It’s a difficult video game to describe. Its action is so frantic that during my short time with the game, I found it difficult to figure out exactly what was going on. Essentially, the player controls a large group of heroes that move as a unit and battles alien invaders.
Interestingly, after powering up an attack meter, these heroes can then be controlled by utilizing touch screen commands on the controller screen. Many gamer journalists are touting Project P-100 as the best Wii U title at E3 this year.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 seems to look and play exactly like the first New Super Mario Bros. for the DS. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The first Mario side scrolling reboot was an extremely solid DS title and there isn’t much point in fixing a game that isn’t broken
It’s curious Nintendo has chosen to create a new entry in the Luigi’s Mansion series, considering the first Luigi’s Mansion for Gamecube was a critical and commercial failure. The quirky title features Mario’s famous brother searching through a creepy mansion. The title seems slow-paced and I quickly lost interest. But with more playing time, I think Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon could be enjoyable.
With tons of information concerning the Wii U still up in the air, it’s difficult to give a final verdict on the upcoming home console. Nintendo still hasn’t announced anything regarding either a new 3D Mario or a Zelda title, expected price tag on the system or a release date, though its expected launch is sometime this November.
My short time with the device quelled some of my fears, but the Wii U still doesn’t feel like a next generation console, as fun as its core titles promise to be.