Hands-On: Wii U
I recently had the chance to try Nintendo’s latest console offering: the Wii U. We’ve heard a lot about this “new way to play” ever since it was announced at last’s year’s E3. Today marked the console’s first time in the country, and Nintendo South Africa really went all out to make sure that the console’s best features were on display. I had the chance to try a lot of different features and titles that demonstrated the power and capabilities of the Wii U, and I’m here to tell you what you should be getting excited about and what you shouldn’t even need to think about.
First up, people who already own a Wii console are in for a treat. Nintendo has made everything backward compatible, from the WiiMotes, Nunchucks and the Wii Balance Board. Everything will work in the same way with the Wii you, meaning you won’t have to fork out even more cash when you upgrade. Along with this, the new Wii U controller will work with all these other controllers as well, giving you a seamless Wii experience from the get go. On the topic of controllers, the new Wii U controller absolutely surpassed my expectations. The controller is fairly large, which is good considering you’ll use the on-board screen a lot when playing, but it is equally easy to hold. It’s got a fantastic ergonomic design and I found no difficulty adjusting to the large controllers. The controller itself is also extremely light, lighter than an iPod, which came as a surprise. I expected a heavy controller considering everything that it featured, but it’s as light as air. It’s completely made of plastic, so don’t expect it to survive heavy falls to the ground.
However the on-board screen is the real star here. It was important for Nintendo to implement a great screen on their new controller, considering that users will probably end up using that more than their actual TV, and I’m proud to say that they did a great job. The on-board screen is gorgeous, with some deep colours and a crisp resolution. It’s nothing compared to the iPad’s Retina display, but it still blew me away. At one point during a demo I looked up at the TV, which had the same image as the one on my controller, and the colours looked much better on the controller. All the controllers were wired to the consoles, so I did not have the opportunity to test out the range, but apparently the range will be quite substantial considering Nintendo will allow people to play their Wii U in a completely different room to the console.
All of this hardware means nothing without some good games play, right? Well, not everyone is a fan of the casual nature of Nintendo’s core titles, but the Wii U personifies party play and casual gaming. Before getting to the more serious titles such as Pikmin 3 and ZombiU, I had the chance to try out the Wii U’s version of Wii Sports and Wii Party, as well as New Super Mario Bros. 2 and SiNG. Nintendo Land follows the same path as Wii Party, offering up twelve casual games that all have themes of major Nintendo franchises. The demo featured five of these games, which involved throwing ninja stars at the screen, using a bow and arrow to shoot enemies, taking part in a Pac-Man like game of hide and seek and more. These five games all showed off something new about the Wii U controller, with some being more exciting than the other.
Throwing a ninja star from the Wii U controller screen and seeing it fly onto the screen is enjoyable, but the fact that the controller picked up how hard and fast you swiped and seeing it affect the game was a bit more impressive. While all the games I had the chance to play through weren’t that captivating, some were extremely fun to play through. One mini-game themed after Zelda had me using the Wii U remote to shoot arrows at enemies, while another two players used WiiMotes to play as two knights defending me from ground troops. Another game, and by far the most fun, was a Pac-Man style hide and seek based on Luigi’s Mansion, where four players teamed up to hunt down a fifth player who was a ghost. The player controlling the ghost would use the Wii U controller and was invisible to the other four players. On the Wii U controller the player was able to see the entire map, allowing her to plan attacks on us. Other games involved the use of the controller’s accelerometer to move and see the game more clearly, but nothing else really stood out. In this regard, the new controller presents another way to play against friends, where it was no longer four people just playing against a system but rather a fifth player taking control of that system.
New Super Mario Bros. demonstrated a more “structured” title for the Wii U where up to five players can jump into the game at the same time. Four players take control of characters such as Mario, Luigi, and more, while a fifth player uses the Wii U controller to create platforms that the other players can jump on. This demonstrated the how the Wii U controller can be used to manipulate the game space and how a fifth player can influence other player’s experiences and it seemed to work well, regardless that having four characters on-screen was way too hectic and distracting. Using the Wii Balance board with the new Wii U controller has some gimmicky features as well, but nothing really worth noting. These party titles did a good job of demonstrating the Wii U’s new features, and I can really see the appeal to a more casual audience and younger players, but what about core gamers?
Well don’t be worried, because the Wii U will be getting a ton of games that have been released and are still going to be released on current consoles. Games like Mass Effect 3, Batman: Arkham City and Ninja Gaiden 3 will all be making their way to the Wii U, along with some new custom features that will incorporate the Wii U’s new control features. I, however, did not get to play these titles, but I did get the chance to play through a good portion of something better; ZombiU. Even though there will be a completely separate article fully detailing this game, just know that ZombiU restored my hope in the core appeal of Wii U. ZombiU took all the new control features of the Wii U and incorporated them in a way that made them feel important and required. ZombiU is also a good horror title, which is becoming a rarity due to so many titles falling into the pit of shooters. Survival is the key here, and you’re going to have to really manage your ammo and resources carefully. Additionally, ZombiU also features a really awesome mechanic, where if your character dies, they die, forcing you to start a new character’s story while your now-zombie character becomes an enemy. There’s a ton of cool concepts that this game is introducing, so look out for the hands-on soon.
Other than that, all I can say is that the Wii U actually surprised me. Sure, it’s gimmicky, but remember that Nintendo aren’t trying to directly compete with Microsoft and Sony. The Wii U is the perfect upgrade option for people who already own the Wii, and Nintendo are really aiming to please their longtime fans. With the addition of some core franchises Nintendo might actually grow their already large fan base. There is still no release date, and no set price but know this; I’m looking forward to the Wii U, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it again.