When it comes to video game companies, Nintendo has been there from the beginning. They’ve consistently put out quality, revolutionary consoles and games for the last 20+ years. So when I watched the E3 press conference reveal of the new Wii U, I was a little confused. It wasn’t different enough from its predecessor to be considered revolutionary.
The Wii, upon its initial release, was one of the most anticipated consoles ever. The motion control was really the first of its kind, and allowed young and old to intuitively grasp the controls for games that would otherwise be out of their league. Lines on launch day wrapped around store corners and it was all but impossible to procure one for the holidays. The Wii U, in comparison, can be found on shelves everywhere and for all intents and purposes, is simply a Wii with a video-screen controller. The graphics weren’t much different – albeit a bit better – and there seemed to be no real motivation to run out and buy one.
I got to try it out first-hand at an event put on by Warner Bros. in Toronto (Thanks WB!), and it was an opinion changing experience.
The reality of the Wii U is that unless you’ve actually held the controller in your hand and experienced gameplay using it, then it’s extremely deceiving. It looks on the surface to be a gimmick – a display on your controller that acts as a secondary gaming screen. And yes, it feels shoehorned into games like Batman: Arkham City, where all of your menus are forced onto the controller screen for apparently no other reason than the fact that you have one. But a trip through Nintendo Land games like Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest will show you that there are indeed interesting uses for this secondary screen, ones that developers must take advantage of in order to really take this system to the next level.
In Zelda, while one player with the nunchuk controls a sword wielding Link, the player with the screen controller takes control of an archer. You aim using the screen and fire arrows while your partner sword-fights with enemies. There are certain parts of the game where only the archer can take out enemies, and the action gets increasingly frantic as the levels progress. I had a blast with it, and only the need to review some of the other content kept me from playing it all night.
In New Super Mario Bros. U, you can take the TV experience completely off the screen and play on the controller, eliminating the “TV hog” accusations that may arise. The game plays superbly, and the art style looks fantastic. The controls are responsive and intuitive – something that Nintendo has always nailed when it comes to Mario games – and it quickly becomes clear that NSMBU works really well on the new system.
It seems that the games that incorporate the controller screen for things like inventory management and other tasks that you don’t mind taking your eyes off the screen to do are the best instances of the usefulness of the secondary device. It’s when you’re forced to look away from the screen to do something like control a batarang, or look at a minimap that the awkwardness of the second screen rears its head. This has been noted by players and hopefully will persuade developers going forward to really consider why they’re using that screen and make it worthwhile.of the best games that the Wii U has going for it right now.
A couple of issues that have users in an uproar is the fact that there are nearly 2 hours worth of system and game updates after the initial purchase, and the battery life on the controller has been pretty weak so far…only about 4 hours, with some even reporting less. There are 3rd party peripherals that can fix these problems, but you shouldn’t need to buy something like that a week after launch.
All in all, I’ve enjoyed the Wii U, and I’ll be playing more of it in the weeks to come, so I’ll have some more insight to bring to you over the holidays. The best part? If you’re looking to grab one for Christmas, you should be able to find one no problemo!