At first, I did not recognize the space as I walked in to try out the Wii U late last week. It was brighter than it had been when I went to try out Epic Mickey nearly two years ago, and there was no Warren Spector to create a lineup to the top floor. Nevertheless, I returned to the small, open space to try out Nintendo’s already troubled console.
I will cut to the chase. In my few hours at the event, I was not convinced of the need for the system’s DS-like second screen.
In its defense, the controller is very comfortable to hold, and the screen itself is very crisp. But excepting Project P-100, there was not a strong argument present for the existence of the screen. Although let it be noted that I did not try Nintendo Land which – despite Nintendo’s horrible E3 representation of it – does look to be the best example of how the controller could actually present a new and fun way to play games.
Speaking of games, the first demo I tried out was for Batman City: Armored Edition. Graphically, the game was underwhelming on Nintendo’s new console. While it was nice to unclutter the HUD by use of the touch screen, I was also not impressed by Batman’s canned animations when I was tooling around with the controller’s interface. It would have been a nice touch to have Batman’s hand follow the position of the player’s finger on the touch screen. The use of the gyroscope was unsurprisingly gimmicky. The game itself seemed unspoiled otherwise, however.
New Super Mario Bros. for both 3DS and the Wii U were fun and nothing new at all.
Pikmin 3 was a lot of fun, and using the Wiimote to gather and distribute Pikmin felt natural. Also, despite watching somebody else play through the demo before I played through it myself, I still did not get the best ranking. That bodes well for the challenge of the game. However, the game hardly looked good for a current-generation console title and there was no Wii U functionality shown to me for the duration of the demo. Fun game, but certainly not a showcase of new technology.
The game I played that made the best use of the new controller was Project P-100. It was an extremely fun arcadey game that allowed some commands to be drawn by use of the touch screen. Unlike the imprecise motion functionality of the Wiimote, using the new Wii U touch screen controller was refreshingly pleasant. It was fast and accurate, and did not require me to take my eyes away from the action. I am not optimistic, but it would be nice if developers took notice of how the new Wii U controller can be a boon if the functionality is subtle and well-integrated.
The best game I played at the event had very little to do with Nintendo’s new control scheme. Rayman Legends looked beautiful and handled as well as the deservedly acclaimed Rayman Origins. The only benefit of playing on the Wii U is the ability to switch it over to the controller’s screen which looked pleasantly crisp.
All in all, I played some fun games last week and I am looking forward to most of them. However, those games did very little to convince me that Nintendo’s new hook really has a purpose. Nintendo games in HD are nice, but getting something six years after all the other kids got it really is not all that satisfying.