Editorial: Hands-on with the Wii U

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.

First draft of the Wii U Controller

The Zelda tech demo was, sadly, not there.

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.

Although HD is nice.

Great fun. No need to be on the Wii U.

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.

17 Comments

  1. Blitzmage
    Posted 2012.07.03 at 12:14 | Permalink

    I honestly can’t see why certain people, **cough** **cough** RootBeerKing **cough** **cough** would want this as their main platform for the next generation. Everything I have heard from it has been mediocre at best. Looking at the “launch window” line up there is are not many games that seem appealing and if we take the example of the 3DS “launch window” line up half those games will be delayed or scrapped anyway! Sorry Entendo you have lost my buy on this one.

  2. Ethos
    Posted 2012.07.03 at 12:24 | Permalink

    It’s not so much that’s it’s mediocre. It’s functional and totally fun. But hooking an entire console around this one idea when there’s no solid argument for it yet? That’s what’s unpleasant. Nintendo produces enough quality first party software that I know I’ll buy this eventually, but it’s shaping up to be like the Wii. I’ll have about 5 titles that I love for it, but that will be it.

  3. evilpaul
    Posted 2012.07.03 at 14:56 | Permalink

    The thing about the next console generation is that you need to consider the current/previous one. When the 360/PS3 were announced the current gaming PC had a 3.0 Ghz Pentium 4 with 12 GFLOPS of computing power. The PS3 had 122 GFLOPS of computing power. Yes, that’s overly simplified and very much an apples to oranges comparison for myriad reasons, but it is illustrative of a point.

    We’re not going to see a massive spike in performance increase in the next gen consoles, and I think that’s seriously going to hurt gaming. I think Sony/Microsoft are going to shoot lower this time and, possibly due to Apps/casual gaming/The Economy as well as other factors, go for something that’s only 2-4x faster which really just means next gen consoles will basically just do what they currently do, but better. The Brodudetastic FPS games that the kids all love will actually be in 1080p.

    I’m mostly just hoping to see backwards compatibility to the PS2/Xbox era, but really don’t expect that. And the current gen consoles aren’t going to be emulatable in the foreseeable future.

  4. Lusipurr
    Posted 2012.07.03 at 15:02 | Permalink

    The WiiU is a system with a gimmick for which there is no demand, and which is desperately trying to be something it is not.

    If I want a tablet gaming interface, I’ll get an iPad. It’s about a thousand times better than the WiiU, and the games cost about 1/60th of what WiiU games cost. Also, it’s out now, and it has a proven track record of success.

    I maintain that the WiiU will be a dumping ground for ports of 360/PS3 titles, whilst the PS4/NeXtBox will have all the new 3rd-party titles.

  5. Mel
    Posted 2012.07.03 at 15:43 | Permalink

    Because I’m contractually obligated to disagree with Lusipurr on SOMETHING in his posts, I’ll say that a gimmick without demand doesn’t portend failure. The Wii should prove that well enough.

    HOWEVER, his predictions for the Wii U (WiiU? Is there supposed to be a space?) mirror my own.

    Also, jumps in console performance across each generation tend to follow the pattern of: Huge leap forward, a more incremental refinement of that leap, huge leap forward, incremental refinement, huge leap, etc. With the many coming changes in technology as well as business models involving distribution methods, I don’t see this pattern staying the same for much longer (or anything staying the same for consoles, honestly). There’s more I could say to clarify my thoughts on this, but I don’t want it to become a novel.

  6. Imitanis
    Posted 2012.07.03 at 17:15 | Permalink

    Nintendo have had success by being original in the past, but I think they have it all wrong this time. Even the promise of quality first party games will not be enough to convince me to buy a new Nintendo console this time around.

    @EP I would buy a new Sony console without hesitation if they offered full backwards compatibility with all previous generations.

  7. Mel
    Posted 2012.07.03 at 20:52 | Permalink

    @Imitanis: Backwards computability is a strange beast that wasn’t possible early on, then became a cool feature that the console manufacturers could add to the list of bullet pointed features for their systems. Now, however, we’re likely to see less support. Not for technical reasons (though they do exist) but because they’d rather resell those old games digitally.

    That said, I also would get the next Sony console (probably not at launch, though) if it features FULL Playstation support. But I feel like some money hungry Sony exec would likely see that as a lost opportunity and might only be convinced of its worthiness as a feature if he wasn’t feeling confident of that console’s launch performance. It would be a great console moving feature, but a loss in the long term.

  8. Lusipurr
    Posted 2012.07.03 at 21:17 | Permalink

    Mel is (surprisingly) right about this. Developers don’t want backwards compatibility because they’d rather sell you their old games again, rather than allow you to use your old games on the new system.

    I think we all agree, though–if the PS4 was fully hardware backward compatible through the PS1 (i.e. PS1, PS2, and PS3 games), we’d all have one straight away. I know I would.

  9. Mel
    Posted 2012.07.03 at 21:44 | Permalink

    YOU’RE VIOLATING THE CONTRACT!

  10. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2012.07.04 at 05:51 | Permalink

    I don’t see how that screen could look all that crisp @ 480P…

    @Ethan: Do Nintendo still have the controller tethered to the console at all times?

    @EvilPaul: Microsoft have been telling a lot of people that they’re aiming for about 6X the power of the 360. Basically, the next generation is going to make good on the promise of the current generation: similar games @1080P with a minimum of 8XAA and 16XAF, with lots of post-processing and yummy particle effects, all running at mostly 60fps. That’s all quite subtle, but games will tend to feel a lot better – or at least that’s my experience after getting a gaming PC (which I mostly use to play console games).

    @Mel: What about a gimmick whose demand has already been sated many times over by any number of devices?

  11. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2012.07.04 at 05:58 | Permalink

    I’ll get a Wii U after Nintendo discover how to produce a controller that can function for a minimum of eight hours, and after Monolith Soft or Mistwalker release a game for it.

    That probably won’t happen until the tail-end of the system’s lifetime, which only means savings for me. It’s a shame that the system has turned out to be such a dog, because I do like the concept of playing console games on the controller’s display (which should have been at least qHD multi-touch).

  12. Ethos
    Posted 2012.07.04 at 09:21 | Permalink

    @SN – Well the gimmick is slightly different. Not VERY different. But slightly. Never had a touch screen controller for a big screen in this capacity. Also, while the term “asymmetrical gameplay” is probably the worst thing I’ve ever heard, I think it has potential.

    STILL, like I said, nothing I played proved any of that potential. Even Project P-100 didn’t. It showed that touch controls were not WORSE than using the second analog stick, but that just means it’s not motion controls.

    Even in all my Nintendo fanboy days, the only system I bought at launch was Wii and that was because of Zelda. I imagine that Lusipurr’s port-dumping-ground prediction will be pretty accurate, especially for the first couple years, so Nintendo will have to bring on the gold with first party to get my coin during that time.

    Also @SN – Dunno, but I was there, and it looked really nice. Especially Rayman. It’s not like I haven’t played with an iPad2 either. The screen looked really nice. But yeah, it was tethered to the console :/

  13. Mel
    Posted 2012.07.04 at 11:50 | Permalink

    God, summoning Ethos to answer things for me drained so much of my MP. Guess I’ll just continue my playthrough of SoAL to fix that.

  14. Durga Syn
    Posted 2012.07.05 at 18:16 | Permalink

    I imagine the Wii-U will follow along the lines of the Wii for me. I know one of my friends or my sister will buy one, I will try it at their house and possibly like it, but probably never buy one myself. Not that I am particularly excited about any next gen systems at this point really. I agree that if Sony is fully backwards compatible i will have a reason to buy one, but at this point there isn’t a lot of room for advancement with the technology we have other than “slightly prettier” and “slightly smoother”. I think that the Wii-U is more or less a slot holder until PS3 and Xbox have more info on their next consoles out more than anything else.

  15. Ethos
    Posted 2012.07.06 at 09:09 | Permalink

    I can’t even THINK about full backwards compatible PS4. Because I know it’ll never happen, but just thinking about it gives me a boner for days. So many casual gamers would buy it for PS2 compatibility ALONE.

  16. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2012.07.06 at 09:31 | Permalink

    There’s too much money to be made re-releasing HD ports of old games for Sony to allow gamers to play their existing copies…

  17. Ethos
    Posted 2012.07.06 at 09:33 | Permalink

    So they think! Chumps like me will ALWAYS buy the HD port anyway. I just want backwards compatibility for all the games that will never ever be ported.