Following the highly successful Wii, which was aimed at a more casual audience than previous consoles, Nintendo have decided to release a console which can bridge the gap between both casual and hardcore audiences. This console is the Wii U.
Now ignoring the ridiculous name which could have been created by a 5 year old (but probably took Nintendo many months of meetings) there is some powerful punch in the new console which makes it stand out from the crowd. The console sports a new controller with all the buttons that would be found on a PS3 or Xbox 360 controller, but also with a 6.2 inch monitor built in to it. This monitor supports multi-touch and instantly streams content from the console. This allows for having multiple screens when gaming or the ability to play a game while someone changes the TV channel; more on this later.
The Wii U is the first console by Nintendo to support high definition gaming, and it is about time considering the first Xbox 360 launched HD in videogames 6 years ago. On top of supporting the new controller, the Wii U will be backwards compatible with the Wii and every peripheral and controller released for it. Some games will make use of both the new controller and old controllers at the same time.
When I got my hands on the Wii U I was subjected to one game and two demos made specifically to demonstrate the technology and new ways to play games on the Wii U. The first of these was Super Mario Bros Mii. That’s right; you can now play Super Mario Bros Mii on the Wii U. Just rolls off the tongue. This game was the standard Mario Bros affair except now you had the choice to play as your Mii instead of that famous plumber. What it was trying to demonstrate with the new controller was how seamlessly the game would stream the TV content to the controller. It sure did. There was absolutely no difficulty in playing and I detected no lag. Graphically, there is much room for improvement, this game looked like a Wii game; and with the new hardware there is no excuse for such poor graphics when the game finally releases.
The next item on my list is Chase Mii. This was a demo as opposed to a game which saw 4 people armed with Wii Remotes playing as different coloured Toads and the 5th person with the new controller as Mario. The idea is for the 4 players to communicate and capture the runner using their split screen and shared mini-map. Whoever is Mario had his own screen on the tablet with his own mini-map. Only that person could see himself on the mini-map as the main TV only showed the four chasers. Also having his screen on the tablet meant no screen watching could take place. After I got to grips with all of this I had a go as both the chaser and chased. Both were incredibly fun and there was a lot of shouting between the players trying to hunt down Mario, “HE’S IN THE RED ZONE, GET HIM”. I cannot see this game being a full release but would love to see it integrated in to something in the future such as a new Mario Party game.
The final item on my list is Battle Mii, another demo. This had two players armed with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, with the third using the new controller. The two players with the remote + nunchuk combo were able to guide their Miis, who were armed with Metroid style arm cannons, with the aim of shooting down a UFO. This was split screen on the TV. The 3rd person piloted a UFO on their Wii U controller screen (completely disregarding the main screen). They used a combination of the thumbsticks and physically rotating themselves (and therefore the controller). This rotated the gyroscopes in the controller rotating the airship in 360 degrees as they did. The UFO’s aim was to kill the two Miis running around the map. Although bizarre turning around on the spot while playing a game, it was a fresh gaming experience, if not a little difficult to get used to. Yet again, data streamed seamlessly allowing for a lag-free multplayer experience.
The Wii U shows some promising hardware but I cannot feel that this is too late of the stages of the current console war for Nintendo to finally enter with a hardcore offering, despite promising to support multiple multi-platform games on launch such as Darksiders 2. Will this be a success? We will find out in 2012.