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Nintendo Wii U E3 2011 Hands-On Preview

What is the Nintendo Wii U?

The Nintendo Wii U is a whole new console and controller being developed by Nintendo and is destined to be released sometime in 2012. The new console itself is more powerful than the Wii but doesn't appear to boast anything special on its own. Instead it is the new wireless controller (read: tablet) that will take the limelight. Kitted out with the traditional buttons and two analogue pads/sticks of a normal controller, it also features a 6.2-inch, 16:9 touch screen and an in-built accelerometer and gyroscope, thus offering new ways to play games. To help better understand what the new controller is capable of we played a few simple but different games which demonstrated some of the potential ideas:

Nintendo Wii UNintendo Wii U

Battle Mii

This was a fun arena shooter that had typical Wii cartoon graphics but showed how the new controller could display and play something different to that of the main TV. Here the player using the new controller took control of a small alien vessel in order to shoot lasers at the other players down below. The others would then shoot back using fairly typical Wii Remote and Nunchuck controls on the TV. The main tablet player used the two analogue sticks to control horizontal and vertical movement, whilst aiming was done by tilting the angle of controller. This was a little disorientating and difficult to handle at first, but after a few short minutes and some guidance from the Nintendo rep we began to obliterate the players below and won the round.

Chase Mii

We didn't get the chance to try this one out in person, but the concept is similar to Battle Mii. Here the player holding the tablet had a short period of time to go hide on a maze-like map. The other players (up to four) play split-screen on the TV and use the Wii Remote in the sideways position to go and seek out the main player. The tablet wielding player can make use of an additional birds-eye map and has to elude the other players until the timer runs out. This game mode had the same basic cartoon graphics as Battle Mii but other than extracting some of those childhood memories of playing hide and seek, we would rather go play something like this in Battlefield 3.

Shield Pose

A rhythm game fully utilising the ability of the table to detect 3D movement, Shield Pose contains three pirate ships out at sea in the distance, filled with cheeky arrow-men. One boat is directly in front, one is to the right and the other is to the left. By physically turning 90 degrees to the left you turn to the left in the game world. Turn 90 degrees back to the right and there you are looking front-on again. Impressive.

Now to the point of this game. Essentially you are told when the arrows are going to be fired at you and from which direction. It has to be done to a rhythm which was hard to follow in the loud area we were in, but the use of the tablet as a shield to block arrows from different physical directions is a smart idea. The arrows even had suckers on the end which stuck to the screen that would then fall off when the controller is thrust downwards.

New Super Mario Bros. Mii

Based on the Wii equivalent of a similar name, this title allows up to four players to take their Miis alongside Mario and friends in Marioland. New Super Mario Bros. Mii is a typical side scrolling platformer with an eclectic mix of Mario environments. We played a few of the easier environments, such as the water world, before moving onto to a harder underground cavern which involved riding a bone train. The four player element was hectic with little or no teamwork. Most impressive in this demo was how the TV and tablet were perfectly synced, but at the same time the TV could be turned to a different channel while play could continue on the tablet. New Super Mario Bros. Mii is the only game we played which is confirmed as an actual release title for the Wii U.

 New Super Mario Bros. Mii

High Definition Technology Demo

There were two booths – namely the new Zelda and a Japanese Garden scene - which demonstrated the supposed high definition abilities of the new tablet controller. The TV and tablet screens looked really sharp and crisp in these demonstrations and the graphics were generally impressive. However, how good Wii U games will actually look at launch won't be clear until we see more hands-on titles. Sparkly technology demonstrations aren't always realised in actual games and besides, is it a coincidence that all the above games are in Wii style cartoon graphics? The new power of the Wii U console is clearly being used to power the tablet so there may not be much left for next- or even last-gen graphics.

What games are confirmed for release on the Wii U?

  • Darksiders 2
  • Arkham City
  • Assassins Creed
  • Ghost Recon Online
  • Tekken
  • Dirt
  • Aliens: Colonial Marines
  • Metro: Last Light
  • Ninja Gaiden 3 

Early impressions?

The new controller opens up the potential for some new innovative ideas in games, although there is the risk that these types of games will lose their novelty pretty fast. The Mii games we played were fun for a few minutes but are obviously limited to a few local games when mates are round. Hopefully games like this will be bundled with the console in the same way Wii Sports was with the original Nintendo Wii. Game makers will have an unusual problem in having to adapt local multiplayer to having one controller which is different to the others.

Having this new tablet controller is clearly going to take the Wii U down a different route to the other consoles which is a risky business. The Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 have recently released technology which betters that of the Nintendo Wii (albeit four years after the Wii was first released) whilst making the games look and feel more realistic. The Wii U will have the upper hand in the short term but could be trumped later on by the same move. That said Nintendo took the same route with the original Wii and that commercially came out on top by a country mile.

A big factor in the success of the Wii U will be the price tag. The Wii U feels more like a new gadget than a whole new console. As previously mentioned, old Nintendo Wii controllers aren't just compatible with the Wii U, they will be essential, at least for local multiplayer. Nintendo Wii games will also be compatible with the new console, and since there is a Wii console in nearly every household what will become of those? New Super Mario Bros Mii failed to grab our attention, and although being able to play on the tablet screen as well as the TV is mildly appealing, it's hardly essential and worth buying a whole new console for.

Nintendo will open new avenues with their innovative controller, just like they did over four years ago with the Nintendo Wii, but will the Wii U take the world by storm or fail as people decide they don't want to splash out on what is potentially just a new gimmick? It's that age old on-the-fence saying "only time will tell" which applies here, although we have visions of the console selling by the bucket full regardless of how revolutionary it proves to be. The key will be to build upon the technology demos seen already and release some quality in-depth games which make the most of the new controller. Simple, no?

Here at GameOn.co.uk we will keep you updated on the progress of the Nintendo Wii U as it unfolds. In the meantime below are the technical specifications released by Nintendo:

Console size (approx) = 4.6cm tall, 17.3cm wide, 26.7cm long.

New controller = The rechargeable controller includes a Power button, Home button, +Control Pad, A/B/X/Y buttons, L/R buttons and ZL/ZR buttons. It includes a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, rumble feature, camera, a microphone, stereo speakers, a sensor strip and a stylus.

Media = A single self-loading media bay will play 12-centimeter proprietary high-density optical discs for the new console, as well as 12-centimeter Wii optical discs.

Video Output = Supports 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p and 480i. Compatible cables include HDMI, component, S-video and composite.

Audio Output = Uses AV Multi Out connector. Six-channel PCM linear output through HDMI.

Storage = The console will have internal flash memory, as well as the option to expand its memory using either an SD memory card or an external USB hard disk drive.

CPU = IBM Power®-based multi-core microprocessor.

GPU = AMD Radeon based High Definition GPU.

Other = Four USB 2.0 connector slots.

POBmaestro | 11th June, 2011
evilgiraffeman's picture
This is looking very interesting and was the talk of the show at E3. However, it's whether or not the new controller is going to justify the price and release of an entirely new console.

With only early tech demos really on show, it is difficult to imagine how the new functions are going to be used in retail releases.
Angelfromabove's picture
Just got around to propery reaading this, Good Preview Pob.
The Nintendo press conference confused a lot of people, including me about what the hell Wii U actually is. The made it sound like the controller was the console and all I could say was theres more to it than that surely?! when it was all over.

Cheers for the clarification on certain things

As for my personal opinion on it, im still not sure on it. Whilst it is undeniably innovative and the list of games (that wernt mario related in some way shape or form) was rather exciting how well it is actually going to work is unknown, im not sure I can see it fitting some of the more core titles to be honest, it seems like a more grown up gimmick. Better features, wider appeal but still, a gimmick.

Only time will tell however.
POBmaestro's picture
Great input guys. I especially like this bit Angel

Originally Posted by Angelfromabove View Post
im not sure I can see it fitting some of the more core titles to be honest, it seems like a more grown up gimmick. Better features, wider appeal but still, a gimmick.
Hopefully some more hands-on time with the retail releases in the future will help us sceptics

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