Wii U hands-on with video

Get a better feel for how the Wii U plays from our video of the demos in action and hands-on impressions of each.

At its E3 2011 press conference Nintendo unveiled its next home console, the Wii U, coming in 2012. The system's unique controller, which features a 6.2-inch screen, accelerometer, gyroscope, rumble, inward-facing camera, microphone, and speakers, stole the show. A video touted the many possibilities this wide combination of features opens to game designers. It showed a golf game, with the controller set on the floor, its screen displaying the lie of the golf ball. And there was a ninja game, where the player held the controlled flat out in front of them and flicked their fingers across its touchscreen to hurl throwing stars in the scene on the main TV. But the trailer left many questions and room for doubt. Recognizing the unavoidable skepticism, Nintendo came ready to answer with playable prototypes of game concepts using the Wii U system. I played six of them, each of which offered me an intriguing glimpse at the creative potential. To get a better feel for yourself, watch our video of the Wii U demos being played and see the impressions of each below.

Chase Mii

Chase Mii: One of two demos that highlighted the use of the on-controller screen as a way for one player to participate in a game outside the confines of what was being seen on the main TV, Chase Mii setup a five-player game of tag. The person playing "it" used the new Wii U controller to move around an arena environment that featured a maze of paths and ramps. On the controller's screen, that player saw both a close view of their character useful for controlling movement and a top down map of the whole area good for seeing where exactly the pursuers were. The other four players saw the action in four-player split screen on the main TV. They guided their characters using the familiar Wiimote in an attempt to chase down the Wii U player. Simple as that sounds, matches got quite intense. With the disadvantage of not having a broad view of the world, the pursuit team had to work together, calling out sightings and sometimes having one person stay back to climb an observation tower to help spot the runner. It also turned out to be pretty difficult to get away for the full two minutes it took to win as the pursued.

Battle Mii

Battle Mii: The other demo to feature one player doing something on the Wii U controller while others played on the main TV screen, Battle Mii setup a sci-fi themed arena-battle between two players using Wiimote control working together on foot against the Wii U player in an armed flying saucer. The catch for the spaceship pilot is that the player flies around from the first person perspective. Using the two sticks for movement, the player "looked around" with the controller to control their facing and aim at the opponents. This arrangement must have been pretty funny to watch for those not playing. The two regular players would be intently staring at the TV while next to them stood the WiiU player, holding the controller up in front of their face and moving all around. In game, though, it worked to create an interesting separation between the two sides that at the same time maintained a sense of balance. Running around on foot felt a little like trapped prey but then I played as the saucer and realized it was equally tense searching for the ground players not really knowing when one might be lying in wait to ambush me around the next corner.

Shield Pose

Shield Pose: To show how the new in-controller screen could be combined with motion control for a more casual game, Nintendo offered the Shield Pose demo. A "Simon Says" style rhythm game, the demo used the Wii U controller as a shield, which had to positioned in response to incoming volleys of arrows in time with the beat of the music. The patterns chased the main ship in view on the screen, and then ships to the right and left on the horizon visible only in the controller screen, and shots dropping from above that required looking up to block. Simple, but fun to play, this demo felt the most connected between what I was doing with the Wii U controller and the action in the game.

New Super Mario Bros

New Super Mario Brothers Wii: Nintendo had to bring out a familiar face and Mario answered the call. Five levels were available to play and they delivered exactly as expected. There's no surprise to Mario but that makes it no less enjoyable to play, and in HD on the main TV screen it's never looked batter. This demo also featured the ability to transfer the action to the screen on the Wii U controllers. Doing so worked smoothly, and made it apparent that while it might not be the very pinnacle of screen tech, the LCD in the Wii U controller looks quite good. It displays a colorful, sharp image with only a little backlight leakage around the edges.

HD Experience

HD Experience: The HD Experience demo was the most tech-oriented of the group. There was no game to play here, only an example of how HD gaming looks on the system and how the Wii U controller can be used in conjunction with a traditional game. The scene was Zelda's Link inside a vaulted ceiling cathedral squared off against a giant spider. It looked on par with the expectations for modern HD games with detailed artwork, natural lighting, and a realistic complexity to the environment. Using the Wii U controller I was able to change the lighting from day to night, swap between camera angles, and switch the game over to the screen on the controller. Doing the latter again showed that the little screen is quite capable of displaying an HD game.
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From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 8, 2011 9:15 AM

    Garnett Lee posted a new article, Wii U hands-on with video.

    Get a better feel for how the Wii U plays from our video of the demos in action and hands-on impressions of each.

    • reply
      June 8, 2011 9:32 AM

      I am so amped for this console, and for the gameplay possibilities offered by the controller. Thanks for the write-up!

      • reply
        June 8, 2011 10:36 AM

        I feel the exact opposite. Nintendo hasn't proven that they care enough about good, new IP nor 3rd-party publishers to make me want to buy anything they shovel out these days. This seems like it will end up as another fancy dust-collector inevitably, but (of course) ymmv.

        • reply
          June 8, 2011 12:19 PM

          I think they have a chance to appeal to the core gamers at least this time around, and they did mention it will be part of their focus. Time will tell.

      • reply
        June 8, 2011 2:15 PM

        Looking all the time to the screen in your hands seems like a distraction, not something very good?

    • reply
      June 8, 2011 10:10 AM

      Can't wait.. of course, price is the main concern... I sold my Wii so I would hate to drop 300 on this system plus need to repurchase some wii motes for certain games and such.

    • reply
      June 8, 2011 10:12 AM

      I must admit, after some very initial skepticism I'm starting to see the possibilities. The PSP as integrated peripheral failed because it's separate and bolted on. If nothing else, Nintendo is a master at implementing something new and quirky, then developing supporting the everliving fsck out of it*** The integrated screen controller neatly sidesteps a few issues split-screen play has always had, and even some issues that adapted board games have on the iPad. In social circles you now have a central display, and then something you can pass around for individual turns or parts.

      ***So long as it's in the initial release -- wave to the crowd motion plus and vitality sensor!

      • reply
        June 8, 2011 10:21 AM

        There are a few areas where I think it could really shine:

        - Overall cleanliness of the game screen. Keep the hud on the controller. Could be really great for driving games.
        - Additional info in FPS matches: maps, leaderboards, etc on the controller
        - Sports games: keep play-calling a secret
        - Creating a virtual 360-screen by letting you aim the controller off screen and still see things.

        • reply
          June 8, 2011 10:33 AM

          Exactly. I still have my doubts on this console, but it's too early to outright dismiss the crazy new controller. The more I think on it, the more applications even one of these puppies has in both single and multiplayer gaming. It won't light everyone's fire, but neither did motion controls and that hasn't hurt Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony's bottom line.

    • reply
      June 8, 2011 10:17 AM

      I just don't see how more than one person can enjoy this new system? It seems you either have to wait your turn to use the controller or basically be subdued to using the wiimotes. Until Nintendo shows more then "1" of these controllers being used, I can't see this thing benefiting any real multiplayer gaming. Considering Nintendo is all about multi-player and family oriented style of playing. People will be fighting over to use this controller.

      Come on Nintendo... Show us playing with more of these controllers.

      • reply
        June 8, 2011 10:20 AM

        Have to agree here.

      • reply
        June 8, 2011 10:27 AM

        I guess I just assumed that this being Nintendo, that you'd be encouraged to buy more than one special controller and that it'd be supported. Nintendo is a double dipper in the razor and blades strategy; they like to make a profit on both.

        Even you can only use one, the controller can still be used in pass n' play party games. I'm pretty sure that whatever the limitations, Nintendo has formulated the first round of games around them. The iPad has given me an appreciation for family games that clean up after themselves.

      • reply
        June 8, 2011 10:32 AM

        According to the press conference yesterday, the wii (We) was all about shared experiences, the U is all about U-should-not-buy-this-piece-of-shit.

      • reply
        June 8, 2011 10:34 AM

        I'm really hoping, if they don't release a teaser trailer beforehand, that we get some of that at TGS.

      • reply
        June 8, 2011 11:06 AM

        I've read that it only can support one of the controllers per system at a time.

        • reply
          June 8, 2011 11:39 AM

          Where did you read that? I have been wondering if it could support more than one Wii U controller at a time also, but I have yet to see any evidence of that.

          • reply
            June 8, 2011 11:42 AM

            Nevermind, I just found the information under the "Wii U likely to cost more than $250" story. That will be interesting with only one Wii U controller. Although using the new one alongside the Wiimotes still looks fun.

          • reply
            June 8, 2011 11:43 AM

            They confirmed it. You also can't buy the controller separately.

      • Zek legacy 10 years
        June 8, 2011 11:45 AM

        A classic controller is effectively the same thing, just without the fancy features. It will work for most games. But yes it will be a bummer if you can't use it for private screens in multiplayer which is one of the most obvious uses of the controller.

    • reply
      June 8, 2011 10:35 AM

      Redneck engineering: Hook a Wii U up to a car inverter and console game on the go! The minivan docking station attachment is sure to follow.

    • reply
      June 8, 2011 12:14 PM

      Since the controller won't actually render anything, it's just a radio and a screen. That probably cuts down on the price of the device. Technologically it's probably closer to a smart display than a tablet.

    • reply
      June 8, 2011 3:43 PM

      I think additional controllers for the Wii U are already here. It's called the 3DS. I thought this immediately and then read an interview where Miyamoto mentioned this possibility.

      Q: Will players use two touchscreen controllers or will they use just one new controller and the original Wii controls with the new console?

      Our basic premise is that you can use one with a system. If we got to an idea of having multiple (controllers) it might be just more convenient for people to use their Nintendo 3DS and have a way to connect that.

      That being said, we are doing research about if someone brings their controller to their friends house and they want to play together on Wii U to whether or not something like that would be possible..


      • reply
        June 9, 2011 5:11 AM

        That's interesting... and completely possible. I was wondering about this because the system would have to be pretty damn powerful to render and stream TWO fully HD images to more than one controller. But if they figure out a way to stream part of it to the 3DS and let the handheld do some of the rendering.. that might make it more possible.

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