Nintendo announced a new console at E3 last week. Maybe you heard. It's called the Wii U and appears to function exactly like an HD Wii, only with the addition of a controller that allows you to cheat at multiplayer games.
Well, not really. The new input device is unique in that it features a touchscreen and can be carted around with you whenever youíre not using the TV. Taking all the good things from the 3DS - including gyroscopes, augmented reality and cameras - Nintendo is allowing Wii U players to get a different perspective to games than their Wii Remote-wielding buddies.
For E3 tech demo Battle Mii
, it meant that whoever was holding the massive tablet controller was able to hoard a screen to themselves, while a team of two opposing players shared the TV screen. Advantage, right?
Well, not exactly - this third-person multiplayer shooter was set in a cartoony space station, and while the Wii Remoters were on the ground running and gunning in mock Samus Aran suits the Wii U player had control of her spaceship. Despite the exclusive birds-eye viewpoint, you didnít really have much of a competitive edge as your frenemies could hide in all sorts of nooks and crannies.
Although it looks absolutely massive, the Wii U controller actually fits quite nicely in my hands. The thing looks like an exploded Classic Controller Pro with a miniature iPad screen wedged in the middle, but I was able to reach all of the buttons and the triggers feel quite nice to squeeze. Especially when lasering ant-sized Miis in a galactic starship.
The touch screen itself was pretty responsive to my haphazard finger presses. I was only really prompted to use it in pause menus though, so I donít know exactly how precise it is. I doubt itís as accurate as an iPhone or iPad, but Iíd love to see a game that proves me wrong. With a stylus nestled in the back of the controller, Iíd wager the fidelity of the screen is akin to that of Nintendoís own 3DS, requiring a stylus for pinpoint accuracy in gameplay.
Other ways in which the Wii U controller could take advantage of the separate screen was by detaching the home console experience away from the TV entirely. Demonstrated by a hacked-up version of New Super Mario Bros
for the ability to chuck in your avatar during a game), one can begin playing on the big screen and then go away and continue playing on the couch using the traditional controls.
It seems to work quite well - gameplay was being displayed on both the TV and the controller at the same time without any latency issues whatsoever. And apparently all of the processing is being handled exclusively on the Wii U base unit. I was told the controller itself has no thinking gizzards to speak of, it really is just a screen with information being beamed from your console to your hands. Pretty amazing stuff when you think about it.
Whatís even more interesting is the uses the controller can have in regards to augmented reality games. I had a lot of fun playing Shield Pose
, a rhythm tech demo that saw you move left and right, up and down to protect yourself from incoming arrows. The TV would only display the viewpoint ahead of you, but the controller screen would provide a first-person view of the entire world around you as you moved about.
I would really need to see some real game concepts to see how developers can flesh out the potential in this controller before I can determine whether itís truly a game changer or not. The technology is certainly very impressive - not necessarily in terms of graphical capability, but in versatility - but third parties have had a history of not entirely thinking outside of the box with disruptive hardware. Look at the Wii right now for an example. It would be a great shame if the potential here for some truly inspirational games and ideas was wasted.
I do wonder if the Wii U controller will be something of a barrier for casual players who invested in the original Wii - in order to appease core gamers, Nintendo seems to have gone in the opposite direction of simplicity. But, maybe this is where the touch screen interface comes into play. Certainly, applications for Wii Fit
wouldnít need any real button input, and the advantages of using the controller would certainly appeal to the blue ocean market.
But it really does seem like Nintendo is trying its best to cater to both markets at the same time. It will be interesting to see if the adoption of more traditional controls coupled with the continuation of the Wii brand will give positive results.
There are loads more Wii U pix for you to see right here.