Some of you might be old enough to remember when the Nintendo Wii came out back in 2006. It was incredible, the most amazing video game breakthrough I had seen in my lifetime. (And I’m a lot older than you.)
It also created big-time expectations for future Nintendo products. And that brings us to the upcoming launch of the Wii U. Jeremy Repanich and I had a chance to test out the Wii U on Tuesday. Let me be clear: It's cool. Very cool. But it wasn’t the kind of mind-blowing experience the Wii was when it came out.
Here’s the basics: The Wii U comes with a gamepad controller. Think of it as a controller crossed with an ipad. This technology opens up some cool new innovations. On Nintendo Land, there was a game called Takamaru's Ninja Castle. You throw ninja stars at your enemies by aiming the game pad at the TV, then swiping the touch screen to fire ninja stars. Pretty neat.
There’s also what Nintendo calls “asymmetric gameplay.” That basically means that a player with a traditional Wii controller and a player with the gamepad can play the same game, but in a different manner. For instance, Nintendo Land's Luigi’s Haunted Mansion. You have five players. Four of them use traditional Wii controllers. Armed with flashlights, their goal is to kill the invisible ghost by shining light on him. Yes, the ghost is invisible, and the only way to sense he’s near is the controller vibrating. The ghost is actually controlled by the one player who has the gamepad. And he can see the ghost he’s controlling on the gamepad screen, while four of us with traditional controllers aren’t seeing him on the TV. It was pretty cool (even if I did die in about 14 seconds).
We played New Super Mario Bros. U, which is a lot of fun (I mean, has there ever been a Mario game that wasn’t fun?). Though the gamepad didn’t add a lot to the game. The player with the game pad could tap enemies to make them go the other way, or put up blocks to keep you from falling off the screen. But that’s about it.
We also played Wii Fit U. It was fun, but like Mario Bros., the gamepad didn’t add a lot to the experience. And Jeremy kicked my butt in the luge, which I wasn’t happy about. I'm pretty sure he cheated.
My personal favorite was Pikmin 3, a reboot of an old school game. The gamepad is perfect for this. Pikmin is a very strategy-heavy game, where you really have to keep an eye on the big picture. And with the gamepad, you can literally keep your eye on the big picture. While you play on the TV, you get a map of the entire level so you can figure out where you have to go next! Obviously, maps have been a part of games in the past. But to bring up a map you'd have to pause and scroll through the menu, which would not only be an annoying waste of time but it would also pull you out of the game.
One other feature of the Wii U that matters to me (but might not matter to you), is this. You can start a Wii U game on TV, then move it to the gamepad screen while someone else watches TV at the same time. So for me, if I’m playing New Super Mario Bros. U and Mrs. Wiz comes into the living room and wants to watch Downton Abbey or some other weird British show, I can move my game to the gamepad and she can watch her show.
One thing we don’t really know right now: What kind of innovations the Wii U will have for your favorite sports titles. Hopefully we'll find out soon!
The bottom line: the Wii U won’t change the gaming world like the Wii once did. But will I ask Santa for one this winter? Yup!