E3’11: Thoughts on Wii U

I think it looks like a handbag :/

Let’s cut right to it since I’m so many days late in getting this posted anyways: nothing outside of Wii U from Nintendo’s press conference was of any interest to me. Ok, ok, a couple 3DS games looked neat but it was Wii U — which was revealed to me by way of twitter as I was sending Katy off to Europe — that was obviously the big news.

Living up to many of the rumors, the controller wasn’t a huge surprise but the silence over the console itself was. Is this just a Wii? Is it a slightly enhanced Wii? Is there another new, non-WiiPad controller coming? Nintendo has since admitted that the whole showing was confusing and didn’t get across everything they were going for. It’s almost MORE interesting than what they did show; that being a bunch of glorified tech demos.

Still, the potential was easy to see. Once again Nintendo has made what will probably be the most unique party game experience with one player on the WiiPad and others (up to 4) using Wii Remotes. The virtual spaces that the gyroscope-enabled WiiPad lets you interact with was also a mindblowing display. While the TV displays the “straight ahead” view, the Shield Pose demo let you look 360-degrees around you with the WiiPad held up in front of you. The hardware itself has some surprises of its own, able to stream the game directly to the WiiPad to play in bed, on the toilet, or when someone else wants to use the TV. In a great throwback to the 3DO it even has its own volume slider and headphone port along with a touch screen stylus, dual analog sticks, and ergonomic grip on the back that conveniently acts as a stand.

it ALSO only does damn near everything!

The problem? Price. That’s a Sony caliber product right there with tons of tech inside that can’t come cheap. And that’s just the controller. I personally think the console itself is going to be a minimally enhanced Wii with little more than some HD outputs, basic wifi and a little flash memory. They’re finally falling in step with HD but the big draw is clearly in what the new controller can do, not how astounding the games look.

They also promised loads of third-party support and showed a couple demos but the WiiPad’s features could just as easily dissuade developers from the investment it takes to bring their PS3 and 360 games to Wii U. Where the Wii brought us a bunch of shallow minigame collections we may wind up with PS3 and 360 ports that limply slap on map/inventory support for the touch screen and ship it out the door.

Like most, I wasn’t sure what to make of this thing at first but in the days since E3 opened I’ve come around on Wii U. I like touch screens and analog sticks way better than Wii Remotes and motion controls like PS Move and Kinect so they’ve got me on the physical interface. I’m not the biggest fan of Nintendo’s IPs anymore so they still need to find some games I care about but I don’t outright hate this thing! And after the last few years of being bummed out over the Wii that may be the biggest surprise of E3.

 

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