Wii U Hands-On Preview

Nintendo LOVES innovation. The Big N prides itself on being a trendsetter in the gaming industry. First it was “Get the hell up and MOVE while you play!” Then it was “Look Ma! 3D with no glasses!” Now, a company that has pleased for years is trying another big step: two screens at once on a home console.

Wii U was presented to attendees of E3 2011 as a new way to play, a new way to immerse yourself in gaming. By utilizing two screens, the Wii U allows players to take a whole new approach to how they game. Its innovative new controller, complete with a 6.2-inch touchscreen, was boasted as being the next big thing. Problem is, as soon as a majority of Gamer Nation heard the new console’s name, they turned themselves off from it. I’ve heard things like “just another gimmick,” “another stupid idea,” and my personal favorite, “Nintendo has lost their touch.”


Of course, none of this grandstanding means a damn thing if the Wii U doesn’t perform as it should. Luckily for all the Nintendo fans out there, the new system does not disappoint.

Before it’s even out in stores, a full year and a half before the public gets their hands on it, I can guarantee that the Wii U will succeed in something that no system has ever been able to do before: it will “marriage-proof” (could be “family-proof” as well) gaming. What do I mean by this? Simple: say I’m playing Ninja Gaiden 3 on Wii U, and my lovely fiancee (well, she’ll be my wife by the time it launches) informs me that it’s Thursday night at 9, and Grey’s Anatomy is on. Normally, an argument would ensue along the lines of “I was here first!” or “Five more minutes, please!” Now, with the Wii U, as long as I stay in close proximity to the system, I can press a button and play the exact same game, with all of the same features, right at my lap. I don’t miss a beat any more. This may sound unimportant as far as features go, but unless you have a large family or are married/engaged, you can’t truly appreciate the implications of this new innovation.

Playing the Wii U

As far as actual gameplay goes, GamerNode’s trusty cameraman Matt Boyle and I were part of a 30-minute booth session on the show floor, where we got to try out a multitude of different concepts for the new system. Each one used the new controller in a different way, but all of them were either fun (for the actual games) or mesmerizing (for the videos). I’ll go through each one briefly:

Chase Mii

This was my favorite playable demo at the booth. Five players participated, four on Wii Remote, one on the new controller. The four on Wii Remotes were tasked with catching the one on the new controller. While the four Wii Remotes had a better visual advantage (the TV screen) and a meter that told them how close they were to the opponent, the person playing on the Wii U controller got a map of the arena AND the location of all four opponents. This created some frantic fun, as I tried my best to stay away from Matt and the others. The focus here was to show how the Wii U controller could be used in groups, isolating one against a team of others, and it worked quite well.

New Super Mario Bros Mii

We’ve all played New Super Mario Bros, so the gameplay should come as no surprise, but the highlight here is that the TV screen was 100% replicated on the Wii U controller, so the player using the new tech could focus on one of two places. Really cool stuff there.

Battle Mii

This was a space shooter game with three players, two WiiMotes and one Wii U. The WiiMotes controlled Miis in Samus’ armor, and the Wii U controller was responsible for the Mii in Samus’ spaceship. This game put the new controller’s gyroscope to the test, as flight was achieved by tilting the Wii U controller in different directions. Being the shooter fan that he is, Matt felt right at home and toasted the Nintendo rep and I rather soundly.

Japanese Garden Video

Holy sweet crap. The visual power of the Wii U is something long overdue for Nintendo fans. This was the same video they showed at the E3 conference with the bird flying around the garden, but the Wii U controller offered a new twist: it displayed certain sections of the garden (as if cameras were planted there), and if the bird flew past where you were looking, the controller would show the bird swoop by in real time. The idea presented here could be good for games with hand-to-hand combat, like if your opponent grabs you and holds you on the ground, while taunting you, you could look to your left, see a pipe, grab it and bash him with it to shut him up.

Zelda HD Video

…not a whole lot more can be said. Simply stunning. The controller let us move the camera around, shift angles, change between day and night, and shift from the big screen to the little one (which looked just as good, by the way).


Needless to say, I was quite impressed with how Nintendo’s new console performed. If what they showed at E3 is merely concepts, I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeve as far as an actual game lineup. Look for Wii U in the fall of 2012.


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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