This past weekend, my kids and I were invited to a private event hosted by Nintendo to get some hands-on game play with the new Nintendo Wii U, due out on November 18, 2012. When the Nintendo Wii first came out, it was revolutionary. It got gamers out of their seats and active when playing games. You could create your own persona within the game via the Mii profile and characters. It was fun. But over the years, it has started to show its age. It has been moved out of my own entertainment center, replaced with the more powerful and better graphics in the Microsoft Xbox 360 and the Sony PS3. But, I think I may be shifting some of my gaming consoles around once again when the Wii U hits the market.
The Wii U event was quite well organized. There were a couple hundred people there, families and gamers alike. The space was nicely laid out with individual kiosks with different games and in the center of the room were couches for additional gameplay. There were also rooms around the outside for dance, singing and other new game showcases.
This event was all about showing off both the new hardware and the games that you can get with it. And I must say, Nintendo seems to be really trying to re-enter the market with a strong statement. Just the same way the original Wii was different by getting people out of their seats and jumping around to play games, the new Wii U brings some new innovations. And let’s think a second about the name. Wii made sense, even if it was a bit odd. Wii = “we” – a multiplayer experience, doing things together and also plays on the sound of “weeeee” – having fun. The new Wii U adds to this with the “U” which can be referred to as “you”. Here’s why I think so.
The new system still has the standard stick-like controllers for the players. In fact, with the new system, you can still play your legacy Wii games just the same way. But what is innovative in my mind is the “you” or “U” aspect to the new hardware, that of a handheld, tablet-like controller.
This, in my mind, is literally a game changer. Called the GamePad, it becomes basically a game within a game. It adds dimension to gameplay as well as additional roles. The hardware itself is consists of a 6.2 inch LCD touchscreen that has the traditional button controls as well as two analog sticks. But it doesn’t stop there, it also has motion control, a front-facing camera, microphone, speakers, stylus and will buzz and rumble just like the traditional controllers. It uses NFC (Near Field Communications) to talk with the main Wii U base station.
So how would you use it? Well, my kids played some pretty innovative games at the event that I thought were quite unique. For starters, there was a game called Nintendo Land which has games as part of its package. There are 12 games within this game and my kids played 2 of them, specifically Luigi’s Ghost Mansion and Mario Chase.
Mario Chase essentially takes an age-old concept of a tried-and-true chase game and puts 5 people against each other, 1 runner, using the GamePad, and 4 chasers, using the traditional game controllers. The runner gets a head start within a “playground” and they start running and hiding. Within a few seconds, the chasers start the game and have to find the runner and tackle them. You are given indications of how close you as a chaser are to the runner and you can see how close others are. It become both a sort of team play as well as individual effort.
The second game, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, sort of reminded me of Pac Man but in reverse. Instead of there being one player and multiple ghosts, there are multiple players trying to find a single ghost (the one with the GamePad). The close up photo above is of my daughter being the ghost (and winning the game actually within a minute of starting). As the ghost, you are hidden, until one of the other players shines a flashlight on you, then you are visible for a few seconds. Your goals as a player is to stay alive, because if you are hugged by the ghost, you become paralyzed and can only come back to life if another, still alive, player shines their flashlight on you for an extended period.
You race around a home-like layout as both types of players, trying to either stay alive or kill all of the players, depending on your role, and do so within the allocated time.
Another game that had a unique use of the GamePad was Wii Fit U. We only tried one part of the game, that of being a waiter or waitress trying to race around a crowded room getting food/drink and serving it to people requesting them.
The challenge makes use of the Wii Balance Board and the GamePad in that you walk around the room on the board (or you run) and then your GamePad become the “tray” that carries the food or drink.
You have to keep balance or the food will fall to the ground.
Of course, there were also the requisite dance and singing games like Sing Party and Just Dance 4. Again the GamePad brings unique roles and responsibilities into the gameplay. With Sing Party, the GamePad becomes the lyrics pad, helping players through the songs while others can dance and interact with the game.
In Just Dance 4, the person using the GamePad becomes the “Puppet Master” and controls what dance moves the other dancers have to do. There are lots of other modes to both of these signing and dancing games as well.
So, that is just a preview of some of the exciting games and features coming in the Nintendo Wii U. The game play is fast and the video graphics are dramatically improved over the original Wii (can you say HD now?) Like other set-top devices, there will be apps like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu and others. You will be able to video chat with other Wii U users. Backward compatibility is key for games and accessories as well.
The price is not a surprise either: $299.99 for the Basic Set and $349.99 for the Deluxe Set. The Deluxe will get you 32 GB of onboard storage while the Basic has 8 GB.
Personally, I only played a couple of games at the event but they were definitely fun. I’m hoping to get some more hands-on with the console and games in the future and will report back more findings.
I hope you can see how the “We” and “You” come into play here – “we” being all of the players and “you” being the person with the GamePad. I believe that for families who are just getting their first game console, the Wii U will be a perfect match for them, and for those of us who haven’t dusted off our original Wii’s in a while, this console could definitely make it back into the spotlight.
HTD says: Nintendo has re-emphasized the “we” in the Wii and brought a new innovative “you” with the U in the new Nintendo Wii U.