The Average Gamer

Hands-On Thoughts About the Wii U

Late into the dying moments of E3 2011 we finally got our hands on the new Wii U controller. Here’s me showing off my defensive skills with the only demo that even remotely resembled a game. The Pirate Demo! Erm… I mean… The Shield Pose Demo!

Most of the technical demos were pretty dry, as you might expect. I have spared you the video footage of me failing to draw a 70° angle, so consider yourself lucky. We did see a couple of stands showing beautiful high-definition footage of a zen garden and of Zelda’s Link, presumably from an upcoming game. It’s not the most original but I do quite like the idea of using a hand-held touch screen to manage an RPG’s map and inventory.

The Controller


Nintendo Wii U Controller And Console

The controller itself is… interesting. It’s barely ergonomic at all. You can see the ridge at the back from the trigger buttons but there’s nowhere you can really grip and feel confident that you’re not going to drop it when you reach for the shoulder buttons. It’s made of a durable plastic that makes it feel rather like THQ’s UDraw – I’m not worried about breaking the shell, that’s for sure.

The thing about the Wii U controller is this: we’ve been shown nice concepts like the shuriken demo shown at the 2-minute mark of Nintendo’s reveal video but we’ve already seen this type of human-computer interface across several of the many Nintendo DS iterations. The touch and dual screens have been out since 2004 and I’m still waiting for that mind-blowing implementation to capture me the way Kinect did on day one.

As you could see in the video, the gyroscopic/directional sensor can be a fun way to give you a window into another world. This year’s 3DS does the same thing. I’ll admit, as someone who exclusively plays handheld consoles on the Tube or when sick in bed, I’m far more likely to use any gyroscopic controls in the safety of my living room than on a train. Scaling these up to a big HD screen is no bad thing. However, I have yet to see or hear a killer idea that would make me want to fork out for yet another console, especially if only one gamer will be able to use the tablet controller. Buying a games console to magnify a web page? Please…

Why Buy?

Nintendo tried to sell Wii U in their reveal trailer with the point that if someone wants to use the television, you can carry on playing your game on the small screen. No. Just… no. When I’m playing a game from a HD console on a 40-inch television I want the full, immersive, big screen, surround-sound experience. If I wanted to play arcade-style games on a small screen I’d borrow Nick’s iPad. Transferring to a portable machine would have been a huge advantage 10 years ago when we were all reliant on save points to preserve our progress. Expectations are different these days.

Let me be clear – I think that having a powerful machine capable of HD graphics will be a great advantage in that more companies will be willing to develop for it. More minds, more ideas, more creativity. I am excited to see what concepts better minds than my own will come up with for this, but wary given the similarities to the (3)DS.

Even though prancing around to the jaunty demo music was fun, I just can’t see a reason to start saving the pennies yet. Can you?