Back in January 2012, we got the opportunity to have a sneak preview of the Nintendo Wii U video game system due out this fall. You can read the full post, but let’s just say we were incredibly impressed with all the new possibilities that the Wii U GamePad controller, with its beautiful touchscreen LCD, opens up in the world of gaming. In January we were only able to spend about 45 minutes playing a few demo games, but we left the event feeling the Wii U had great potential.
On 6/29/2012 we got the opportunity to spend 2 hours playing with the Nintendo Wii U video game system at the Wii U Experience event in NYC. At this event we got to play full games and really get a much better feel for how the Wii U and its new Wii U GamePad could change the way we play games.
Let’s Take a Look At Our Video of The Wii U Experience -
A Quick Rundown Of What We Played….
Nintendo Land looks to be the Wii Sports of the Wii U world. Nintendo Land is a fun and lively theme park that will be filled with 12 different attractions, each with its own take on a Nintendo franchise. We got a chance to see 5 of the games – Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, Takamara’s Ninja Castle, Donkey Kong’s Crash Course and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. Here are our thoughts on the attractions we saw in Nintendo Land…
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day (part of Nintendo Land)
Three of us got the normal Wii controller and had to run around trying to collect candy – by shaking trees and jumping on pads. The fourth player has the Wii U GamePad (with the built-in screen) and gets to be the two guards and tries to capture the other players before they get a certain amount of candy. The game was fine, but really did little to capture the interest of me or the kids. This was our least favorite attraction in Nintendo Land
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest (part of Nintendo Land)
If you are going to have a Nintendo product, you need to have Zelda. Battle Quest is a fun three player game, where two players are swordsmen (using the standard Wii controller) and the third player is Zelda and uses the GamePad to be the archer. As the video shows, we had a great time playing this one and it really shows off the power of the GamePad.
All three players share the same life force and need to work together to defeat the bad guys. The player controlling Zelda can look all around (using the GamePad screen) and fire arrows at high targets that the swordsmen can’t reach. The whole family had a blast playing this one.
Takamara’s Ninja Castle (part of Nintendo Land)
A fun single player game that makes use of the GamePad. Pretty simple in concept, you flick an image of a throwing star on the GamePad and it goes flying onto the screen at the Ninja’s you are trying to defeat. Yes, you could throw a throwing star by pressing a button on a standard game controller, but there is something about seeing an image of a throwing star, and then flicking it off the GamePad and onto the screen that just feels much better.
Luigi’s Ghost Mansion (part of Nintendo Land)
We have saved the best for last, as Luigi’s Ghost Mansion was the most fun for the whole family. The player with the GamePad is a ghost (invisible to others) who is trying to capture up to four humans armed with flashlights. The ghost must sneak around the environment by staying in the shadows and try to catch them one by one. The humans can work together to revive fallen comrades before the ghost catches everyone. If all four humans are caught before they are revived, the ghost wins. But if they are successful at shining their flashlights on the ghost long enough to reduce its hit points to zero, the humans win.
You may notice that this game does not appear in our video above – this is because we were all having so much fun playing, no one wanted to put down the controller and pickup the video camera. A wonderful example of how having the GamePad allows a whole new type of family game. The player controlling the ghost with the GamePad can see everyone, but the humans are looking at the TV and can NOT see the ghost. We were all talking to each other, yelling, laughing and having a great time. A clear winner.
At first glance, this is your classic karaoke game – but the GamePad gives a nice twist. The main singer is holding the GamePad (and a Mic) , which is showing the lyrics and facing the audience while he sings. With other karaoke video games, the singer needs to be staring at the TV screen to see the lyrics. SiNG also allows the rest of the audience to see the lyrics to the chorus and join in the fun and sing along. In the final version, you will be able to do duets and this should be a hit with teens.
Super Mario Bros. U
This one is shown in the above video. Very simply, if your kids love Mario, they will love Super Mario Bros U. A fun multiplayer game that Mario fans will quickly get the hang of.
Game and Wario
This was probably our favorite one player game. The game makes great use of the GamePad. Fire arrows off the GamePad and watch them fly onto the screen. Want a little extra boost to your arrows? Tickle the nose on your GamePad. If the bad guys on the TV get too close, the action all moves to the GamePad where you need to stomp them all out before they eat your strawberries.
Wario is another great example of how the GamePad can bring a great deal of fun to a game. We all loved how the game play moved from the TV to the GamePad if the bad guys got in close – it is almost like playing on the GamePad adds a new dimension or depth to the game.
Batman Arkham City Armored Edition
Batman was probably the most impressive game we saw from a graphics standpoint. The Wii U is not going to win a lot of head to head graphic battles with PS3s and Xbox 360s, but Batman Arkham City shows the Wii U definitely has some chomps when it comes to graphic power.
Wii Fit U
We didn’t get a lot of time to play with the Wii Fit U, but it did look like a nice improvement over Wii Fit. The GamePad is placed on the ground in front of the FitPad and used to measure things up, like where on a trampoline you are jumping. One important piece of advice – don’t jump on the GamePad!
Wii U Panorama View (working title)
This one was still unfinished, but showed great potential. Use the Wii U GamePad controller and transform your living room into an exotic location from around the world. By moving the GamePad up, down, left or right, you can look around at all your surroundings and feel like you’re really experiencing these locations in person. You control the viewer’s perspective, making it feel as though you’ve been transported directly to the center of the video’s destination. You can even click a button and switch from a day view to a night view.
What Was Missing From The Wii U Experience?
At CES2012 we were shown a video of how the Wii U could be used to read websites, view photos, do video chat and be a general media center for your living room. Unfortunately, none of this was on display at the Wii U Experience. Clearly the Wii U is a video game machine, but with the tablet like GamePad, it could also make a great media center. We will just have to wait to learn more about this.
The Wii U Will Live Or Die By The GamePad
So, what were our overall impressions after playing all the above games? The kids loved the Wii U and always wanted to use the Wii U GamePad. Yes, the Wii U has better graphics than the Wii, but the obvious appeal of the Wii U is the GamePad with its built in screen. Of course everyone loves the GamePad when they pick it up, but is it just a novelty or gimmick that will wear off after a few weeks? Does the GamePad actually enhance game play more than a regular controller?
After spending two hours with the Wii U, playing myself, watching the kids and everyone else around us, I firmly believe the Wii U provides a new level of gaming. The GamePad allows a whole new set of games not available on the Xbox360 or Sony PS3. Luigi’s Ghost Mansion is an incredibly fun family game not because of the graphics, but because the GamePad allows the person being the ghost to have a whole different view of the game. Think of it this way – imagine trying to play hide and seek when everyone is in just one room. That room could be beautiful and have all types of bling, but no real way to play hide and seek when there is just one room. Add a second room and suddenly games like hide and seek are possible. The Wii U adds a second room, another dimension, a deeper level to game play and that felt very real and not just a gimmick.
Clearly multiplayer party games will be a hit on the Wii U, but we also felt that the GamePad added some fun to single player games. Flicking a throwing star off your controller and onto the screen in Takamara’s Ninja Castle was fun. Firing arrows in Wario and then stomping out bad guys on the controller was a blast. Doing Karaoke in SiNG while facing the audience, very cool.
In the end, we all left very impressed with the Wii U and hopeful that the software will make good use of the GamePad. The GamePad also has a camera and mic built-in, so there is so much more possible than was on display at the Wii U Experience. Yes, there is more to the Wii U than the GamePad, but clearly the success of the Wii U is directly connected to how well the GamePad is utilized in games and software.