Video Game Feature: Nintendo Plans Next Generation Assault with Wii U

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CHICAGO – An art space in the West Loop was recently turned into a showcase for the next Nintendo console, the highly-anticipated Nintendo Wii U and we were there to get our hands on the exciting new system. What can gamers expect from the next generation of Nintendo games? Does it mark a massive step forward or a gradual one? And can Nintendo rise again in the way they did right when the popularity of the Nintendo Wii was at its peak? While many questions remain unanswered, the hands-on demonstration with the Wii U made it clear how this system will play in your homes, probably by the end of the year. Read on to find out.

The first thing you need to know is something that was stressed repeatedly before we even got near a TV screen or a Wii-mote — this is an entirely new system. It is not a new controller. Nintendo is probably concerned that the name similarity (Wii to Wii U) along with the fact that the system is completely backwards compatible could lead people to believe that they will only need to buy the new controller to join the new generation of Nintendo games. That is not the case. With full HD graphics (all the way up to 1080p), enhanced network functionality, a completely new controller, and a new library of games, the Nintendo Wii U stands on its own.

Nintendo Wii U
Nintendo Wii U
Photo credit: Nintendo

What We Don’t Know

Let’s get this out of the way.

Nintendoland
Nintendoland
Photo credit: Nintendo

We don’t when the Nintendo Wii U will be in stores, however, we were assured that it will be before 12/31/12. By the end of the year, you’ll be exploring “Nintendoland,” a series of mini-games designed to show off the new functions of the Wii U (and, although this wasn’t confirmed at all, a likely candidate for a title that would be bundled with the new system).

We don’t know what will come with the Nintendo Wii U in terms of games, controllers, or even hard drive space. The future of gaming is one that’s going to be more and more reliant on storage, whether it’s local or in the cloud. With promises of a larger library of Nintendo games for download, it will be nice when we know how those games will be stored (or how much it will cost us for more storage space).

We don’t know if the system will play Blu-rays. It’s HD-ready and the Nintendo reps stressed the importance of using the system for entertainment (which I’ll get more later) but as for Blu-rays or even DVDs, they wouldn’t confirm.

We don’t know how much it will cost. I have my guesses but this isn’t the place for that. Having said that, I think everyone learned a lesson from the overpriced early days of the Sony PlayStation 3. I don’t think Nintendo will make that mistake. Expect it to be surprisingly affordable to stay competitive in a recession market.

We Do Know It Will Have a Controller Like No Other

ZombiU
ZombiU
Photo credit: Nintendo

The first thing that you notice is the controller. It vaguely resembles a cross between a PlayStation Vita and an iPad. It’s feels something like a tablet but it comes with a ton of gaming bells and whistles. It has a mic, a stylus, a camera, multiple control options (sticks, pads, shoulder buttons, etc.), touch screen functionality, and is motion-control sensitive. Clearly, how you feel about this controller is going to guide the success or failure of the Wii U. HD graphics are nice and I can’t wait to see what a Zelda or Mario game looks like when it’s been developed in HD but the emphasis, at least at the beginning, is going to be on incorporating the new controller into your gaming lifestyle.

So, what can it do? The main draw is being able to provide something different on your controller touch screen than what’s on the TV. For example, in the stunning “ZombiU,” a game that could truly be addictive for fans of walking dead classics like “Resident Evil” and “Left 4 Dead,” you have to use the controller for a number of functions that other action games take for granted. Want to look in your backpack? The inventory will appear in your hands (which means that the action on screen doesn’t stop for you to switch weapons). You can use it as a scanner, a scope, and a number of other functions that have diminished the intensity of action games by allowing for a break in the action. No more pausing for inventory. It’s in your hands.

There are also times when information will be different on the controller than it is on the screen. “Nintendoland,” a game with a series of games based on Nintendo properties, features a mini-game called “Luigi’s Haunted Mansion” in which players with Wii-motes play characters while the one with the new controller plays a ghost. On his touch screen, he can see his location but the other players can’t see it on the TV. Using the controller to give different players in the same room different advantages could be something that future developers really use to take a game to the next level.

And perhaps the coolest thing about the new controller? If your mom or significant other wants to watch something else on TV, you can switch many games to the controller itself and continue playing. It turns from a wireless controller into a handheld gaming system.

How Does It Play

Super Mario Bros. U
Super Mario Bros. U
Photo credit: Nintendo

When it comes down to gaming, the play time with the Nintendo Wii U was a rollercoaster of peaks and valleys. There are things about this system that are instantly attractive including how incredible the graphics look (“Rayman: Legends” and “ZombiU” are particularly impressive) and the potential of the controller is immense. At the same time, the already-available titles seem nearly hindered by the new technology. For example, in “Super Mario Bros.,” the player with the touch screen can draw platforms on it to help out his friends. Neat, at first, but kind of useless. And “Batman: Arkham City” has been redesigned for the system — you can use the touch screen to guide Batarangs, for example — but I doubt anyone who has a PS3 or Xbox 360 would choose this version over the original (or choose to play it again). I truly believe that it’s going to be games like “ZombiU” and not the Wii U version of “Assassin’s Creed III” that makes this system a hit.

While already-available games seemed kind of lackluster, the new IPs were sometimes mind-blowing. I can’t tell you how much I want to play “ZombiU” again. Not only does the control system offer a new injection of life into a sometimes-stale genre, the game is clearly very well-designed and well-written. I love the idea that you will play an endless supply of protagonists. If your character gets bit, he turns into a zombie and you wake nearby as another human survivor. You have to go find your previous character and kill him to get your weapons back. That’s brilliant. The best systems merely provide the right tools for developers to make great games. That appears to be the case with both “ZombiU” and “Project P-100,” a new working title from the team behind “Viewtiful Joe,” two games that could bring the older audience to the Nintendo Wii U that was missing from the Nintendo Wii.

Should You Wii U?

Nintendo rep Daniel Drihuela broke down the goal of the Nintendo Wii U into three categories — Games, Social, and Entertainment. They want this to not only replace your Wii but replace everything else you use for entertainment. With promises of Hulu & Netflix functionality, a touch screen that could replicate a keyboard, and new games already clearly far along the development cycle, the Wii U has the potential to change the market. There are a few too many unanswered questions and I wish I had seen a new Mario or Zelda game instead of an old one with a few new tricks to say that this is the future of gaming but we can’t wait to get our hands on one again. And isn’t that really what gaming is all about? Counting the days until you can play it again? We have a feeling thousands of people will be doing just that this holiday season.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Hermii's picture

storage

The article is slightly wrong about the storage part. It has been confirmed the system has a 16gb (I think) flash drive and it also has usb ports so you can connect any hardrive from any manufactorer for additional storage.

BrianTT's picture

Yes and No

While they did hint at some storage options at E3, when asked directly what we should tell our readers regarding storage, the rep told me that they weren’t announcing it officially yet. I can only go based on what I was told whether you want to take that as a reversal of what was already confirmed or just a mistake. But, yes, there are rumors of storage floating around.

Daniel's picture

Where did you hear 16GB

Where did you hear 16GB from? All that has been confirmed is the usage of External HDD.

Hermii's picture

Im not sure about the 16gb

Im not sure about the 16gb just have a vague memory of reading it so take it with some salt but here is a quote from reggie fils aime about usb storage from kotaku.

“The main message we’ve communicated is that it’s got USB ports so you can keep adding storage to your heart’s content”

So if you have an external hardrive, storage shoudnt be a problem.

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