When Nintendo announced the Wii U, they seemed willing to jeopardise their own existing consoles. The idea of the Wii U controller didn’t convince anybody on why they needed it over a DS. But Nintendo realised that something was wrong, sensed the failure and recognised their mistakes. Of course, if Nintendo says “go with us”, most fanboys will without question.
That’s how we ended up in the Wii U presentation. We must admit that we went reluctantly, but a miracle happened in those few hours. We left more or less convinced on the quality of the console thanks to a couple of games that really know how to squeeze the most from the console while incorporating great ways to use the controller. That being said, the companies that don’t know what to do with their tablet controller might as well use it as a paperweight. Let’s see the games we tested one by one, and our verdict on the console:
The console: The Wii U is slightly larger than the Wii, but more stylised. It seems that Nintendo has taken Apple’s philosophy, and knows that in many houses the console is going to be bought as a mere decoration. And, if it’s going to be decorative, it has to be more beautiful than the Wii ever was, right? As for the graphics and power, it’s still too early to say. Although it shows a big improvement over Wii games, it still has a long way to go to prove its real potential. For now, some games are moving at the level of a PS3 (or slightly worse), but bear in mind that we have played demos and not full games, where the quality can vary.
The controller: The famous Wii U controller has given us mixed feelings. On the one hand, we must recognise that it looks extremely good, with very clear graphics. Furthermore, the response time of the controller over the TV screen is excellent and, in many cases, can give a gaming experience like never before, infinitely more immersive. Of course, if the controller doesn’t enhance this experience (for example, in the case of a poorly thought fighting game), it is better to play with the classic controller, or with a Wiimote. This is because the Wii U controller is too heavy to hold up for more than an hour. It sounds cliché, but it’s true: the Wii U controller weighs less than it looks, but more than it should to be really comfortable. On the other hand, the buttons are well laid out and it’s all about getting used to it, but some (the secondary L and R triggers) felt a little strange the first time they were used.
Nintendo Land: Nintendo Land, the virtual amusement park of Nintendo, is not a bad idea at all if the game comes pre-installed on the console. Moreover, we can say that Nintendo Land is a lot of fun, especially as a game to kill time, as Wii Sports was when the Wii came out. In the single-player mode, we tried to throw a ninja star shuriken from the tablet to the TV (very intuitive and fun). We also turned the knob to get a cart to the princess, in a scenario inspired by Donkey Kong. This doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before, except the option to see what’s going on in close up on the controller and, at the same time, see the overall scene on the TV screen, to see how far we have until getting to the target. In multiplayer mode, we tried a screen that adapted Luigi’s Mansion in a fun way and in which the controller was the main protagonist: the player with the Wii U Remote controls a ghost who tries to attack players, while the other players try to find it with a flashlight to make him weaker (without knowing where it is as the ghost is invisible, except in the tablet controller) – very funny, but so specific we think only a few games will have a use like this for the controller. To summarise, if it comes in a pack with the console, it’s a great way to show the power of the controller. If not, it’s too expensive for the collection of mini-games that it really is.
New Super Mario Bros U: What can we say about New Super Mario Bros U? It’s fun. In fact, it’s really fun, especially when four players are playing at once. It’s well orchestrated chaos, more so than New Super Mario Bros Wii. In addition, you also get the chance to snatch up a new object, an acorn, that will allow you to fly in the air to achieve the highest goals and that won’t make you fall more than once. It’s colourful, fun and a worthy continuation of the saga. But of course, there are some negative points.
For starters, this game could have gone perfectly on the Wii, according to the screens that we have played. In fact, the biggest gimmick of the console, the tablet controller, is practically useless here! Do you remember the infamous second player in Super Mario Galaxy, which could only collect star pieces while his companion played on the screen as Mario? In New Super Mario Bros U, we again see something like that. The person who has the control is able to put some blocks to prevent their comrades from falling down. Yes, it is intuitive, and even the first game can be funny, but it will end up being a fun adventure for some of the players and very boring for the player who has the tablet controller. As a second negative point, we have to say the inevitable: this game is so similar to the rest of the series, at least in the screens we’ve played (there are others that have been seen in videos that look completely new, so we may still be proven wrong here), which leaves no surprise to the player. What a shame.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Little can be said of Wii U Tekken 2. It’s more of the same – a very large roster of fighters, but contributes little or nothing to the world of fighting games. We must say, we could only get a couple of fights, but the minutes we could play highlighted a negative point: whilst one player must play with a classic controller, the other player, who has the tablet controller, can read the possible combos on the controller screen and play more easily. Playing a fighting game in which one of the contestants has an advantage benefits no one and, of course, is a very poor way to use the tablet controller. From what we have tried, this is, without a doubt, the most boring and least innovative game. A missed opportunity.
Rayman Legends: There are games where the control, graphics or being critical about them doesn’t matter. Rayman Legends is one of those games. It continues on the trail of Rayman Origins but gives another twist, allowing pure and simple collaborative playing. The player who handles the tablet can rotate the controller to turn wheels, cut ropes and many other things. The other players run around the screen looking for the end, whilst enemies, beautiful designs and crazy things happen in front of you. The truth is that it’s difficult to think of it working on other consoles. The work of the controller is simple but mandatory, ensuring everyone has fun. But the greatest virtue of Rayman Legends is not just the fun, the scenarios are large and varied, highlighting a superb musical scenario in which we run at full speed with great background music on a screen that we can only cheer and applause. If it this doesn’t catch on with other consoles, this could be the perfect reason to buy the new Wii U.
ZombiU: Believe us when we tell you that the trailer for this game (the gameplay one, not the spectacular cinematic trailer) does not do justice to the game. ZombiU is a game that can’t be seen in a video, you have to play to understand it. Although ZombiU is not the best game we tested (that honour would go to Rayman Legends), it is the one that opens the door to a very bright future for the tablet controller. The game may seem like a zombie adventure like Resident Evil games, but the reality is very different. Cleverly, the controller serves as a backpack. While looking at the controller, your character will crouch to look into the backpack. Meanwhile, you can zoom in on the zombies that are far away on the TV screen to aim weapons with the spyhole, making us to interact more with the story. And all of this is set in a accurately recreated London. In addition, the game offers a very original possibility: when you die, the whole progress of your character will end, and you will start a new adventure with a different character (there are hundreds of possibilities) on another side of London. If you want to recover your inventory, you must go back towards the place where your previous character died and blow his head (when bitten, it has become a zombie!) to register the body. Interesting, huh?
Upon leaving the event, we also tested two new Nintendo 3DS games which will appear in the coming months: Professor Layton and the Mask of Wonders (which has an excellent technical foundation, at least until you switch to a bit of tatty 3D, but always with interesting puzzles) and Luigi’s Mansion 2 (which promises to fix the mistakes of the first game and give us a new, very funny adventure).
Is Wii U worth your money? That can be decided only by their future catalogue and what you want to use your console for. If you enjoy party games or you just want a simple Wii evolution, Wii U fulfilled its work greatly. For more hardcore gamers, it’s started well with Rayman Legends and ZombiU, but buying at launch could be a bit dangerous because of its high price (£299 for the 32GB model). Although we had a much better experience than we expected, it is advisable to wait and see the future of the video game catalogue. Oh, and bear this in mind: you have to try it before judging it. It really is an experience you will not expect!
The Nintendo Wii U comes out 30 November 2012.