First off – those thumbsticks aren’t going anywhere. For anyone who suspected otherwise after seeing the Nintendo Wii U for the first time – and to be fair, in photos they do look a little too high up on the unit – trust us when we say that it wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t exactly where they currently are. At first glance they look as if they’re going to be uneasy fit for the upcoming slew of new ‘hardcore’ software that Nintendo’s top dogs have been barking about, but once it’s in your hands, the concern vanishes into thin air.
Because of the way that the unit has been designed, with smooth, curved edges everywhere and a terrific overall feel (which falls on exactly the right side of ‘chunky’) it feels much more like a console control pad than a tablet; which is precisely as it should be. And although the Nintendo Wii U is still in its utmost infancy, playable AAA software is obviously non-existent, but a small number of first party mini-games have done a brilliant job of demonstrating the exciting possibilities the the system holds.
The first game that we played was Chase Mii, which couldn’t possibly have been any simpler. One player is Mario, and they controls the inimitable Italian plumber around a map by using the Wii U tablet; whilst four other players use sideways-on Wiimotes in order to pursue him. The benefit of having the Wii U tablet is that you can always see where everyone is on the map, and can avoid them accordingly. Every thirty seconds or so you’re also given the chance to collect a power star that sits (and respawns) in the middle of each level, and gives you a speed boost and brief period of invincibility; a risky manoeuvre that’s only advisable when things get really dicey.
The second game that we played was Battle Mii, which involves two Wiimote-using players controlling characters on the ground, whilst the player with the Wii U controller pilots a gunship from the sky. It’s another very simple (and absurdly easy to pick-up and play) third-person shooter, and the gameplay is surprisingly balanced; with the ground-level players able to utilise cover, and the gunship pilot able to use speed and the entirety of the level’s environment. Both of these games are demonstrated in the embedded video at the bottom of this page.
Battle Mii and Chase Mii were probably the two most elementary videogames shown during the entirety of E3, and yet they were also two of the most furiously compelling. These two demo stands were consistently two of the loudest at the show, with players whooping, cheering and (occasionally) screaming during bouts on both games. Trying to get people to move along was a tough job for the Nintendo attendees, but it was well worth our perseverance. If Nintendo can make such compelling software this early on, it’s tantalising to wonder what we’ll be seeing in a year’s time.
The Nintendo Wii U console is currently due for release in mid-to-late 2012.
Watch the Nintendo Wii U demonstration video here: