There was a lot riding on this Wii U showcase. After the fact, Nintendo has reassured us with new information and hands-on time that expanded on the E3 basics. Should all this have come earlier on? At the expense of possibly disconnecting themselves too much from the cycles of their competitors, perhaps yes. The timing of the Wii U is a little queer. But I digress. Maybe I was left feeling satisfied because experiencing a console firsthand is new to me. Or, Reggie Fils-Aime and third parties did get some real momentum going for the Wii U.
Witnessing a launch unfold is a big leap from seeing it virtually. Sharing anticipation with other passionate attendees one moment, then being lifted by a large freight into a space with even more decor and social energy, is undeniably engaging and visceral.
Reggie talks about price and console models, which does not cause too much for thought. He then shows Nintendo TVii. Reveals like these do not fully hit home with gamers. But console services vie for our attention and Microsoft has shown that digital technology and entertainment go hand in hand, and we welcome them. To a model which Microsoft and Apple have helmed, Nintendo has come generous: 8GB or 32GB internal memory, a dedicated online experience plus a prebuilt streaming device for TV Shows, Sports and Movies in HD.
For certain games, the graphics presented were not truly synonymous with Nintendo, crisp and mature appearing in Assassin’s Creed III or Trine 2. The latter seems more like a Fantasy/Sci-Fi aesthetic on PC than anything I’ve seen on a Nintendo console. The visuals do stick out when the game isn’t pinned to a genre too familiar.
With the just announced Call of Duty Black Ops 2, the expected FPS design causes one not to notice the graphics so to speak, even as Activision boasted “its signature 60fps on a Nintendo console”. In games like New Super Mario Bros. U, Madden NFL 13, Mass Effect 3 or Rayman Legends, where subtle, and obvious upgrades over the Wii were both distinctly achieved, never mind the expectations of a certain aesthetics, the beauty of the system was guaranteed.
Although polished, with overwhelming gameplay demonstration throughout the event, floor booths had an - only just reasonable - amount of players, even though these booths were the most numerous on the floor. When you take the also many booth facilitators for Nintendo Land out of the equation, the game attracted no more players/onlookers than New Super Mario Bros. U, by a clear margin. I see Nintendo Land as a central launch title but will not acknowledge, or support the game. Additionally, why will I opt for the deluxe Wii U set with no desire for this product? Unlike last generation, where hesitation on the Wii’s innovations (Sports/Resort, Fit etc.) was common-spread, there is no grey area this time around. Don’t like it, don’t buy it, especially when deliberating over a Nintendo matter.
NBA 2K13 and Madden NFL 13. There can be genuine satisfaction in playing a game while still in the process of learning it. I first grabbed a GamePad on these sports games. The black pad was a delight to hold, and this is where my complete advocation of it as controller of choice comes in.
While NBA does not include the touch/Call a Plan features of Madden (and why would it necessarily) it most importantly, feels right. Handling and controlling the action quickly becomes intuitive, coming from a novice of the genre. The GamePad’s button to holding space ratio is adequate, making the games feel approachable rather than if I used the Classic controller. While the graphics look fine on NBA, they look positively marvelous on Madden. The latter game also supports up to five players, and appeared to impress those who played it during my time there.
Rayman Legends. For fans of Origins on Wii, Legends on Wii U will by all means deliver. It expands on the original in many unique ways and harnesses the GamePad’s functions quite creatively. While one player controls a character with the Wii Remote sideways, GamePad controls Murphy, who… tickles an array of enemies, or manipulates objects in levels to get you to the end. There are so-called musical stages which the lead game designer at the booth was eager to have us try out. They are akin to the speed run courses of Origins with musical cues like those from Bit.Trip.Runner.
While Rayman’s booth was quite busy throughout the day the same could not be said for ZombiU, which saw a very steady decrease in attendees. It is safe to say that the design choices didn’t amount to an engaging experience. At first glance, I noticed some unoriginal aesthetics about the level. Restrictive lighting, and the unimpressive choice of a semi-green semi-fluorescent filter combined with an ever so subtle, ever so noticeable adherence to bloom effect, does not entice. Camera control and movement seemed mechanical. One sound effect was constantly looped. And when a boring zombie was beaten to a pulp, the GamePad’s use remained the same: look, swipe item off corpse.
Assassin’s Creed III.
Creative lead Alex Hutchinson was overseeing this booth, answering questions and guiding us through the game. If you have been a craved Wii owner, i.e. wanting the high-fidelity stuff that PS3/360 owners enjoy in abundance, look no further than this title, as it truly was the Wii U’s graphical showcase on the floor. The game seemed to attract a consistent and constant amount of players throughout the day. Although the naval battle was the only level available, and seemed a tad intimidating to get into, it did not seem to detract from approachability. This is the same game the other consoles are getting, fully HD and fully multiplatform. The GamePad integrates the experience best, though, with quick menu/map access, item switch and fast combo meant to perfect gameplay. From what I can tell, this game may enjoy a very healthy start on the Wii U.
New Super Mario Bros. U.
Expect a return to fun and frantic 1-4 player options, or a 3-1 Remote/GamePad setup, where one player takes up the task of aiding players through a course as a platform maker. Like Rayman Legends, Nintendo implements its own hardware innovation just right, this time in the hope that someone will relinquish their hunger for Mario, Luigi or Toad and take to the puzzling and addictive business of modifying parameters in the stage, so long as the other players correctly interact with the platforms you tap into the level.
I found the experience to be surprisingly fun, where my platforms didn’t just aid other players, but triggered Boost Run mode (levels scroll to the left faster), combos and coins, and enabled a special star power-up allowing me to take out enemies. If those features weren’t enough, you can never overlook the pleasure of platforming through the worlds at your own individual pace, especially when the stages themselves have never looked as fresh and appealingly designed.
Well, what do you know? Two Nintendo games covered and three by Ubisoft. An important point to stress would be that Nintendo needs to follow through on software at this point, which in my opinion, means the Wii U launch will not be the best lineup a Nintendo system has ever had. More urgent still is the question of whether or not Nintendo will continue this setback into 2013. Drawing back to this event, we are left with games that found consistent, moderate enthusiasm such as Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2, which are probably worth keeping on your radar. On the other end we have games that were M.I.A but really should have been on the show floor such as Pikmin 3, and Aliens: Colonial Marines. These are arguably two of the best games on the Wii U so far, and really needed this moment to gain further audience acceptance.
Expect all of the cited games to make it onto the console between November 18th and next March, and cross-check your wish list with this IGN launch window list in case you’ve missed out on any essential games thus far. Happy launch, friends!