Wii U: hands-on with Nintendo's new touch-screen controller

Immediately after Nintendo announced its new Wii U hardware (and corresponding controller) the company invited a select group of journalists behind the stage for a quick peek at the tech as it exists today. The “games” on display were merely experimental concepts that could power future titles on the Wii U, and weren’t necessarily confirmation of any concrete announcements. To that end, Nintendo insisted on calling these “experiences,” not games; I happen to agree with the sentiment, as none of these could power a whole game, but do suggest a wide variety of ideas that could be possible.

The Legend of Zelda: HD Experience

For five long years I’ve waited to see Zelda portrayed in gorgeous HD, and at long last, Wii U will make that dream a reality. No foolin’, no dancing around my very clear personal bias - I literally cannot wait to see and play the living hell out of whatever Nintendo kicks out the door. But this demo of a Twilight Princess-era Link facing off against Gohma will likely not be that game. Instead, this demo was meant to show off the 360/PS3-level graphics, lighting and environmental effects, as well as the many combinations of TV/controller setups.

Above: One of many potential setups for TV/controller 

The demo began with game video on the television. I saw Link enter a brilliantly lit castle, then slowly walk through a row of torches when a massive shadow scurried across the windows. Gohma then smashed in through the ceiling and a brief battle ensued. This played out like a typical game setup. The next time through the demo, I could swap the map to the controller screen and leave the other action on the TV, creating a HUD-free image. Another option is seen above, with half map, half screen on the TV and full game on the controller. None of these are definite approaches, but they suggest a level of malleability that isn’t possible with other consoles.

Above: Genuine excitement 

Shield Pose

Nintendo may have said the games on display were not, in fact, games, but Shield Pose uses the new tech so well and in a fun, accessible way that I have to assume it will blossom into a full title later on. Part Rhythm Heaven, part Parappa the Rapper, Shield Pose hurls arrows at you from four different angles, and you have to literally move the Wii U controller to intercept each of these projectiles. It’s a simple idea, but surprisingly fun, and made even better with a rhythmic beat playing underneath.

The beat actually acts as your cue to raise the controller; for example, the pirate leader will say “Center, Left, Right,” and then in time with the music you must point the controller toward the center, left and right of the TV to block the arrows. The controller monitor acts as a whole other window into this world, where you can see the TV pirate ship in the distance, but also as you turn around you can see the other two ships firing at you. Hell you can even spin all around and look in any direction and there’s a fully rendered environment existing entirely on the controller.

Finally, after each wave you must shake the controller to brush off the arrows, but also to the beat of the music. The lyrics and vibe, again, are very much a Rhythm Heaven/Parappa mix, so this idea stands a chance of powering a full game.

Chase Mii

Here, four players (using Wii Remotes) run around a colorful maze in search of a fifth player who’s on the run. The four TV players have a map of the level in the center of the screen, but can’t discern where the fifth is until they actually find him. That player, meanwhile, uses the controller screen to track the other players and stay one step ahead. Like Shield Pose it’s a basic application of the technology, but it’s also surprisingly fun. Sort of like Pac-Man with people.

The concept of the controller player seeing and doing something completely different from the TV is assuredly something we’ll see more of next year when Nintendo finally details the launch lineup.

Next page: Battle Mii and a breakdown of the controller itself


E3 Nintendo

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  • Moondoggie1157 - June 24, 2011 5:38 p.m.

    I fail to see how we should be mesmerized by this, Aletheon... 4 years ago, maybe... But now, as we are bordering on the next generation of gaming? Yea, a second screen just doesn't do it. It worked for the DS, but as I said before, the DS was the size of a game case, it didnt require looking away from the main screen. And in all honesty, who wants to bury their faces into a personal screen while their friends all have fun on the main one? Nintendo, quit the gimmicky bullshit and get back to the real world of gaming. There is a reason I hated you for rivaling Sega back in the 90's, get back to that and I promise you I will be first in line for your next launch. Also, this is far too late to bring out this kind of console, but hey, it will go the same route as Wii; the console will be technically inferior but people will eat it up.. And then bitch a year later.
  • Antistaenemyofthedaleks - June 17, 2011 2:36 p.m.

    I was doubtful at first and very embarrassed. I even screamed "What are you doing, Nintendo?" Then they announced all the future games and I smiled my Nintendo fanboy smile
  • Aletheon - June 16, 2011 4:48 a.m.

    I think NINTENDO knows what they're doing. Unfortunately, most kids are drug addled freaks that are spoiled and nearly insane, with a bloated sense of self and a skewed sense of reality. Funny how people are so quick to criticize instead of bei g mesmerized. The problem is not NINTENDO. It's you all. Its the mindset of a lost generation of lame asses.
  • xshadowhawkx - June 15, 2011 7:19 a.m.

    a Step forward thanks Nintendo!
  • Elementium - June 14, 2011 3:50 a.m.

    One thing I'm sick of is motion games.. I want to sit down, relax, and play games. Not jump around and do all that crazy stuff. If this was a new Xbox concept you know people would eat it up.. But Nintendo is uncertain these days.. they're addicted to gimmicks which are hit and miss and really need to get back to good quality games and not just different ways to play boring games. We grew up with Nintendo and now most of us want Nintendo to grow up so we can play together again.
  • CaffieKuriboh - June 13, 2011 9:15 p.m.

    i think that it's not the fact they have a second screen, its how they use that second screen that will determine how the new console will do. also, i think they should make the contoller alittle smaller so people can reach the buttons more comfortably.
  • Aletheon - June 12, 2011 12:56 a.m.

    I'm really excited for this console. The more it sinks in and I think about it, the more brilliant it seems to be. Now it sucks to have to wait to get my hands on that controller. Nintendo: Make Pikmin 3 a launch title. We need a good launch. C'mon. That's all we need. More Pikmin...also give us an HD version of Pikmin 2. You never released Pikmin 2 for the Wii. Why???!?!?!?!
  • Averagegamer18 - June 11, 2011 6:59 p.m.

    Is those aren't the graphics for the Legend of Zelda, I am going to cry. If that is the case then I will want them to release that version with the Wii U, I would freaking buy one if Zelda looked like that; and by bundle I mean on release day, it launches with Zelda. That will be my only reason to buy a Wii U; if Zelda looks like that when the Wii U releases and they bundle those two together than I will get one. I better not be disappointed Nintendo or I quit and start Pc gaming.
  • Baron164 - June 11, 2011 1:47 p.m.

    I'm not sold on the idea. For traditional games the controller just seems to bulky. Getting proper HD versions of Zelda and Mario sound good but I'm concerned that they will be just upgraded versions of older Wii titles. Like a Mario Galaxy 3 that looks somewhat better or a new Mario Kart game with an even worse control scheme that the Wii game. I suppose if they fixed their online store where I could download old SNES games and play them from the controller but be able to transfer the games to a new system if the old one croaks I'd be more interested. But this is Nintendo and if they did that then I wouldn't be forced to buy Zelda for a 10th time.
  • IronHeaver - June 11, 2011 4:34 a.m.

    Im super exited for Zelda getting the HD treatment it so rightfully deserves :) That could be the oportune time to bring back Midna, and more fully explore the Twilight realm which I think would look absolutly stunning in full HD! And a HUD free playing experience? I would love that! Nothing to block my view of Hyrule's vast beauty :D
  • 510BrotherPanda - June 10, 2011 8:03 p.m.

    Is that a stylus on the left-hand side? If it is, this really is almost "DS for the T.V." like you said, Brett.
  • reeperskull - June 10, 2011 4:47 p.m.

    wii U? what a horribly stupid name makes playstaion vita sound amazing. Buttons in the wrong place wouldn't annoy me nearly as much as sliders instead of analogs. Playing a traditional shooter with sliders would be horrible as bad as playing a shooter spining in circles with the controller pointed out in front of you. Personaly I would rather have a small hud than have to look away from the game to check my health and mini map. Also you could buy a 360/ps3 5-6 years ago nintendo is a little late to the party in a few years when next box and ps4 come out it will be behind again. I would rather keep the 360/ps3 then rush out to buy a soon to be outdated copy.
  • digitalman29 - June 10, 2011 2:48 p.m.

    Pii U
  • philipshaw - June 10, 2011 2:36 p.m.

    I understand what they are going for a bit better now that I have read this feature but I'm still not sold on it. I feel Nintendo haven't showed enough to convince me on the system
  • OliBailey - June 10, 2011 12:48 p.m.

    I know a lot of people have been worried that it will go the way of the dreamcast(myself included) however just thinking about the wii and how inferior it was in comparison in power to the other two it has spawned a new machine so there is no need to worry, unless it's going to cost £500
  • austincharlesbond - June 10, 2011 9:59 a.m.

    No way will this be like the Dreamcast, because people will always love Nintendo games and because of the Wii's massive popularity, they can afford to take risks :)
  • Yeager1122 - June 10, 2011 5:33 a.m.

    Im just going to wait a year and see more before i make a judgement of any kind.
  • ZidaneAlcor - June 10, 2011 3:45 a.m.

    One thing is abundantly clear... the extra screen on the controller has the potential to do for consoles what the DS did for handhelds. I won't lie... the customizable display on the Zelda demo had me drooling. The Wii U has enormous tactical possibilities for traditional games. Now all we have to do is hope Nintendo realizes this, and doesn't try to do too much with the gimmicks like the Wii.
  • DualWieldingIsNotFeasible - June 10, 2011 2:04 a.m.

    My problem is that I just can't see 3rd parties taking advantage of any of this for multi-platform games. Why would they expend all that money and time to add extra WiiU features to games that will probably sell better on other platforms, anyway? However, if Nintendo actually does something interesting with this thing (not just gimmicky BS), they might just win me back.
  • wormytables - June 10, 2011 1:24 a.m.

    what worries me most about this thing is that it's supposed to release in a little over (?) a year and there are no games working for it... i work in games, i can tell you that it takes more than ONE YEAR to go from nothing to full game - this means unless nintendo have been secretly making games and didn't show any off, the launch will be quite barren... like 3ds... can we call it weewoo please?