The Nintendo Wii U – Thoughts and Impressions

Now that E3 2011 has come and gone, it is safe to say the biggest reveal was Nintendo's new console, the Wii U. Six years ago, at the 2005 E3, Nintendo unveiled the original Wii console and began targeting "non-hardcore" gamers to bring into the fold. Though gamers like myself were excited for the potential of the Wii and it's new control scheme it became apparent after release that the Wii was to be a home mostly for mini-game collections, kids games, and other casual distractions. Of course there is nothing wrong with trying to attract a casual audience, but my personal Wii library has stayed quite small simply because when I play games I crave a bit of a challenge, and few Wii games provide adequately. Other complaints about the Wii often include the inaccuracy of control using the Wiimote "waggle", and the lack of hardware power the Wii provides for graphics and other capabilities. The Wii U may be at least a partial answer to these complaints.

The Wii U Console.

The Wii U itself looks much like the original Wii, but with a rounded sleeker design. Nintendo's E3 presentation exhibited that the Wii U is more powerful than the Wii, able to produce graphics on par with the Xbox 360 and the PS3, and finally outputs a HD 1080p image. I'm sure when the console actually launches we will be able to see in more detail just how well the Wii compares graphically with its competitors, but as long as it can at least keep up with the Xbox 360 in HD I will be satisfied; Nintendo's games have tended to be cartoony and youthful instead of realistic so excessive hardware power should not be necessary to create crisp, clean, and beautiful HD games. Unlike the Wii, the Wii U hardware is not compatible with Gamecube games, and thus does not appear to have any controller ports for the gamecube controllers. Wii owners who have great games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Muramasa: The Demon Blade will be forced to buy a classic controller or play on the new Wii U controller instead of the highly effective gamecube controllers. When the Wii came out and was compatible with everything for Wii I was quite pleased because I could sell my Gamecube and replace its shelf spot with the Wii, and I'm disappointed that to play my library I will now need to own both the Wii and Wii U.

The Wii U's new controller.

The most exciting new feature of the Wii U is it's controller. Reminiscent of an iPad with a smaller non-multi-touch screen in exchange for having a border of standard gaming controls. Nintendo's E3 presentation displayed the potential of this controller with uses varying from allowing players to play an entire Wii U game on the screen in case their TV is otherwise engaged, being used as a drawing tablet, or as an inventory screen for an adventure game. I hope the addition of a touch screen to the controller will cause developers to innovate with a variety of great ideas instead of just adding a motion gimmick to every games control scheme. Some of the things the Dreamcast did with the VMU screen in the controller were very cool, and that screen was tiny, black and white, and not a touch screen, so hopefully the Wii U controller, with it's better screen, microphone, camera, and tilt sensitivity, will be the genesis of many wonderful new game concepts. Reviews say that the controller is light and surprisingly comfortable for its size, which is great, but with the screen on board I'm concerned about it's potential battery life.

The underside of the Wii U controller.

With the Wii U capable of using the Wii's library of controllers in addition to its own, additional hardware power, and hopefully an improved online interface Nintendo is in a great position to reclaim their lost hardcore gaming fans as well as hold on to the more casual players. If they can pull it off, it could be great for gaming. However, until I see a great multiplayer purpose for the Wii U, I see no reason to rush out and get one when it finally releases. Both the Wii and Gamecube had a small enough library of "don't miss this" quality games that I plan on waiting for the Wii U to drop in price before considering a purchase. Nintendo has yet to give me a reason to become an early adopter and I fear that as much potential as this console has, it will be primarily first party games which are worthwhile yet again. In a time with too many great games releasing, I find myself prioritizing the great multiplayer games while they still have a community, and unless Nintendo provides this temptation, the Wii U will not be for me. Do you think it will be for you?

Potential for a great Zelda game.

Ability to play on just the controller.

5-player multiplayer using one Wii U controller and 4 Wiimotes.

Dual-screen internet browsing.

All images from nintendo.com. Thanks Nintendo!   One final question for readers, does anyone think Wii U is a good console name?