Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Nintendo Wii U

Nintendo’s seminal motion sensing device of 2006 introduced responsive motion controls- enabling a whole new interactive way of playing original games, as well as beloved Nintendo franchises brought to the system.

Now a brand new successor to the Wii, the Wii U, has been introduced. The system, introduced at last year’s E3, seems to be an answer to criticisms about the Wii’s basic graphics as well as the system’s longevity; considering the success of rival motion devices such as the Move and Kinect.
The Wii U sports high-definition, up-to-standard graphics, and a fascinating controller, incorporating a touch-pad with stylus as well as traditional button layouts. On the edges of the screen-like controller are two circle-pads for movement, a d-pad, four A,B,X and Y buttons, as well as bumpers and triggers. There are also the obligatory start, select and home buttons. The bulk of the controller, however, is taken up by a rather cute-looking touch-screen.

Several exciting features of the Wii U controller are that:
Whole games can be played on the controller screen, if someone else is using the TV in your house, with the graphics and audio streamed wirelessly from the console itself, to the controller in your hands.

When playing with the TV, which seems to be the optimal experience, it seems like the interface and menus can be manipulated on the controller, with the TV being dedicated 100% to displaying the game play, without any HUD. One can imagine potentially playing a shooter or strategy game, where the TV screen is devoid of any distracting HUD or buttons, those aspects being handled by the controller.

The Wii U controller has some innovative applications in co-op games, especially when we consider that the Wii U console is compatible with older Wii controllers. With the already announced game Chase Mii, one player controls a character by staring at and controlling their Wii U remote, receiving instructions that nobody else can see. The other characters have the job of chasing after this character and tagging him/her, but they play the game by staring at the TV. The whereabouts of the target player is not visible on the TV, whose screen is split between the ‘chasers’. This kind of flirtation with the practical and simple joys of social play, such as the withholding of key information, shows how Nintendo can evoke the same fun groups can have playing board games or charades, and adapt it to an electronic medium. Other developers sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees when designing social play experiences, focusing too much on software and hardware instead of designing both around a desired experience. It will be exciting to see how more complex and graphically impressive games play out in co-op.

The Wii U controller has motion and voice controls and a built-in-camera. While we have yet to see exactly how these will be used, the motion control features will no doubt be less comprehensive than the original Wii remote, due to the heftiness of the Wii U controller.

White, smooth and rounded seems to be the aesthetic direction taken for the organic-looking, but surprisingly bulky console. Although the graphics have all the current-gen features and remarkable resolution, they seemed to barely match what the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are already offering. As always, Nintendo’s edge will be in the innovative ways of controlling their games and experiencing their worlds.

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