Some hands on time with Wii U

Nintendo has been showing off the upcoming Wii U system just about everywhere over the past year.  From its announcement last year at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles, to this year’s E3 and Comic-Con, Nintendo has been working at getting gamers interested in their new system.  Having covered these events, I’ve had a fair amount of time with Nintendo’s console that releases next month.  Last week, I got a little more time and this time I really got to dig in to what Nintendo is hoping is the next big thing.

While the original Wii was an undisputed hit, many core gamers felt left out.  The system was underpowered by comparison and that meant cutting edge games never made it to the system.  That left games featuring Nintendo’s aging mascots as their only in with hardcore gamers.  Once all of these casual gamers got ahold of the Wii, the sales plummeted.  This in combination with an evolving handheld versus mobile gaming battle playing out, has left Nintendo in a difficult situation.

Luckily, the Wii U seems to be on the right track.  Actually, the more time I spend with system, the more I come to appreciate it.  As someone that grew up on games, starting with the Atari 2600, I have a fairly passionate relationship with the industry that has matured alongside me.  The funny thing is that, it appears that Nintendo will make good on promises their competitors have made before they will. The GamePad will be a more effective second screen app than what Microsoft will have available next month and the ability to continue home console games on a portable device will be better realized than what was promised with the Playstation Vita.

The first part of my hands on time the Wii U last week was a demonstration of TVii.  The offering integrates Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video support and TiVo DVRs into the console. This allows the Wii U to offer a dual-screen entertainment experience with the GamePad and components connected to the television. Users can choose a show, favorite it, record it and then share that with others. Though which services that will be supported, are still being worked out.  TV and movie listings, reviews and IMDB can also be browsed and trailers can be viewed on the GamePad itself.  While certainly promising, there are still a lot of questions about how and with what this feature will work.

The rest of the time was all spent with games.  I got quite a bit of time with the New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land. There isn’t much new Nintendo’s 2D classic platformer except that the game supports up to five players; four Wii remotes and the Game Pad, although the rules are a little different for that player with Game Pad.  Not enough can be said about how fun Nintendo Land is.  It nearly makes Mario Party irrelevant as it borrows from all of Nintendo’s classic franchises.  It’s easily worth the price difference between the basic and deluxe models.

While spending time with those two games was expected, I also got just as much time with the multiplayer offering of the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.  The most surprising thing was that I came away feeling like the Wii U version was the best version to own.  There are a lot of changes to multiplayer in Black Ops 2.  The biggest is that classes are completely customizable and kind of like using your three wishes for more wishes, even the number of slots can be increased.  All of these loadouts, maps, perks, etc are displayed and executed from the GamePad. If for some reason you need to give up the TV, the whole game can be continued on the GamePad’s screen too, and yes there is a headphone plug.

The big takeaway, I guess is that the Wii U is real high Definition gaming machine.  It will handle 1080p resolutions with HDMI and most of the games I’ve seen on the system do look pretty good.  There are some that could look better, but that’s true of all of the consoles.  The ones that have comparable equivalents on other systems all do seem to hold their own.  Nintendo has confirmed that 23 titles will be available at launch with about another 20 releasing within the following four months.  It looks to me like Nintendo is on the right track to reclaiming their gaming legacy.

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