Wii U Hands on Preview
With the Wii U Nintendo are putting their hopes in a remarkable return to form for the company. When they released the Wii so many people wrote them off. Shares wavered; Nintendo fans-boys cringed and got ready to purchase Xbox t-shirts. Oh how we were wrong. Not only did the Wii make sales, but it managed to penetrate every corner of the market. Along with the iPhone it’s the reason you parents and grandparents suddenly got in to games.
Well Nintendo are hoping that taking a branched approach and offering a refinement that mixed touch screen technology, Alternate Reality features and motion control will give them an edge over the more traditional consoles.
Wii U… Wii U… Still hate the name to be honest but you can’t help but love Nintendo’s attempts at cohesive corporate branding. I’m just not looking forward to all the xxxxx U named titles. With current generation hardware inside the box it’s once again easy to dismiss this console. Can Nintendo bottle lightening a second time? Or have they finally misjudged the market?
Firstly what strikes you about the unit is just how much like the Wii it looks. Discarding the standard look Wii Mote (now with Wii Motion Plus as standard), the regular sensor bar – the actual physical box looks a little rounder, shinier and like it’s put on a few pounds in weight. It looks wholly unspectacular.
Just as well that Nintendo have the new controller then which, despite any faults or flaws (more on that later) looks incredibly impressive to all but the ardent detractor. The output on the screen is faithfully HD in its clarity although many of the titles on display with the unit were hard pushing the hardware. Titles like Zombie U, Pikmin 3, Rayman and New Super Mario Bros U all looks crisp and clear. It’s nice to finally see some HD Nintendo products that aren’t running on a PC with an emulator!
Titles like Zombie U thought did look a little “muddy” and the lighting effects were not really a patch on that used on other platforms – this could be the game, or an indicator that the hardware really is no more than stock level Xbox 360 or PS3 under the hood.
On to the meat of the matter then – that controller!
Picking it up you immediately notice three things. Firstly it feels light but weighty enough in your hands. Plenty of heft to the unit but probably not much heavier than a 360 controller with batteries in.
Secondly, the screen looks pretty great. OK not Vita great, or iPhone Retina great, but it does have clarity and is large and responsive. It’s basically the 3DS XL bottom screen – this is evident if you go play a 3DS XL before or after the Wii U. It does seem to do a marvellous job of keeping up with the action on the main screen though. Feed is constant and smooth
Thirdly, and most importantly, it’s not particularly comfortable to use. I used Think of picking up a 7” touch screen table. Holding it in your palms, wrapping your fingers under the top of the body to steady. The place your thumbs in the top left and right corners. OK so it feels reasonable for now but give it an hour and that’s going to make your arms and palms ache.
Compound that with the fact the face buttons just don’t feel well located. When playing Zombie U, for instance, you have to press X to perform actions – climb ladders, open doors etc. Now to do this you walk to the door using your two analogue sticks. Then fumble about a bit with your right thumb searching for the buttons, finally giving up, looking away from the screen to the controller and poking at the buttons like you grandparent trying to work the remote.
OK so this may well improve with repeated usage, we can’t discount that, but the overall position of the button is just plain uncomfortable and awkward. Where as a PS3 or Xbox 360 controller has the buttons down and to the right slightly the buttons on the Wii U feel almost directly under the stick making it feel so cramped – similar to the way the Vita does.
My first (and second as I returned later) impression of the Wii U has done little to sway any desire I may have to purchase the console. Nothing on show with the unit made me think “I must have this at launch!”. It’s firmly a unit to look out for as I did have a good time with some of the software – Rayman especially. Yet I am unable to say wholeheartedly that my Nintendo fears have been assuaged by my multiple visits to the Wii U.
Time will tell how the Wii U panned out as a financial move for Nintendo. Hoping that the people who purchased your last console pick up the new one is part of the game all console developers play. That said Nintendo achieved market saturation with the Wii and so many people now say it was a novelty that they hardly use/used. The ultimate after pub activity that soon got old.
Then again perhaps Nintendo are playing it smart. Technology wise the Wii U stacks up to what is out at the moment, it’s not prohibitively expensive (although the UK is getting shafted price wise) and give people more of what they wanted – or at least thought what they wanted. Nintendo will be bringing the Wii U to stores on 18/10/12 (US), 30/10/12 (EU & AUS) and 08/12/12 in Japan. We’ll be bringing you more coverage of the unit as we approach the launch dates.