The Nintendrone Volume 8- The State Of The Wii U: Post E3
For weeks, Nintendo’s fans have eagerly awaiting E3. We were anticipating Nintendo blowing everyone’s minds with the console, and we were planning to savor that “ha I told you so” moment we would experience when the dust settled and Nintendo had “won E3”. Anyone who has been keeping their eyes on the event knows that this is not quite what happened. Nintendo’s new console is off to a somewhat shaky start. While Nintendo fans like myself will point out the good stuff that Nintendo showed, and there was a decent amount of good stuff, it’s hard to imagine that Nintendo won over many skeptics this last week.
Welcome To The Miiverse
Nintendo’s E3 festivities started the Sunday night before E3, where Nintendo debuted the console and its Miiverse functionality. I sat through this press conference with a giant grin on my face. The Miiverse is an absolutely brilliant online interface that could potentially put the X-Box Live and the Playstation Network to shame.
When you boot up your Wii U, you’ll see the Miiverse screen. This interface shows all the games you’ve been playing, along with a few recommendations, as icons. All of your gaming friends will flock towards the icons of those games they’ve been playing, and you can instantly see what your pals are saying about those games. The end result is like a love child conceived in a threesome between Facebook, X-Box Live, and Mii Plaza.
In their conference, Nintendo showed a gamer pause his game to instantly ask his friends for help. Later, he’s able to easily start a videochat with an elderly friend to get the advice he needs. The process seemed quick and easy in a way that Sony and Microsoft can’t match at the moment. Furthermore, we saw the ability of friends to leave messages on certain games. For instance, if a friend comments on a level in Mario Bros, you’ll see their comments on your map. This is a great step into taking even single player games, and making them feel like a communal experience.
What exactly we can expect from the Miiverse is up in the air. We still have a lot to learn about achievements, competitive multiplayer, demos, digital gaming, and online communities. What has been shown seems to indicate a promising, rich, and accessible online experience.
So… How Bout Them Graphics?
After hearing about the Miiverse, I was more excited than ever for Nintendo’s E3 conference. I walked in convinced that Nintendo had more brilliance in store. The conference started with a game that many people have been anxiously waiting for, Pikmin 3. Pikmin 3 will be Nintendo’s hardcore launch offering, as well as the most graphically advanced game of the launch lineup. The Wii U’s specs were a hot topic of conversation up to the date of the conference, with speculation putting the Wii U anywhere from below the 360 to on par with top PC games. After E3, we’re still left wondering.
The Wii U’s good looking games were few and far between. At times, Pikmin 3 looked stunning, but it was hard to say if it looked better than The Last Of Us or Halo 4. New Super Mario Bros U and Rayman Legends both looked fantastic, but it’s hard to get a sense of a system’s power based on 2-D games. Similarly, Lego City Undercover and Scribblenauts are not games you would expect to push hardware to its limits.
Strangely, we didn’t see any games that looked quite as good as the Zelda tech demo, which we saw a year ago. We know the Wii U is capable of more, but how much more is still up for grabs. It is important to keep in mind that these are launch titles. A quick comparison between Pilotwings Resort and Resident Evil Revelations or Uncharted 1 and 2 will show how far a system can come after its launch. With that being said, if Nintendo doesn’t show something more impressive in the near future, they’ll have a hard time wiping away the stigma of underpowered hardware.
Something For Everyone
Nintendo’s greatest strength at E3 was the breadth of their lineup. Let’s briefly mention Microsoft’s conference. At Microsoft’s show, they had great games for the “hardcore” shooter fan on display. Halo 4 and Gears of War should please this crowd greatly. Microsoft also had some great stuff for the very casual gamers. Nike unveiled a new fitness game that works with Nike + technology, and Dance Central 3 will be a hit with the casual crowd. But, what if you’re not a hardcore shooting fan, and you’re not a casual gamer? What if you fall in the middle of these two extremes?
The Wii U easily boasted the most diverse lineup of the conference. At casual extreme, we have Just Dance 4, Sing, and Wii Fit U. At the hardcore extreme, we had Zombi U, one of the most pure survival horror experiences to come along in years. We also have some non-exclusives like Mass Effect 3, Darksiders 2, Tekken Tag Tournament, and Assassin’s Creed 3. The bulk of Nintendo’s showing fell between the two extremes. New Super Mario Bros. U is a title that will appeal to nearly anyone who has ever picked up a controller. Rayman Legends is a sequel to one of the greatest platformers of the modern era, and hardcore gamers who love platformers should be drooling over it. P-100 is a game that comes from a collaboration between the masters of action at Platinum games and Nintendo that should appeal to those of us who love our hardcore games with a bit of quirk in them. Lego City Undercover will bring a Grand Theft Auto experience to a younger crowd, and it looks pretty awesome. Pikmin 3 should be a surprisingly deep strategy game that will have a chance to shine as a launch title. All in all, this is one of the strongest launch lineups the industry has seen.
Can Lightning Strike Twice?
The highlight of Nintendo’s conference was Nintendoland, and frankly, that’s where the focus needed to be. As Nintendo explained, Nintendoland is the Wii Sports of the Wii U. Like Wii Sports, Nintendoland seems to take a concept casual gamers would be familiar with, in this case theme parks, and use it as a bridge to the world of gaming. This plays out as a mini-game collection, which Nintendo hopes will provide the same sort of industry changing experience that Wii Sports did.
I’d like to focus on one demo that really hammered home the experience that Wii U wanted to provide. The Animal Crossing themed minigame is a tag like affair. The player with the tablet controls two separate human characters, one with each analog stick. The other 4 players use Wii-motes to run away while collecting candy. The interesting concept here is the difference in difficulty. The tablet player has to manage two independent characters with two different joysticks. This role will likely be filled by a more advanced gamers. Meanwhile, less experienced games are playing a far simpler game with their Wiimote. The idea is to create a game that hardcore gamers and casual gamers can enjoy simultaneously on different levels. This is an interesting idea, and time will tell if it could take off like Wii Sports. This should be Nintendo’s pack in title with the Wii U. If Nintendo plans on charging for Nintendoland, they’re out of their minds.
Sometimes, It’s What You Don’t Say That Matters Most
At the end of Nintendo’s E3 conference I was very enthusiastic about the games of the launch lineup. From what I’ve seen, New Super Mario Bros U, P-100, Pikmin 3, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and ZombiU are day one purchases for me.
While I’m excited about the game lineup, I wasn’t fully sold on the console itself. There is just too much we don’t know about the console. We still don’t know how if the Wii U will be powerful enough to compete with upcoming consoles from their rivals. We don’t know if Nintendo’s online offering will give gamers the experience they crave. We don’t know if the Wii U’s Gamepad will truly revolutionize gameplay. We don’t know if the Wii U will be able to secure third party support for years to come. E3 was supposed to be the time when all was revealed, but instead we’re left with more questions.
I still think that the Wii U is an amazing idea, and it should have a bright future ahead of it. Nintendo still has a long way to go in proving this to those who aren’t already dedicated Nintendo fans. Fans of Nintendo, or gaming in general, should hope that E3 is only the start of Nintendo’s build to the Wii U’s launch.