So its been a few hours since I watched Nintendo’s pre E3 “stream” (it was simply a video pitch that they didn’t feed to the public until their live stream today), and I’ve come away with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m very excited for the console. It seems like a innovative experience that, for a change, doesn’t fall back on gimmicks and a family friendly push. With the tablet controller featuring full on sticks, as well as the “Pro” controller which looks strikingly similar to the Xbox 360’s, as well as Nintendo’s acceptance that the internet is real and used by millions for social gaming, this could be the first core oriented console from Nintendo since the N64. However, there were a few things about the console I’m still a bit wary of.
Firstly, Nintendo is really pushing the idea of a connected “living room”. While I personally think this is a great concept, the fact remains that Nintendo simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to back it up. While I’m sure the Wii U will be a fun little media center, but the fact that the tablet controller can double as a universal remote isn’t really a huge selling point. Microsoft has been pushing this kind of connectivity/media center for the last 2 decades, and they have the product to back it up. My Windows PC’s connect to each other, my TV, Xbox 360, others iphones, and potentially Windows Phone 7. All my content is accessible all the time from any of my Microsoft devices, and its incredible. They can pull this off because Microsoft is in the gaming market, the phone market, the computer market, the tablet market, and more. Nintendo is a gaming company, and that’s pretty much all they’ve got. Unfortunately, I think this is going to end up being one of those features you look back upon and realize that it didn’t really turn out to be as revolutionary, cool, or even as useful as promised.
Secondly, the menu. I don’t even know where to begin. While I obviously have no hands on experience, just what I have seen looks absolutely terrible (see the header image). I like to imagine that it is a result of Saturo Iwata taking a can opener to his iPhone, shaking all the icons out on a table, and then throwing in a few Mii’s to give it that post 2006 Nintendo feel. I don’t get a good vibe from it, to put things incredibly simply. Hopefully it either gets significantly tweaked before launch, or I’m just totally wrong and its the best OS since Windows XP.
And there you have it. Those are my two, and my only two worries about the console so far. These are things that can easily be fixed even post release, and really nit picking more than everything. I myself am still a little wary of a lasting community online, and whether or not the tech backing the console will hold its own upon the eventual release of the next Xbox and Playstation. However, only time will tell. On to things I was impressed with from the sales pit-, sorry, Wii U stream.
The controllers. Both of them. Firstly, the standard tablet controller is looking great. Since we last saw it during E3 2011, its layout has changed for better ergonomics, grips have been added to the back of the device, and most importantly its received an upgrade from 3DS like slide pads to full on sticks. As Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford has commented, this is obviously the best shooter controller Nintendo has ever released. Coupled with the fact that the tablet function doesn’t come across as a total gimmick like the Wii’s motion controls, things are looking up. Still, Nintendo revealed something even slightly more interesting: a “pro” controller that, save for the analogue sticks being above the face buttons, looks like a 360 controller with a better directional pad. This is fantastic news for core gamers, as in my humble opinion the Xbox 360 controller is the most ergonomic, responsive and easy to use, especially for shooters. This really is hard to beat.
Other than that, not a whole lot new was shown of the console. The social features are neat, but I can’t see myself posting moronic questions on how to beat the game when I can simply find a guide online (especially given the Wii U tablet controller has a built in web browser). I did like the looks of the video chat, although if we get another .3 megapixel camera as seen on the 3DS, this could be something most people will just disregard.
Overall, this is honestly the console to beat. Regardless of what Sony and Microsoft reveal next E3, unless its packing some absurdly powerful hardware, the features the Wii U boasts are impressive enough to draw someone like myself, a hardcore Xbox guy, to consider switching sides temporarily. While I will no doubt be purchasing the successor to the Xbox 360, the Wii U is almost certainly going to be added to my 2012 budget (so long as it releases this Holiday season. My money’s on November). I am more than impressed by Nintendo’s apparent attempt to push the beyond casual gamer’s that brought them so much success with the Wii, to the side and bring back some features and tech that core gamers have been waiting for since the demise of the Nintendo 64. And heck, who doesn’t want to see the tablet controller functioning as a motion tracker in Aliens: Colonial Marines?