Nintendo Enthusiast goes hands-on with the Wii U and are happy to report it was awesome!
by Jon Ross (Darth_Vagrance)
The San Diego Comic-Con is now over and thanks to one of our contributors, Jon Ross, we come bearing gifts! Nintendo set up shop at the Marriot Hotel with their “Wii U Experience,” and Jon headed over to get up close and personal with the anticipated new Nintendo console. He and his brother managed to video capture some of their sessions with New Super Mario Bros U, Pikmin 3, ZombiU, Project P-100, and NintendoLand.
If you want the TLDR version, it’s this: The Wii U rocks and many people don’t even know it. It’s quite possibly everything you wished for and more. People aren’t grasping just how good some of these games are, and all of them, so far, are loads of fun. ZombiU was the star of the show, proving that survival horror can once again be survival horror without turning into an action movie (looking at you, Resident Evil.) Pikmin 3 left gamers anxious to see more. New Super Mario Bros U will satisfy Mario games with its diversity, fun, and enhanced visuals. Project P-100 seems really deep, and it’s obvious that the demo is only scratching the surface of what it has to offer. And NintendoLand is a lot better than most people imagine. These aren’t just mini-games; they’re somewhere in-between mini-games and real games and they’re actually quite fun.
But you probably will want the full version, so keep on reading…
-New Super Mario Bros U-
How it Works: Similar to New Super Mario Bros Wii, you’ll have the option to play as Mario, Luigi, a yellow Toad, or a blue Toad. But in New Super Mario Bros U, you can also choose to play as your Mii character.
The new flagship power up this time around is the flying squirrel suit. This suit allows you, of course, to glide, but there’s a bit more depth to it than just that. You can change direction mid-flight, and you can control the speed of your glide. Holding forward makes you go faster, and not pressing a direction at all makes you glide slower. At any time, during your glide or otherwise with the squirrel suit, you can shake your controller and give yourself a boost upwards, about the height of a full jump. But after this vertical boost, you can no longer glide at all. Instead you can only sort of flutter back to the ground. And that’s not all the squirrel suit lets you do– it also allows you to cling to walls. It’s basically like stalling out on a wall jump. Instead of sliding down the wall like you would in previous Mario titles, with the squirrel suit you will just cling in place until you decide to drop or jump off. Many platformers allow you to hang on to a wall and now it’s Mario’s turn to try out this feature.
Baby Yoshi also makes a comeback in this game,but with a twist. With baby Yoshi in hand, give the controller a shake and he’ll inflate like a giant balloon, initially launching you into the air and then allowing for a much slower decent. Additional shakes while in air will give you small vertical boosts.
In the all new “Boost Mode“, you can have up to 4 players with Wiimotes running through a course and an additional fifth player using the touch screen of the Wii U Gamepad to add blocks to assist your friends, or to tap and stun enemies.
My Thoughts: Let’s talk about the multiplayer mode. To put it bluntly, being the player with the Wii U Gamepad in multiplayer and helping out the other players is’t that much fun. What I did enjoy immensely however, was trolling the crap out of them. I’d try to strategically place blocks right above their head when they went for a jump so they’d hit it and fall in a pit. Or to continuously place blocks over the opening of an inverted pipe so they had a hard time getting in. It was hilarious messing with the other players.
What about the single player game? Playing with the Wiimote, juggling all these enhanced vertical and horizontal movement techniques with the squirrel suit, adds a lot of options to your traversal of each course. Now throw in some flying squirrel enemies that can do basically all the same moves as you and it gets very interesting. I’m a HUGE 2D Mario fan and with the new additions to gameplay, as well as the enhanced visual style and extra modes of play with the Wii U Gamepad, it looks like this next installment is sure to satisfy.
Single Player: In the single player mode you play as a survivor in the zombie apocalypse happening in London. You start off with a standard pistol and a cricket bat, which you can switch between by tapping their respective icons that are conveniently located in the upper leftmost corner of the touch screen. No matter what weapon you have equipped, hitting the right trigger performs a push move that gives some distance between you and your zombie foe. Holding the left trigger readies your equipped weapon and the right trigger fires, or in the case of the cricket bat, ‘Z-left’ readies the weapon and ‘Z-right’ takes a swing.
There’s an inventory that you can bring up on the touch screen by pulling down a little tab, much like the notifications window on your smartphone. This causes your in-game character to crouch down and pull out his backpack, with the camera backed out to third person so you can see what’s around you. Now keep in mind this does not pause the on screen action, you’re still vulnerable to attack. It’s a great little effect that adds immersion to the survival horror aspect of the game. You also have an area scanner that can be activated by holding down the left bumper button (L). You hold it as if youre looking ‘through’ the screen, and use the motion sensors to look all around the in-game world. In the scanner mode, line up the reticule on the touch screen with something highlighted white, and hold down the on screen button to scan it. This gives you a read-out of what items the object in question might be carrying, be it a closed chest or a dead body.
There are several other uses for the touch screen as well, including a crossbow’s scope, which is controlled in a similar manner to the scanner, a lock picking device, and a keypad, that appear whenever they are contextually appropriate.
Multiplayer: In the multiplayer demo, one person would play as a survivor using the Wii U Pro Controller, and the other was the Zombie Overlord playing with the Wii U Gamepad. The survivor’s job was to run around to each of 3 flags and capture the area by defending it from zombies for a set amount of time (think Halo’s “Territories” multiplayer mode). The game plays almost identically to the single player version for this player, with the only exception being, of course, the lack of all the touch screen components.
The Zombie Overlord is controlled by the player with the Gamepad. This puts you in a sort of Real-Time Strategy game, in which you have the entire map on the touch screen. Your goal is to select which types of zombies spawn and then place where they spawn in order to either capture the flags for yourself, or kill the other player. There were 4 different types of zombies, all with slightly different attributes, color-coded based on abilities. The red zombies (the ones dressed like Buckingham Palace guards) are the only ones that can actually capture the flags. The “blue” zombies are like sentries, only attacking if the survivor comes within range. White-colored zombies are your standard “search and destroy” units, and the yellow zombies perform the same basic hunting functions, just a little bit faster.
With the entire map at your fingertips, you can either slide your finger across the touch screen to scroll around the map, or use the left stick to move your viewpoint. Areas of the map that you cannot place zombies are highlighted in red; these would be areas outside the play area, or too close a radius from the survivor character. To place a zombie, simply tap the icon on the lower part of the screen denoting which unit you would like, and then tap again a valid place on the map for him to spawn.
My Thoughts: This was the star of the show for me. Playing the single player campaign was an intense experience, filled with atmosphere, and even a few moments that made me jump. It was refreshing playing a true survival horror game. All the moments that you need to look into your backpack to equip weapons, or open up a chest and loot it’s contents need to be planned out well in advance. If you’re not in a safe area when you do all of these things, youre going to get chomped. I was initially worried that looking back and forth between the TV screen and the controller screen like this during these intense moments was going to be bothersome, but I quickly found that this wasn’t the case at all. It really added to the atmosphere of the game and heightened the tension immensely.
The multiplayer is wrought with potential. The strategy involved with playing as the zombie overlord was really rather deep. From the short time that I was able to play, and from what I watched of other people playing, it seemed like there were two basic play-styles. You could either try to kill the survivor by sending out your mobile units (white and yellow units), or you could go for the flags and set up defenses (red and blue units). I’m anxious to see the finished product and feel out the depth of these strategies to their fullest.
After playing this demo, ZombiU has made it’s way onto my ‘Most Anticipated Games’ list. Easily.
How it Works: This was the only game at the Wii U Experience that was played completely with the old Wiimote + nunchuck combo. The controls are almost identical to it’s remade predecessors on the Wii. Point with the Wiimote to aim where you’re going to throw your Pikmin. Control your character’s movement with the nunchuck’s analogue stick, and recenter the camera by tapping the nunchuck’s ‘Z’ button. At any time, press either left or right on the d-pad and your character, along with your current party of Pikmin will roll out of harms way. Instead of the swarming function of the previous titles, Nintendo’s added a nifty lock-on feature. Simply point at an enemy and hold the Z button and you will lock on. Now, when locked on, give the nunchuck a shake and your hoard of cronies will all charge out and attack/interact wtih your locked on target.
My Thoughts: The new rolling-dodge technique is a very welcome addition, and comes in handy particularly during the demoed boss battle, where a giant armored, bug-like, lizard creature charges at you in a straight line and you must dodge perpendicularly like a matador to avoid your little leafy buddies getting chomped. It’s very nice to now have a quick way to get out of danger.
The new rock Pikmin were neat, and I could see some potential with puzzle-like challenges with them and glass objects. But in the demo, they essentially performed the same basic tasks as any of the other pikmin would. I’m really anxious to see more of this game. Honestly, the demo didn’t do a great job of making the game feel fresh for veterans of the franchise. The game obviously has a lot more to it and a short demo simply wasn’t enough. I’m hoping Nintendo has more up their sleeve that will make Pikmin 3 compelling whenever we finally get our hands on the full version.
The Bottom Line: The Gamepad-player options in NintendoLand’s mini-games are always a blast to play. But, most of the Wiimote-player modes are pretty average– nothing we haven’t seen before. Except for Luigi’s Mansion, of course, which was hilarious to play with any controller.
The Legend of Zelda Battle Quest
How it Works: There are two options for play in this game. You can either play with the Wii U Gamepad, or with just the Wiimote (no nunchuck). Basically, the Wiimote is to play as a swordsman and the Gamepad is to play as an archer. Wiimote players will be holding the Wiimote vertically, like a sword. Your swordsman character, appropriately attired in the legendary hero’s garb, walks on his own throughout the course and it’s up to you to control his swordplay. The sword feels about 1:1 with your actions with the wiimote. You can slash in any direction with a quick flick of the wrist, or point your wiimote to the sky to charge up a powerful spin attack. You’ll face standard enemies at first, like bokoblins and chuchus, that go down with just one slash no matter what direction. But you’ll soon come across enemeis that require a bit more precision. The bokoblins will now be donning shields along with their swords, and your task is now to slash in the direction opposite or perpendicular to the direction theyre holding the shield. This is similar to Skyward Sword’s battle strategies.
With the Gamepad, you play as an archer. Aiming is done by moving the controller all around you, and to fire an arrow, simply pull down on the right analog and let it go. Pulling down all the way and letting it charge a bit will fire off a powerful shot, while just lightly flicking the stick downward will fire a lofty, less powerful shot. Every time you start pulling back to fire an arrow, your character, that is still walking on it’s own just like the swordsman, will slow down. You can also use this mechanic to gain some distance between the camera and your character to get a better vantage point on the action.
My Opinion: The swordplay was fun, but it felt almost exactly the same as the swordplay in Wii Sports Resort. The Zelda theme did make for a nice change of pace, but I’ll be curious to see if Nintendo can keep it feeling fresh in the later stages.
Archery was much more entertaining. The aiming was surprisingly precise with the W U Gamepad’s motion sensors, and it was very satisfying to save your swordsmen cohorts when their slash get blocked by a Bokoblin and are about to get whacked.
Animal Crossing Sweet Day
How it Works: Animal Crossing: Sweet Day allows for 4 people to play with wiimotes (held horizontally), and one person to play with the Gamepad. Wiimote players play as friendly townsfolk walking around trying to collect candy that they shake out of trees by standing on a button right at the base. Some trees only have one button, but others have 2 or 3 requiring that number of players to stand on them for a few seconds before the tree releases it’s candy. The townsfolk’s goal is to collect 50 pieces of candy before the time runs out.
The Gamepad player controls 2 characters at the same time. One with the left stick and one with the right. His goal is to chase after the townsfolk who are collecting candy and lunge at them by pressing the ‘Z-right’ and ‘Z-left’ buttons to attack them with a giant fork, making them spill their candy cache.
My Thoughts: Playing with the Wiimote is alright. You dont really have any defences against your attackers, all you can do is run away and hope the lunges from the Gamepad player miss. There is an interesting dynamic in that the more candy you’re carrying, the slower you walk. So if you’re about to be snagged, you have the option of dumping some candy and sprinting to safety.
Playing with the Gamepad was kind of disorienting at first. It took a little while to get used to moving 2 characters with 2 sticks across the game board, but once you kind of get the hang of it, its pretty satisfying to use both in conjunction with each other to close in on the townsfolk.
Donkey Kong Crash Course
How it Works: In this game you control a little triangular cart-like object by tilting the Gamepad left and right. The harder you tilt it, the faster the car will speed around the course. There are weirdly positioned ramps and drops to navigate; having your little cart tip over on it’s head or slam too hard into a wall will destroy it causing you to lose a “life”. It’s made more complex by having levering ramps along the way that you control by pressing either the ‘Z-r’ or ‘Z-l’ buttons (triggers) – so you’d come up to a ramp that appears to be a dead end, hold ‘Z-r’, and the ramp lowers, opening a new path (just be sure to keep holding the button until you clear the ramp or you might inadvertantly flip yourself over). There are also pullies and elevators that you wind yourself over with by rotating the left or right analoge stick.
There was only one obstacle course shown, but I didnt see a single person reach the end of it without expiring their life pool. It’s quite challenging. In this game you could either look at the TV or the Gamepad. The TV was an expanded view of the entire obstacle course and the controller was zoomed in and focused on your cart. It seemed like most people preferred watching from the Gamepad’s pespective, which made the TV’s view kind of pointless unless you had spectators watching you play.
My Opinion: I liked this one a lot. It was very challenging. The tilting controls were very responsive. Slight tilts would allow for slow and very accurate movement, and harder tilts would have you zipping across platforms at high speed. I never felt like my cart was out of control. I cant wait to see more crazy courses for this game.
How it Works: You have 4 players with Wiimotes (held sideways) moving with the d-pad and shining their flashlight with the 2 button. Their goal is to walk around and find the Ghost by shining their light on him; teamwork is key here. The only way to see the ghost is if you shine your light on him, or if a lucky flash of lightening hits an area that he’s in. But here’s the fun part, you *feel* when the ghost is near you; the wiimote will start to rumble intensly when the Ghost is in a certain proximity with your character.
Shining the flashlight on the Ghost causes his health to drop, just like in Luigi’s Mansion, and the goal is to defeat the Ghost by bringing his health down to zero. Be careful about shining your flashlight too much, it has a battery that will run out if you’re overzealous, and will leave you running defensless for one of the batteries that spawn, not-too-frequently, in random areas of the map.
Now playing as the Ghost (on the WUpad) is a little like playing Pac-Man, except instead of Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde zipping about semi-randomly, you’ve got a team of 4 coordinated human players hunting you. Your goal is to incapacitate each of the four players, which you do by simply walking into them – the Ghost automatically grabs your opponent and from there you can drag them away for a limited time before they fall to the floor. Their teammates then will come to try and revive them by shining their lights on the downed player.
My Thoughts: Luigi’s Ghost Mansion was the most popular of the NintendoLand attractions. There was constantly a crowd around this booth, and for good reason. It’s hilariously fun. Playing as the Ghost on the Wii U Gamepad is incredibly intense. Navigating the corridors, attempting to down one player to set a trap for the others, all while listening to their attempts at coordination really gets your blood pumping.
It is just as fun playing as the Ghost hunters as well. You absolutely must communicate with your team, as the only way to know where the ghost is most of the time is by feeling the rumbling of your controller. Trying to cover a teammate, while he’s reviving another, while also watching your own backside is a daunting task while you’re feeling the rumble of the Ghost nearby.
How it Works: In this game, you hold the Wii U Gamepad sideways and flick ninja stars from the touchscreen in your hand up to the targets on the TV. The game registers the difference between a hard/fast flick, which sends the ninja star shooting onto the TV like a bullet, and a slower/gentler flick, that lobs the star onto the TV more like a frisbee. The more consecutive enemies you can hit without missing, the more points you are awarded. You face enemy ninjas that are static at first, but progressively move faster and faster as you continue, eventually throwing ninja stars and bombs back at you that you’ll have to knock out of the air with your own projectiles.
My Thoughts: This one was really fun. The very first thing I noticed was the surprisingly accurate aiming. There is no IR pointer control here, just the motion sensors inside the WUpad itself, and it’s still capable of rather impressive accuracy. It works very naturally to aim with the Gamepad and launch stars off it. From what I saw watching people play this little demo, most people (including me at first) were just launching ninja stars as fast as possible and ending with a score in the mid 100′s. But if you were careful and picked your shots, you could get up into the 300′s. I could see myself playing this one over and over trying to get a better score.
How it Works: In this demo, you play as the leader of a group of minions, of which you control the entire pack. At face value it may look a lot like Pikmin, but it’s really quite different. You have your basic attack that is performed with the ‘X’ button, this sends your entire party smashing into enemies as one giant hoarde. Using this attack builds up a meter that’s denoted with batteries at the top of the screen. You use this power to perform your special, or “Unity Attacks”, which have your minions forming their bodies into the shape of one giant weapon. These are used by drawing symbols on the touch screen of the WUpad, then activating them by pressing ‘A’. The demo featured three of these attack types. The first has your party of minions forming into a giant fist by drawing a partial circle. Next is a sword, formed by drawing just a vertical line. And finally a gun, formed by drawing a sideways “L” shape. Once either of these three special weapons are activated, you use them by pressing the ‘A’ button. But you dont need to draw the shape every time you want to use your sword. Once you’ve activated it once, that one weapon is now available to use every time you press ‘A’. You only need to draw again when you want to use a different weapon. While in combat, you also have two defensive moves. The left trigger will form your party around you into what looks like a jello mold, which acts like a shield. Or you can hit the right trigger and have your party bound out of the way like a Slinky.
The right stick controls the movement of you minions which is used somewhat contextually. There are other civilians that you will run across that can be added to your party by using the right stick to draw out your minions in a circle around them and pressing ‘A’. Or later in the boss battle section when you’re fighting on top of a giant alien robot’s mechanical arms, you use your minions to draw a line between the arms and then press ‘A’ to form them into a chain that you can walk across.
My Thoughts: This game was very interesting. I felt like the demo was just barely scratching the surface of what this game has to offer. The combat was fun, and using the touch screen to perform those special attacks worked well. You very quickly get to the point of being able to draw your next weapon without even looking down. It’s hard to put my finger on why, but for some reason this game left the biggest lasting impression on me. It’s the one that I was thinking about days after I had played it. I want to get in deeper. I want to figure out all the nuances of the controls and combat mechanics. This demo was just not enough for me.
Thanks again to Jon (Darth_Vagrance) for the valuable footage, and for spending crazy time editing and uploading the footage, as well as writing the above impressions.