*Insert Siren Noises Here*: Nintendo Unveils ‘Wii U’

Oh Nintendo, you do know how to give your consoles inadvertently hilarious names. But, despite sounding like the noise a small child might make to impersonate a fire engine, the newly unveild Wii U actually looks pretty interesting. Here’s the new controller.

Once you get past the fact that it looks a bit like ‘my first iPad’, there’s quite a bit of functionality here. First and foremost, there’s that screen in the middle of the controller – a 6.2 inch touch screen that’s capable of streaming content directly from the console itself. This could be the content of the game itself – perfect for those moments when your family/friends/annoying flatmates insist on using the TV, as the self-contained screen means you can simply carry on playing. Or, it can display supplementary content – this could be something as simple as a map or inventory screen, but some of Nintendo’s tech demos displayed some other ideas (I’ll get to those a bit later).

The system also includes a front facing camera and a built in microphone, presumably to allow video-conferencing type functions (and probably more besides). As for more traditional inputs, the two analogue sliders offer the same functionality as your normal control sticks, and the d-pad, face buttons, shoulder buttons and triggers (on the rear of the console) are comparable with those of other controllers. Finally, the controller also contains a gyroscope – and much like with the 3DS, combining this functionality with the built-in screen has the the potential for some very interesting applications. And while it may look a little unweildy, preliminary reports suggest that the controller is actually quite comfortable, as well as being pretty light for its size.

I wasn’t sure whether or not Nintendo would stick with the Wii brand, but in hindsight it makes sense – especially as the new console will be backwards compatible with all Wii software and controllers. In fact, some of the more interesting demos required one player to use the new controller, while others used the Wii remotes. Chase Mii, for example, has one player attempting to escape the clutches of up to four others. But while the numbers are against that person, they have one advantage over their pursuers – they have access to a map via the new controller, which allows them to see the location of their opponents and plan accordingly. Battle Mii takes a similar approach, but instead has the player with the tablet controller flying around in a ship while two opponents on the ground attempt to shoot them down. These are simple concepts that people on the show floor seem to be having a lot of fun with – it’ll be interesting to see the kind of fully fleshed out games that could appear by the time the console launches.

The Wii U console itself (pictured above) looks a bit like a Wii crossed with an Xbox, and will pack a lot more punch in terms of hardware capability than the original Wii. For a demonstration, have a look at this tech demo of what a new Zelda game might look like on Wii U.

Pretty sweet, huh? Third parties have also been quick to throw their support behind the new console, with Darksiders II, Batman: Arkham City, Assassin’s Creed, Ghost Recon Online, and Ninja Gaiden 3 among the titles already announced. The console is scheduled to be released in Nintendo’s next financial year, but before the end of 2012 – realistically, the company will probably aim for a release towards the end of next year.

Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic about the new console. I’m not sure it’ll be the huge game-changer that the Wii was, but it looks to consolidate Nintendo’s success with the casual market while offering more for the somewhat neglected hardcore fans. If the company (and third party publishers) can come up with innovative, fun ways to utilise the new hardware, then I’m definitely on board – the potential is certainly there.


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