During Nintendo’s E3 press conference last week, the latter half of the presser was geared towards the introduction of the company’s latest controller, erm...console. Or was it a controller? Either way, Nintendo finally unveiled what had been dubbed “Project Cafe” as the Wii U. The way with how Nintendo chose to unveil the tech was peculiar at best and very confusedly done. Only very brief snapshots of the Wii U’s actual console were shown and those images were of the console in the background while the main focus of nearly every picture was geared towards the console’s controller. Alas, the Wii U is a high definition console that is exponentially more powerful than its Wii cousin and is said to be more powerful than Sony’s PlayStation 3, which would not be a feat to sneeze at. Still though, little was featured on the console itself but rather the controller.
Don’t get me wrong, the controller looks great. Think iPad meets 3DS controls, and that’s fine with me. We should all have expected something like this from Nintendo, whose middle name is “innovative”. This is the same company that brought us the first true third-dimension platformer with Mario 64. This is the same company that had the world swooning over motion controls with the Wii even though the console was just a tad bit more powerful than the defunct Gamecube. This is the same company that brought the gaming community the first handheld device that allows you to experience glasses-free 3D experience. Having a touch screen in the middle of your newest console’s controller is a walk in the park for Nintendo, and from the looks of things they’ve hit the proverbial ball out of the park with the design and accessibility.
Console Gaming Without The TV
Just like Nintendo’s E3 press conference, we’ll focus on the controller first off. It sports a 6.2 inch touch screen smack-dab in the middle of it that will allow you to use the controller as a tethered portable gaming device if you so choose to turn the television off. The screen will be used in conjunction with games much like the Nintendo DS’ touch screen was, except if you want to take the game off the big screen and play it on the smaller screen, you can do that too. The controller sports the classic “A” and “B” buttons as well as the “X” and “Y”. Also featured will be a circle pad for movement, a directional pad, the normal “select” and “start” buttons and the “L” and “R” bumpers with “L” and “R” triggers. The controller will also have built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, speakers, a front-facing camera, and a microphone. Like the Wii before it and every other wireless controller, the Wii U’s controller will feature a sync button.
Nintendo obviously learned its lesson with the Wii U’s controller design by putting standard gaming controls back into the controller, something they had taken out with the Wiimote controller. Having motion sensing controls built into your controller is not something new (see: PlayStation 3 sixthaxis controller) but having Nintendo’s innovative motion controls introduced into a standard gaming controller could do wonders. The controller’s design simply eliminates the silly need for a completely different controller to play fighting games, shooting games, and other genres of games. With the Wii U, the Gamecube is officially dead. Thank god.
Nintendo has already stated that the Wii U’s controller is not designed to be a portable gaming device, rather it’s designed to allow accessibility of your television by other members of your household. A video shown during the device’s presentation was a person playing a Mario/Mii crossover title on the Wii U using the television. Someone else walks into the room and wants to watch the non-descriptive baseball game that is on a different channel. Obviously not having another TV to go watch baseball on, the person playing the game switches the channel with what looked like a Wiimote and instantly the game they were playing was transferred from the television screen to the controller’s touch screen. The only stop in play was the player pressing the “pause” button to change the channel, the gameplay resumed flawlessly once he resumed the game. It was a very well done video of just what the controller can do. Another video showed some face-chatting between a man and a woman using the controller’s front facing camera. Nintendo has stated that they are currently working on facial-recognition software to allow the controller to recognize users, ala the Kinect.
The controller’s buttons look to be spaced pretty evenly out as the circle pad isn’t in the way of the directional pad and it wouldn’t appear that your fingers are going to be mashing the circle pad if you get to the very top of the “up” button on the directional pad. That is unless you have Frankenstein hands, in which I can not help you. The triggers placed on the back of the controller look to be very well done as there is a ridge right above the triggers to help with stability. The only obstacle I see with the Wii U’s controller is the device’s “circle-pad” which was first introduced on the Nintendo 3DS. It’s not an analog stick and might make certain genre of gaming a tad difficult, especially for shooters. I won’t write that genre off until I’ve played a shooter on it, but I would imagine that Nintendo has thought of this and has a viable solution.
Playing games themselves on the Wii U’s controller appear to be beautifully done on the OLED touch screen and transferring the games from the television to the controller’s screen looks virtually the same, meaning you’re going to be getting near HD graphics on the controller’s screen.