As some of you (i.e. those of you who follow me on Twitter) already know, I attended the "Wii U Experience" event Nintendo of America held in downtown Seattle last night.
In case you've never heard of them before now, these invite-only events have been held in cities across the country over the last month or so and provide attendees with a bit of hands-on time with Nintendo's next console and a number of its games (both first- and third-party).
As far as I can remember, the following games were demoed during the "Wii U Experience" I attended: Batman: Arkham City--Armored Edition, Game & Wario, Just Dance 4, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U, Project P-100, Pikmin 3, Rayman Legends, Sing, Wii Fit U, Wii U Panorama View and ZombiU.
Anyway, of all of the aforementioned games, I personally got to, well, experience just four of them: Game & Wario, Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U and the still-tentatively-titled (I hope) Project P-100.
Below are my impressions of each of those titles, as well as a few thoughts on some of the games I simply watched other people play.
* Game & Wario--If there was a Wii U game at this event that disappointed me, or at least confused me, it was this one. For starters, I find the art style used here to be kind of off-putting, especially when compared to the style that's been used in the most recent WarioWare titles.
The oddly childish (in a bad way) art style employed here isn't Game & Wario's main problem, though; no, that would be its rather unappealing gameplay. You see, rather than rapidly throwing a series of hilarious (or at least mildly humorous), single-player-focused mini-games at players like WarioWare does, this Wii U title tosses a bunch of slower-paced (as in, some of them have time limits that last for a number of minutes), multi-player-focused games at them.
That would be all well and good, but the two Game & Watch mini-games I experienced at the event weren't multi-player experiences in the traditional sense. Instead, both of them involved one player holding and using the Wii U GamePad to interact with the TV and the rest simply watching the action and providing input (such as, "the guy you're looking for is in the lower-right corner!") when needed.
There's nothing wrong with that kind of gameplay, and it's certainly unique in the world of console gaming, but I can't say it appealed to me all that much. As such, I hope either a bunch of Game & Wario's mini-games can be enjoyed alone or one of Nintendo's teams is hard at work on another WarioWare title.
* Nintendo Land--I have to say, Game & Watch looks especially bad when experienced just after Nintendo's other multi-player-centric Wii U "launch window" title, Nintendo Land. Whereas the former game seems oddly unappealing, the latter features the kind of "anyone can enjoy it" magic that's injected into all of the company's best releases.
Although five of Nintendo Land's mini-games were demoed at the Seattle "Wii U Experience," I only played two--Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and Luigi's Haunted Mansion. Both of them were loads of fun and caused me and the people I was playing with to smile, laugh, cheer and more. Well, except for the time my husband begrudgingly agreed to sit in on a round of Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. (Him: "Which one am I?" Me: "I don't know, move around a bit and figure out which one moves in the same way." Him: "None of them are moving in the same way." Me: "Of course one of them is moving in the same way! I'm the one in the lower-left corner, so you're one of the other three." Him: "What am I supposed to do again?" Me: Collect the candy!" Him: "Which ones are the candy?" Me: "Arrrrrrggggggh!!!")
Sadly, my experiences with both mini-games were rather short, as me and my competitors/colleagues completely sucked. Still, we had a blast. I'd like it to be noted, by the way, that all of the mini-games on display looked great. I was especially impressed with Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, which gives me hope that the inevitable Wii U-based Animal Crossing sequel not only will look gorgeous but will look significantly different from its predecessors.
* New Super Mario Bros. U--Would you be surprised to hear the biggest crowds were parked behind the two Wii Us that were playing this game? Yeah, I wouldn't be either. Was it worth waiting in line for? Oh, yeah. Although I've never been the biggest fan of the New Super Mario Bros. series (only the Wii iteration has really wetted my whistle), I've been interested in New Super Mario Bros. U since it was re-unveiled during the most recent E3--mainly due to its high-definition visuals.
Speaking of which, this game's graphics are even more impressive in person than they were in the screenshots and YouTube videos I'd seen before the "Wii U Experience" event. Everything is so clean and crisp that you can't believe you ever thought this would be little more than an up-rezzed port of New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
Anyway, enough about that. I was lucky enough to be able to play the "starry night" level that can be seen at the 50-second mark of this trailer. As was the case with my time with Nintendo Land, I completely sucked while playing this game for the first time (as in, I used up all of my lives before our time was up). In my defense, I was distracted from the task at hand due to my once-again-distressed husband, who had no idea what he was supposed to do. (Me: "It's a Mario game. You move to the right and hit the jump button once in a while." Him: "Which character am I?" Me: "I don't know! Move around a bit and see which one moves the same way." Him: "Which one is the jump button?" Me: "Aaaaahhhhh!!")
Amazingly, I still left the New Super Mario Bros. U station with a grin on my face. Yes, it feels pretty much like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but it looks so much better that I'll surely be buying it alongside the Wii U.
* Project P-100--This is the first game that I sought out upon entering the "Wii U Experience," but it was the last one I played. That's because I was more than a bit intimidated by it. Why? Well, everything moves really fast, for starters. Also, it uses pretty much all of the Wii U GamePad's buttons as well as its touch screen. Trying to come to terms with all of that in front of a pack of slobbering witnesses (OK, so most of them weren't actually slobbering) wasn't all that appealing to me early on.
I returned to the Project P-100 station (which was startlingly empty for most of the event) just before my husband and I left, though, due to a little voice in my head that kept telling me, "You readers are going to give you hell if you don't at least try it." So, I did. And you know what? I loved it. Yes, it was a bit confusing at first thanks to the plethora of control options, but after a minute or so (and a bit of help from the nice Nintendo employee who was manning that particular station) I figured things out and no longer felt like a floundering fish.
It must be said, by the way, that in the end the bevy of control options made Project P-100 (or, rather, what little I played of it) feel like a much deeper experience than I expected it to be. It's not just a mindless run-and-punch or run-and-slash game. The question is: Will I be picking up this title alongside the Wii U (or whenever it's released), too? You bet your buttons.
As for the rest of the on-hand games that I failed to play but still attracted my attention: Pikmin 3 was absolutely beautiful and deserved the rather sizable crowd that always seemed to be hovering around its tucked-away-in-the-corner station. Rayman Legends and ZombiU also looked fabulous, with the latter especially surprising me. Although I'm not entirely fond of its character models (something about them seems a bit "off" to me), the rest of ZombiU is as gorgeous as a game about killing zombies can be.
Speaking of the Wii U's graphics in general, I wouldn't hesitate to say that all of the games I saw in motion (and I saw pretty much all of them in motion at one point or another) looked a lot better than I thought they would prior to the event. The overall visual fidelity of each and every game that was shown off last night easily put to shame similar games that were made for the regular ol' Wii.
Did they look better or worse than PS3 or Xbox 360 offerings? I don't know--and, honestly, I don't care. All I care about is that they looked great (as opposed to, you know, looking "just like Wii games," as some haters would have you believe).
Finally, a few thoughts on the Wii U GamePad, which I've been dying to get my hands on ever since it was unveiled during last year's E3. The first thing you have to know about it: It's amazingly light. As in, not much heavier than, say, a Wii Remote or an Xbox 360 controller. Even better: Somehow, it doesn't feel cheap. Also, the analog sticks as well as face and shoulder buttons feel great. Oh, and the GamePad's touch screen is really nice. I was pretty frazzled when I had to use it while playing Project P-100 (you have to draw a circle to attract citizens to your ever-growing swarm of super heroes), so I can't say how responsive or unresponsive it is, unfortunately, but everything else about it appears to be top-notch.
So, there you have it. If I were forced to edit this post to just one line, I would go with something like: I'm sold. As in, I'm sold on buying a Wii U and a number of its games--assuming, of course, the system is sold at a reasonable cost (which is something we North Americans should hear more about this coming Thursday, Sept. 13).
Note: If you have any questions about the "Wii U Experience" in general, the Wii U console, the Wii U GamePad or any of the games that were featured at this event, feel free to ask them in the comments section below.