Nintendo ups its game with Wii U

By Troy Rawhiti-Forbes

Troy Rawhiti-Forbes gets his hands on the gaming giant's impressive new gadget and some of its new titles.

Nintendo Wii U game console. Photo / Supplied
Nintendo Wii U game console. Photo / Supplied

Nintendo has delivered the first console of the eighth generation, and it is a device of considerable imagination. Much like the Wii before it, the Wii U has stirred excitement among gamers for its outside-the-box features, and concerns about how this unusual animal might stand up to its powerhouse rivals.

What we do know is that the Wii U will go on as its predecessor meant to, and the early signs are encouraging. The new unit includes the GamePad, which looks very much like the child a standard Wii controller might have with an iPad, and what it gives players is a range of first- and second-screen options that might revolutionise gameplay the way the Wii's motion controllers did in 2006.

Nintendo appears to have emphasised heavily what has come to be known as "asymmetric gameplay", where experiences differ depending on the controller you're holding and how many players are involved. This is demonstrated to great effect in the excellent Nintendo Land mini-game Luigi's Ghost Mansion, where one player uses the GamePad's screen to see the entire field of play and, as a ghost, chases the other players down.

Opponents view the TV screen, where the ghost is invisible unless illuminated with a torch, and use vibrations in their standard controllers to determine where the ghost is, so they can team up and subdue it.

The Wii U is currently available in two configurations. A basic package, in white, costs around $470 and has limited accessories and 8GB of internal memory. For $100 more, the black premium package includes 32GB of internal memory, a charging dock for the GamePad and, crucially, a copy of Nintendo Land.

A word of warning for first-timers: The massive initial firmware update might force you to cool your jets for a while, though online commentators have pointed out that hitting "Cancel" should allow the data to be downloaded in the background while you get stuck in to your new games.

There will be discussions about how powerful the Wii U is in comparison to the current Xbox and PlayStation consoles, but Nintendo has done what Nintendo has always done, and tried to be different. That approach hasn't always delivered the sweetest fruit (if you don't remember the Virtual Boy, please don't hang your head in shame) but the Wii U has arrived and it is a tasty machine that deserves a place in your home.

Game reviews

Nintendo Land opens the gates to the Wii U with a spectacular flourish. This virtual theme park is meant to introduce players to the Wii U technology, and achieves it in stunning fashion. Each "attraction" focuses on the hardware's interactive functions, using the Nintendo characters and universes players have grown to love for three decades.

Brilliantly, the mini-games perform differently depending on which controller you use - the GamePad or the old Wii remotes and Nunchucks - and how many players are involved.

Pretending to be The Legend of Zelda's Link in the arrow-slinging, sword-swinging Battle Quest is a seriously good lark for solo players but the best fun is to be had with multiple players in either Luigi's Ghost Mansion or Animal Crossing: Sweet Day.

Nintendo Land
Stars: 4/5
Rated: G

Stop the presses. The evil Bowser has finally determined that kidnapping the princess is a terrible idea because, for nearly 30 years, Mario has located his various castles of doom and performed daring rescues.

In New Super Mario Bros U, the princess gets to stay home, albeit under house arrest courtesy of Bowser and his malevolent kids.

A lone player can negotiate NSMBU on the GamePad without the TV, meaning loved ones can watch whatever they like while the controller functions as a very large handheld console. That's not entirely without drawbacks, as the button placement makes the frenetic gameplay slightly difficult to pull off, but it's not a major concern.

It looks like New Super Mario Bros, and plays a lot like the greatest side-scrolling Mario of them all, Super Mario World. An easy win for Nintendo.

New Super Mario Bros U
Stars: 4/5
Rated: G

You play a survivor of a zombie plague that has brought London to its knees. With not much more than a cricket bat, you must break the shuffling, groaning lines of defence while you search for a cure. You'll get help via your GamePad which works as a radio, terrain scanner, and virtual backpack.

If you stop to search your belongings, the action continues, leaving you vulnerable. One bite and you're dead. You'll reawaken at the game's starting bunker, in control of a new character who must pick up where the dead one left off.

Smacking dead folk with a cricket bat is gruesome fun, but ZombiU lacks visual oomph. As an introduction to the Wii U's second screen however, it's unbeatable.

Oh, and if you like trivia: Zombi, from 1986, was publisher Ubisoft's first title.

ZombiU
Stars: 3.5/5
Rated: R18

- NZ Herald

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