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Denver Wii U Experience: Nintendo Wii U hands-on impressions

My friends trying out New Super Mario Bros. Wii-U
My friends trying out New Super Mario Bros. Wii-U

Unless you're already a member of the professional gaming media (which it's generally safe to say that I am not), chances to preview an upcoming game or system before anyone else are few and far between. Assuming you get any chances at all.

Some Nintendo fans eagerly try out Nintendo Land's Donkey Kong Crash Course for prizes

Fortunately, this past weekend I was invited to attend an exclusive event to try out Nintendo's newest potential game changer, the Wii U.

Further proof that having a Club Nintendo account has its fair share of advantages.

So along with two of my close friends in the area, we went ahead and were wined and dined (well, more accurately we were soda'ed and taco'ed) by Nintendo while getting a chance to try out some of the new things they had coming out this holiday season.

Sadly, the time limit didn't give us enough time to try out everything we wanted to (namely for me, Pikmin 3 and Batman: Arkham City - Armored Edition) and not all of the announced Wii U games were there to try. But we were still able to get a good taste of things to come. Which I've compiled here.

Rayman Legends

The sequel to Ubisoft's tragically under appreciated game Rayman Origins was one of the first things my friends' and I gravitated towards. I was able to try out Nintendo's new Wii U Pro Controller playing as Rayman, while my friend Mark played as the new character Murfy on the Wii U's GamePad.

The game played exactly like its predecessor, which was to be expected. But it was a pleasure using the Pro Controller. It was extremely comfortable, though it took me a minute or two to adjust to the button layout. If there was only one complaint I had, it was that attacking was assigned to the Y button, which seemed like an odd place for it to be, considering jumping was still the A button.

As Mark and I blazed through Rayman Legends exciting first level (a Teensie village is under siege by dragons and what the kiosk rep said were witches), I became aware of just how gorgeous the game looked. Gameplay videos online simply didn't do the game justice. The combining of 3D and cel shading from the previous game produced stunning results.

What really sold me on the game was just how much Mark and I not only communicated, but how involved he actually was with my game. This isn't the first time developers have incorporated "back seat" playable characters into a Nintendo game. Super Mario Galaxy allowed a second player to pick up another Wii Remote and launch bits at enemies. But that was it and that was usually the case with most games.

Ubisoft obviously noticed how lack-luster this approach was and really gave Mark a lot to do. Aside from going ahead and carving out a path for me, stunning enemies when things became intense or giving me extra points, a lot of the mini-games had elements that only Mark could do, such as telling me where hidden platforms were or throwing tiny red eyes over for me to hit.

It was an interesting and fun result, and I can see it being a great game for parties.

Nintendo Land

The Wii U's equivalent to Wii Sports was obviously on display. There's been a lot talk about this collection. Some people think it's a waste while others had some fun with it. There also doesn't seem to be any confirmation as to whether or not it will actually be bundled with the system or sold separately. Or both.

What I can tell you is that unless you're the sort of game who raises his nose at anything that isn't "hard core", is that chances are you'll probably have some fun with it.

I only had a chance to try two of Nintendo Land's twelve games. The first one was Luigi's Ghost Mansion, a game inspired by Luigi's Mansion. One player controls a ghost with the GamePad, while four others control various colored Mario Bros. with Wii Remotes.

It plays similarly to the cult classic Pac-Man Vs., which in and of itself is pretty exciting. I didn't get a chance to play as the ghost, so I can't say as to how balanced the experience is. It seemed a little unfairly in favor of the player controlling the ghost, considering how quickly Mark, the two other players and I were picked off by the kiosk rep. Then again, perhaps she just knew what she was doing.

The surprisingly more fun game was Donkey Kong's Crash Course, an obstacle course mini-game where players steer a mine cart through a Donkey Kong inspired level. I say surprising because my general impression was that the game was more frustrating than fun. But I found it to be quite enjoyable.

Not perfect, mind you.

Since the game took advantage of the Wii U's internal gyroscope, you controlled the cart by tilting left and right, while pressing the R and L buttons when appropriate. The problem was the game would not allow you to go too fast or two slow. Which did make for a more frantic (and all together fun) experience, but it also made it difficult to gauge what was appropriate for speed.

Still, I enjoyed it. If the game is included with the system, that would be perfect. I'd be less enthusiastic if the game is sold separately, especially at full price.

Project P-100 (working title)

Aside from Pikmin 3, Project P-100 was one of the games I was most excited to try. It's hard to not enjoy a quirky game similar to Pikmin or Little King's Story that's from the makers of Okami and Viewtiful Joe and incorporates super heroes and battling giant robots.

Like the aforementioned games, you control an army of minions (in this case, heroic citizens), who swarm around your main character and can be used in a variety of ways. But while Pikmin and games like it tend to be light RTSes, focusing on resource building, Project P-100 is pure action.

The controls definitely took a little getting used to. There were buttons for pretty much everything. And in combine with your collected citizens and form giant arms, swords, guns, etc., you needed to swipe on the GamePad in the correct manner. While fighting the demo's boss, this became very difficult to me to do, since the game was particular on what motion I needed to make.

One thing I noticed were the graphics. When the game was announced, many in the gaming community moaned that it didn't have photo realistic graphics and therefore decided the game was ugly. Which is stupid, but to each their own.

In reality, the game looks quite good. There's a lot of effects and surfaces that truly look next gen. Does the game have a simplistic look overall? Yes. But "simple" does not automatically mean "bad".

Project P-100 is easily the most exciting thing on the Wii U's line up right now. And if there was ever a game that I would get Nintendo's next system for, it would be this one.


(This game IS M for Mature, so please view the site at your own discretion.)

Unfortunately, within the time limit I didn't get a chance to play Ubisoft's other exciting title, ZombiU. But fortunately, my other friend Bailey was able to do so. And I was able to watch from the back.

The one thing that concerned me about ZombiU was the possibility that having to look at the GamePad to handle certain objectives and items would either be a pace killer or extremely frustrating. Fortunately, neither seemed to be the case. The pacing was deliberately set so that players could go back and forth from the TV screen to the GamePad easily while still keep the game tense. It did mean that it wasn't as quick paced as some recent horror games like Resident Evil, but perhaps a little built up tension and slower pacing could give the genre a much needed boost.

And the activities used on the GamePad, such as scanning the environment for items and zombies actually felt quite intuitive and clever.

The game wasn't the prettiest, but it was far from ugly. If anything, I had a hard time gauging it because the in game graphics were rather dark. But there was some nice set pieces in the ruin and everything was actually well designed and had nice textures and a good speed.

The game seems exciting, but I can't give a fair judgment since I didn't have a chance to try it completely.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii U

The last item I got to see was Nintendo's newest addition to the New Super Mario Bros. series, New Super Mario Bros. Wii U.

Again, I wasn't able to try this one directly, but Mark and Bailey were able to fill me in while I watched from behind.

And truthfully, well, it's New Super Mario Bros. Much like New Super Mario Bros. 2 (which came out recently), it plays exactly like its predecessors while having a few new tricks and gimmicks. In this case, one player could control Mario directly using the Wii Remote, while another player could add blocks to help or hinder the player using the Wii U's GamePad.

To be honest, New Super Mario Bros. never did much for me. The series always seemed more regressive than anything else, especially when compared to the likes of Super Mario Galaxy. The added multiplayer component in New Super Mario Bros. Wii was fun for game nights, but beyond that I never had any interest in owning the game.

And New Super Mario Bros. Wii U doesn't really seem to change that. The added GamePad controls really don't do much in showing off the technology or doing anything particularly fun in the game, as my friends will attest to. Beyond that, it's just more of the same, which never thrilled me all that much to begin with.


Getting a hands on with the Wii U certainly helped me to get a little more interested in Nintendo's latest wonder machine. And some of the games, specifically Project P-100 and Ubisoft's offerings are definitely good arguments for getting the system.

But my time with the GamePad wasn't enough to really determine if was really going to be the game changer Nintendo no doubt hopes it will be in the way the original Wii Remote was. And to be honest, Pikmin 3 not withstanding, Nintendo's own offerings for the system seem to be a little lack-luster. I'm not of the mind set that every Nintendo system needs to launch with a Zelda or Mario, but it should at least give me more to be excited about. And of the three Nintendo games launching with the system, only one of them does that for me personally. The other is fun but nothing too exciting (and not worth full price of a new game, assuming that's the case) and the last one is pretty disappointing in the grand scheme of things (though it will no doubt still sell like hot cakes).

Combined that with the fact that most of the launch titles are already available on other systems (even ZombiU may port to other consoles later), it's harder for me to tap into my once famed Nintendo fanboyism and muster up a large amount of excitement.

That all being said, the system is still very promising. I'm withholding any final judgment until I get a chance to work with final products. But for right now, I have to say this may be the first time I haven't purchased a Nintendo home system right out the gate.


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