Loc: Menlo Park, CA
Thought folks here might be interested. A few weeks ago, I was invited as a Club Nintendo member to the San Francisco Wii U Preview event. TBH, I wasn't really sold on the system but it actually changed my mind. Coming into it, I had low expectations.
OK, here goes. Via Club Nintendo, I got on the Wii U Experience invite list. I took my 2 kids and their cousin to demo the system and a bunch of games in San Francisco. Very cool experience.
Entrance I pre-registered but somehow my confirmation got stuck in a SPAM filter. Finally figured it out though. When we arrived, we all got badges to connect us to some photos they took. They corralled us together before entry, making it more exciting to enter the room.
There were kiosks all over, showing off different games. I'll give impressions from what I can remember and played.
Wii U Sports They were showing this game with the Wii Fit Board. I wasn't that interested but my nephew pretty much lived at this game station.
NintendoLand I didn't get to play many of the worlds but I did play the Metroid area with my kids. They used the Wiimotes so I could get some hands on with the Gamepad. I'll give details on that below. Regarding gameplay, it was more fun that I would've thought. I flew the ship while shooting the kids' characters on the ground. You use the 2 sticks to control direction and rising/falling of the ship. You also move the controller around to change view on your screen. My view was completely separate from the kids, like I was playing a completely different game. Definitely a bit disorienting, mostly because it's not what you'd expect from a gaming experience. There's some potential there with the gameplay mechanics.
I also played the Pikmin-oriented game, mostly because I'm a HUGE Pikmin fan and still PISSED nothing ever came on the Wii. There were 5 of us (including the gamepad) and we moved together to break down objects to get to the boss area (I think). This was the first game I played walking in so I didn't get to pay too much attention as I was a little overwhelmed at first by the crowd and watching my kids.
Super Mario Bros U The first thing I noticed was the graphics. You could tell immediately that it was playing at 1080p. I wouldn't think it would be a big deal but it was. TBH, I might consider a Wii U just to play at this higher res. Granted, the Xbox 360 and PS3 already do this...so it's sad we had to wait this long to enjoy it. The demo guy explained that the 5th player on the Gamepad could create blocks to help the other 4 get to other places on screen. In practice it seemed pretty cool. I was able to pick up the new acorn power up but couldn't get a good hang of it with the little play time I had. Other than VERY VERY good graphics, not much of the gameplay seemed much different that the past few games (including the 3DS). But I suppose it's a formula that works. The interesting feature was that you could still play this game only the Gamepad, thereby allowing everyone else in the room watch TV at the same time. Apparently, many games will have this feature, which seems 'kind' of cool if you have family arguments of who gets to use the TV for their purposes.
Scribblenauts Unlimited I played this a little. The graphics again were fantastic, granted it's more cartoony so that's not a hard thing to achieve. I love Scribblenauts but I honestly wasn't that grasped by the new gameplay which is more of the exploration type vs the straight out finish a puzzle and then move on. This is one of those games where you can play just on the Gamepad, where the graphics look very good. This was definitely beta s/w because I made it crash and they had to reboot it...
Pikmin 3 Better graphics once again. Took me a while to remember the controls. I watched many play the standard collection mode. They added a new rock Pikmin that are used to break crystal structures. Very much the same gameplay as previous games. When it was my turn, I opted for Boss Battle to try something different. I still like this game and look forward to seeing what other new features are there. The Gamepad is used to scan the entire planet map to plan out your routes, a feature I can see as very helpful in these type of games.
Game & Wario This was a nice surprise. I've always loved Warioware games on the DS and Wii. This is apparently made up of about 12 minigames, 4 of which were playable. They had a hide a seek game where one player w/ the Gamepad was a 'thief'. The other 4 players would watch the main TV screen where apples where distributed in a crowd. The thief would then steal them and all 4 players would have to guess the identity of the thief. There's a skiing game where you ski on the Gamepad almost like an iPad. Eh. I played arrow shooting where the Gamepad was a crossbow and you used the touchscreen to load the arrow and move it around to aim. That was actually kind of fun.
Rayman Legends I didn't play as I normally don't like the series. My son didn't like it either.
Batman Arkham Seemed interesting but I honestly think the PS3 looks better. I didn't play but the player who did was using the Gamepad in some kind of stealthmode where you could xray your surroundings and use the Gamepad to locate things. That seemed like a natural use of the Gamepad.
Just Dance 4 This series is a bit of a favorite in our house. Mostly because it's pretty fun and we work up some good sweat. AND, when you video someone doing it, it's kind of funny taken out of context of the game. With the Gamepad you can add another player who can change the moves in song and also cause a freeze moment. My daughter loved this game.
Singstar Never played it.
Wonderful 101 OK, definitely my favorite surprise. It has the most plain sign and now I know why. Seems the original name was PS-100 and it just changed. I was intrigued because the graphics were so clean, intense and very much like a well drawn comic book. The game is almost a mash of Pikmin (you have a group of superheroes w/ their own strengths), Infinity Blade (hack/slash gameplay), and Viewtiful Joe (graphics). I mentioned Viewtiful Joe and the demo guy mentioned this was a Platinum Games title, which apparently has the some of the team members from Viewtiful Joe and Okami. You use the Gamepad to control your team and make moves. I was a bit overwhelmed because the game used the touchscreen, both sticks and the L/R shoulder buttons (and there are 2 on each side). You can use the touchscreen to implement moves like Inifinity Blade on an iPad, but you can also use the right stick to do the same. I LOVED this game, this would definitely be a launch title for me.
Wii U Gamepad I made sure to play a few games that used this. The feel in my hands was pretty good, not too heavy, weighted properly when it was in the horizontal position. Bear in mind there are a few games that have you hold is sideways, like Game & Wario. The screen resolutions looks very nice for some games. However, my biggest gripe on the screen is that it felt cheap to touch. The screen 'gives' a little, much like my old Palm Treo 600. Maybe it's a pre-production unit, who knows. At the end of the day, there's really no reason this damn Gamepad couldn't be an app on an iPad or Galaxy Tab. The buttons and sticks could be saved for a revamped Wavebird controller. Combining a controller with a screen is nice but to me, it's adding cost for a novelty that doesn't yet have a need. Remains to be seen if there's a game that justifies this 'marriage'.
3DS XL They had a stand with a few out for demo with the New Super Mario Bros 2. I do have to admit that it's a MUCH better experience vs my original 3DS. If mine ever breaks, I'll get this. The only negative is that having the dual analog stick would make it the size of a damn laptop.