Can Nintendo work their controller gimmick magic twice?
There’s something special about console launches—the wonder of new hardware, new games, and that new, "fresh off the assembly line" plastic smell. But nobody does a new console launch quite like Nintendo. In part, there’s a factor of nostalgia, fondly reminiscing about their five previous generations of hardware, many of which have permanently shaped the industry forever. Another part is in knowing that not only does Nintendo release new hardware, but with it also comes a completely new way to play games. And that right there is why the Wii U is yet another defining moment for the industry.
Look at what the Wii has accomplished—a system built around a controller gimmick and a system that was said to fail almost immediately. Both Sony and Microsoft were forced to release motion controllers to try and capture some of the limelight that Nintendo was basking in. And even though the Wii has now dropped off sales-wise, it still has a lofty lead—roughly 30 million units—over the PS3 and 360.
Now, Nintendo looks to change the game yet again, providing a second screen to bring about new levels of immersion and innovation.
Wii U GamePad: Setting Industry Standards in Innovation and Accessibility
Only time will tell if the Wii U GamePad does indeed inspire another revolution in the way we play, but even this early at launch, it appears to be promising.
This isn’t just another Wiimote. The GamePad may appear to be a gimmick, and to a point it is; however, Nintendo has designed the entire experience—both hardware and software—around the gimmick so thoroughly that the point is drilled home.
Like Wii Sports before it, Nintendo Land—which comes packed into every Wii U Deluxe Set—invites you to discover the seemingly infinite ways the GamePad can be added into games. A more in-depth review of Nintendo Land will fully explain this, but know that it will have you using the GamePad in ways you would probably never expect to, and you will have more fun doing it than you have had in a long time.
Initially, the GamePad can be confusing. Do I look at the TV, or do I look at the GamePad? Or is it both? Soon it becomes second nature, and that’s when you realize the potential of the Wii U GamePad. How often have you been playing a game on a home console, with your iPhone or iPad on your lap or beside you? And isn’t that TV remote somewhere in the vicinity, in case you want to turn up or down the volume, or change back the TV input to a cable box to get back to watching TV? No need for all of that, anymore—the Wii U does all of these things naturally, as if it was meant to be there in the first place. It's essentially a companion to your entertainment experience.
Some of the gaming you will do on the Wii U, is with Wiimote in-hand. So how then does the GamePad benefit you, when it’s sitting there on your lap? A perfect example of how it does is through playing New Super Mario Bros. U. Alongside the Wiimote, I had the GamePad and stylus ready so that I could tap the screen and add blocks to reach otherwise unreachable heights. It was as if I was playing player one and player two all on my own.
That’s only single player, too. This same design creates new possibilities for cooperative play. In Rayman Legends, the GamePad's gyros can turn the entire stage that the other player is viewing on the TV. Or in Nintendo Land, during the Mario Chase event, the player holding the GamePad has a handy map showing the locations of the two players with Wiimotes, both of whom are chasing you. They, on the other hand, have no map, but have the entire view of the TV to hunt you down and tackle you.
And then there is the ability to play full Wii U games on the GamePad while the TV is off. This feature may be the best reason to buy a Wii U as a parent. Let’s face it, our kids control the TV much of the time. With the Wii U GamePad, you can play Call of Duty: Black Ops II online against friends, without the need for the TV. Surprisingly, the experience goes untarnished, too. The GamePad screen may not have the same visual and audio fidelity as a full HD TV with surround, but with a pair of headphones, you can zone out into an HD world of your own… in the palm of your hands.
It may seem as though the GamePad is portable, and while you can go into another room and keep on playing, the distance at which it maintains a connection is mildly disappointing. It works, but once you have this ability at your disposal, the fact that the Wii U signal can’t reach all the way into your bedroom or bathroom is a shame. It very much depends on the location of the Wii U console and the materials used to construct your home, so experiences will vary depending on the household. I highly recommend trying it out on your own: You may be pleasantly surprised at how far the range is, or just as easily disappointed it won’t even reach you a room away.