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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wii U proves odd but fun

    I’ve spent weeks trying to come up with the right words to describe the Wii U. For some reason, they just wouldn’t come — and that’s a problem. Not just for me and my job, but for Nintendo. It takes a little bit of digging to understand exactly what that problem is, though, and it’s that the Wii U is hard to pin down, despite how cool the console is. It’s not like the Wii, which had an apparent innovation from day one. Even people who had never played video games could see the Wii’s shtick was motion control, and that helped it sell. Ever since the Wii U’s announcement, however, it’s been kind of difficult to say what the Wii U’s schtick is.

    At this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, Nintendo finally gave gamers the words they’d been looking for: asymmetric gameplay. Just to demonstrate what makes the Wii U so difficult to describe, try to imagine what asymmetric gameplay actually means. Its function is not as apparent as the Wii’s motion controls. Asymmetric gameplay, in its most basic sense, is sort of like being able to play the same game two different ways at the same time — that’s not very simple either. Using the console’s unique gamepad, which looks like a Nintendo-made tablet with two joysticks, the Wii U games can be played differently than they otherwise could be with the old Wii controllers.

    For the optimal amount of fun, Nintendo wants you to play games with friends, using the pad and the Wii controllers at the same time. Examples can be found with a simple Google search, but minigames from the Wii U’s flagship title, “Nintendo Land,” give the best idea. Take the “Luigi’s Ghost Mansion” minigames, in which up to four players run around a maze looking for an invisible ghost. Instead of the ghost being computer-controlled, however, the player using the gamepad is chasing the others around. What happens is that, on the big screen that you’d normally play a game on, the four players only see themselves running around. On the gamepad’s personal screen though, the player controlling the ghost can actually see themselves in addition to their targets. The point is, anyone using the pad can often have a completely different experience than with a regular controller. All of that is the main part of the Wii U’s schtick.

    There are some other features, such as being able to play any game solely on the gamepad’s screen, allowing anyone to use the TV while you play. Asymmetric gaming is the big thing, though, and it took a couple paragraphs to explain, unlike the Wii’s innovation, which could be summarized by saying “wave the controller to make it go.” Now, this isn’t to say the Wii U is unimpressive, bad or any other negative adjective. Frankly, the Wii U is a really cool concept that actually turned out even cooler in reality. But as I mentioned, the problem is that the concept doesn’t come across until the gamepad is in your hand. I can say with confidence that playing the Wii U is a good time, but it’s hard to understand exactly without using lofty words that don’t necessarily mean anything. I could say the Wii U feels fresh and has a whole new layer of complexity, but did that just compel you to pre-order it?

    It’s a weird sort of duality, with the Wii U being exciting in person but less so when not, but the console isn’t something to write off. I’m already looking forward to the next time I can get my hands on it, but will the Wii U’s innovation generate enough excitement to sell like its predecessor? I’m skeptical.

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