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Preview: Wii U Hands-On

Posted by Corbie Dillard

Is Wii U for U?

Any time a company is about to release new gaming hardware there's a certain buzz that comes along with the E3 show that year. We've known for some time that Nintendo was getting set to release its brand new Wii U console this year, and we had a rather short sneak peek of the system at last year's E3. At the time we were unable to play any established Nintendo franchises on the system, making it a bit difficult to get a feel for what Wii U would bring to the table. That's what made this year's show so important to Nintendo and its fans alike.

It's clear Wii U is one sleek gaming machine. From the rounded corners of the system itself to the amazing Wii U GamePad controller, this is one slick console. Nintendo had both the white and black versions of the system on display at its game kiosks, and both look equally impressive. And although the system is a bit larger than the original Wii console, it's still significantly smaller than the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, welcome news for gamers who have limited space in their entertainment centres at home.

The bread and butter of the Wii U console is its GamePad controller. Not only does the controller feature the usual array of Nintendo-style controls, complete with tilting analogue sticks, triggers and a wide assortment of action buttons, it also includes a gyrometer and motion-sensing accelerometer. It's an impressive piece of controller technology and it'll be interesting to see what developers are able to do with it.

The controls themselves should feel quite familiar to Wii fans as they're very similar in design to their predecessors. The 3DS-style Circle Pads that were shown on the prototype Wii U controller last year have now been replaced with the more traditional Wii-style tilting analogue sticks, and there's a button click when you push the sticks. The D-Pad has moved over to one side to make it more comfortable to use and it made quite a difference in overall feel. The buttons are a bit mushy, but that shouldn't bother most players too much. It's clear that Nintendo listened carefully to the feedback from last year's show and took the time to improve the layout and feel of the controller.

If there's a standout feature of the Wii U controller it would have to be its 6.2" LCD touch screen, with vibrant colours and crystal-clear sharpness. You'll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the HDTV you're playing on and the GamePad screen itself. And while the Wii U touch screen uses resistive technology rather than the capacitive system used in devices like Apple's iPhone, the similar feel it has to that of the DS and 3DS systems adds a nice layer of familiarity to it for those who own the Nintendo portables. It also tends to offer a bit more feedback when used with the stylus, so those wanting to use just a finger might find it a little less responsive.

Not to leave classic gamers out in the cold, Nintendo is also releasing a new Wii U Pro Controller that can not only be used for older titles in the Nintendo console catalogue, but also many of the brand new Wii U titles as well. The controller looks and feels very similar to the Xbox 360 controller and does a wonderful job of offering a more traditional controller feel for games. Taking Rayman Legends out for a spin with the controller proved to be a very responsive and comfortable alternative to the Wii U controller, especially after longer playing sessions. Much like the Wii U GamePad, the buttons are a bit soft to the touch, but it's still a very functional and comfortable controller option for those willing to pony up the cash for one.

From a hardware standpoint, Wii U is quite impressive. It clearly has some nice processing power under the hood and being able to play Nintendo franchises in high-definition has been a long time coming and a welcome sight for gamers who've been clamouring for the feature. The innovative controller also has a lot to offer and while we got to see some unique features in many of the titles that were showed off on the show floor, we're still likely to see far more variations in the coming years as developers gain a handle on the controller functions and how to best use them. And at the very least there's a lot to be excited about Nintendo's newest home console, which is something we couldn't say with any degree of certainty at last year's E3 show.

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User Comments (77)



Deviant_Mugen said:

Wait, I though the Pro controller got redesigned to not look like a re-skinned 360 controller. Like so...

Other than that, great write-up, Corbie...

And to answer the question: Wii U is most definitely for Mii...



zane said:

@corb was that you in the farewell video from renegade kid? And soft controllers? I don't quite grasp your view.



Shiryu said:

Why yes, yes it is, it is for me, can't wait to have one, I don't own any of the other HD consoles, so definitely yes.



Aviator said:

@Deviant_Mugen That looks even worse. Like it swallowed a 360 controller, an inverted PS3 controller and a classic controller.

"The buttons are a bit mushy, but that shouldn't bother most players too much."
Somehow I feel this was directed directly to Pix.



Azooooz said:

I hope that Wii U will have a major success when it launchs worldwide, Though most people probably will have to wait for black Wii U.



Corbs said:

Yeah that was me in the Renegade Kid video. Jools and I hung out most of the time in LA at the show. And the buttons offer a very soft depress and soft rebound. Didn't bother me one bit, but some people prefer a much more "clicky" depress with a bit more feedback. Like maybe Pix.

And I got to actually use the Pro Controller and it looks and feels very much like an Xbox 360 controller in many ways. So if it did get a re-design to make it less like a 360 controller, it wasn't a success.



19Robb92 said:

I'm getting one. Launch or not depends on the launch price. I'm not willing to pay more than 300$ for it. (Maybe 350$ if NintendoLand is bundled with it).

Looks and sounds like a great system.



alLabouTandroiD said:

Good to hear the controllers are all nice to use. This honestly surprised me since on the Pro Controller the placement of the D-Pad and BAYX buttons doesn't look comfy to me. Also the first time i've seen it in white now.
More mushy buttons sound like a good thing too. While personally i haven't had any problems yet i've heard a lot of talk of DSi and 3DS buttons not working anymore due to their more clicky nature. But ...

  • ... do any of the L/R - buttons feel like those of the DSi or 3DS?


Corbs said:

The "L" and "R" buttons feel more like those of the Wii Classic Controller to me.



Sean_Aaron said:

Well I can't see getting the Pro unless it emulates a Classic Controller for all Wii games or the Gamepad sucks for anything but screen-based play. Sorry to hear the screen isn't made for touch use, but I'll live.



kyuubikid213 said:

So, since no one has asked it yet, how does the Wii U GamePad feel in your hands, Corbs? Does it feel too big? Or does it feel more comfortable than you would expect. Don't sugar-coat your answer please. It won't affect my "I'm buying this" decision.



Corbs said:

The Wii U controller feels really good actually. It's not too big at all. But some games require you to hold it with just your left hand and use your right hand to use the touchscreen to help the other player out in NSMBU and Rayman Legends and that can be tiring on your hands. But for regular use, the Wii U GamePad feels great.



GamerZack87 said:

Nintendo has me set on obtaining a white Wii U already, which means my time with good ol' reliable Wii may be coming to an end very shortly. My big concern right now should be trying to get a platinum GameCube from eBay so I can still play my trusty GCN games.



sebman30 said:

birthday end of november, lucky because all the new consoles were released around then so i always got given or had enough money to get them so this year i hope its no diferent fingers crossed (even though im not in my teens but anyway) EXCITED!!!



Fang said:

I'm not too keen on the motion control part, it might have worked (key word there: might) for the Wii but the Wii U gamepad is significantly bigger and more expensive than the Wiimote. I can see alot of people accidentally breaking the Wii U gamepad playing Wii U sports ('cause we know there'll be one)



Adam said:

Is the Pro wireless, or does it need tethering to a Wii Remote or Game Pad?

Looks like there is a port at the top, but I'm hoping that's just for charging it from the system.



rjejr said:

@Fang I'm thinking developers will use the "motion' more for "steering" than batting, hammering or whacking. whatever works with a solid 2 handed grip. A 3D style Breakout perhaps?

If the Pro works for all the Wii, Wiiware and VC games, and doesn't require a Wiimote, I might finally finish MH Tri and pick up Xenoblade Chronicles. I've been holding out on Xenoblade Chronicles b/c despite Nintendo saying the WiiU won't improve Wii graphics I can't help but think HDMI will be better than component on a 1080p tv. All the Zelda TP comparison videos certainly showed component was the clear winner over composite.



Corbs said:

It was hard to tell. The Pro Controller they had on the units were connected by a wire, but that could have been a tethering cord to tie the thing down so people didn't run off with it. Having said that, the wire coming out of the back of the Pro Pad made me believe it was wired.



rjejr said:

I really want a WiiU, and I don't get "Smartglass", but if Tim Cook announces a "free' Apple TV w/ every iPad purchase, or bundles a 7" iPad mini w/ the Apple tv, THAT might be a problem for the WiiU. I don't think he will this afternoon, b/c he's saving it for iDisplay, which won't matter b/c that will cost $2000. I don't know why Apple didn't do "Smartglass" before MS, Apple TV coupled w/ iPad dominance should've won the war by now. Lucky for Nintendo they haven't. Glad the WiiU will presumably launch before the door closes.



47drift said:

I wasn't aware the triggers were analogue. All the pictures I've seen make them look digital. Interesting!



BenAV said:

My guess is that the Pro controller is wireless.
For one, it has a port up the top which is likely used for charging, whereas if it was strictly a wired controller then I'd imagine the wire would be permanently attached like on the Classic Controller for example.
Also, if it was wired it'd have to be tethered to Wii Remotes or something which sounds pretty silly, as they wouldn't be tethered to the GamePad as then the controller for players 2-5 would be coming off player 1s controller.

Anyway, I'm really excited to get my Wii U on launch day, and I'm going to make sure I have enough money to afford a Pro Controller too as having options is always nice.
I don't know how I'm going to survive the wait from now till like November! D:



Corbs said:

The cord was awfully thick to be something that connected to a Wii Remote or Wii U Pad. But as I said, it could have been used to tie the controller down. Lots of sneaky hands on those babies.



McHaggis said:

Buying this at launch or not entirely depends on availability of the black model for me. I was a launch day Wii owner and I always felt I'd prefer it in black, but couldn't ever justify buying another. This time, I'll wait if black isn't available right away.



BenAV said:

@Corbs I'd imagine that's what it was, or just something connected to a power supply to stop the controllers from going flat during the event.
I'll be pretty surprised if they aren't wireless.



Chrno-x said:

Sometime later I will definitely buy Wii U for my beloved Pikmin 3, but on TGS I want to see bunch of great new exclusive titles that will secure the Wii U future. If not then I'm gonna wait about 3 years to see if it's worth. But for now i'm more interested in 3DS (because it's all about the games ;])



Pokefanmum82 said:

I'm getting this day one. My birthday is in October so I'll just save my birthday money to get it. Hope it's not more than $350.



randomlypikachu said:

hoping that i can either save up for it from christmas money and very small amounts of money i make throughout the year, or actualy get it as a gift this christmas



SteveW said:

ugh... feels like a Xbox 360 controller? I can't stand those controllers...



Dipso said:

About the cords: It has been stated that current "prototypes" and "developer" versions of the tablet has a cable for communication but that the final product will be wireless. I would assume that going for the wired models in an environment like E3 would be wise not only because they would need a tether and PSU anyways, but also due to interference. Remember we are talking a pretty dense stream of HD data here, so several consoles sending the same type of data, and other sources of interference could quickly give unwanted results.



Kirk said:

"And at the very least there's a lot to be excited about Nintendo's newest home console, which is something we couldn't say with any degree of certainty at last year's E3 show."

I still couldn't say that any more now to be fair.



H3ro_of_tim3 said:

After all that E3 revealed, regardless of the fact that there wasn't really any big "surprises" that we've all grown so accustomed to from the big N, I believe that Nintendo successfully made the Wii U incredibly appealing. Sure, we didn't see any glimpses of a Zelda for the 3DS, and we all pretty much knew SMBU was coming in some fashion (not to mention Pikmin 3). But in the end, I found myself anxious to jump forward to the October/November window where we will surely see the Wii U hit store shelves. And for the first time in more than a decade, I will be waiting in line at midnight to take home my own brand new Nintendo Next Gen console. Let the anxious anticipation and long nights waiting begin.



Azooooz said:

Does anyone know if Wii U Pro controller is considered as a sixth controller player?




@Deviant_Mugen that's photo-shop the official pre-e3 pics are final also look up the controller on Google you'll see people holding the controller it doesn't look like that its blatant photo-shopping i don't have a good eye for things like that so that tells you how obvious it is



FiveDigitLP said:

Good point. I hadn't thought about the fact that, even despite the lack of upscaling, HDMI should improve things overall. I know for a fact (from personal experience) that Xenoblade looks better with component vs composite. There is a lot of small text in the game and I could barely read it when I took my Wii to my family's house to play it. On my HDTV with component, though, it was crystal clear. I would imagine that HDMI should help even more so.



supask8a23 said:

Honestly I dont like the pro controller BECAUSE its an exact copy of the 360 controller, what happened to the originality? But I guess this isn't the first time Nintendo completely stole something and tweaked it a little cough Super Mario Bros 2 cough



TheWord777 said:

im gonna wait for a price drop,the spec is tp low for a 300 price gonna see what the other twp come outnnwith next?



AVahne said:

The Wii U Pro controller can be used for Wii games too? If so, I'll be using that for MH3 then!



Ernest_The_Crab said:


I don't get your crack with Doki Doki Panic considering that game was developed by Nintendo too. It's hardly stealing when you're copying yourself in the first place.



Obvious78 said:

Guys ur late...Just read about Black Ops Wii U and that the Wii U version will get special "Wii U functions"....More info in the next magazine from Nintendo Gamer



FonistofCruxis said:

I think the Wii U pro controller looks better than a 360 controller but it still looks too similar. I prefer the classic controller pro. Although, that might change when I actually get to try out the Wii U pro controller.



WolfRamHeart said:

Great article Corbs. Nintendo's E3 press conference left me with more questions than answers on their new console so I was anxious to get your impressions of it. The more that I learn about the Wii U, the more interested I am in getting one. I remember you not being too crazy about the original design of the Wii U Gamepad but it sounds like you are satisfied with the final design. About the Pro Controller, how is the feel of the placement of the ABXY buttons beneath the analog stick? Is it awkward or did you get accustomed to it immediately? How heavy are the Gamepad and Pro Controller? They look like they are light in weight. Do they feel durable? About the games, could you tell us more about the Wii U games that you played? I am particularly interested in Rayman, Pikmin 3, Super Mario Bros U, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Assassin's Creed III and Darksiders II but any additional information is much appreciated.



Corbs said:

You know I was actually very impressed with the Pro Controller. Very comfy. Not too heavy and not too light. Button placement is a bit odd right at first, but after a few minutes of Rayman Legends, it felt great. And I'll have Wii U game impressions coming up VERY shortly.



WolfRamHeart said:

Awesome and thanks for your quick feedback Corbs. I'm really looking forward to reading your game impressions.



ArmPit said:

Question; does the touch screen allow for two-touch inputs at the same time? Seems Nintendo would miss a trick if it once again does not include this as it is now a standard on all smart phones and tablets.



Gate_Shikimuri said:

It isn't an exact copy of an XBOX 360 controller. Just look at their right sides and button size and power/player indication placement.



Corbs said:

The screen is NOT multitouch, at least according to the booth tour guide I was talking to.



erv said:

Oh yada yada, I'm buying it, I'll play the games, have a great time at it.

Why is fun so incredibly boring to talk about?



ouroborous said:

I hope black is a launch color because it looks alot better.
I will probably buy one if only for the sake of Pikmin 3. I have been waiting for that game for what, like a decade now? Hopefully it's more like the first one than the second since the dungeons made the game a bit more tedious and left the original ultimately the more fun of the two. From what little I have seen, it reminds me more of the first. A few of the other launch titles at least look fun and Darksiders 2 should be awesome. Mario for WiiU looks better than the same game for 3DS so that will probably be worth a shot, even though I haven't liked any of the "New Super Mario Bros" titles so far because of the floaty controls which are awful. Oh and thank god they seemed to have abandoned the HORRIBLE Wiimote for more traditional controls (analog sticks, etc). That's why I gave up on the Wii long ago and never looked back and is why I think I am willing to give the WiiU a chance (although now games like Muramasa do support the classic and pro controllers). Because of the Wiimote, I will never go back and play Twilight Princess or Metroid Prime 3 unless I can use the pro controller somehow one day.



Corbs said:

Actually, the only way to play New Super Mario Bros. U on the floor was using the older Wii Remote turned on its side. Only the second player placing blocks was able to use the Wii U controller with the touchscreen.



Nin-freak said:

@Corbs So is the screen similar to the 3DS, as in "squishy" in texture? If it is, I'm wondering if it will feel weird to slide your finger across the screen?



Corbs said:

Yes it is kinda squishy. Feels very much like the 3DS touchscreen to me.



Chunky_Droid said:

I don't get why everyone's complaining that the pro controller looks like a 360 controller.

They're all variations of the SNES controller anyway, except with sticks.



lanabanana said:

I hope Nintendo Land comes bundled up with the Wii U . Lets be honest here; Who is willing to pay around $40 for a game that has only 12 mini-games?



Chunky_Droid said:

@Janett: Depends how deep the mini-games are, and how many variations on each theme there are. Though if not packed in I doubt it'd be $40 USD



k8sMum said:

@corbs: how rugged did the touchscreen controller seem to be? will it stand up to kids? angry players (not that anyone her on NL has that problem, lol)?



Corbs said:

It did feel fairly solid. Has a nice weight and balance to it. All the buttons and sticks feel solid too. I was pretty impressed with the Wii U controller overall.



Drawdler said:

@#19 Pretty surely, yes, that was added to prevent stealing, they did that with the shown units when I went to some local 3DS demos last year...



SPEtheridge said:

Really wanna get my hands on a Wii U, Pikmin 3 looks great not too sure bout the other games but hopefully some will be announced pre/post launch.



Mr_DSi said:

Awesome! I'm jealous you got your hands on it! I have a question, for games like New Super Mario Bros. U do you require a Wiimote or can you play using only the Wii U Gamepad?



Kage_88 said:

I cannot wait for Wii U.

It will be awesome, and will once again prove the haters wrong.

The world will keep spinning.

Seriously; all this talk about being a 'stop gap' and having insufficent power is just so incredibly tiring. When it comes to sheer horsepower, it will NEVER be enough. There is always something in the horizin that packs just a little more oomph - whether it's PS4/Nextbox, or the latest PC just never ends. Yes, graphics are nice - yes, AI is wonderful - yes, bigger gameworlds are rad...but people just need to stop obsessing over raw numbers so much, and focus more on the heart and soul of videogames; fun.

Wii U will rock. I can't wait to try out the GamePad - interacting with games on the TV, playing them in their entirety on that 6.2 inch screen, and immersing myself in new worlds.

The Nintendo Difference, people.



TimboBaggins said:

@deviant_mugen Whoa I like the newest redesign much better. It almost looks like a futuristic Genesis shaped controller! The new contours are probably even easier to wrap your hands around.

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