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Hands On: Seeing The World in Wii U Panorama View

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

It needs a new lens prescription

Wii U Panorama View has been around for a fair amount of time, appearing at various events and being a common feature at Wii U demonstration units. The concept is simple but, at the same time, is a solid demonstration of the unique possibilities of the Wii U GamePad; the innovative controller functions as a window into a fully realised world, allowing you to view beyond the confines of the TV.

As a concept demo, then, this is an excellent way to show newcomers to the system one of its unique selling points, and before the Wii U shipped there was speculation around the web whether these "tours" would be bundled on the system or be available, at least, as free downloads from the eShop. Nintendo has decided to go the other way, however, and after a bit of a wait has made these tours available for sale; so are they worth buying?

To start with, there's a free demo that allows you to enjoy a very brief taste of what the tours have to offer. It's a short teaser, however, so for a more sustained and worthwhile experience you'll need to put down $2 / €1.99 / £1.79 for each tour, with four on offer. The options are clearly designed to tap into tourism fantasies for consumers around the world, with a London tour bus being joined by a Brazilian carnival, a flight with a flock of birds and a rickshaw ride through Nintendo's hometown of Kyoto. Based on our runs through the latter two, you're looking at around 5-8 minutes each of video in these downloads.

The main question revolves around whether this tech demo works well, and it mostly does. In terms of utilising the GamePad's motion sensors it does a solid job, with the start of the app prompting a calibration process to get it ready. You start off by pointing at the TV and then simply move the GamePad to look around a 360 degree view on the controller's screen. The movement is smooth and mostly reliable, though occasionally — as is pretty much always the case with motion controls — the GamePad can lose its centre; simply pointing at the TV and tapping the Select button resolves the issue.

Beyond simply moving your view around, you can also move the camera a little on the left stick — which is a little pointless — and zoom the view with the right stick. Tapping R immediately gives you the reverse view at a 180 degree angle, which is a thoughtful inclusion, while a tap of X will show the GamePad's view on the TV — the default on the TV is a forward view with a GamePad window in the top right. If you so please you can also jump into Miiverse and post screenshots of the TV or controller perspective, though you may need to do a quick fix of the calibration with Select when you return, as it's often lost when you do so.

And that's it from a functionality perspective — as we've said, this is really a tech demo. The question remains whether these tours are worth your hard-earned cash, and we're not sure they are. For one thing, the two that we've experienced have woefully low-res pictures, which are painfully noticeable on the TV in particular. This is possibly the result of the system having to process a 360 degree view, but the fuzzy video immediately undermines any illusion of being immersed in a tour — unless you have bad eyes and are in need of a new prescription. When zooming in with the right stick the pixelation becomes even more apparent, and the picture quality seems out of place on a system that's so resolutely HD in its new apps.

The poor picture quality is a pity, as both the Kyoto and flying tour — based in Italy — have some thoroughly decent photography and musical accompaniments, showing that the intention was there to produce an enjoyable, worthwhile experience. The rickshaw ride takes in a fairly rural area of Kyoto, with charming backstreets and an attractive garden to explore. The flying tour is spectacular thanks to its concept alone, and in its five minute running time takes in a variety of areas and times of the day, with a particularly striking finale. It's easy to see why the concept and films were considered worth distributing.

Sadly the technical shortcomings, which really boil down to sub-par image quality, deprive these tours of any notable sheen; another illusion-busting effect is that if you look directly down at some points, a bizarre and unsightly blurred circle appears. It adds up, with the pricing and the short run times, to make the sale of these tours questionable. They simply don't have the visual quality to make the experience truly engaging or immersive beyond a solid impression of the GamePad's capabilities, so their value doesn't match up to the asking price.

As a tech demo, these tours are nice and brief diversions, and would have been ideally suited as free downloads to tempt Wii U owners onto the eShop. With their current price tags, however, they're slightly disappointing.

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User Comments (31)

Zyph

#2

Zyph said:

The app is great! The only downside is the length and the video quality.

onlyaman

#3

onlyaman said:

I agree that they should have been free. Nintendo needs more examples like this to woo casual consumers. That was the brilliance of Wii Sports- it was immediately accessible and included with every system. Charging for them on the eShop won't reach that audience.

manu0

#4

manu0 said:

I guess Nintendo doesn't know too much about video compression...most of the trailers in the 3DS eShop and the videos distributed via Nintendo Video look pretty bad...(also the screenshots in the 3DS eShop)...

Nintenjoe64

#5

Nintenjoe64 said:

I've stuck my gamepad onto the front of a welding mask and have made a virtual reality version of this app

GiftedGimp

#6

GiftedGimp said:

The tourism videos don't make me want to bother, although I like the concept behind them.
I would like to see something more exciting though, maybe Theme park attractions, Rollercoater Rides, or even onboard with the Red Arrows Air display team.
Maybe then I'd pay a couple of quid, but those Tourism Vids should definatley be free.

ajcismo

#7

ajcismo said:

Picked up the Kyoto trip, which was entertaining. Especially when the guide and the Geisha would chat in Japanese.
The double-decker bus one looks neat since we're planning a trip to London in a few years. Might check that out later.

Kirk

#9

Kirk said:

These should have been free throwaway demos that came with the machine to show of one of it's unique features, that most people would waste a few minutes on and then never touch again, but charging for them is just a piss take imo.

Svengoolie

#10

Svengoolie said:

I think the resolution was just fine. It looks bad on the tv but great on the GamePad. And at 2 bucks a piece, that's chump change. I bought all 4 without even considering it and really hope they make more. It's an amazing bit of technology that I wasn't even aware existed. Video in all directions that I'm in control of? Why isn't everyone freaking out about this as much as I am?

RedYoshi999

#11

RedYoshi999 said:

I bought the London tour, as I've been there before and it was cool to see it all again (especially the night scenes) The quality wasn't too bad (its not even that noticeable on the GamePad) although it was hard to hear the tour guide clearly. I doubt I will buy the others, perhaps the birds one but its only 5 min long? The London tour was nearly 10 minutes.

dumedum

#12

dumedum said:

it will be amazing if you can actually take videos yourselves and then have them displayed panoramically on the TV and gamepad. Like you can do with a stitch function for pictures. That will be amazing. I guess you'd need a lot of cameras though at the same time. In fact I am not sure how this is technically being done at all.

tsm7

#13

tsm7 said:

I downloaded a couple out of curiosity. Kyoto - because my sister lives in Japan. Was a bit disappointed. You don't see much and the quality on the tv is kind of miserable. The London tour is decent, however.

rjejr

#15

rjejr said:

This strikes me as the type of technology that would appear first in amusement parks as a big deal E ticket ride and then 20 years later we would all be riding it for a 25c token at Chuck E Cheese. And now it's another 10 years after that and the thrill is all but gone.

Anybody else think Nintendo should have rolled this in with their other viewing app, Google View or whatever it is? I thought they would have learned from their Wii mistake of finding a game in Nintendo Shop but then having to get out of that and go into Nintendo Channel to see a video of it and then have to get out of that and go back into Nintendo Store to buy it. 1 app, all angles.

Full disclosure - I did get suckered into buying a 3-D toybox for my iPod Touch that had 7 games on it with promises of more. I tried all the demos and that was it. No more games came out and I traded in my Touch for a 7" Tab 2. So I will try the demo and show it off to friends but that's probably it. I would perhaps buy Machu Picchu (sp?) or some forbidden far off Tomb Raider locale that I'll never get to in real life.

RetrogamerFan

#17

RetrogamerFan said:

Several U games already use the gamepad in a much more creative and fun way. i thought this was very dull and not worth paying for.

DerpSandwich

#18

DerpSandwich said:

It's just not worth the price in my opinion. Maybe five bucks for the whole package, or a buck a piece or something. But who's going to pay for these tours and just watch them over and over again? It's really not that fun or interesting. I had my fill after two plays of the demo.

Marioman64

#19

Marioman64 said:

okay, nintendo and google, when you offer a zoom in function, the resolution of the zoomed in view needs to be the base image size. you don't, say, start with 1024 x 768 on the zoom out and then stretch the image when you zoom in, you set the zoom in resolution to 1024 x 768 and then start the player zoomed out, that way when players zoom in it's like "oh look, an actual zoom in and not just a picture stretch"

MEGAMAN_D

#20

MEGAMAN_D said:

I loved it

I would love to see this used in one of those crime games where you look for clues

that would be awesome

Setrodox

#22

Setrodox said:

I agree with the articles and comments. Just wondering... How about this concept to make Pokemon Snap 2? Has anyone suggested that already?

THENAMESNORM

#25

THENAMESNORM said:

I like the videos, however we all want this these things for less. I'm happy to have paid the price, but I feel there should have been a little more included. Call me crazy, but I tried this at a Wii U event pre-launch, and I'm sure it gave objectives like Wii Sports Resort jogging does(to spot certain things and test your memory) but I can't see any trace of it here. Did I just imagine it was there in the preview build? Or did it not make the final cut??

TrueWiiMaster

#26

TrueWiiMaster said:

I was really disappointed that the videos had such low resolution (I wouldn't be surprised if they were less than 480i), especially with their price tags. I also thought it was stupid that each video is its own channel, rather than one channel for all four. It's still a cool app, though, even if undercooked and overpriced.

SMCBLF

#27

SMCBLF said:

Defiantly HD is needed. It feels like a cheap version with out it ...

andrea987

#28

andrea987 said:

Agree 100% with the review. They should have been free. And then, if they released longer ones with better def, maybe charge for a pack of them (tour of european cities, or US cities, for example).

EaZy_T

#29

EaZy_T said:

Thanks for the write-up, I was wondering the approximate length of the tours.

TreesenHauser

#30

TreesenHauser said:

The price tag is exactly what made me avoid downloading these, as cool as they sound. Maybe I'll try the Kyoto one out eventually, but for now I'm fine with Wii U Street

KillerGBH

#31

KillerGBH said:

awesome trip in kyoto this place so wonderful . they just need to make it HD and with longer trip would be nice too . but still very nice for a beginning i hope they continue improve this :)

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