CES 2012: Hands-On With the Nintendo Wii
The Consumer Electronics Show is all about showcasing the latest in technological breakthroughs, and Nintendo is no exception. Last year, it gave us a peek at its latest game console, the Wii U, a successor to its popular motion-sensitive platform. This one, however, introduces a small tablet-like controller, with a video screen in the middle, which will add new innovations to the gaming scene. The company recently brought its demo stations to its CES suite in Las Vegas, and invited us down to take a look.
Granted, no games have been announced for the device yet, so the company only had tech demos to show us. However, they are very impressive. Here’s a breakdown of the four things that it had to offer:
“Street” Tech Demo: Essentially, this was a video playback of a car going down a street with a camera mounted on top. At first, it looked like something that was being played back out of Google Maps. However, while the TV screen showed the same straight image, with the car looking ahead, the Wii U monitor provided a completely different perspective. You could move it around and actually change the viewpoint of the street, from looking at the sides of the road to turning around and seeing the cars behind you. This was quite impressive, as the viewpoint acted in real time, depending where you were holding the device.
Legend of Zelda HD Demo: This was another “tech” model where the game wasn’t really playable, but you could see the various options available with the Wii U controller. Here, Link, the heroic elf who’s starred in Legend of Zelda games over the years, makes his way into a dungeon, where he finds himself in a frantic battle with a large spider. While we couldn’t control Link’s actions directly, we could change the viewpoints with multiple camera angles, and also switch the image between the Wii U screen and the television screen simultaneously, going back and forth. We could also change the image from day to night within a second’s time, showing the processing power of the Wii U system. And, let’s be honest, Legend of Zelda looks absolutely stunning in high-definition – a first for the series.
Battle Mii: This mini-game is a must-play for fans of action/shooter games, especially old-school Nintendo properties like Metroid and Starfox. In the game, you choose from one of three players. Two are on the ground, and have to look at the TV screen to see where they’re at. The third mans a flying ship, and can view what’s going on through the Wii U screen. The goal of the game is to shoot down your enemies before you lose your precious shield. The ground controls are about what you’d expect, with the Wii controls (which work with the Wii U) providing both movement and aiming of your weapon. Flying the ship is a little trickier, as you have to use both analog sticks (on the sides of the screen) to control your craft, while directing in real time by moving the device around. After a few seconds, though, it became much easier to control, and we had no problem flying around and zapping enemies. The game looks pretty good too, even if it’s far less detailed than the Zelda demo. And Nintendo fans will appreciate the return of the classic Starfox theme, which will be included in the game. (Watch out for Samus Aran’s infamous Metroid ship as well!)
Chase Mii: Last but definitely not least, there was Chase Mii, a five-player game that is essentially a virtual version of tag. One player, the one carrying the Wii U controller, is “it”, and has fifteen seconds to hide on a map before the other players, who watch on the TV screen, can move. From there, you have a time limit, and the winner is either the “it” character that’s never caught or the one that manages to tackle him. The Wii U screen provides a full viewpoint of where the other players are (and if they’re getting close to you), while the TV screen provides hints as to whether you’re “hot” or “cold” when it comes to finding the “it” player. (Players can also hint at others to tell them if the hiding character is in their colored area.) The addition of a temporary invincibility star shakes things up, and can allow the “it” player to turn the tables on his or her pursuers for a few seconds. Kind of like Pac-Man, but in a high tech way.
Overall, the presentation gave us a better idea of what the Wii U could do, and while we didn’t get any new game announcements (Nintendo is clearly saving that for the Electronic Entertainment Expo this summer), it’s definitely a step in the right direction for them.