Wiipad

After a couple months of waiting, Nintendo has finally announced their new system. There was a lot of speculation about what kind of power the system would have. I followed this massive wave of speculation daily. I’ll admit, it was fun to see all the mockups and debate the possible changes Nintendo would implement. So here we are a couple weeks after E3 and we have a name and a relative level of system power. Most importantly we have information about their new controller.

I won’t get into the debate regarding the name of the system. In my opinion, a name is just that. My opinion is that Nintendo didn’t want to distance themselves from the Wii brand. Can’t blame them. When their system sells over 80 million units, there must have been something people liked about it. Let’s not even forget about the iconic image of the Wii remote and nunchuck. I think I would have like the Stream better than the Wii U, but I can live with it just like I lived with the Wii name.

One of the things that bugged me the most about the Wii was that fact that developers really didn’t try to do interesting things with it. In the beginning, there were some standout pieces of software which included The Godfather: Blackhand Edition, Resident Evil 4, Scarface, SSX Blur, and No More Heroes. I had a lot of fun with those games, and the promise of more of those kinds of experiences had me giddy. Unfortunately, that just didn’t play out the way a lot of people expected. Capcom never followed up Resident Evil 4 with another third person game. All we got were rail shooters. EA made The Godfather 2 for the HD machines with no Wii version and never tried to expand on the controls they pioneered. The Wii never got a version of Mercenaries 2 even though the PS2 did. True the game was bad, but that’s not really the point.

It was a strange situation, and one that I openly blame developers for. So much potential lost. There were discussions about how the Wii was underpowered and wasn’t for the “core” gamer (a.k.a. the kiddie argument again). All I can do is shake my head. We were there in the beginning…waiting.

We’re now at the beginning of the Wii U’s life. The controller has been revealed and it’s a huge departure from the Wii remote and nunchuck. Gone is the split controller as well as IR we’ve come to expect. Now we’re back to dual analog for shooters and a multitude of buttons. The WiiPad adds in a 6.2″ screen which can be used for many general purpose applications such as maps, inventory management, stats, as well as asymmetrical multiplayer and co-op. The applications are quite thrilling, to be honest. Those of us who had been following the early leaks pretty much knew about the screen and button layout, so the reveal wasn’t all that surprising to me. There are possibilities.

Developers have expressed some desire to work with the Wii U, but will they actually do anything worthwhile? Back when the Wii was young, many devs expressed how impressed they were with the system and all that. However, at the end of the day none of that lip service meant anything. Now we’re at the beginning of the Wii U’s life and we’re getting that same lip service. Some games have been announced which is great, but can we expect anything from them? I’m not sure, really. My view of this is that it’s the new system syndrome. Everyone is excited in the beginning, but once people start talking money and time, developers start to bail. On top of that, we already see a bunch of developers taking a “wait and see” approach like they did with the Wii. It’s that stupid catch 22 argument that plagued the Wii it’s whole life. I just knew for sure that guys like Irrational and Bethesda would have jumped on the chance to put their games on the system. Especially in this day and age where exclusives are rare and multi-platform is the way to go. If these guys were smart they’d jump on the chance to build up a fan base for their games to thrive from the beginning. They did this with the PS3 when it was floundering and it has largely paid off. It wouldn’t make any sense to not do the same thing for the Wii U. It’s still early, and there is a lot of time for them to come around. I hope they do.

This brings me to my final point…IR. Developers seem to be excited about the new controller and the possibilities, but there are those of us who have been waiting for some great experiences using the Wii remote. The Wii U doesn’t abandon the Wii remote and that’s a positive thing. I have been dying to play Bioshock and Deadspace (3rd person action game, not the rail shooter) with the pointer. Also, there’s really no way I want to go back to playing FPS games with dual analog. I pretty much play all my FPS games on the PC or on the Wii. Not saying that I can’t use dual analog, but if the system is capable of using IR, then I believe it should be an option for those who want to play that way.

In my view, the Wii remote and nunchuck can work together with the Wiipad to create some awesome gameplay experiences. Imagine the Wiipad propped up on a stand (the pad should come with a stand) close enough to be touched while using the Wii remote and nunchuck to look around and move. Playing Colonial Marines and using the pad as a motion detector that is connected to your reticule on the screen. As you turn, the image on the Wiipad turns too. That would be cool. Functionality wouldn’t be lost if someone was using the pad itself in dual analog mode.


mockup
A mockup my wife came up with.

There are people out there who couldn’t get the hang of IR controls, but for me IR and using the down motion to reload was an experience I don’t want to lose. With the power of the Wii U, all those dreams of interesting design concepts with the Wii remote can be realized. I won’t lie, I’ll be extremely disappointed if devs don’t give us the option for IR controls in games. If I can’t use the remote and nunchuck in games like Bioshock or Dead Space, then I won’t pick them up. I can play those games now with dual analog, and simply having the game on the Wii U wouldn’t be enough for me to go out and pay for them again. However, if the devs are going to give us all different control options, then I would gladly put down good money on these games again.

This may all seem a little long winded, but it’s something I am passionate about. The Wii was by far my most played system this generation, because I was always looking for new gaming experiences and though some games got it all wrong, others did a great job. I even went out of my way and picked up games like Manhunt 2 simply to experience it for myself. Playing games like Red Dead Revolver again with dual analog is not what I want in the next generation. The game is great, but adding more control options would open it up to those who really want to experience it in a new way. Perhaps this will even be good for PS3 owners as it may lead to more Move enabled games.

Bottom line, in order to make this something we can actually realize, Nintendo needs to include a Wii remote and nunchuck in the box along with a Wiipad. Game developers then need to capitalize on this with different control options for those who wish to play their games with the pointer or dual analog. I think everyone wins in this situation.