I had the privilege of attending the Wii U Experience event in Washington D.C. earlier today, thanks to an invite from Club Nintendo. With multiple games and stations set up, I had my sights set on a particular few titles to try out. And luckily, I was able to get my hands on every game that I wanted at the event. Read on for my very detailed impressions on the controllers, the games, and more…
When I arrived, there were signs at the Hyatt Hotel where this was taking place to the Wii U private event. I followed them a few floors down and there was the check-in line. We got our special Wii U badges (pictured below) and then they asked us to register on some computers and we could link to our Facebook account if we wanted, so I did. By then, it was almost time so I went to the entrance to the event and waited in line. They took photos of each of us if we wanted, so I got mine taken. The photo was automatically then sent to my Facebook since I linked it. You can see my photo above, and no I don’t really smile much in photos.
By then, it was time to enter. So we headed into the room and the reps were cheering and giving us all high-fives. Lots of Wii U stations set up. The games they had were New Super Mario Bros. U, Pikmin 3, ZombiU, Wii Fit U, Nintendo Land, SiNG, Just Dance 4, Ninja Gaiden 3, Game and Wario, Batman: Arkham City, Rayman Legends, and Project P-100. Some of the games had multiple Wii U systems playing them, like New Super Mario Bros. U. They also had these more private booth areas with bigger TV’s for games like Just Dance 4 and Zombi U. And in the middle of the area were these three couches, each with a TV and Wii U for Nintendo Land.
There was an area with some food and drinks, but I’m fasting today so I didn’t waste any time there. There was also a place where you could take photos with various Mario items like Mario and Luigi hats, and plush blocks and Goombas. But I was there to play Wii U, so I didn’t waste my time. First thing I did when I entered was head straight for Project P-100 as that was further towards the back and there was no line yet. I had heard a lot of good things about this, so I was excited to try it out. And there it was, in all its glory… the Wii U GamePad.
Yes, the Wii U GamePad is big (you can see a picture above). But man, it is so comfortable. The shape of the controller fits perfectly into your hands and all the buttons feel great. I forgot very quickly how massive it looks and it just felt natural. In Project P-100, you use the analog sticks to move around and the X and A buttons to attack. The ZL button will turn you into a jello shield, ZR will dodge, and B will jump. You can swipe on the screen to form a team attack, like a straight upwards strike will form a sword. If you see other people nearby, you can draw a circle around them to turn them into superheroes and add them to your team.
The best word I could use to describe this game is chaotic. And yes, in a good way. Took me a bit to get the hang of things, but it was pretty interesting. I wasn’t blown away necessarily by what I played, but it definitely got me interested in learning more. So I will keep an eye on this game and see whether I want to get it or not. Next up, I tried ZombiU. I started in the middle of the demo since someone stopped playing. You use ZL to aim and ZR to shoot, or if you just press ZR on its own, you can do a melee attack.
The graphics looked great on this game, and the controls worked well. I managed to get a few shots at a zombie, but then ended up getting killed. Once you die, you come back to life as another zombie, but the character you were as is also a zombie. I ended up finding and killing myself, which was interesting. You can loot the zombies by pressing X, and then the Wii U GamePad shows your inventory and any items the zombie has. One of the weapons I had (I believe it was the crossbow), allowed me to zoom in and then see the zoomed in view on the Wii U GamePad. Easy headshot with that and it felt really good. I came away from the demo impressed and looking forward to buying that game.
They had a black Wii U GamePad for that game and it looked great as well. Unfortunately, my pictures of it came out blurry, however I did manage to take a picture of the black Wii U Pro Controller (see it above). They didn’t have it set up with this game, but it was sitting there so I picked it up to see how it felt. And it felt really good. It’s now been twenty minutes, and I had played two games I really wanted. So it was on to the next: Pikmin 3. While I waited in line, someone who hadn’t played a Pikmin game before was giving it a try. The game looked gorgeous, and I was ready to play. He ended up with a score of 710 Pokos, which was based on carrying pieces of fruit or defeated enemies back to your ship. Now, it was my turn.
I dived right in. Having just recently played some of Pikmin 2 on Wii, the controls were very familiar. Honestly, I just now realized looking back at my pictures that the Wii U GamePad displayed the map of the area. I knew it did, but I was so engrossed in the game that I didn’t even once pay attention to it. I did take a picture of the map on the Wii U GamePad while the other person was playing, and I have posted that below. The controls were the same as the New Play Control titles and it felt great. The Nintendo rep kept saying “nice” or “good job” very five seconds because I surprised her in how I seemed to know exactly what I was doing. I love the Pikmin games, so that was easy.
The demo was pretty simple, just collecting fruits and defeating enemies. The Rock Pikmin were pretty neat and useful in smashing these spider enemies with glass on top of them, as well as smashing a glass gate. But there was definitely strategy involved as some fire enemies required you to use the Red Pikmin to defeat them. All it took was a simple press of the C button to switch Pikmin types. I ended up with a score of 1690 Pokos and a silver medal, which the rep seemed impressed by and said was the highest of the day. After I finished the demo, they had a station set up where you could scan your badge and select your favorite Wii U game. I selected Pikmin 3, as I knew it would be my favorite just because of how I like the series.
I had been waiting on a friend of mine to come to the event and he was running late, so I was holding off on some of the multiplayer titles like Nintendo Land. However, he told me that he wasn’t able to make it due to issues with traffic and the metro, so I decided now would be a good time to try out Nintendo Land. There were four people and the rep about to start a game of Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. The rep asked if I wanted to join in, so she gave me her Wii Remote and I sat down to play. The way the game works is that four players with Wii Remotes control Mii’s dressed like Animal Crossing characters and try to get as much candy as they can. However, the person on the Wii U GamePad controls two Mii’s dressed like Copper and Booker (the police dogs from the Animal Crossing games), who try and catch the other players.
The Wii Remote players press 2 to pick up candy, and I believe 1 to drop candy. The more candy you’ve eaten, the slower you walk and the more vulnerable you are to being caught so you may have to drop some candy to run faster. There are some trees with candy that require multiple people to stand under them for candy to drop, so you have to work together. You also only have a small view of the map as you’re viewing it in split-screen on the TV. The person with the Wii U GamePad uses each analog stick to control a character independently, and they have the map expands on their screen as they walk around. You need to get three of the other players to win.
I started off with a Wii Remote and managed to evade my captors, however the other three players were caught. We played another round and this time I was caught and the game ended rather quickly. I noticed that the player with the Wii U GamePad seemed to have an easier time. In the third time we played this game, I got the Wii U GamePad and that confirmed my thoughts. I will admit though that some of the other players were quite good. There was one player who kept avoiding me for a good while even though I had both of my cops cornering him multiple times. But finally, I got him and got two others quickly after that. This was actually quite fun, I must admit.
Next, we all decided to try out Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. In this game, the four players have to shine their flashlights on the ghost, which is controlled by the Wii U GamePad. It gets quite complicated however with other elements like the ghost being invisible, the flashlights running out of batteries (making you go find an item to recharge it), and having to revive other players who have been caught. I started off with the Wii U GamePad and managed to catch everyone in decent time. Once I caught a player, another one would go to revive them so I’d sneak up behind them and catch them as well. They weren’t working as a team.
The second time through, I got the Wii Remote. This game was rather close. There were a couple of close calls with some of us needing to be revived, but we worked quite well as a team. It ended up being me left alone with the choice of reviving a teammate or going for an item to recharge my flashlight. Will it take too long to revive him, leaving me vulnerable? Will the ghost catch me on the way to the flashlight? I made a decision to go for the item, immediately turned around and shined the light, and caught the ghost right there. I finished off the ghost and we won. In the third game, it was another close call, but one of the players wasn’t paying attention and didn’t realize he was revived, so he was caught. The ghost won that round.
That was a lot more fun than I had thought it would be. Seemed rather confusing from the explanation at E3, and it is indeed complicated. But once you get the hang of it, it takes a lot of strategy and teamwork, and it’s a lot of fun. The other players were ready to move on, but I asked the rep to try Takamaru’s Ninja Castle and she put that on for me. This is a single player game in which you use the Wii U GamePad to launch throwing stars at enemies on the TV screen. I will say that the controls for this were a bit wonky, with the gyroscope aiming getting off the more I played. But with each new level, it reset itself and I was fine.
After a while, the game gets more complex with the enemies throwing stars at you as well. It all ended in one ninja who would block my stars with his sword. He’d suddenly come up to the screen and when you swiped on the Wii U GamePad, you’d hit him with your sword. I managed to do that a few times, but with one heart left, he managed to get me and I lost. Even so, the rep said that was the best accuracy she had seen with this game and it was pretty fun. I was definitely sold on Nintendo Land. The solo offerings may not be the greatest, but if I ever have people over at my house, this game will be a blast. If it’s not a pack-in with Wii U, I’ll be buying it regardless (though I really do hope it’s a pack-in).
Didn’t take much pictures of Nintendo Land, as I was having too much fun playing it, so sorry about that. We were one hour into the event, so it was the halfway point. I walked around a bit and found Game and Wario (pictured above), with a black Wii U and black Wii U GamePad. Someone else was playing it, not sure which minigame. Once they were done, I decided to play the Arrow minigame, which involves you using the Wii U GamePad to launch arrows onto the oncoming enemies on the TV screen. You could get pepper, which then allowed you to tickle the nose on the Wii U GamePad, giving you a more powerful attack. You could also shoot at mines to blow up a bunch of enemies. If the enemies got too close, then they’d appear on the Wii U GamePad, and you’d have to stomp them with your finger. That happened to me once.
It took a while to get used to the controls. This one also used gyroscope aiming and that got off at times. There was a boss at the end, where I had to shoot its screws, and then finally at its teeth. That wasn’t too hard. Overall, it was fun and I’m curious as to what else this game has. There were other minigames to play, but I had other things I wanted to try. I decided to play more of ZombiU and I played a different part of the demo. This part had plenty of zombies attacking me and I started by shooting at them, until I realized it would be more fun to bust out the bat and smash them with it. So I tapped on the bat icon on the Wii U GamePad and the weapons were switched. I proceeded to beat up a bunch of zombies, as others watched and “ooh’d” and “aah’d”. I ended up getting killed eventually, and I handed the controller off to someone else.
As I walked around some more, they made an announcement saying twenty minutes left. Turns out this event isn’t a full two hours as I thought, it’s only an hour and forty minutes. So with only twenty minutes left, I went over to Rayman Legends. There were people in front of me and I watched them play through it, working together. The player with the Wii U Pro Controller controlled Rayman, while the other with the Wii U GamePad would assist by moving obstacles and holding enemies. They even played through the rhythm portion of the game. I watched the guy on the Wii U GamePad play with the stylus, and it looked fun. This game looked gorgeous both on the TV screen and on the Wii U GamePad.
Soon it was my turn to play and I used the Wii U Pro Controller while the rep used the Wii U GamePad to help me out. It was fun, nothing that challenging really. But the game looked good and required some teamwork as well. This also gave me the opportunity to actually play something with the Wii U Pro Controller and it felt really good as well. Just like an Xbox 360 controller if you’ve used one of those. The different arrangement of buttons and analog sticks didn’t change how comfortable it felt. It’s definitely a solid controller for players to use. With time running out, I stopped halfway through the demo and handed it off to a father and his son who were waiting to play.
I decided to give New Super Mario Bros. U a shot. We had five people playing: four with Wii Remotes and one with the Wii U GamePad assisting. I got a Wii Remote and played as Luigi. The game feels just like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, nothing special. There was a new squirrel suit that I tried and it’s going to take some getting used to. You could hold B to glide when you jumped, or shake the Wii Remote to fly upwards a bit. You were also able to cling to the side of walls or blocks. Even after playing a level, it still felt a bit weird to control, so I wasn’t too impressed by that new suit. As we started the next level, the event ended so I didn’t get to try out any of the other new stuff in the game. But it’s another New Super Mario Bros. game, you know what to expect.
The event ended with some trivia questions. They were “Name five games at this event”, “Name three features of the Wii U GamePad”, and “Name Mario’s original name”. I knew the answers to all and raised my hand, but wasn’t picked. The prizes were things like a little figurine (the kind that’s sold in stores like Toys “R” Us, nothing special) and a little Luigi plush. Afterwards, as we exited with high fives from the reps, we were given chocolate Mario moustaches. I can’t give you my impressions on how good or bad they are though, as I’m fasting. Sorry to disappoint. (UPDATE: I can now report that it’s milk chocolate and it tastes good).
All in all, it was an awesome event. I tried half of the games at the event, and those were the ones I had wanted to try. The Wii U GamePad and Wii U Pro Controller are both very comfortable, and the Wii U GamePad is especially fun to use. The game I had the most fun with at the event was Nintendo Land, however my most anticipated Wii U launch title that they had at the event was Pikmin 3 (not present at the game, and what I’m most excited for, is Assassin’s Creed III). Thank you to Nintendo for the opportunity of experiencing Wii U months before launch. I’ll be there on day one to buy the system, and I’m looking forward to playing more. Hope you enjoyed this article, and feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below.