So select Best Buys have been equipped with Wii U displays giving consumers an early look at the hardware and what to expect on November 18th. I myself had a chance to get my hands on the display and mess with some of the features and wanted to take the time to share my thoughts with you wonderful people! Here we go!
First and foremost if you are in the Baltimore County area and want to see this for yourself the display is located in the White Marsh Best Buy. Now I actually came to Best Buy that day to purchase my copy of XCOM when I noticed this thing sitting right in the middle of the video game section set up exactly as you see above (the picture isn’t from MY Best Buy, but the display we have is identical).
The biggest seller for this system is the GamePad, a lot of comparisons have been made between this and the iPad and finally seeing the controller in person I can say while there may be similarities in functionality, that is pretty much where it ends. The controller is rectangular in shape and the screen size seemed closer to that of a Samsung Galaxy Note. The clarity of the screen was OK, nothing comparable to what you would see on most high end smart phones or Apple devices but also it’s no slouch. I also thing the brightness for the screen was a bit dimmed down as it just looked very faded. The controller had a bit of heft to it but I believe that had more to do with the device attached to the bottom of it in order to keep it attached to the demo unit. I would say it was about as heavy as an iPad.
Functionality worked will as the touch features of the screen moved fluently and without any visible delay. The button configuration feels a bit weird given how wide apart your hands are compared to a normal controller but the distance between fingers and buttons feels the game as an conventional joystick. Overall it felt solid and sturdy and the features and buttons all worked to a satisfactory level with no concern of feedback.
This system is LONG, it’s a bit odd looking when when you come up to it and see. If you were to measure the length of the 360 slim from disc tray to inputs it would be similar, yet from the front it looks to be the same size as the Wii. Just give the Wii a larger ass end and you will get the idea. Not much else to say about it, the system has rounded edges and goes for the simplistic look of the Wii.
The console comes equipped with 19 games, 18 of them strictly in video format while 1 is actually playable. There didn’t seem to be any videos for the console’s other features and I didn’t attempt to reset the system to try and view the home screen. I also elected to not view and of the videos for the games as the real experience is actually PLAYING something. I also found the selection of the one playable game to be a little odd. Nintendoland? Nope, New Super Mario Bros. U? No sir, ZombiU!? Incorrect again, the playable game on this demo unit is none other than Rayman Legends. Now don’t get me wrong, the Rayman revamp that started with Origins is great, but choosing to demo a system with a game that does not launch until 2013 is odd. Say your kid walks in and plays the system, loves this game and wants it on launch day, it’s almost a tease that they can’t get this game in November and can’t even expect it for Christmas. Why not just choose Mario? It’s an odd decision if you ask me.
As for Rayman Legends itself the game is incredibly enjoyable. The first demo level I played put me in control of a female viking character (her name escapes me) whose level is tied to the song Black Betty. As you run along and jump from area to area, killing enemies and sliding on platforms, everything is synced up to the music almost as if you were playing a platform rhythm game. It was really cool and if you know the song you could time each event perfectly to complete the level. The graphics of the game are gorgeous and the HD capabilities of the console really help. Just watching the game is a joy with it’s art style and vibrant colors. The other level I tried put me in control of Murfy, the 5th character that is specifically controlled via the GamePad’s touch screen. This portion of the game I played with Howard and finally experiencing these controls first hand I can honestly say.. I get it.
Going through a level in Rayman Legends as Murfy is incredibly fun, as your friends travels the level you are positioning platforms, distracting enemies, and collecting items for him while keeping him alive as best you can. Tapping an enemy tickles them allowing Rayman to walk up and punch them to death. The manipulation of platforms is also incredibly satisfying as you are guiding your friend (or friends) along to the end. Think of it as playing Super Mario, and you have the various platforms that float back and forth freely. Now replace that with someone operating a touch screen to manipulate where those platforms go and when they move. It sounds odd on paper but doing it live in person is really fun. It shows that with more playing Howard and I could have timing down to the point of flying through these levels with ease. It also shows the huge possibilities of being a total dick as you could allow your friend to freely jump from platform to platform only to randomly move one out of his way and let him fall to his doom.
That’s not to say the game can progress without Murfy (you) doing anything, as most playforms and swings are out of Rayman’s reach, relying on Murfy to move them and progress to the next area. As fast as the game can be it provides a lot of enjoyment and the feedback from touch screen to TV is instant. There was always something for me to do on the entire level and at no moment was I just watching Howard progress while I had nothing to do.
I am happy to report that the basic functions of the console as it pertains to gaming is stellar. It all responds quickly and the experiences being brought forth by developers are ones to look forward to. The jury is still out when it comes to other features such as Nintendo TVii or even navigating the home screen. The expanded features that Nintendo has touted over the past few months will have to wait until the console is in homes, but one thing is for certain, Nintendo still knows how to produce fun.