Wii U: How it will change gaming as you know it

Nothing compares to U...

You might remember how the Wii name began to make perfect sense once you started hearing it. It was clear how much fun 'we' had together. But in thinking about a new Nintendo system, we knew the prevailing thought would be this: yes, the game is right for us, but could it also be a perfect fit for... you.

And the answer to that question is an emphatic absolutely. We're so convinced, we put the pronoun in the name. So today, welcome to the world of Wii U." And just like that, Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime ushered Wii U into our lives. Or did he?

In the beginning was the word. And the word was "huh?". Closely followed by "wha...?" and rounded out with a "hmmm". Let's get this out in the open: Nintendo did a terrible job of introducing the Wii's successor at the E3 games conference in Los Angeles at the start of June. It was a fudging of such galactic proportions that some E3 attendees - and a good portion of us watching from home - didn't even realise Nintendo had announced a Wii successor. Whoops.


We all saw the tablet-like device that you now see sitting pretty across the page. But what was it? A Wii peripheral or a console in itself? An introductory film revealed simplistic Wii-level visuals and co-operation with remotes, Balance Board and - gulp - the Wii Zapper. Surely no vision of the future involves that plastic calamity? Where was the HD wowgasm? What does the console do? How is it a revolutionary new way to play? E3 threw up questions.We've returned with answers.

Wii U is the next Nintendo console, ready to pump out 1080p HD loveliness and embrace new play styles with its daring, tablet-like controller. But this was an untraditional debut for an untraditional piece of kit. Nintendo were not at E3 to talk about the base unit or offer up technical specs (more on them in a moment) but to slap a gauntlet down at the feet of conventional wisdom. Why, asked Nintendo, should games be restricted to the TV?

Wii U is, among other things, a second screen. And a touch screen at that. Some implications are clear. Should a selfish family member shoo you from the sofa so they can watch TV, the game can seamlessly continue in your hands, streamed from the base unit. Playing New Super Mario Bros Mii there's no noticeable lag between TV and controller screen.

And what a screen. The 6.2-inch widescreen pumps out a crisp picture that does handsome justice to HD looks. While it lacks the surgical perfection of iPhone's 'retina display' (packing pixels beyond the eye's ability to see them), our eyes couldn't make out the individual pixels that plague DS and 3DS. For our money, the HD Zelda demo reel plays better when it's squished into the controller's confines, compressing the image into a nugget of purest wow.


Once you're done considering its abilities as a replacement, think of Wii U as a supplement. With two screens, your living room is transformed into a DS. First, think small: common gaming faff transplanted from an in-game menu to the touch screen. Map screens and RPG inventories excavated from a pause screen and updated in real-time with a finger prod. Name input freed from the tyranny of cumbersome on-screen keyboards. Bliss!

Now think bigger. A second screen is a second perspective on the action. Ubisoft tell us the controller could pilot a spy drone to accompany the Ghost Recon soldier slinking about on the TV. In Assassin's Creed - announced to rapturous applause - the controller might show us the world in 'Eagle Vision', the extrasensory perception used to pick targets from a crowd. Think of all the fun of DS, viewed through an HD lens and traditional console controls.

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