LOS ANGELES – In a previous post, I wondered if Sony and Microsoft had stolen some of the Wii U’s thunder at this year’s E3. What more could Nintendo reveal during its press conference this morning that its competitors had not already been working on in some shape or form? Its conference and presentations are over, and guess what? Sony can keep its Cross-Controller and Microsoft can have its Smart Glass because the Wii U is more than just a tablet controller. As its slogan describes, it’s all about – “Together. Better.”
For starters, the Wii U’s Game Pad will strengthen the connection between television and video game by letting players use the controller’s screen to affect what happens on their television. This is what Nintendo calls asymmetric gameplay, and it looks very promising. Not only will players be able to use up to two Game Pads with the Wii U, but by providing an additional screen, the Wii U suddenly gives each player both a different control scheme and as well as a different game altogether.
The games I played that did a great job showing off this type of asymmetric gameplay were the mini-games that come with Nintendo Land, an interactive amusement park that lets players revisit their favorite titles and play games associated with them on the Wii U. Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, for example, has four Wii remote players running to gather fruit while avoiding two guards being controlled by the player with the Game Pad. Playing as a guard or as a fruit picker gives you a different objective, but it also gives you a different look at the game. The Game Pad gave me a bigger overview of the map and different controls over my characters while the Wii remote gave me more freedom of movement but restricted how much of my surroundings I could see. These differences gave the game a nice balance, so neither the Game Pad or the Wii remote have an advantage. Each one simply gives you a different experience.
The Game Pad’s contributions to the Wii U are great, but Nintendo’s new console doesn’t just rely on its new controller. Like past Nintendo consoles, the Wii U is complemented by additional features that are sure to set it apart from any competition or imitators out there. Take Miiverse for example.
During its Nintendo’s developer roundtable, Katsuya Eguchi, known for his work on various titles including Animal Crossing, gave us more of an in-depth look at Nintendo Land and how it will incorporate Miiverse into its core features. When you’re not playing mini-games like Animal Crossing Sweet Day or Luigi’s Mansion Haunted Hijinks, you can visit the main hub of Nintendo Land and see what kinds of visitors have started populating your park. You’ll be able to interact with these Miiverse visitors, so this turns it into an online hub of sorts, letting you talk to people who are playing the same game you are for tips, advice, or to simply relate to them.
It may sound like a Nintendo version of PlayStation Home, but New Super Mario Bros. U producer Takashi Tezuka told us that Miiverse’s is much more than a social system and that Miiverse will differ depending on the game you play. For example, the upcoming Mario title will let players write and share messages relating to the levels or parts of the game they have cleared or are having trouble with. If you lose too many times on level 1-2, for example, you can write a message that will pop up when other players are having difficulty clearing that stage. This was done, Tezuka said, so that players could get help with their games without having to go browse for help on the internet. Miiverse will even implement a system so that you can avoid running into unwanted spoilers.
Nintendo Land will let groups of players experience a whole new way of playing a game and it will even adjust itself when there is just one player on board. Miiverse, too, is all about bringing players closer together to experience new ways of interacting with their games online. You’re not just playing a game; you’re experiencing all aspects that come with the act of playing.
Nintendo’s been pushing this concept ever since it first introduced the Wii U last year, but it hasn’t fully made sense until this week. Miiverse looks like it could a great way of bringing new life to your games and will give players the sense of always playing with others even when they’re all alone in their rooms. Let’s hope Nintendo decides to implement holidays and special events into its Miiverse interface to give players an even bigger sense of community.
Don’t forget about the effect Nintendo Network will have on the console’s online system too. While it wasn’t mentioned at all this week, Nintendo did say last year that it would allow players to create an account that connects their consoles and 3DS handhelds together. We’ll have to wait and see how Nintendo decides to implement it into its games and Miiverse features, but I get a feeling it will unify things even more.