Wii U is on tour following Nintendo’s launch details reveal event last week. VG247’s Dave Cook goes hands-on with the console’s launch slate in Germany to find out which ones are worth getting.
What defines a solid console launch? The answer is different depending on who you ask, with anything from technical clout to online functionality taking precedence. For many the success of a console launch is dictated by its day-one software line-up, and this is something Nintendo was looking to communicate at a German press event today.
Getting together 14 of the Wii U’s launch games under one roof and letting the press play them for a day is a great move from Nintendo, and it gave us a chance to play them at our leisure and to really understand what the hardware is capable of.
So read on to find out which of the Wii U launch games are worth your time – with the exception of Zombi U – because it’s so awesome we’ve given it a separate write-up, which you can check out later.
But first, how does the Wii U GamePad handle?
The Wii U GamePad is a nice bit of kit, and it’s surprisingly light given how powerful it is. Playing a game on the pad’s screen is perfectly fine, and the backlight really helps the sharp visuals stand out. All in all, it’s a superb design, expect for one small issue.
Weirdly, the face buttons are below the left analogue stick, which is an odd design choice, given that most controllers place them above. The same goes for the Wii U pro-controller, which feels light compared to PS3 and Xbox 360 pads.
It’s a small issue, but the build quality is excellent overall, plus the GamePad is rammed full of buttons and the TV button – which switches display between the pad and your telly – works almost instantly. It’s impressive, but how are the games?
New Super Mario Bros. U
Yes, OK it does just look like New Super Mario Bros. Wii at a distance, but come on, it’s Mario. The game just gets everything about the series right, and revisits many of the environments and platform elements of SNES classic Super Mario World, which should get long-time fans excited.
Boost Rush mode is a killer new attraction, which supports one person playing on the Wii U’s GamePad, and up to four Wiimote players. The hook is that levels scroll continually, so players need to think fast to avoid being pushed into hazards or down pitfalls.
Collecting coins quickly will make the screen scroll fast, so performing well raises the difficulty, but you can pick up the new wingsuit power-up to glide over gaps and make stages more manageable as you go.
Meanwhile, the person using the GamePad can see the same action as on the television, and can create platforms by tapping the screen. These can be used to catch players falling to their death, create bridges over hazards or help players reach floating coins.
It may sound like the person using the GamePad is being short-changed, but they really are a valuable asset to the players. Platforms also degrade once they’ve been stepped on, so the GamePad user has to constantly top them up to help players reach the goal.
It’s fun and chaotic, the same brand of silliness that you get from a four player bout of Smash Bro, but much more wholesome. We can certainly see families crowding around their TV playing this one come November 30.
Assassin’s Creed 3
Ubisoft brought demo code featuring one of Assassin’s Creed 3’s naval battles to the show, and actually sitting down and playing it proves just how indistinguishable it is from the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.
In this particular stage, Connor is pursuing British war vessel The Randolph in the Caribbean. You can switch between speeds by lowering or hoisting your ship’s sails, and cycle through your cannon types using either the d-pad or GamePad touch screen.
The visuals are superb as Connor’s ship tears across the crystal blue waters and past a lush green coastline. The majesty of the scene quickly dissolves as The Randolph is spotted on the horizon, along with two Man-O-War ships. It’s battle time!
Each engagement with the Man-O-Wars is tense, as you have to manoeuvre your vessel alongside them in order to get a decent line of fire. Suddenly a violent storm rolls in, sending massive waves across the ocean, making both steering and aiming significantly harder.
As if that wasn’t enough, you have to constantly keep an eye on both the GamePad’s radar and the surface of the water. If a stretch of water glows red, it means that an enemy ship is about to fire its cannons there. Issuing a brace order in time will command Connor’s crew to duck and avoid damage.
It’s a lot to take in, but before long you will have destroyed the Man-O-Wars with your flame rounds, leaving just The Randolph to contend with. As you have to capture the crew unharmed, you must use chain rounds to snap the ship’s masts, leaving the craft ripe for boarding.
The demo ends shortly after, but it’s a neat taster of how naval battles play out, and proof that Ubisoft isn’t cutting corners in its Wii U build. There’s absolutely nothing to complain about here.
This is Wii U’s equivalent of Xbox 360’s Game Room, giving you a central hub filled with smaller games. They can all be played solo, but come packing some seriously fun multiplayer modes. We’ve tried them all so far, with the exception of Donkey Kong: Crash Course as it wasn’t playable.
This is brilliant. The player using the GamePad controls their Mii dressed as Captain Olimar, while up to four Wiimote players offer support as Pikmin. Each stage is top-down and sees players hack-n-slashing their way through giant insects, and picking up items that level up their health and attack power. The person controlling Olimar can hoover up other players and throw them on top of armoured enemies to attack weak spots on their back. It’s simple, but fun, and like most NintendoLand games, requires teamwork.
Also brilliant, Mario Chase sees the gamepad player controlling their Mii dressed as Mario, and up to four Wiimote players trying to catch him as he runs around a colourful maze. Coordination is key, as chasing players must shout out Mario’s location to corner and tackle him to the ground to win the game. It’s wonderfully chaotic.
Zelda: Battle quest
Perhaps the smartest NintendoLand title on show, Zelda: Battle quest requires immense team coordination to win. This game supports one GamePad player – who controls Link – and two Wiimote players who must fight alongside him. Link only has a bow and the GamePad players must hold up the controler and look through the device in an Augmented Reality fashion to physically swivel around and aim. Shooting birds out of the sky gives the team hearts, while aiming at enemies can support your comrades from the backline.
Wiimote players have a sword and shield and walk ahead of Link, swiping foes and raising their shields to repel enemy attacks. Together all players must defeat bosses and gather Rupees across a colourful patchwork rendition of Hyrule. Lovely stuff.
Balloon Trip Breeze
This is a purely single-player game, that sees players using the GamePad’s touch-screen to create gusts of wind that direct their Mii across the ocean, into coins and around spiked hazards. It’s very simple, but incredibly charming and fun. Players can also bop enemies on the head to defeat them, similar to NES classic Balloon Fight.
Finally, Metroid Blast is another game that sees up to four Wiimote players trying to take down the GamePad-wielder. The Wiimote holders play as their Miis dressed as Samus, and must run and gun around a futuristic arena, while the GamePad player hovers ahead in a Metroid-shaped battleship. The team must work together to take the ship down, as well as using a grappling hook to jump up floors, and curling up into a Morph Ball to get around faster. The ship’s cannons are fired by holding up the GamePad, looking around, and aiming. It’s another simple game, but it’s absolutely chaotic once the action kicks off.
Perhaps you’ve seen Ubisoft’s ‘Castle Rock’ gameplay trailer for Rayman Legends? If not, have a watch:
This is essentially what we played, but what you maybe didn’t see is that players using the GamePad must tap eyeballs dotted around the environment that only they can see on the controller’s screen. You can see them in the video above, but normally they wouldn’t appear on the TV screen.
Tapping them in time with the music makes bonus Lums appear for Rayman to collect, giving the player holding the pro controller a nice little score boost. We can alreeay tell that Rayman Legend will be a worthy sequel to Origins, plus that song is awesome, don’t you think?
Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition
This is essentially the same as the PS3 and Xbox 360 editions, save for a character editor mode – which wasn’t on show – and a new Wii U specific mode that puts both fighters in a small arena littered with randomly spawning mushrooms.
It’s insane, chucks balancing completely out of the window, but manages to still be fun at the same time. Giant mushrooms make your fighter massive and more powerful – but make your enemy harder to hit – poison mushrooms deplete your health and regular mushrooms make you a little big bigger.
So while it’s fun and ludicrous, it’s not a fair fight, so don’t expect this mode on the EVO tournament circuit any time soon. Also, you can dress your fighter up as a host of Nintendo characters – with only Mario, Luigi, Link and Bowser costumes revealed so far – and map out quick combos to the GamePad touchscreen. All in all, it’s a solid port.
Mass Effect 3
Ah yes, twin stick shooters. Now, they definitely work on the Wii U GamePad, but the controller is perhaps a little bit too chunky to make it feel comfortable over long periods of time. Plus, the position of the face buttons may take some getting used to.
This port is fundamentally the same as previous versions, except that special abilities, maps and squad commands are plastered on the GamePad screen. There is also a new Ladon Rocket Launcher that, when zoomed can paint targets via the GamePad screen, before unleashing a salvo of six rockets.
It’s not a seismic shift, but bundled with the game you will get a host of extra content. First is a digital comic that recaps the first two games, and lets you make Shepard’s most pivotal choices before starting the game.
You will also get the From Ashes DLC, Extended Cut endings, all existing Multiplayer DLC, as well as some bonus maps, characters and weapons. It’s a sizeable package, but at core level this is basically the same game.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Sega’s colourful racer is essentially the same as it PS3 and Xbox 360 counterparts, but with the added edition of a map screen on the GamePad, and a rear view mirror that removes the need to cycle the camera behind your car. That side, it’s a solid conversion.
Activision’s juggernaut franchise has received a strong port treatment on Wii U, but the only real let-down is that the lack of NFC support, meaning you can’t just place your Skylander figures on the GamePad screen. It’s a shame, but this is still a solid port that is indistinguishable from the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.
And the rest…
Darksiders 2 is a great port with an inventory view and maps displayed on the GamePad, as well as incoming DLC Argul’s Tomb bundled for free, giving you a new dungeon, side-quests, weapons and upgrades for Death’s horse Despair.
Ninja Gaiden 2: Razor’s Edge is a neat version of the PS3 and Xbox 360 original, bolstered with the inclusion of Dead or Alive’s Ayane. She’s great fun to play, with insane speed and balletic combos that spray the screen with blood. You can also use the Wii U GamePad to track command lists, unleash Ninpo moves, switch weapons and activate Ninja Sense. It’s simple stuff, but the command list is a great feature, especially as the range of attacks is so vast.
Nano Assault Neo is comparable to Super Stardust, and is a colourful arcade shooter that throws an incredible amount of enemies at you. The GamePad displays a radar, but can also support the full game by hitting the TV button.
Toki Tori 2 ups the ante over the incredibly popular iPhone version. The plucky little bird can now whistle, which can be used to attract friendly animals, Creatures can be manipulated to solve puzzles, such as making crabs walk in a certain direction to create makeshift platforms.
Given how popular the iPhone game is, Toki Tori 2 could be a really strong addition to the Wii U’s launch line-up,, and its colourful, family-friendly visuals and charm makes it feel right at home on Nintendo’s console.
Trine 2: Director’s Cut is an enhanced edition of Fronzenbyte’s well-received PC platformer, and is perhaps the most impressive multiplatform game on show, due to how well it uses the Wii U GamePad.
Each of the three characters can be cycled through using touch, and the wizard can create ramps and crates by tracing shapes on the screen. You can also drag and pull objects in the environment by swiping your finger, and put your skills to the test in a raft of Wii U-exclusive levels.
Plus, Trine 2’s lush fantasy environments look outstanding in HD, marking a considerable effort from Frozenbyte, and another Wii U launch title worthy of your money. Show them some love on November 30th.
That’s your lot. See anything you like?