Wii U Experience Tour 2012 in Cologne

Register here and go there
Thanks to my girlfriend who participated in the contest and won for us, I was able to have another go at Nintendo’s new console in the Vulkanhalle in Cologne on Nov 8 2012, before the official release. How the event was organized and what kinds of games were suitable (or not) for the tablet you’ll find out in the following cover story.

After having a quick glance at the console and some first hands-on experience with Rayman Legends at the Gamescom 2012 (which was only available in the small press room), there were plenty of opportunities to try out a lot of other games as well. Even though one was supposed to name only three titles in the registration form, the whole concept was thrown overboard as every game was available to everyone when finally being inside the Vulkanhalle.
But first things first: how getting in was handled…

Organization outside, where are the Nintendo fans?
When we arrived an hour before the opening time, there was an enormous amount of people… NOT. No waiting queue, and only by knowing where the Vulkanhalle was, one could see something Nintendo-related (they didn’t give any information how to get there in the confirmation email, or any info at all).

Promoted as “the biggest event of the year”, it was a bit disappointing not to see a lot of people in front of the building. Only a few minutes walk away, the Live Music Hall usually had longer waiting queues. But of course this was for a select few, and some people decided to come later. How is that for Fanboy behavior, Nintendo? Anyway, so we were waiting out in the cold, with some security guy eating his sandwich in front of us… and Mario suddenly appearing behind the doors.

Oh, and at one point someone had the bright idea to just open the door. Not the security, but some of the bystanders. Thumbs up for the help, useless security guys!

Organization inside, where are the consoles?
Finally in, after the first queue when signing in (although a bit chaotic again) and getting some paper-badges with our name tags on them, the fun could finally begin…

No introductory speech, no celebration… On the one hand this took away some of the ridiculousness of the Gamescom with all the PR screaming on stage. So no throwing of free shirts, but also no loud music. Actually some good atmosphere to finally play the games without a lot of commotion around.

There were of course some leftovers from the gamescom in the form of some sick-and-nice-looking zombie girls and of course Mario. Sonic joined the party (as always) later. There was a bit of chillout music in the background (some Mario tunes could be distinguished among the synthesizer sounds) and a bar with non-alcoholic beverages in the middle. All in all the perfect location to play the games. Unlike the Gamescom there were no long queues, but of course there wasn’t any time limit at first, so even with only one or two persons playing in front of you, this didn’t mean one didn’t have to wait 20 minutes or longer.

Take a picture of us
A photo shooting contest was also, obviously for PR reasons, available… and as we were the first ones, we had to wait for the photographer, but finally he came, took a quick picture of us (I wasn’t even ready to strike a pose, but it looks fun anyway) and he was gone. I guess the personal pictures we took later were much better.

Then it was gaming time…finally.

ZombiU
(France 2012, developer: Ubisoft Montpellier, publisher: Ubisoft)

Promoted as THE killer app, at least by GamesTM and many other gaming mags and sites, I was quite excited to play this one. But the demo was highly disappointing. Not only weren’t there many zombies (if you found one), but the graphics looked from the old Xbox or early PC shooter days.

More problematic than the mediocre presentation was the control system. Even if the tablet is good for having a quick look at the map, it just doesn’t feel right to control the character. With the left analogue stick to move and the right to turn about, it is of course not that dissimilar to other console games. But the tablet feels just a little too big and one wishes to have a more compact controller version.

Game (demo) rating: 6/10
Tablet rating: 6/10

Wikipedia

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Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
(Japan 2011, developer: Level-5, publisher: Nintendo)

After this rather disappointing first glimpse at the overcomplicated controls and low-res graphics, we headed to the 3DS section and played a bit Professor Layton: Mask of Wonders. As there wasn’t much time to solve any puzzle and as this article is more about the Wii U Experience (funny they put 3DS consoles there anyway), suffice it to say that it looks and sounds as pretty as ever, and if one holds the console still, the 3D effect is actually quite nice, even if it doesn’t really add a lot of immersion. Character models in cutscenes look good, in the dialogues the 3D models seem a bit out of place and need some getting-used-to.

Wikipedia

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Then it was time to get back to Gotham City with the Wii U controller… and what a mess that was.

Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition
(UK 2011, developer: Rocksteady Studios, publisher: Warner Bors. Interactive Entertainment)

Having played the first game on the Xbox 360, the graphics looked surprisingly dated. But what was even worse was (again) the tablet implementation. Only ONE extra button on the controller (which made Batman activate a damage boost) and some simple mini games seemed to justify the upgrade. But with so many buttons one wished to have the Xbox controller back.

The major problem, which will probably become quite prominent with other Wii U titles in the future, was that most of the features the controller offered, were completely useless. Like why should I turn the big tablet to look around (like in ZombiU, which didn’t work there either) when I can simply use an analogue stick (which I did)? And why learn two more buttons (like the ZR and ZL) and press other ones to perform the simple task of using a special ability?

Game (demo) rating: 6/10
Tablet rating: 0/10

Wikipedia

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Maybe some other recently-released game would do it better?

Darksiders II
(USA 2012, developer: Vigil Games, publisher: THQ)

Another case of already-released-on-a-more-powerful-console-so-what’s-the-tablet-for. Quick answer: Graphics look okay (better than the Batman game), but tablet is completely useless again. It is only for an “interactive map” (so the Nintendo helper told me, which is of course quite funny as EVERY map in a game is interactive and can be scrolled in any direction) and selection of items.

As there was already a system crash for no reason whatsoever (“It’s a beta version.” the guy told me. Right…so why have it on display in the PUBLIC section for promotion purposes?), I couldn’t test the game longer, and I already decided to get it for another console anyway.

Game (demo) rating: 5/10
Tablet rating: 0/10

Wikipedia

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After so many pointless conversions it was time for… another one.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2
(Japan 2012, developer/publisher: Namco Bandai Games, original title: Tekken Taggu Tōnamento 2)

Wow, the Wii U Edition! And guess what? It is only played with a standard controller which looks very similar to a Gamestop Xbox controller! Yeah, right… I didn’t even know there was a Wii U version (at least GamesTM didn’t mention it in their review), so again what’s the selling point? Why buy the game on Nintendo’s console?
No reason.

Even though it was great fun to play with silly characters and the graphics are quite brilliant, why not choose the Xbox with prettier visuals (probably) or play it on Sony’s machine with a more arcade-like gamepad (most probably)?
No reason.

Game (demo) rating: 8/10
Tablet rating: 0/10

Wikipedia

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After so many half-hearted or empty-hearted attempts to put the tablet to good use, why not try a Mario game?

New Super Mario Bros U
(Japan 2012, developer: Nintendo EAD, publisher: Nintendo, original title: Nyū Sūpā Mario Burazāzu Yū)

Even if it didn’t offer the same kind of fun and immersion Rayman Legends did (ironically in a way that a third-party-publisher achieved what Nintendo failed to do), this was still nice to play. We only had the chance to play as Mario and Luigi while a third player (in this case one guy from the Nintendo team) had his tablet to help us. Like the Ubisoft title, he could hit enemies to paralyze them for a short while, and building blocks helped to get to out-of-reach places.

It was a bit chaotic, especially since (for whatever reason I don’t know) the camera only focused on one player, so when we flew through the sky with a special ability and my partner fell faster, I couldn’t see my avatar. Could be quite problematic in later stages…

The tablet also offered the chance to see hidden rooms and make them accessible to the players. All in all the best Wii U controller game so far…which of course doesn’t say much compared to what we had seen and played before.

Game (demo) rating: 8/10
Tablet rating: 7/10

Wikipedia

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Special mention has to go to the way Nintendo presented the game. The console booth wasn’t that impressive (even if it had a word play tag on it like all the others), but how a colorful living room with Mario artwork was done, needs to be seen to be believed.

If I’d ever get a gaming room for Nintendo consoles, this sofa and the pictures on the wall would probably be in it.

It’s a me, Mario, do ya want something to drink and eat, eh?
After trying out so many games, it was also time to get some booze and food. Both were absent of course, but there were Pringles (with the Mario logo!), gummy bears and other candy stuff (you had to reach far down in the glass bowl to get to them though). And of course some coke of the cola variety plus other non-alcoholic beverages. So you couln’t even drink yourself silly to convince your hands the tablet was handy and useful.

But back to gaming business, this time with some cute games, family-friendly, sort of.

Toki Tori 2
(Netherlands 2012, developer/publisher: Two Tribes)

A fun, cute little puzzle-platformer (even if jumping is done automatically and one can’t jump very high or far) where stomping and whistling is key to progress in the game. The… thing the player controls has the ability to call other creatures by the movement of his feet or sounds his mouth makes. This can get a bit tricky with the controls (and in one case I actually KILLED a creature when it got under a moving block…and then some more), but all in all this is a game for non-gamers with zero experiences, probably. Even though my girlfriend was quite good in solving the puzzles on the go without any help or explanations of the Nintendo team. Of course I had to try out and get some creatures killed…for no reason.

But what about the tablet? Oh well, one could use it for a smaller screen. Seriously, that was the ONLY implementation. So again: fun game, Wii U and controller completely useless (especially since the game has already been released on the PSN store and is available on iOS and many other platforms).

Game (demo) rating: 8/10
Tablet rating: 0/10

Wikipedia

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WiiWare probably…

Let’s get the party started with Sonic and Mario
Even if there were some other games to eXperiEnce, it was more or less time to leave, at least for us, to do some uni work and other stuff. Sonic had also arrived, as usual too late for the party…

as Mario had already eaten all Pringles or offered them to random people in order to sell his console or himself, who knows.

But another Mario game made us stay a bit longer, and again this was on another console, the 3DS.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star
(Japan 2012, developer: Intelligent Systems, publisher: Nintendo, original title: Pēpā Mario Sūpā Shīru)

A rather stupid title aside, this looked just brilliant, and for the first time in 3DS history (or so it seemed), the 3D effect actually made sense, as making Mario move in a 3D environment, but having a 2D model, had a charm to it so many recent 3DS titles lacked. I didn’t play very far, and besides some rather long text passages, the main idea of collecting stickers and using other characters’ abilities may not be completely new, but it looked like a lot of fun, and maybe that’s the killer app Nintendo’s console is in desperate need to prove its worth…

Wikipedia

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Now if that was also true for the Wii U…

So where was the killer app, Nintendo’s Wii U raîson d’être? It had to be Pikmin 3, right?

Pikmin 3
(Japan 2013, developer: Nintendo EAD, publisher: Nintendo)

Granted, the visuals are very nice, a lot of detail in an HD environment (about time, Nintendo!) and after getting to grips with the concept of collecting source material for one’s ship by using little flower people to destroy the wild life (animals and plants alike), it’s fun to play and one would wish there wasn’t a time limit (something the first Gamecube title had problems with, but the Nintendo guy assured me there will be different difficulties to select from).

A boss fight was also selectable on the title screen, and even if it was a bit hard to handle so many “troops” at the same time and it came down to throw-everyone-as-fast-as-possible to get the job done, it was a lot of fun either way. Definitely a title to look forward to.

Tablet implementation? Again except for the map the whole thing is controlled with the standard Wii remote (Plus) controller! Okay, the graphics would definitely be too much for the older system, but in the demo, the use of the Wii U’s unique control system (if it can be called that) wasn’t put to good use except for looking at a map.

Game (demo) rating: 8/10
Tablet rating: 4/10

Wikipedia

Buy the Wii U game on
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Party hard, harder, with Mario and Sonic and friends
It was time to say goodbye. The party got a little bit out of hand…
Sonic seemed to be not impressed at all with the zombies… or ZombiU.

Mario greeted Batman and moved as if he had a bit too much to drink…

And we got a small bag of goodies before leaving, even if we had to say bye ourselves to the registration desk…

Two hours of interesting experiences
So some final words or thoughts on the event and Nintendo’s new console:
As it has already been pointed out, the organization could have been better (some people at the stands didn’t seem to be gamers themselves, some looked not very motivated or didn’t really care if one was struggling with the controls), but the location itself (with the middle bar part to relax) was a good way to experience the games, even if there were some waiting queues.

Final thoughts on the Wii U
Now for the console itself: There will surely be some fun games (like Rayman Legends, New Super Mario Bros U and probably Zelda and other franchises), but when one only looks at the games which were on display, it is a highly disappointing prospect. And the answer to why should one hand out 300-350 Euros for a console if there are better alternatives and if the control system is either useless or too complicated, is probably: No, I won’t buy the console on release and do what I’ll do with every other console, especially with Nintendo’s marketing strategy: Wait and see…when either more and better games are available, the price drops and/or a newer, updated version of the control system or the console itself is on the shelves.

All in all, the event was a fun experience nevertheless. Maybe next time we’ll have something like that with Sony’s and Microsoft’s new consoles? It seems they’re planning to outdo Nintendo with their tablet version either way… But that’s something only the future can tell.

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About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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