Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Wii U Marry Me?

Apologies for the weak-ass pun, it was the best I could do before I had my morning coffee.  Nintendo's E3 press conference was yesterday.  Obviously the big news was the announcement of the Wii U.   Like the Wii it looks like it has a ton of potential.  Like the Wii I will wait and see if any game developer aside from Nintendo can figure out how to make cool content for it.

It is always perplexing to me though why people try to immediately quantify Nintendo in terms of their competitors' consoles.  Nintendo hinted with the Gamecube that they were no longer interested in playing the numbers game.  Then, just in case you didn't get the hint, they gave us the Wii, which was a huge ol' "Fuck You" to all the doubters who had written them off as a company.   They're still trying to dig Miyamoto out from under all the piles of money they made with it.  Now they come out with the U and once again the first thing people do is try to quantify it in terms of the Xbox and Playstation. 

All I know is that the Wii was cool.  I couldn't play Gears or Mass Effect on it but I had a hell of a lot of fun with Mario, Boomblocks, etc.   My parents also own a stack of Wii games that rivals my Xbox collection.   Nothing for nothing, that is badass.  My buddy Nick imagines a brave future where the Xbox and Nintendo combine merging Xbox's online and "hardcore cred" with Nintendo's pure sense of fun and innovation.  What a sexy, heretical, love child that would be.   Emphasis on the heretical because that world, cannot, must not, exist.  Oh shit, maybe it does exist?

I give you the Kinect.   No way this little bastard exists if Nintendo hadn't produced the Wii and caught Microsoft and Sony with their pants around their ankles.  Sony further proved its inability to adapt to a changing world, rehashed the Wii controller and gave us the Move.  Microsoft though pulled out some old tech they had been messing with in their dark labs, figured out how to make it work (sort of), and then strapped it to an Xbox.

Kinect was neat when it came out, but it wasn't really awesome.  It was a weird little bar of potential though and that's all a bunch of tinkering homebrew engineers needed.  Lickety-split people were hacking the thing, making it bigger, better, strong, faster.  It was like a Rocky training montage.

Now, one year later, E3 comes around and they give us this:

First off that dude is a big dork, but you can't tell me that the moment he lifted a tank and then force threw off the ledge you didn't wish you were that dork.

Here's Fable: The Journey:

Um, ya, he was casting multiple spells and manipulating them differently based on his hand gestures.  Then for good measure he slapped a dude.

Now my last one, Mass Effect 3 with new voice functionality based on Kinect's improved speech recognition.

Okay, the conversation bits where you actually talk to your game to further the dialogue is a little creepy.  Can't argue that it doesn't up immersion factor.  The combat stuff is really exciting.  I can't count how many times Mordin rushed forward and got himself killed before I could navigate to the command to tell him to fall back.   Rumor even has it that they're building in a list of "help requests" (such as recognizing people's tendency to swear when their character is in trouble) initiating other character to heal or buff you.

What is fantastic to me is all this stuff is just the first step.  Nintendo opened the door, Microsoft clearly decided to step through.  The Wii U continues down the path, trying to push interactivity and user experience further.  At the very least that second screen will get all those HUD elements, menus, maps, and inventory off the main screen so I just get awesome unhindered gameplay on my screen.   Who knows what's next?

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