July 15, 2024

Critic’s Notebook: In Nintendo’s Successor to Wii, a Hand-Held Screen

But two days earlier, under extreme secrecy and security precautions, I got to try it for myself. My initial verdict: Nintendo has another hit on its hands, an innovative new system that has a chance to shake up electronic entertainment.

First, a few basic facts. The new system will be known as the Wii U, and the company plans to release it between April and December of next year. It will be compatible with existing Wii games and controllers, so consumers won’t necessarily have to replace software and accessories they already have (unless they want to take advantage of the new system’s capabilities). And unlike the Wii, which was stuck in the low-def era, the new console generates and displays graphics in full 1080p high-definition.

So here’s the big deal: the wireless, hand-held controller for the new system includes a six-inch-wide touch-sensitive screen right there between your hands. No longer will playing a home console game mean looking at a television all the time. Instead, the controller screen can complement or replace what’s on TV. If, for instance, one person in the household is playing a game on the living room television, and someone else wants to watch television, the gamer can switch play entirely to the controller, while the TV is flipped to the other show.

The implications are wide-ranging. In a rare joint interview with Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s president, and Shigeru Miyamoto, the company’s eminent design chief (inventor of Mario and Zelda), Mr. Iwata suggested that the new system could usher in an age when television remote controls come with their own screens, allowing you to, say, browse channel listings or peruse additional information about the show you are watching without interrupting the on-screen picture.

Despite the new controller’s superficial similarity to newly popular tablets like the Apple iPad, Mr. Miyamoto said that he had not used it and that his team had come up with the initial concept for the new system roughly four years ago, long before the iPad’s debut. (Mr. Iwata, on the other hand, said he was basically an Apple fan.)

Nintendo and Apple stand alone at the top in finding new ways for consumer technology to entertain and inform. And that is because both companies actually put technology second in their design process. What comes first is the consumer experience; for these companies technology is useful only as it allows everyday people to have new experiences.

The new Nintendo console certainly offers those. The private preview demonstration — in a huge, sealed metal box-room meant to repel all external surveillance and interference — showed how the new system can deliver new sorts of gameplay.

First came something called Chase Mii. (Miis are the little cartoony avatars Wii players create to represent themselves.) In a sort of maze, up to four players do the chasing, while one player is chased. What’s interesting is that the hunters, using normal Wii controllers, look at the television screen, while the quarry looks at the screen on the hand-held controller. Different players in the same room are now receiving and reacting to different game information at the same time.

Next came Battle Mii. One player, with the new controller, is flying around in a sort of hovercraft with lasers, while the other two players look at the TV as they try to shoot him down. The player with the hand-held screen can hide from and even surprise the pursuers because they can’t see the small screen. The new controller is also motion-sensitive, so you can turn and aim just by twisting and turning the screen. You really want to stand so you can turn full circle. At times my back was to the TV as I focused on the new controller, while the other players, looking at the television, tried to hunt me down. Great fun.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=07cacd7c3006dce9540c990f32c75be6

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