As soon as Nintendo announced the Wii U at the press conference, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Mostly because the controller looked so cumbersome I wasn't sure what it would be like to play games on it. Turns out I still don't really know because as Reggie said during the conference, these aren't game demos but "experiences."
But because I know you're curious, I'll take you through each one of them! Look how I suffer for you guys!
The first one that I tried was the Japanese Garden Tech Demo. This was the video that was shown during the press conference that I thought looked too beautiful to be in-game graphics. Turns out, it is in-game. Up close, you can tell. I mean, it's still utterly gorgeous, and very impressive. There was another Zelda video that was playing that blew it out of the water, though. Still, it was very lovely to watch the bird flying around the cherry blossoms as I used one of the analog sticks to shift the camera around. Not fully, but enough to prove that it's not pre-rendered. It was lovely... until I crashed it! It wouldn't be E3 unless I broke something!
I will say right up front that the tablet controller is very bulky. So I really don't know if Nintendo will be able to lure hardcore gamers into the fold unless stuff like Aliens Colonial Marines just uses the Wiimote and Nunchuck. Because those controllers are still compatible with the Wii U, as are Wii games. The Wii U controller is light and feels pretty comfortable, but because of its shape, it's large and not what I feel like I'd want to play a full-length FPS with.
The next tech demo was Measure Up, which I didn't actually try, but I saw people using it while waiting for other demos. Basically, it asks you to draw a line 1.5 inches long or something, and you use a stylus to draw on the touch screen what you think is a line of that length. Then it grades you. Too bad they didn't have a Mario Paint demo or something. That would've been much more fun.
Next to that was Shield Pose, which is the demo you can see me playing in the photo with this article. There's three pirate ships, to the front left and right, and they shoot arrows at you. It's kind of a rhythm-based game because the pirate tells you where the arrows are going to come from, and then you have to hold the controller up to block them from hitting you. Then you shake it down to knock the arrows off before the next volley. Then at the end, you have to dance by shaking the controller around to build up power you use to take out the ship with a big fireball. It was kind of fun, if a bit complicated, and it wasn't as awkward as I thought to shift my focus from the touch screen to the TV. You turn to the left and find the pirate ship on the touch screen and the suction cup arrow hits the screen. (Hopefully not you!)
Then came Chase Mii, where up to four people use Wiimotes to run around a giant maze in four-way split screen chasing down a little Mario who uses the Wii U controller. They have the advantage of seeing a top-down map of the entire screen so they know where the seekers are, while they can only see what's in front of them from floor level. The focus is on using communication amongst the seekers to keep track of the hider and catch them before the time limit runs out. This was a lot more fun than it sounds. Honestly. I tried being the hider and one of the seekers, and both were equally enjoyable.
Battle Mii was probably my favorite. Two players use Nunchucks and Wiimotes in a futuristic American Gladiators-style arena trying to shoot down a third player in a hovercraft. I tried both sides, and while the ship controls make that one a little more difficult, they're both fun. Oh, and I totally won both times, in case you're curious. It was close in the ship, but I eked out a victory! The Wii U controller screen is used to show the ship's POV as the two shooters share a split screen view on the TV. You use the analog sticks to move around and the trigger to shoot. The thing that threw me was that you aim on screen by tilting the touch screen controller to shift the reticule around.
New Super Mario Bros. Mii was just a quick demo level of New Super Mario Bros. Wii but with the HD graphics making it look extra pretty and the ability to sub in Miis for the usual Nintendo characters. Not much more to say about that, because that's basically all it was. It didn't even use the Wii U touch screen controller.
The tech demos weren't anything spectacular, but they did give a good idea of the kind of things you can do with Wii U. Specifically the Chase Mii and Battle Mii games. Those were a lot of fun. Oh, and you could see behind glass the Wii U console, which as I said in the press conference article, is like a slightly more streamlined Wii. I'm just still not convinced that hardcore gamers are going to want to play shooters with this bulky controller. I guess we'll have to wait until there are demos of actual games to make that call!