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Shocking nobody who’s paid any attention to all the rumors over the last couple of weeks, Nintendo unveiled the Wii U and its controller at its E3 press conference this morning. Boasting a 6.2-inch screen, dual analog circle pads, a mic, two pairs of rear triggers, a stylus and more, the controller wowed Nintendo fans near and far, gamers casual to hardcore and even many Sony and Microsoft diehards.

Just like the PS Vita, we immediately hopped over to Nintendo’s booth and awaited to go hands-on with the Wii U and its controller. Our full preview is just a click away.

Design and Weight

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Let’s cut to the chase. The Wii U controller is extremely light. As with the PS Vita preview, the Wii U controllers on display were prototypes, albeit working ones that more than likely do not have any sort of battery pack included. Final retail Wii U controllers could become heavier, but we’re hoping it won’t be too noticeable.

One thing we did notice that was missing was rumble/force feedback. Even with our repeated pestering, Nintendo reps refused to acknowledge whether or not the final controller would or wouldn’t have rumble in it. No rumble would be a huge step backwards (anybody who bought a SixAxis PS3 controller when Sony nixed it before going back and adding it in the DualShock 3 will know how important rumble is).

Overall, the Wii U controller felt exceptionally comfortable, the back was a nice matte non-slip plastic (we did sweat while playing New Super Mario Bros. Mii) and the A/B/X/Y buttons and triggers felt solid enough. One thing we’re not so sure about yet are the two analog Circle Pads. While rubbery, the Circle pads don’t appear to have as much rotation as old analog sticks on the Wii Remote and Gamecube controllers. Also, if they’re anything like the 3DS Circle Pad, then they’re going to wear out rather quickly (see Nintendo 3DS review).

Features

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We manhandled the living heck out of the Wii  U controller and here’s everything we found on it:

  • 6.2-inch touchscreen (diagonal)
  • 2 analog circle pads, D-Pad, A/B/X/Y buttons, ZL/ZR and L/R triggers, Home, Select/Start (Minus/Plus)
  • Volume slider
  • Mic and speakers
  • 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Gyroscope/Accelerometer
  • A/C Power adapter port
  • Stylus
  • HDMI and Wii Remote access port
  • IR port

Nintendo didn’t provide any specific details on screen resolution, battery life/what type of battery, whether it’s lithium polymer or what how far the range for the controller is, but that stuff should make it out into the news in due time.

Screen

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Seeing games on the screen on both the HDTV and the Wii U controller is truly amazing. Like the Nintendo DS, dual screens is coming to the home living room gaming system and it is fantastic. Again, although we don’t know the screen resolution, games looked crisp and mostly sharp (at least Nintendo first-party games, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online looked awful) when beamed over.

Nintendo is stressing that the Wii U controller is not a portable, but it can be used to play Wii U games if your TV is occupied by someone else or if its switched off. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata promised no lag, but we’re still skeptic. Most demo games in Nintendo’s E3 booth did run buttery smooth, but we did see a few hiccups in frame rate in New Super Mario Bros. Mii.

Demo Games

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Several games were demoed at Nintendo’s booth and we got to play with a bunch of them. In Shield Pose, players had to move to a rhythm to block arrows fired from a pirate ship. Holding the Wii U controller to the left, to the right, above and in front of you to block it was sort of fun, but shaking the controller to rack up points was plain embarrassing, especially when you have various international media recording your every reactions!

New Super Mario Bros. Mii is basically the same game as the Wii’s 2D platformer, but with HD visuals and of course, the inclusion your own playable Mii’s, which in our opinion was kind of weird. We like the Miis, but seeing them in more Mario games (Mario Kart Wii was one of the first) is starting to feel like Nintendo’s running out of fresh ideas.

Battle Mii was a nice game that actually felt like it was the best demo out of all of the games. The game has players riding in a space UFO and then tilting the Wii U controller left and right to control the camera and using both Circle Pads to glide the ship up and down. The R trigger shoots and the L trigger zooms in. Who do you shoot? Why other Miis through an obstacle-laden course, duh! It’s fun, it’s simple, and everything happens on the Wii U’s screen. If Nintendo bundles Battle Mii with the Wii U, they’d have a hit.

Chase Mii and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online were also available to play. We missed out on Chase Mii, but Ghost Recon was very disappointing. Yeah, it was essentially running Xbox and PS3 assets, but the game looked terrible for a high definition came. The rendered map on the Wii U controller’s screen was also jaggy as heck, leading us to the conclusion that the screen’s pixel per inch density is not very high.

Conclusion

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Unfortunately, because the Wii U and its controller is still a prototype at this stage, Nintendo has yet to announce price, release dates or launch games. Frankly,  it’s not too hard to speculate that Nintendo will sell the console at a competitive price to lock heads with the PS3/Xbox 360.

On the other hand, the Wii U controller might be a little pricier seeing as it does have a 6.2-inch touchscreen, a couple of motion sensors and all the stuff a regular controller has. Buying two or more of these controllers could become costly real soon (Update: It appears only one Wii U controller can be used with the Wii U – a handicap that’s limited due to the streaming power that is required by the console) Then again, the Wii U is totally compatible with Wii Remotes and Wii RemotePlus’ so for all we know, most games might only require one Wii U controller.

Nonetheless, we came off very impressed with the Wii U controller and like all of the excited third-party publishers, we’re psyched and can’t wait to get our hands on one ourselves. We think Nintendo really is going to disrupt the PS3 and Xbox 360′s 10-year life cycle yet again. Throw in a few hardcore games like GTA, Call of Duty and Battlefield and the Wii U could come out on top just like the current Wii.

Filed in Gaming. Read more about E3, E3 2011, Nintendo, nintendo wii u and Wii U.

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