The Gamepad turned out to be the most exciting aspect of my Wii U launch experience. I was skeptical of the thing, and wasn’t really excited for it or convinced of its inherent innovation. I actually thought it all seemed a bit silly. This all changed when I placed it in my hands.
More “Wii U Diaries” can be found here.
Wii U’s Gamepad is an exquisitely designed input device that deserves a spot on a pedestal next to the best out there. Not only does it manage to make an awkward concept light, comfortable, and ergonomic, the Gamepad’s overall premise is incredibly exciting. Seeing a game being mirrored simultaneously on a TV and the device with virtually no delay is a sight to behold- especially in the palm of your hand. The triggers, joysticks, and buttons all feel familiar and work well. Despite the seemingly large size, it feels close to second nature in hand, and weight is evenly distributed. There was some initial getting used to the placement of the joysticks above the standard buttons, but after some acclimation it was easy to accomplish whatever a game needed you to do- even in third-party action ports like Ninja Gaiden 3 and Assassin’s Creed 3. While Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will prove to be the ultimate test, for now it seems like we can live without a Pro Controller if need be.
But it’s not all flowers and rainbows. The Gamepad’s battery life is deplorable: three hours at best. A controller that only lasts three hours? A bit of a problem. Be ready to constantly have this thing hooked up to an AC power charger. It can be argued that compromises must be made — the Wii U and its Gamepad are an impressive set of innovative tech, but that’s still no excuse for THREE HOURS of battery life.
While the touchscreen is big, bold, and beautiful, it certainly isn’t the newest kid on the block. Most consumers have grown used to multitouch touchscreen devices in their daily lives through smartphones and tablets, but the Gamepad’s capacitive touchscreen feels like a step back into the stone age. It may present fun gameplay opportunities, but the Gamepad feels iffy at times when it comes to touching it. Sometimes you really have to poke the thing. It just falls a bit short of what we expect from a touch-based device.
Nintendo certainly has something going with the innovation behind Gamepad, but the problem is that it doesn’t know exactly what to do with it yet. This is enticing because when Nintendo and third party developers truly figure it all out, it looks like it’s going to be a blast. NintendoLand shows how much fun a touch screen on a controller can be, and ZombiU shows how well it can be implemented in standard, third party action games without feeling too much like a forced gimmick.
I’ll go ahead and say the the Wii U and its Gamepad are definitely Nintendo’s least gimmicky-feeling products and serve as a cohesive and intriguing look into the future of peripheral gaming.