Nintendo should have "won" the show at E3 this year. Heading into the show, our excitement was palpable. We predicted Nintendo would steal the show, because it would finally wow us with a variety of first-party games that would showcase precisely what the Wii U was capable of.
Instead, we simply got a variety of first-party party games, ones that didn't add any meaningful depth to the shallow mini-game showcases that plagued the Wii library. I got hands-on time with Nintendo Land, the publisher's showcase title for the Wii U, a collection of branded mini-games. Then, I got hands-on with Game & Wario, another mini-game collection. Finally, I got to play Wii Fit U, another collection of fitness-themed mini-games.
As with most first-party efforts, there's certainly a lot of polish and charm in these party games. However, it's hard to say I've touched the future of gaming after playing these demos. While I genuinely believe Nintendo's multi-screen approach to the Wii U can result in genuinely new experiences, I saw a distressing lack of originality at Nintendo's E3 booth.
For example, one of Nintendo Land's mini-games--Donkey Kong's Crash Course--had me staring at the tablet. There was no reason to switch views, because the game was identical across both screens. Sure, it look advantage of the GamePad's built-in motion sensing tech, but I'm not entirely sure how this experience couldn't be replicated on any other gyroscopic device--Vita, 3DS, iOS, and Wii included.
Wii Fit U also gave me no reason to look at both screens. Whether I was rowing a boat, or using a fire hose, I felt like all of these experiences could have been done just as well on any other tilt-based device.
Pac-Man VS had a Gamecube player against Game Boy Advance players
Asynchronous multiplayer is definitely the biggest draw of the Wii U. Luigi's Ghost Mansion, thoroughly detailed at the Nintendo E3 press conference, is probably one of the few examples of multiplayer that worked. But I also couldn't help but think it played a bit like Pac-Man Vs. on the Gamecube. That game connected Gamecube and Game Boy Advance in a set-up that's not unlike Wii U. If you're not familiar with it, it's because it didn't take off.
Perhaps most disconcerting of all is that New Super Mario Bros U was the laziest showcase of Wii U's capabilities. Mario games have long been a showcase for Nintendo's hardware: Super Mario 64 defined 3D platforming, Super Mario Galaxy convincingly added motion controls, and Super Mario 3D Land proved that 3D doesn't have to be a gimmick. New Super Mario Bros U, however, lets you use the touch screen to add additional platforms to the screen--far from the revolution typically represented by the franchise.
If there's one publisher that "gets" the Wii U, it's not Nintendo. Rather, it's Ubisoft. Rayman Legends proved to be the best game for the platform available at the show, with a multi-screen multiplayer experience that took advantage of everything the system had to offer. It's hard to have confidence in the Wii U if Nintendo's own first-party studios can't squeeze the originality seen in this one third-party game.