E3 2011: Detailed impressions of the Wii U controller

This post has been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.

Nintendo gave a few members of the press early hands-on demos of the new Wii U, and here are my initial thoughts on that funky controller:

  • The tablet controller is extremely light. When I first picked it up, I almost wasn't sure it was a functioning model. It certainly doesn't weigh as much as an iPad 1. While this makes it feel less "solid" than an Xbox 360 controller, it's still sturdy enough. I just wouldn't throw it in anger over a missed jump in New Super Mario Bros. Mii.
  • The analog pads are discs that slide over a flat area, similar to the 3DS or PSP nubs. They are concave with a slight edge around the rim to help keep sweaty thumbs in place. You don't get the nice range of motion as you do with the Xbox 360 or PS3 analog sticks, but these seem to work well enough.
  • The left and right triggers feel just slightly cheap and stiff (maybe because no one's broken them in yet), but because they're curved, they still feel better for your pointers than PS3's L2 and R2 buttons. But they don't compare to the 360's L and R triggers.
  • The screen resolution is impressively crisp and sharp. I didn't feel like the demos downgraded the graphics when they moved to the tablet.
  • In one demo simply called "HD Experience," we got to see in-game graphics of a theoretical hi-resolution Zelda game. We couldn't manipulate the choreographed action, but the touch screen offered three buttons that allowed us to change camera angles, switch from day lighting to night, and, most importantly, move the game from the television monitor to the tablet. Why this last function is significant: The transfer was near instant and seamless. No lag, no buffering — when you hit the button, the game/movie slid to the controller's screen right away and continued exactly where it left off.
  • The gyroscope worked very well. In the rhythm-game/demo Shield Pose, you had to raise your controller to catch off-TV-screen arrows, timed to a beat. When you held the tablet up in the air and panned around, you would see more of the game's environment on the touch screen, as if you were peeking through a portal and looking at another reality beyond your own. Look up toward the ceiling, and you'll see the game's night sky and moon. Rotate left or right, and you'll see the horizon continue and, again, off-TV-screen enemy pirate boats that you wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

Hope that answers some of the questions you've been throwing at me on my Twitter!

Looking for more E3 news, previews, videos, and analysis? Check out our E3 2011 Coverage Hub.

Wii U controller

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