It's no secret Nintendo's Wii U — the gaming giant's next-generation video game console -- failed to wow the gaming press at the recent E3 Expo in Los Angeles. Just read Ben Silverman's critique at Yahoo! Games on how the Nintendo press conference raised more questions than it answered.
But Nintendo fans crushed by this news should take comfort in knowing the actual hands-on time with the Wii U games somewhat made up for the disappointing conference on the first day of the show. That said, there are still valid concerns about whether Nintendo can pull off the Wii U in time for the holidays.
While Nintendo hasn't announced a street date, price or launch titles, here's what to expect when the Wii U debuts later this year.
If motion-sensing defined the Nintendo Wii, a touchscreen tablet is what makes the Nintendo Wii U unique.
The Wii U will ship with a wireless 6.2-inch touchscreen controller — called Wii U GamePad -- that can be used to control the games and see gaming elements -- such as a different angle of the action -- than what's playing on the television screen.
Another way the Wii U tablet can be used is to see complimentary information on the secondary screen. For instance, a fantasy role-playing game might have you navigating strange worlds on the TV screen, but a quick glance down at the tablet shows your map, where enemies and items are, mission objectives, and so on.
One of the more interesting features of this GamePad tablet is the ability to play a game on it. Therefore, if a sibling comes home and wants to watch TV, you can continue playing your game on the tablet itself. It only works with select Nintendo Wii U games, and only in the room with the Wii U console — and not something you can take with you to go (after all, that would cannibalize the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS business). It'll also be possible to watch TV shows and movies on Netflix, then transfer the video to the Wii U GamePad while someone else in the family can watch live TV on the big-screen television.
The controller also has a rumble feature, forward-facing camera (it supports video chatting), a microphone, speakers and headphone jack. But it also has familiar buttons to control the game, too, such as dual analog sticks and both face and shoulder buttons. The Wii U GamePad can also be used as a TV remote, including the ability to change channels and adjust volume.
Little is known about what's under the hood of the Wii U, but it's capable of playing games with high-definition graphics, plus it'll also ship with a Wii Controller and will be backward compatible to work with all existing Nintendo Wii games.
Playable Nintendo Wii U games at the show were hit and miss.
Take NintendoLand, for example, rumored to ship with the Wii U just like Wii Sports was bundled with the Nintendo Wii. This collection of 12 minigames — or "attractions" as Nintendo puts it — had one Zelda-inspired adventure, where multiple gamers on the same TV take down enemies and other targets with swords or bow and arrow. Problem is, it's an on-rail game, as you don't move your character whatsoever — just hack and slash by flailing the Wii Remote or aim and fire arrows while holding the GamePad. In a word? Meh.
More promising, however, is Luigi's Ghost Mansion. Up to three players on Wii Remotes can play as Luigis running around mansion from a top-down perspective, while the person holding the Wii U GamePad plays as the ghost who must chase and catch them. No one can see the ghost but when it gets close to you, the Wii Remote vibrates that signals you should take off. This game proved quite fun.
You might've also heard there's a new Pikmin and New Super Mario Bros. game but don't appear to be much different than its predecessors — nor do they seem to take full advantage of the new GamePad peripheral. In Pikmin 3, for instance, plays virtually the same as the original GameCube version — except a new Pikmin type (Rock) and HD graphics, among a couple of other features. Alas, it's still only a single-player game. Plus you must play the game with the Wii Remote and the Wii U GamePad is only used as an overhead map. It was fun to play, truth be told, but doesn't blow you away due to its familiarity.
New Super Mario Bros. U is also played with Nintendo Wii controllers instead of the GamePad, though one person can use the touchscreen to drop power-ups to help others in the Boost Mode, or plant obstacles to mess up other players, too. You'll also be able to play as your Mii avatars, too. The E3 demo was enjoyable but like Pikmin it's hard to shake that feeling of déjà vu.
Many of the third-party games were (or will be) available on other consoles, such as Batman: Arkham City (Armored Edition), Darksiders II, Assassin's Creed III, Tekken Tag Tournament, Rayman Legends, Ninja Gaiden 3, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and Just Dance 4 — some of which have some exclusive features for Wii U but nothing earth-shattering.
Perhaps the game that took best advantage of the new hardware was Ubisoft's ZombiU, a survival horror game that puts players in the middle of a zombie-infested London. You'll use the Wii U GamePad to scan the environment and tag enemies by touching the screen, plus the 6.2-inch display shows your inventory. The game also had a multiplayer mode on display behind-the-scenes at E3.
Nintendo is in a precarious position because they're currently number 3 in the video game space, trailing behind Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3, respectively.
Despite one of the worst E3 showings for Nintendo in the expo's 18-year history, Nintendo seems focused and excited about the Wii U launch later this year. If they could keep the price down, spend a ton to promote the product and include the 12 NintendoLand minigames in the box, it could capture the imagination (and wallets) of the "casual" market to some degree.
Adding an iPad-like controller as a second screen is a very clever idea — but more games need to take advantage of the unique hardware. Disappointingly, two of Nintendo's biggest first-part games -- Pikmin 3 and New Super Mario Bros. U — don't benefit much from the GamePad. Plus, Pikmin 3 hardly has mainstream appeal, while the new Super Mario platformer might not be different enough from New Super Mario Bros. Wii to justify the $50-odd price tag.
Nintendo has their work cut out for them, no doubt, both from a gaming and marketing perspective -- but if anyone could pull this off, it's Nintendo.
Stay tuned to Yahoo! Games and Yahoo! Shopping for more on the Nintendo Wii U over the coming weeks and months.