I was lucky enough to try several demos of Nintendo's recently announced Wii-U controller for their Wii console, and while it wasn't necessarily "new" news (the rumours that they'd have a new something-or-other at E3 have been flying for months now) it was still a very impressive device to see.
The Wii-U is, essentially, a Wii-Mote 'fused' with a large DS, where you use the TV as your top screen, and there's a touch-pad screen in the controller itself that you can interact with for the bottom screen. You can use a stylus, or simply use the usual joystick and buttons that is standard with just about every controller. Nintendo also added the Wii-Mote features so you can move and shake the Wii-U with effective results, and you can play games where only the holder of the Wii-U can see certain parts of the game, while the rest of the players cannot.
That, my friends, is where the Wii-U shines.
One of the demo's featured showed a pirate on a ship and, depending on what was happening, you'd have to hold the Wii-U a particular way to advance. If the pirate shot at you from the ship, you'd hold it in front of you as a shield and look at the screen in the Wii-U as though looking through a 'port' window. If you were shot at from the side, you'd have to face the Wii-U 90-degrees to your left or right to see where the arrows are coming from, suggesting there are unseen things happening all 360-degrees around you and the Wii-U is your window to that world. While shielding yourself from arrows on all sides, you'd have to shake to the left, right, up, and down for other tasks, bringing in the motion-sensing features of the Wii-Mote.
The ability to selectively show things on either screen to enhance game-play was definitely prevalent. During a Chase Mii demo, we played a Mario version of Pac-Man, in a sense, except the A.I. ghosts were the players with the Wii-Motes (Toads), and Pac-Man (Mario) was the holder of the Wii-U. The four of us (yes, four of us) who were chasing Mario used the TV screen, and Mario (a fifth player) used the Wii-U. While us Toads couldn't see where Mario was on the map on-screen, and we couldn't cheat and use our peripherals to find him since he had his own screen on the Wii-U, Mario could see where we all were on the map on his screen at all times. It resulted with an exciting chase-down where the Toads would tell each other out loud where we'd just seen him, working as a team to try to corner him, and Mario, aware of where we all were, would do his best to scamper away. The party fun continued when we'd switch who wielded the Wii-U for the next round, giving everyone a chance to play both sides.
As a gamer who likes to watch people play from time-to-time, I was floored when I saw another feature which enables the player to just show the cinematics on-screen, and keep the gaming stats on the Wii-U. What that means is a gaming session through Legend of Zelda's Skyward Sword, for example, where those who're watching see just the action unfolding on-screen, while the player on their Wii-U can see on their own screen the action, as well as how many hearts remain, what weapon choices they have, the map of the dungeon, and basically what they need to play the game with. Naturally you can have the stats shown on the TV if you wish, but again, it's a nice feature to showcase for those who simply like to sit back and watch the action unfold. It doesn't hurt that the demo showcased it all in HD.
The Wii-U, while wireless, is a controller, not a portable gaming device. "That's what our DS is for," stated Nintendo's Matt Ryan, who also pointed out that should you take the Wii-U far away from the Wii console it will stop working for that very reason. He also confirmed that, "[rumours of] the single Wii-U controller limitation was indeed false and it will be possible to use more then one per system." While the number itself has yet to be announced, you can be rest assured that once they're on the market you'll be able to use more than one with the Wii.
Having the Wii-U's different abilities applied to future games is definitely something to look forward to. Combining the Wii-U as a 'window' all 360-degrees around you, selective showcasing between the TV and the Wii-U for both cinematic and game-play fun, and incorporating the mechanics of the Wii-Mote, the Wii-U seems like a natural and impressive progression for Nintendo to take. A release date has yet to be announced.