Nintendo has launched the Wii U in North America and the UK with added HD gameplay, improved online network, functionality to play when no TV is around, and a neat social network called Mii-verse. With all the improvements and steps forward in the Wii U’s technology there are opportunities to have one of the most accessible consoles yet.
The Wii U can sync with the original Wii Remote, Nunchuk, Classic Controller, Wii Fit Board, as well as the new Pro Controller and GamePad controller. The GamePad controller is a very universal controller that features a camera, motion sensors, TV remote function and a built in microphone.
All of the built in features of the GamePad could add extra accessibility to The Wii U on top of the controls already available from the original Wii. Console games like Skyrim, Odama, Seaman and Hey You Pikachu have used voice commands over the past 10 years, but also require extra peripherals not included with a console. And since the Wii GamePad has a built in microphone it would be possible to have a game made only of voice commands game without requiring extra peripherals.
With the original Wii there were some complaints of forcing the user to use motion controls, which is problematic for gamers with mobility issues.
In fact, an injury kept me from playing Donkey Kong Country Returns -- a game that simply could have had an option to play with the motion controls or just by using the classic controller.
But the Wii U launch line up has brought a variety of games and ways to use the controls other than motion. Most system launches normally have a few great titles, some shovel-ware, and some games based on gimmicks the Wii U is no different.
Unfortunately, I have noticed a lack of controller options in quite a few games. I believe a lot of this is from game devs rushing to get a product out in the launch window before the holidays.
Nintendo Land is the most played Wii U game as it came with the deluxe Wii U console. The game features 12 mini-games based off of Nintendo brands that have made Nintendo what it is today.
One downfall of this game is the fact that most games must be played with more than 2 players. Of the games that can be played single player, all of them require some sort of spinning the game pad, physical movement to look around, or swiping the screen with the stylus or a combination of the above, plus blowing on the controllers built in mic.
Nintendo Land is a great experience, however, with most mini games forcing players to use one remote over another it can be severely limiting without options. From a disability standpoint and from an “I just bought a Pro Controller yet I can’t use it for any of the games even though some just require 2 buttons” kind of way, forcing controls on gamers equals fail.
In Nintendo Land there are no color blind or captioning options, but I have noticed games such as Mario Chase -- a game where Minis dressed as Toad run around a map trying to tackle a player dressed as Mario -- did a good job at having audio queues as well as visual and marking the zones also by a recognizable symbol.
When Mario Chase is played in 2 player mode Monita will yell out where Mario is by saying what colored zone (blue, green, yellow, red). Each Zone also has a matching symbol that will be displayed on screen to give clues where Mario is located. If you are Deaf or colorblind you will still be able to get the clue.
Nintendo Land is a great game to play with friends, but the majority of the game requires movement that could cause some problems for those with mobility issues.
New Super Mario Brothers U is my favorite game from the launch line up with new modes, 4 player co-op and FINALLY seeing Mario in HD, it makes me enjoy it just as much as I did when I got my first NES as a child.
While New Super Mario U may be my favorite game series and launch title, but again there are a few issues that could impact those with mobility issues. New Super Mario Bros U allows the player to play without shaking the remotes ONLY if you use the GamePad, however, you will still be required to turn the remote to balance out platforms.
The controller option that allows for less motion-control is limited to only one player as New Super Mario U does not allow compatibility with the Pro Controller. New Super Mario Bros U won’t let you play co-op with the GamePad and Remotes as it forces you to play with the Wii remotes with less buttons and more shaking. Some levels require balancing the GamePad certain ways to move platforms, which could be impossible to beat with mobility issues.
Nintendo has added a feature that if a player has died too many times a Super Guide Block will appear allowing Luigi to pop out and beat the level for you, which great for some tough levels that are tough to beat, but AWFUL as a fallback as the only way to beat a level.
There are more than enough buttons on the GamePad and Pro Controller to enable a simple “motion off” option that maps the movement to buttons, which would have allowed zero shaking and turning of the controller.
For now, it seems Nintendo is still fascinated with this gimmick.
Nintendo has added a few new modes to New Super Mario U such as the challenge mode that allows players to perfect their speed runs, collect coins, and show off their skills. The other new option in this game is Boost Mode -- an option that allows a player (or friends) to place blocks on screen by tapping the GamePad with the stylus. These blocks help players by being able to jump on them to reach secrets and coins that would normally be difficult to do. While Boost Mode may not be the ideal co-op, fans of New Super Mario U will remember it as a good change of pace for the series, a lot of fun and perfect role for some disabled gamers.
Out of the titles I have gotten to play, the one game stood that out as providing the most options was Call of Duty Black Ops 2, which allows players to use the GamePad, Pro Controller, Classic Controller (with Wiimote), or Wii Remote and Nunchuck. Not only does this game have all the modes and multiplayer the other consoles do, it also offers customization to allow one player on the TV to play with the standard colors and an option to allow the second player to have colorblind assist on the GamePad.
The Wii U COULD be a HUGE step forward in accessibility or a SAD step backwards, depending on what developers are going to put into making the games. I hope in this generation we see less gimmick and more playing options. I hope developers keep in mind that some people cannot easily switch back and forth using the GamePad and the Television, as well as to come up with a way to play games using motion or buttons.
Time will tell what developers do with this console, but with the plethora of options we will either see some stand out titles in accessibility and others be forced into using motion controls.
Hopefully this time around game makers take note; the more ways you can play the game, the more players can play your game.
If you are developing a game for the Wii U and would like some guidelines check out www.Includification.com. If you’re a gamer, send developers the link on Twitter, Facebook, email and if need be, call them.