Wii U at E3: An Asymmetric Identity

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

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For those who do not yet understand the concept of asymmetric gameplay, it is essentially when 2 or more people play a game in very different ways.  A good example of this on the Wii would be the “girlfriend modes” in games like Super Mario Galaxy in which a less active player can move a cursor on the screen, helping out, as another player controls Mario.  At E3 2011 Nintendo debuted the Wii U console with its tablet-esque controller, and a lot of questions about multiplayer soon followed.  How do you play a multiplayer game when only 1 (now 2) of the players has the touch screen the developers are working with?  The answer, it seems, was asymmetrical gameplay.  If player 1 is using a wii remote to aim in a first person shooter, why not let player 2 use the tablet game pad as if they were playing an RTS.  At this year’s E3, asymmetric gameplay has become a sort of tagline for the Wii U’s very identity.

Asymmetric gameplay has actually been around for a long time.  Smaller instances include Final Fantasy VI, in which every character has a unique ability that functions very differently, or Street Fighter in which each character can be played in very different ways.  A major asymmetrical game, which most of you have probably played at some point, would by Rock Band, or the later entries in the Guitar Hero series, where in, each player uses a different instrument while playing together as a band.  Nintendo, of course, made their intentions towards asymmetrical gameplay clear at their notorious E3 2003 conference when they revealed the incredibly impractical PacMan Versus.  While PacMan Versus became a sort of avatar for Nintendo’s failure at that conference, the game itself was actually received with positive impressions, but in the end it asked far too much for such a gimmicky experience.  Nintendo, never one to let a strong concepts die out, put it in their pocket and waited.  At E3 2011, Nintendo showcased the unique gameplay options of the Wii U by means of several playable tech demos, many of which called back to what they had done with PacMan Versus in the past.

While the Wii U console encourages asymmetric gameplay by its very nature, asymmetric gameplay is in no way limited to asymmetric controller options.  For instance, though also in development for the Wii U, Aliens: Colonial Marines features asymmetric gameplay across all platforms.  Personally I hope that the Wii U encourages a sort of asymmetrical revolution, similar to the co-op boom from earlier in this generation that we are still enjoying as gamers today.  So then, could asymmetric gameplay be the next co-op?  With Nintendo’s Wii U,  Microsoft’s Smart Glass, and Sony encouraging PS3/Vita interaction, I feel as if it is only a matter of time.