The demo footage hints at all kinds of perspective twists. Lying the controller on the ground in a golf game displays the tee on the screen, swung at with a Wii remote in your hands. Looking at your ball on the ground gives a "sense of how tough it is in the rough" joked Shigeru Miyamoto. Imagine Trauma Center where you grab remote tools from a touch-screen tray, or Wii Boxing with an x-ray controller revealing snapping bones.
Exciting, right? It gets better. What happens if said screens decide to co-operate, blurring the boundaries? Motion-sensing innards let us move the controller for a new perspective on the TV action. In the Shield Pose demo we swing the controller to catch arrows as they're fired from distant ships.
The twist? Only one ship is visible on TV - the others can only be seen by aiming the pad left or right of the TV. This idea, that the pad is a window to an unseen virtual reality, is easily Wii U's coolest trick. One tech demo - a virtual garden shown in Nintendo's conference - plants you in the middle of ornate Japanese grounds and invites you to look around. Spin through 360 degrees and you spin 360 degrees in the game. Look up and sunlight saturates the leaves. Look down and a nearby koi pond ripples in the breeze. Here, among the swaying grass, we fell in love with Wii U.
The gaming implications are great. Motion-sensing fidelity (Wii U already feels more stable than a Wii remote) makes it a feasible control scheme for first-person shooters. When Ubisoft unveiled Wii U exclusive Killer Freaks From Outer Space they demoed the entire game on the pad, moving with analogue sliders and pointing guns at fleshy gremlins with physical shifts. This set-up only works if you play on the tablet screen, but what's lost in TV inches is made up for in immersion.
THE POWER TO MOVE YOU
Further proof of motion potential comes in Battle Mii. Gently moving the pad aims a UFO which is steered with the two control sticks, in effect offering a third analogue input that 360 and PS3 pads don't. Tank and helicopter controls should be a doddle on Wii U. But if FPS advancement hints at a promising online future, Wii U is even more revolutionary in local multiplayer.
Four players sitting on a sofa is Nintendo's bread and butter. Wii U adds the jam: a fifth player. A Wii U-wielding player. Four remotes/nunchuks versus one super controller. Wii U offers what GoldenEye victims begged for in 1997, physically splitting split-screen multiplayer. You can't peek at a controller in someone else's hands. But this is way more than a simple cheat deterrent.
The fifth screen secludes one player on a private playing field. In Battle Mii, hunters share the TV screen to bring down a tablet-piloted UFO. In Chase Mii four players pursue a single mastermind who sees their positions on his tablet map. Sound familiar? It's Miyamoto's wonderful Pac-Man Vs reborn, only without the need for a Game Boy Advance and link-up cable. In fact, thanks to remote compatibility, you've already got most of the kit needed to play.
Interestingly, Wii U is only designed - at this stage at least - to work with one tablet controller. Local multiplayer relies on remote/tablet co-operation. That's understandable from a price perspective - touch screens and streaming video tech don't come cheap. We do wonder what dangerous controller envy this will evoke. When you've been the chased in Chase Mii it ain't so easy reverting to a chaser.
ONE ON ONE
So, the controller is TV replacement, supplement and partner. THQ's Danny Bilson (the man you can thank for bringing Darksiders II and Metro: Last Light to Wii U) calls it the "Swiss Army Knife of controllers" - and he's spot-on. It kinda does everything. The touch screen alone is a thousand buttons in one, allowing for the kind of input unrivalled even by PC. And yet... and yet people can't rest easy until they know what it connects to.