Last week Nintendo revealed the final details of its Wii U's launch plans with an intercontinental trio of press conferences. This week the company is offering CVG a closer look at the device and its software, flying the team out to Nintendo's Germany HQ to sample its next-gen console launch line-up.
Fourteen games in total we're playable at the event, of which an impressive twelve were provided by third-party developers. Of all the great titles on display, CVG has picked four that we think are really worth your consideration come November.
1. Nintendo Land
Nintendo Land is essentially the Wii U's answer to Wii Sports. If you're a Nintendo fan who's not yet to be allured by a mini-game compilation featuring some of gaming's most loved franchises, then you almost surely will when you play the game for yourself.
For one it's gorgeous; over the years Nintendo's been responsible for some of the most visually striking art styles in modern gaming, and this is the house of Mario's first chance to set its creativity loose within the realm of hi-definition. Featuring a Banjo-Kazooie Nuts 'n Bolts-esque patchwork art style (honestly, it could share the same assets), Nintendo Land oozes charm, cuteness and nostalgia from every Mii-worn costume.
A focus point of the latest demo is Metroid Blast, a third-person shooter game which can be played either in collaboration or against other players. In the co-op game, one player takes control of an airborne ship pilot, while up to four others can control on-foot Samus-alikes using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk.
Utilising what the most surprisingly impressive feature of the Wii U GamePad, Metroid Blast makes use of the gyroscopes for steering and aiming of the Samus ship (twin-sticks can also be used for movement, though they're not quite as responsive). The ability to aim the GamePad around the room at ant-sized baddies really creates an illusion that you're hovering above the action. It also means the ship player requires a little more effort to complete manoeuvres, which helps balance in ship vs. on-foot players game modes.
The cutesy Miis on the ground have the ability to free aim with the Wii Remote and even transform into a morph ball. Holding down the fire button eventually activates a rocket shot, which Ship players can also perform to devastating effect. Mario Kart-style power ups mix up gameplay with faster fire speed and similar augmentations, though we don't sense quite enough depth here to extend the game's life for too long.
The absolute best Nintendo Land attraction to date is Pikmin Adventure, which places a team of players - one in the role of Spaceman Olimar on the GamePad, others as Pikmin - in a visually gorgeous toybox world in which you must smash absolutely everything. Environmental obstacles and occasional puzzles pad out the action, but it's mostly the unapologetic cathartic bliss of smashing everything.
Pikmin players control their headgear-wearing Miis by holding the Wii Remote sideways. The d-pad takes care of movement, while the buttons 1 and 2 are used for jumping and head-chinning respectively. On the GamePad, the Olimar player spearheads operations; with a tap of the touch screen he can immediately recall his Pikmin cronies into his hands, and although this can initially be annoying for Wii Remote players they'll soon be causing far faster damage when the man in the space suit lobs them on to an enemy's venerable back.
A satisfying variety of enemies and integrated level-up system suggests that Pikmin Adventure could be one of the meatiest attractions in Nintendo Land's roster, and we're certainly looking forward to headbutting some more robot ladybirds.
Stick Dark Souls and Left 4 Dead in an Tyneside nightclub with loads of booze and a DJ obsessed with R Kelly, and you'll soon discover them copping off in the ladies toilets, conceiving Ubisoft's seriously promising ZombiU, our nominee for best Wii U launch game.
Like From Software's brutal dungeon crawler, the first-person shooter from Ubisoft is an unforgiving battle against enemies who can take you down with a single hit - and you won't respawn for another go at smashing them in with a cricket bat.
ZombiU feels like the survival horror game disgruntled Resident Evil fans have been crying out for ever since Leon Kennedy took down his first helicopter; movement in first person is sluggish and ammunition is scarce.
The genius of the tense gameplay is the Wii U GamePad itself; looting corpses and scanning the environment with a black light has you momentarily glancing down at the controller - and more often that not when you look back up something grizzly is about to start chewing your face off.
An ever-present Aliens-style motion scanner keeps the atmosphere racing with beeps and bloops - caused just as often by rats and crows as they are by approaching ghouls. And if it's a zombie? You're left for dead - or at least your character is, and you'll need to respawn as another and retread your steps all over again.
Even the briefest of play sessions suggests ZombiU sports exactly the sort of deep, inventive gameplay that will justify your Wii U purchase this Christmas.