Entering The Richmond in downtown Toronto was pure bliss. As my brother and I stepped inside the door, the blast of cool air felt refreshing after a 45 minute public transit ride in the scorching heat. The trek, however, was worth it. There were eight Wii U systems set up around the room with different games waiting for us to play them.

After checking-in, we stood in the middle of the room to just take it all in. We were among the likes of Shaun Hatton from The Electric Playground (and other things apparently), even a Naked News anchor and several radio stations! Popular people! Celebrities, if you will! Realizing we were here for a reason too, we both looked at each other with the exact question in mind: Which game should we play first?

Where should we start? Should we go directly to the highly anticipated ZombiU? Check out the reincarnated Batmarn: Arkham City? The new Project P-100? Or Pikmin 3? Actually the last two games were the only ones we didn’t get to try! CURSES!

Decisions, decisions.

Nintendo Land

So we wandered over to a nearby booth, which ending up being Nintendo Land, and the game we would end up spending the most time playing. There are five different multiplayer games to choose from within the game, and seven others still in development, thus grayed out and not playable. Even with less than half of the games available in the demo, it is easy to see that Nintendo Land is the definition of “asymmetric gameplay; Nintendo’s term for two different gaming experiences at the same time.

Luigi’s Ghost Mansion

The rep at the booth was very friendly; smiling she handed me a normal Wii controller to join some other players rocking some Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, one of the games (or “attractions”) in Nintendo Land. She explained that I need to shine my character’s (or my Mii’s) flashlight on the ghost to defeat it, which the person with the GamePad is controlling and I can’t see. Immediately after the countdown to start the game, I feel my controller rumble indicating the ghost is creeping around me. I spazz out with my flashlight hoping to nail the stupid ghost, but he gets me and the crowd around the booth lets out a big “Nooooooo” with a laugh. The game is a sure crowd-pleaser because no one knows where the ghost is, only the person with the GamePad does. Asymmetric gameplay. It sure is fun being the ghost too.

The GamePad fits nicely in my hands; it’s not too big or too heavy (unless you’re trying to hold it up for the camera man) and I have smaller than normal man-hands. As the ghost, I start in the middle of the map and I plan my attack. I swoop down to the lower corner of the map while setting off the rumble in my target’s controller and she lets out a gasp, “He’s around me!”. Quickly all the players converge on this Mii’s location and I take off like a bat-(err, ghost?)-outta-hell to get away from all the flashlights. Luckily, one player drags behind and I swoop in for the kill. I grab the unconscious Mii (you can shine your flashlight on a downed Mii to revive them) and try to drag him around for a bit before the other Mii’s show up. It got a little easier from then on in, as the other players didn’t work together that well. Laughing, I slowly caught another Mii, and another and another and before I realize it, I had won the game!

Watch out for the ghost!

Animal Crossing: Sweet Day

After awhile, the rep at the booth asked if we wanted to switch games. The crowd mumbles in agreement (I think we all just wanted to play, but new game? Sure, why not?) and we switch it over to Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. This time those of us with a normal Wii controller are a bunch of Mii’s dressed as candy-loving animals, and we need to run around and collect 50 pieces of candy before the guards catch us (the GamePad player). Around the map are candy trees with one to three circles below it. Players need to stand on these platforms for a few seconds to get the tree to drop its candies, so we can pick them up. The more candy you horde, the slower your Mii gets and easier to get caught by one of the guards. We can’t see where the guards are unless they’re chasing us, so that makes the game much more intense for the players and the crowd around the booth.

The GamePad player gets a bigger birds-eye view of the playing field, so it’s easy to plan strategy to corner a Mii. The tough part is controlling two guards at the same time. Each guard is tied to a different control stick, and it gets confusing when I want to move one guard in different direction. Sometimes a guard would get stuck behind a fence or tree because I’m concentrating on the other guard. The other players ended up collecting all 50 candies because they worked really well together; dropping all the candies in a corner so they can out-run me, and I kept getting stuck.

This adventure is fun, but we agree its time to try some other games, so we thank the Nintendo Land rep and set out to try something else.

Nom, nom, nom. Candies!

ZombiU & Batman: Arkham City

We decided it’s time to try the big boy games, ZombiU and The Dark Knight’s first appearance on a (recent ;)) Nintendo system in Batman: Arkham City. These games demonstrates another way of using the GamePad: decluttering the T.V screen. Instead of trying to describe such awesome games, we have a gameplay video to show you, which will be posted in the coming days, so check back soon. [Ed Note: ZombiU gameplay has been posted! Look for Batman: Arkham City soon!]

And back to Nintendo Land

After brief stints with New Super Mario Bros. U and Rayman Legends, we realized where we needed to go: Nintendo Land. Even though the new Mario game and Rayman’s debute on the Wii U are fun – for a short while – the GamePad player is just trying to help the players with the normal Wii controllers. From placing blocks in New Super Mario Bros. U to controlling different mechanical parts of the map in Rayman Legends; it gets old after a while.

Nintendo Land is like a magnet to us; drawing us back with its laughs and overall fun. By this time the event is starting to empty and we get to have some personal time with the game.

The Legend of Zelda™: Battle Quest

With the help of the friendly Nintendo Land rep, we find a game we haven’t tried yet. The Legend of Zelda™: Battle Quest looks like a cloth version of a Zelda game. The GamePad player is an archer and the other players use the Wii controller as a sword (like in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword). We work together to take out random enemies from around the Zelda universe with increasing difficulty.

Other than the novility of it being the “first” Zelda game on the Wii U, it has nothing on Luigi’s Ghost Mansion or Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. The fun players have in those games is outstanding and addicting. I guess I’m a sucker for player versus player games.

You can even do a the charged sword attack, like in Skyward Sword, by aiming the Wii controller to the sky before swinging.

Takamaru’s Ninja Castle

At this time we have the Nintendo Land booth to ourselves so we pick a single player game, Takamaru’s Ninja Castle. Based on an early Famicom game available only in Japan, this game turns the GamePad into a launcher for ninja stars. You rack up points by taking out ninja baddies by aiming the GamePad and sliding ninja stars off the touch screen at them.

The calibration on the GamePad needed some adjustment in the beginning, so the rep had me press “A’ to reset the controller to aim at the center; it worked like charm after that. After turning the GamePad into an automatic ninja star shooter for a while, the rep kindly told me to slow down and try to build up a combo of shots. In order to gain a high score, the player has to nail repeated hits, which makes the game ten times harder because these ninja baddies aren’t just standing around, they’re moving and jumping and shooting at me!

After a few attempts at that (and getting no where close to a high score), we try another single player game.

True ninja over here!

Donkey Kong’s Crash Course

I handed the GamePad over to my brother after I kept crashing in Donkey Kong’s Crash Course. Using the GamePad’s motion controls, players have to tilt the controller to steer a fragile cart around a track of, what looks like, Snakes & Ladders. Except in this game, you’re only using the “snake” part of the game, and the “snakes” are actually ladders and different types of mechanical ramps to continue down the course.

The GamePad shows a magnified view of where the cart is on the map, while the T.V. shows the rest of us (if there was a “rest of us”, it was only me and my bro by this time) the entire map. This game is great for those that are meticulous and patient with thier games, and not so great for gamers like me, who likes to rush through things. Donkey Kong’s Crash Course had my brother mesmerized for quiet some time. He even beat, no destroyed, the high score in that game.

At this time, it was time for the main event of our evening: an interview.

It’s like the old school Donkey Kong arcade game!

An Interview with Matt Ryan, Communications Manager at Nintendo Canada

Armed with great questions from some awesome Redditors, we asked the Communications Manager at Nintendo Canada, Matt Ryan, if we could bug him for a bit. He agreed and we went upstairs, where it is a bit quieter, and sat down in some chairs obviously arranged for interviews. Matt graciously put a stool in the middle of us and coaxed me to put my Blackberry on it so I can record our conversation.

We got some great insight out of Matt, like the Wii U is a “next generation” console to Nintendo, that they are “always working on a Zelda game” and much more! Of course, the interview deserves its own post, so look for that soon too! [Ed Note: And it got its own post; an interview with Matt Ryan.]

Home Time!

After the interview, we thanked Matt for his time and headed for the door. Before we left, the PR rep that we talk to on Nintendo’s behalf offered a rental program. Nintendo will take care of shipping for me to review games and systems. WOW! So look out for some 3DS reviews soon (well, once I figure out which game to play first). After thanking her too, we headed for the door and back into the blistering heat to start the trek home.

It was such an awesome experience, and one I can’t wait to do again. As always I’m open to questions. If you want to know more about a game or more on the Wii U, just ask in the comments.