So, like many people out there, I’ve managed to get my hands on a Wii U, on the condition that I write words about it. This isn’t a game review, so I’m not really going to base my findings on how fun Nintendo Land is or how ZombiU is clearly bullshit, no matter how long I keep playing and starting over.
The Wii U has been out a few days now. It’s purportedly selling well and although it is not a complete sell out like its predecessor, at least as far as “Basic” units are concerned, neither is it a flop. Without sustained hyperbole, such as Sony’s initial bullish reactions to the notion that PS3s were not selling out across the land in 2006, this seems palatable. Even Sega’s much vaunted 9/9/99 Dreamcast launch was touted as the most successful console launch in history at the time, and look how that turned out. From a casual perspective, there’s not much to worry about, unless you were one of those speculators, hoping to sell your console on eBay for a small fortune.
Cosmetically, the Wii U is sleek and smooth, as is the Game Pad which comes packaged with it. They also absorb fingerprints like the damn things were made of half-melted chocolate so if that’s a concern for you, you’d be wise to invest in some sort of covering for your Game Pad at least. Size wise, the console itself rates about 0.25 Xbox 360, which is roughly 0.01 Sega Game Gear or 0.0001 original Xbox for those using older measurements and is smaller than my Hori fight sticks for the PS3 and 360. You’ll be hard pressed not to find space for it whereas my ancient backwards-compatible PS3 is large enough to cause shelving nearby to creak ominously.
The Game Pad is large, but well designed, which means it never feels too big for your hands. The screen in the middle may space the left and right hand sides from each other but the pad itself is thin, and unless you have wee T-Rex arms that makes all the buttons easy to reach. It syncs well with the Wii U’s menus and has been used at least adequately in the games available so far. I believe there is far more real potential in the notion of the Game Pad screen than in motion controls, but that’s just me.
The Game Pad screen responds much like the DS/3DS screen, for obvious reasons. Nintendo will be missing a trick if they don’t eventually release a Game Pad that can accept DS/3DS carts. Think of it as the old Super Game Boys, except good. I haven’t experienced much problems with responsiveness but then I naturally pound away at the bloody thing like I was playing Donkey Konga. Do note though that I don’t use capacitive touchscreens much myself so I’m sure I’m “missing out” on the feeling of being downgraded to a resistive model. Score one for the Luddites!
The user interface is similar to the Wii. And the Nintendo DS. And the Nintendo 3DS. I think you have to accept that this is the Nintendo look now. The Playstation line goes for black and blue a la the beating the Vita is taking, the Xbox is aping whatever the current Microsoft OS is and Nintendo is grey, white and blue, the washed out American flag you shouldn’t have left out in the sun all the time.
The transfer of original Wii to Wii U data is much the same as it is for the DS to 3DS transfer, down to the adorable Pikmin helpers carting off your data for newer horizons. It’s more difficult, due to the need to have your Wii and Wii U both operational simultaneously with much switching between inputs but once you get going, it’s not the most inconvenience you’ll suffer.
No, that goes to the 10-15 second loading time whenever you select a menu option. We’re not talking the short loading bursts that drive some gamers into an apocalyptic rage in 2012 where one can only imagine their reaction to seeing the original Tomb Raider load times. This is pretty irredeemable by comparison. It stalls your progression and train of thought and, worse, can actively discourage you from exploring aspects of the Wii U.
On another note, the first day (or not by now, I guess) updates right out of the box are apparently an issue right now. Many people seem to be upset as the worlds of console and PC gaming continue to collide like when Gohan and Cell had that awesome Kamehameha duel in Dragonball Z. Updates! Patches! Energy beams exploding the moon! DLC! Really though, the Wii has had system updates for yonks, not to mention those other consoles. Yes, it’s more annoying than not needing a system update but I think we need to accept this burden in the current marketplace.
It’s a big update though. While not the hour plus download times I’ve seen reported elsewhere (again, because I’ve missed the rush due to tardiness), it’s more comparable to one of Sony’s large fireware updates than one of Microsoft’s tetchy 40 second jobs. Calm down, you can wait half an hour to play Nintendo Land, it’s not like you have 1080p New Zelda Adventure in your hands.
Graphically, the Wii U holds up well against the 360 and PS3. I’m not a huge specs guy, but the overdue leap to HD visuals is wonderful. From what I can tell, there’s nothing to suggest that the graphics won’t improve further with time but, yeah, expect the Wii U to be outclassed graphically by the newest Microsoft and Sony consoles once they come out. If you’re not hung up over graphics too much, just know that the HD output makes things clear and easy to follow.
The Miiverse, Nintendo’s new friendy-friend system thankfully abolishes friend codes to the trashbin of history along with the Virtual Boy, Daikatana and that bit in Suikoden II where it totally looks like Teresa’s betraying you in Muse. It’s counter-intuitive to set up and I admit I needed to look up that I had to open the menu, select the friend icon and set up my already set up account for friends before I could actually accept or reject them but once I got that sorted out, it seemed pretty easy. Right now, I’m a fan of the “boards” for different games, where questions, discussion and stupid pictures can be shared although that could change as the trolls stream in. We’ll see how that develops.
Some people are upset that TVii has been delayed until December. While this is a blow to Nintendo, as they had hyped it as a day one feature, honestly, another attempt at making a console “the entertainment centre of my living room” isn’t what I’m holding out too strongly for, especially when no one games console can claim to be the damn video game centre of my living room. We’ll see if Nintendo can bridge the gap, but I won’t be betting my soon-to-be-defunct Wii points on it.
Any other flaws? 32GB “deluxe” storage is a joke and Nintendo have probably kneecapped their online store from the start by doing this. Asking players to invest in additional external hard drives is a tough sell. The need to boot up what is essentially a Wii emulator worse than Dolphin to play Wii games is staggeringly ignorant and really, shouldn’t the Wii Shop and the new Nintendo eShop be merged? No? Am I the only person who finds it weird that there are no Virtual Console games on the eShop and that I have to boot up a fake Wii on my new Wii U to access a relic of a store to buy games with a (perhaps) soon-to-be-obsolete points currency? No? Okay.
Right now, the Wii U is a flawed machine. Nintendo’s autocratic attitude means that this is unlikely to change very much. Things will be tweaked and improved here and there but for the most part, this is the Wii U people will be playing for either the next few years, or until next year when the latest Sony and Microsoft offering will murder it like it was so much Dreamcast (I’m sorry, Sega. Power Stone was pretty cool!).
The Wii U is a sequel in the truest sense. It’s an update of the original Wii console, rather than the whole new world the Wii proved to be in comparison to the Gamecube. Evolution, not revolution. This isn’t a bad thing, but it seems Nintendo is having a hard time presenting what the Wii U is and isn’t to consumers. Time will tell how that may affect its prospects.
The Deluxe package is the only one worth considering and $350 is a relatively decent price for a new console out of the gate, especially with a free title and 10% back on downloaded titles, but if you don’t desperately need to play any of the admittedly large selection of launch titles (remember that the Nintendo 64 launched with your options being Super Mario 64 or a wet wipe coated in swine flu), I’d hold off for now.