After what has no doubt felt like an excruciatingly long wait for Nintendo fans, especially given the game drought the Wii has suffered over the last few years, the next generation of Nintendo consoles has finally been launched. I was lucky enough to be one of the few to be able to obtain a Nintendo Wii U Black Deluxe Set and it’s touchscreen controller Gamepad on launch day. After a week of toying with the console, I can confidently state that Nintendo has stepped up their game, meeting most of the standards set forth by Microsoft and Sony in terms of modern HD gaming. All while bringing their own Nintendo twist to it and expanding the realm of what is possible on a home gaming console.
In terms of hardware, while technical details are very vague, Nintendo has overall put a very competent gaming machine together. Graphically and in terms of audio, just from the line up of launch titles, it’s evident that Nintendo has matched if not slightly exceeded the output of the current HD twins. The actual construction of the console and Gamepad are, in standard Nintendo fashion, top notch. The console looks great in a sleek gloss black finish, sitting just slightly larger than the original Wii. It comes standard with an HDMI cable as well, something neither Sony nor Microsoft chose to do, which allows you to take full advantage of the 1080p native output from day one. The Gamepad controller, though slightly larger than any controller gamers are currently used to, is light and very ergonomic in the hands. It’s got the full array of buttons found on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 controllers, while implementing a 6.2” touchscreen to the mix. The screen itself has a great visual output, plenty of brightness, and is as responsive as one would need for gaming. Nintendo opted for a single touch resistive touchscreen, as opposed to a multitouch capacitive screen as found on most modern smartphones and tablets. This limits the screen in some ways, for example you cant “pinch to zoom” while using the browser, but allows for more pinpoint accuracy and the use of a stylus on the screen. Additionally, Nintendo released a “Pro Controller” as well, which is essentially the Wii U Gamepad minus the touchscreen, allowing for multiplayer experiences that go beyond the offerings of the also compatible Wii Remotes.
Furthermore, Nintendo is offering full backwards compatability on the Wii U, with all Wii games and accessories. So for those that had a large collection of games for the Wii, you can easily transfer all your data over to Wii U. While for those that did not own a Wii, now there is a great opportunity available to go back and play some of the classic Zelda and Mario titles that may have been missed.
The operating system of the Wii U, is a vast improvement over the originals Wii’s user friendly but very limited interface. The Wii U’s OS is actually much more akin to a natural evolution of the operating system found within the 3DS. Upon start up, on the Gamepad, you are greeted with the standard “Channel” interface first implemented on the Wii. While on the TV itself, Nintendo opted to display what they have dubbed the Wara Wara Plaza. Wara Wara Plaza is essentially a quick peek at the top 10 games/apps available at the time along with a collection of comments from various Miis of other Wii U owners and even some from Nintendo employees themselves.
The OS does go further than just a simple front end control panel though. Built into the OS is a fairly competent web browser, a friends list/friends management app, Wii U Chat (which allows for online video chat with other Wii U users), a full entourage of video streaming services (YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu), and Nintendo’s new social network Miiverse. The cream of the crop of these OS apps is without a doubt Miiverse. It is essentially Nintendo’s own game driven Twitter like community. Within any Wii U game, you can always jump to the Wii U home menu, click on the Miiverse icon and be directed to the community for that particular game. Once within a game community you can browse through the plethora of user created posts, reply to posts, post your own comments, and post screenshots from within games. It is a great feature to learn about a particular game if you’re on the fence of whether or not to buy, an easy way to find help if you get stuck in game, but mostly it’s for posting screens of your ridiculous scores is Black Ops II. Minus the Gamepad controller, this is essentially the biggest change/improvement that the Wii U has over the other HD consoles. A way for Nintendo Gamers to seamlessly connect to one another all over the world, and Nintendo is promising to roll Miiverse out to the 3DS, smartphones, and PC as well within the next year.
Additionally Nintendo plans on launching a new app in December, known as Nintendo TVii. TVii is essentially going to turn your Wii U Gamepad into a universal remote, that will not only control your television, but also your cable/satellite box, and your Tivo DVR. This feature, while obviously not game centric, is really going to hit home with the non-gamers in the household. It will also be integrated with many web based TV services, such as ESPN’s sports connection, to provide you with easy to access sports scores, new feeds, etc.
So with all the new features, and Nintendo finally catching up to the HD era, you may ask yourself, is it worth it? Should I get the Wii U? Undoubtedly Sony and Microsoft must have new consoles on the way as well but will the Wii U still be enticing then? There are no end-all answers to any of these questions, that’s obviously up to each individual to decide, but I can say that I’ve enjoyed my experience with it so far. The Gamepad has offered me a wide array of new gameplay and entertainment driven experiences, and the up to date graphics and interface are welcomed on a Nintendo console. Miiverse, the competent web browser, and the the forthcoming Nintendo TVii are all great secondary functions as well. Mostly though, I look forward to a generation of what will most surely be a solid line up of Nintendo’s best looking and most expansive games to date.
- The Gamepad is comfortable, light, and really does offer a new experience in gaming.
- Backwards compatibility with all Wii Games and accessories.
- A LOT of controller options, you can always find something that works for your particular style.
- Miiverse, a great and simple way to connect with other gamers.
- A big lineup of quality launch games, good third party support at launch, and knowing that whenever Nintendo’s first party heavy hitters come down the pipe line they’ll be great.
- Slower than expected load times within the OS.
- The Gamepad controllers battery life. For truly long gaming sessions you’ll likely have to plug the it in to charge at some point.
- Uncertainty over the true dedication of third party support once Microsoft’s and Sony’s next generation consoles launch.
- Aside from Nintendo’s first party games, and a small percentage of the third party launch titles, many of the games don’t utilize the Gamepad in very innovative ways.
- The gloss black finish equates to one hell of a dusty and fingerprint smeared looking console.
Wii U Image Gallery:
By amir_zwara (Guest Writer)