So, that fancy new system of yours has been out for a few months now. How does it stack up with how you perceived it before you made the purchase? What about all those new features it has? Are the games worth their asking price? What is this Miiverse and how does it work? Well, here is my review of the Wii U system. I will be answering all of those questions plus more as I give out my thoughts and experiences of the system itself.
Okay, let’s rewind to E3 2011. The system was announced and that spectacular GamePad was the highlight of the show. Of course it wasn’t called the GamePad yet, but players got to see first hand that the rumors from a few weeks prior were true. Nintendo’s new console would have a second screen. I personally was incredibly excited, probably just as much as I felt for the Wii introduction. I actually loved the Wii, well until like 2011 when the game drought came on headstrong. But that’s another story. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this next system and was clamoring for any information that would be revealed. Well mostly nothing came along until E3 2012.
Here we had a better showcase of the system itself as the prior year the focus was on the GamePad, and many thought it was an add-on to the Wii. We learned of a launch window of the console along with many games and plenty of third party support. The coming months would reveal a solid release date and little tidbits of information such as Nintendo Network IDs, Miiverse, TVii, and eShop. Also in that time, I was able to sample the system itself through a “Wii U Experience” that took place around the country, and my particular one was in downtown Chicago. I won’t re-summarize the entire experience, but I did link it if you wanted a refresher. Basically it lived up to my expectations and games like The Wonderful 101, New Super Mario Brothers U and even a few of the Nintendo Land games that I didn’t get a chance to play (but witnessed) were all very beautiful and fun games.
Now, the console is out for sale, $349.99 for the deluxe model and $299.99 for a basic model. I haven’t seen any deluxe systems on shelves yet, but they seem to be still popular. Now that I own the system, I must say I am still impressed with it. I have a backlog of games, which out of the past 3 console releases (3DS, Wii, DS), I’ve never had this many launch games that I wanted. With the DS I started with 2 games, Wii with 3 games and the 3DS with 1 game. I already have 4 games plus 2 virtual games. There really was a wide selection of games with shooters, Zombies, Mario, casual games, dance, singing, sports, etc. If you are concerned about not having any good games to play, you should definitely reconsider.
While a number of the games are also available on other consoles, it’s been reported that the Wii U versions look better. This includes Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Assassin’s Creed 3 and Batman Armored Edition. Are the games worth $10 more than Wii games? I say mostly yes. Transformers Prime I got to review and the game lasted about 10 hours with very little replay value, I would not pay $60 for that type of game. Black Ops 2, Assassin’s Creed 3, New Super Mario Brothers U? Yes, yes, yes most definitely. If you need convincing, checkout my review of Black Ops 2, and the NintendoFuse podcast for my thoughts on New Super Mario Brothers U. There are also a couple of quality eShop games including Nano Assault Neo, Little Inferno, Mighty Switch Force (for those of you that missed/do not have the 3DS version) and Trine 2.
I find that the current selection of software to be very incredible and overwhelming to me. I have more games I want to play then time I have to play them. One of the best features that I am loving a lot along with other Wii U owners, is the ability to play games without a TV. No this doesn’t mean taking the GamePad on vacation or playing in an airport, but it means you can watch TV or a movie and be able to play particular games at the same time. I say particular as some (I am making an assumption by saying most) of the current games allow you to play directly on the GamePad. This feature is greater than what it seems as oftentimes some Gamers are not able to play as frequently with family often using the TV for viewing or watching movies. While it gets that portable feel, it still plays the same as the controller stays the same, but the eyes can stay focused on a single screen instead of having to use two. This allows the family to still spend time together within the same room and someone can play the Wii U while others watch a program or a movie.
While there’s few games for the immediate future, while unfortunate, there should still be plenty of games to keep you busy. If your Wii U games are complete, there’s always Wii games you can play. We arrive at the first feature, backwards compatibility! The Wii U has the ability to play all Wii games, including retail, Wiiware and Virtual Console. The biggest complaint here is that this all occurs in “Wii Mode”. When selected, it opens a Wii menu where all the channels are stored. Purchasing Wii content or redownloading (if you did the system transfer) occurs here, and all your content remains here. While I understand Nintendo’s reasoning to keep it locked up, it makes it more of a nuisance to use anything related to Wii. Recently announced, the virtual console is now available on Wii U, and Wii virtual console games are getting upgraded to use with Wii U and can be upgraded for a small fee.
Miiverse is Nintendo’s answer to Facebook and Twitter. It is a social network that is only accessible from Wii U and it allows you to post within game communities anything that you’d like. Inappropriate content gets flagged and pretty quickly removed, so that is always a plus. Basically it is an excellent feature making it easier to find answers to areas you are stuck in or discussing anything about the game. There is room for improvement including additional communities to discuss other topics non-Nintendo games and the ability to post/check posts from a computer or mobile device. The later part Nintendo already revealed is in the works, but it would help if additional random communities were available for other discussions. Finally what I consider to be the biggest flaw is that the more popular game communities get bogged down with posts, it is near impossible to keep up with all the posts, so perhaps there need to be subcategories within the game community to organize the posts. For example Nintendo Land’s community has thousands of drawings and comments, and if it were additionally sorted by mini-game, it would be a huge step forward to finding posts, or even helping someone out for a particular game.
Finally, the Wii U is the center of your entertainment with apps like Amazon Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and Nintendo TVii. If you use any of those first 3 services, they are available to link your account and watch movies or videos in high definition. YouTube is pretty self explanatory, if you don’t know what it is, I suggest you check out their website. As for Nintendo TVii, it is a guide like control that allows the GamePad to control what you are watching. You can select channels to watch and receive information about the show on the GamePad. You can also rewind what you watched and use Miiverse to make comments.
Overall, I find it to be a very solid system. Of course there’s things they will be correcting like loading times, expanding the virtual console, enhancements to Miiverse, but Nintendo certainly delivered an excellent system. The loading times really aren’t too terrible, but Nintendo is aware of this concern and will be corrected within the next two system updates in Spring and Summer in 2013. The virtual console is currently in a trial campaign and will see a select few titles up until April, where there will be an update and hopefully a solid release schedule. The Wii U can only get better as these issues are corrected. More software will be coming every month after February, expanding with Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, Game & Wario, Monster Hunter 3 Ultiimate, Wii Fit U, Mariokart U, Super Smash Brothers, Legend of Zelda and a 3D Mario game. While we won’t see every game in that list this year, it’s nice to see Nintendo is delivering the games we want.
The only complaints I have are the loading times, Wii mode, some limitations within Miiverse, and the GamePad battery life. Two of these items will likely be fixed by summer, and another may not get resolved but it may not be a huge problem with less use. Nintendo has already noted that the loading times and Miverse will be upgraded within the next system updates. Wii mode may never be fixed, but with time and additional software for Wii U, there will be less reasons to use it. The GamePad’s battery life will likely not be improved by Nintendo, but thankfully some third parties will be releasing some options to help. Not everyone can enjoy playing with it plugged in thanks to pets or children, but hopefully Nintendo can find a way to improve this when they start selling additional GamePads for multi-GamePad games.