First Impressions: Wii U
So through a series of circumstances (specifically that I was on a wait-list and Gamestop got 2 extras) I was able to obtain a dexlue Wii U on launch day. And since it was not a pre-order I walked in Sunday, picked up the deluxe set and ZombieU and walked out giddier than a schoolgirl. Hooray!
So now that I’ve spent some time with the new console, let’s get into my first impressions of Nintendo’s new baby.
What You Need To Know
Wait? Doesn’t this belong at the bottom?
Not this time. I wanted to tell you what you want to know right now. And if you want more, find the section you want below and read away. I won’t even blame you if you just skim the Likes and Dislikes (no really!).
Short Story: This is a great console, but you don’t need to rush out and buy one today. A lot of what is great about this console has either yet to be released or is still being conceived. Yes, you can buy it today and have loads of fun, and this is something you will want to own eventually, but there’s no rush this time to be a day 1 (or 5) owner. (IMHO) The best thing about this console right now is it’s future.
Overall I have been pleased with the Wii U’s hardware so far. Will it be under-powered for the next generation? How does it stack up against the PS3 and Xbox360? These are questions that people are fervently trying to answer all over the internet, and if that’s what you want, look elsewhere. I specifically want to talk about the Wii U and the GamePad.
The Wii U is Nintendo’s way of playing catch up and jump ahead in many ways. Most notably we finally have a Nintendo console in HD, and while yes, everything looks beautiful, this is something that was already present in last generations consoles (it feels weird to be saying last generation since they’re still alive…sitting there watching me type this). As far as jumping ahead, the Wii U GamePad is it. Now, not only is asymmetric local gameplay possible (which is a fancy way to say, “no more screen cheating”) but it is possible to use the console straight out of the box without the use of a TV. For me that part is still sinking in. Right before writing this I was playing on the Wii U GamePad in my room, while the Wii U was upstairs, above me, with the TV off. I can now play my console with out being tied to an area or TV — and that’s awesome.
However the Wii U is a fingerprint magnet. It’s made of the same stuff as the first 3DS and I’m pretty sure you could link both consoles to me with fingerprints alone. Also, while it’s an understandable cost cutting measure, the required use of an external hard-drive to download any actual game (let’s say New Super Mario Bros. U) is still unpleasant and cumbersome. Additionally, the fact I’ve had to use 3 power outlets to get everything running is a bit ridiculous (the Wii U, GamePad charger, and external hard-drive).
I love the GamePad. Subconsciously, I’ve begun to believe that the GamePad is the console. This is mainly because I’ve begun to spend so much time away from the actual console, while still playing it. The wireless in it is good, not amazing, but it gets a reasonable job done. Somewhere between 25-30 feet (depending on obstacles) the GamePad has worked just fine for me.
The GamePad feels pretty good in my hands, but does take some time to get use to (especially if you’re use to a 360 controller). Some of the buttons could use improvement, I felt my fingers slip on the joysticks one time and the trigger buttons could be deeper, but over all the controller feels great. And I’m hesitant to refer to it as a controller, only because it is all to easy to forget that it is one.
But still, fingerprints…everywhere.
- Console is sleek and shiny
- Console is compact, space saving
- The GamePad is not too heavy
- The GamePad feels good in my (bigger) hands
- No TV required (sometime, but that’s a big deal)
- GamePad has good wireless range
- Console and GamePad are fingerprint collectors
- Little storage space (8 GB or 32 GB, either is not enough)
- Cables everywhere
- No multi-touch on touchscreen
- Joysticks feel too slick
- Triggers don’t feel deep enough
The Wii U comes with several built in apps and services. The biggest issue I had was to use most of them I was required to do a day one update. No big deal, right? Wrong. The update was huge and over my internet connection, took a good two hours. Here I am, already to play, but no, updates galore. In addition to that the app load times are unreasonably long for what they are doing. Open something? 10 seconds. Switch the TV and GamePad screens? Instantaneous. It’s very unpleasant to be flying along, then have to wait 10 seconds to load up Miiverse.
Even then, after all the waiting, many functions still are not present. TVii, YouTube, Hulu, and other apps are not available day 1. And while they are coming, it feels like they were just trying to fill up the home screen by putting their icons on there (taunting us). Although the TV remote is there, and it’s pretty cool.
Upon booting up though there no doubt that this is a Nintendo console. If you’re familiar with the 3DS’ system, this will feel like a second home, and if you’re new, you’ll still know it right away; this is Nintendo. But for me, the three new biggest changes this time around are the Nintendo Network IDs, the eShop, and the Miiverse.
I’m sorry, I got distracted watching the Wii U’s home screen. Is that weird? I think so. When you boot up your system you are shown several app icons and a horde of Miis rushing towards them. This is part of the Miiverse. The Miis form into little groups around the icons and being to “talk” about it. Comments or pictures that people have posted in the Miiverse about those games will be displayed, ranging from sincere questions, to exclamations of excitement, to some pretty awesome drawings. Oh dear, they’re dancing now, isn’t that adorable. (there is much more to the Miiverse, but I will touch on that in a later post)
The old, awful, friend code system is now gone and replaced with Nintendo Network IDs. That’s great, in that I actually want to play with my friends now on a Nintendo console online, however, all is not well. Apparently, and if you see otherwise tell me, these IDs are connected to your console and cannot be moved, restored, or saved somewhere else. I cannot buy a new Wii U and use the same ID as I did before (perhaps this is why there are no built in achievements…). For now this is not a problem, but could quickly become one for many gamers in the future.
Finally I want to speak to the eShop. This is a great stride for not only the users, or Nintendo, but also for developers. It’s easier than ever for users to download new games directly with a credit card, no more points or credits (a la Steam). Nintendo has finally shown that they have heard our cries for change, and you know what, they actually made them. Also developers can set their prices, choose when to change prices or have sales, and there is no charges for updating your game (remember the whole Fez debacle?). Development is apparently not that difficult either with the Trine 2 devs claiming it only took 2 days to port the game. I’m in favor of any outreach to the indie community, and it seems like the Big N is finally coming around.
- eShop is nice and easy (for everyone, apparently)
- Internet is fast
- Nintendo Network IDs (no more friend codes!)
- The whole Nintendo-y feel
- Inaccessible launch day content
- Nintendo Network IDs (console permanent, for now)
- App load times
So What Else?
So, after all is said and done, the Wii U is a good console. Nintendo has done a lot right here, laying a good foundation to move in to the future with. But is it enough? Well, that’ll be determined by the games (this is a gaming machine after all) and the gamers. Speaking of which, have you heard of Nintendo Land? Oh man! It’s so — well, that’s a story for next time.
Note: If you can down here looking for a summary, you’ll want to head back to the top. Crazy huh?