It’s been quite a while since the Wii U first launched a few weeks ago, but we finally got our hands on one!
At first glance, the first thing you’ll probably notice is the Wii U’s GamePad controller; it’s light, glossy, and quite ergonomic. The HD screen looks quite stunning, though probably not as stunning as, say, the Retina Display found on the iPad and iTouch devices, but it’s great nonetheless. With good brightness and great contrast, you’ll be finding yourself staring at the GamePad’s screen more than your own TV (though this is mainly due to gameplay reasons more than the screen’s capacities).
The actual Wii U, though slightly larger, rounder, and longer than the original Wii, is actually relatively light compared to the XBOX 360 and PS3. Though you probably heard that the Wii U is “not as powerful” as current generation systems, there are some aspects of the system’s specifications that can potentially outdo the current generation, but it takes some tricky coding techniques by developers to take advantage of the tech. Nevertheless, Nintendo has made some significant process with the Wii U console.
When you first fire up the Wii U, you’ll be greeted with a relatively simple, fast setup process. Afterwards, you’ll probably opt for the infamous first firmware update, which adds pretty much all of the online functions such as Wii U Chat, Miiverse, the Internet Browser, and much, much more. I downloaded the firmware update in just under an hour with download and installation, so you’ll probably want something to do while you wait. Also, don’t turn off your Wii U console during the middle of installation; it’ll brick your console and render it unusable.
Preloaded apps include Amazon Video, Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Youtube, most of which are ones that I don’t personally use, however, if you do subscribe to any/all of these video-on-demand services, you’ll be happy to know that you can access them right away. Of course, now that we’re in the Wii U’s first few weeks of life, you’ll probably be stuck updating the apps, and probably some games (Nintendo Land especially), but after all the updates are complete, things go relatively smooth.
There must be said something about the loading times of the apps though; compared to the Wii and even the 3DS, apps on the Wii U load quite a bit slower, significantly so at about 10-30 seconds. Future firmware updates may be able to cut out some of the time taken to load each app, but until then, the process of switching between apps and the Wii U’s main menu are slow and tedious.
So, with just the pack-in Nintendo Land game save data loaded on the Wii, as well as the downloaded firmware update and any of the preloaded video-on-demand apps, people with the black 32 GB deluxe console will have an estimated 25 GB of memory to use for all of their downloaded content; for people with the white 8 GB basic console, you’ll have an estimated 3 GB of memory by some reports. With this said, Nintendo has officially moved out the block system, which, in my opinion, was quite confusing compared to the standard “byte” system for memory. Though there was some simplicities in using block system (numbers were quite concrete and solid), I much prefer the “byte” system. Minor preference, of course.
Just as the DS introduced dual-screen gaming for portable systems, the Wii U is setting out to introduce dual-screen gaming for home consoles in the form of asymmetric play. Together with up to four other people (5 total; 1 with a GamePad, and 4 with Wii Remotes/GamePad Pro Controllers), the one with the GamePad will be able to see things that other people can’t. If you do have the GamePad, however, you’ll probably be looking more at the screen than on the actual TV screen, as all of your attention will be focused on events happening on the crisp, HD screen.
Take the Deluxe Console pack-in Nintendo Land for instance; for most of the games, you won’t have to even look at the TV screen to play, as everything on the TV is essentially squeezed in to the GamePad’s display. Of course, there are some notable things that make some ingenious use of the dual-screen gameplay, such as using cues from the TV screen to draw out a path for Yoshi on your Gamepad, or flicking ninja stars at cute, dangerous paper ninjas. Other games, such as New Super Mario Bros. U, can eliminate the TV’s screen altogether, allowing you to play the game entirely on the GamePad, and others use the GamePad’s screen to display areas outside of the actual TV screen (which makes for a great shooting experience).
There is some bad news for people without HDMI-capable televisions, however; the Wii U comes with an HDMI cord as a standard pack-in, therefore it doesn’t include any component A/V cables. Luckily, if you have an old Wii, or if you prefer to shell out about $18 USD for a GameStop-branded universal component cable for the Wii/XBOX 360/PS3, you can use the Wii’s compatible A/V cord to play on older television sets. Nothing too major, but something you’ll want to keep in mind if you have any old television sets lying around. Also, you’ll want to play on widescreen television sets, as full screen television sets may cut off some of the display.
Is it worth an early purchase? Probably not, but even if you do purchase it right now, you’ll have some pretty good fun with the current game selection right now. New Super Mario Bros. U is quite the memorable experience, and Nintendo Land is just outright fun. The internet browsing experience is considerably better than other console experiences, as HTML 5 is supported by the Wii U. In addition, functions such as a universal TV remote and a dedicated online community further the Wii U’s appeal. There is still quite a lot of unrealized potential here, however, and it may take a while until developers fully utilize all that is capable in the Wii U’s arsenal. If possible, opt for the $350 Deluxe bundle over the $300 Basic console, as you’ll get so much more with the Deluxe bundle, such as Nintendo Land, a console stand, and the ability to earn 10% back on downloaded purchases up until December 2014! Of course, the latter isn’t available yet at the time of this writing, but it will be available sometime in December 2012.
+ Major graphical update compared to the original Wii
+ GamePad controller brings something new to gaming
+ HDMI controller comes standard
+ Sensor Bar only needed if using Wii Remotes
+ Deluxe Version is bargain priced
– Slow transitions between apps
– No component cables for legacy TV sets
– GamePad battery life won’t hold up for all-nighters
– Basic Version is too bare-boned to justify $300 USD pricing