Wii U System Review

So I’ve had my Wii U for two days (now entering three as I post this) and I will say that I am happy with my purchase, I do not feel like my $350 was wasted. But before I get into all of that let me tell you about the WiiU and all of its bells and whistles.

The System

The System is a nice piece of hardware; it feels sturdy and not at all cheap. I’ve had this system on for hours at a time since launch day and I have never felt it get hot or start running loudly. I love how thin it is and how streamlined it seems. It has HDMI and Composite outputs (it comes with a HDMI cable), SD card slot, 4 USB ports, spot for the sensor bar and of course a spot for a AC adapter. Speaking of that AC Adpater, it is a beast. It does get warm but nothing crazy. As I’m sure you know the WiiU comes with either 8GB or 32GB of system memory, a very limited amount, I have the 32GB system. But the good news is it can be expanded with a USB hard drive, all the way up to 2TB, so plenty of memory can be added if you ever need that much anyway. Plus, it will always be cheaper in the long run! You cannot use SD cards for game downloads, that is just for Wii stuff and game saves and Nintendo does not suggest USB sticks. I won’t go into specs since no one has the faintest idea of what this is truly running and what it means except that it is more recent tech than last gen, obviously. I’ll touch more on this later.  Oh, and yes it is a finger print magnet; wipe it down once you set it up.

The GamePad

The WiiU GamePad is an impressive piece of hardware. I was pleasantly surprised with how comfortable it is. It isn’t too heavy and the grips make it real easy to hold up, relaxed in your lap and with one hand. All the buttons feels very responsive and if you’ve played recent Nintendo hardware you’ll be use to the ABXY buttons. The D-pad feels great, a very classic feeling D-pad and a great size; the joysticks are very responsive and smooth and they click well when used as buttons. The shoulder buttons are not triggers like the Gamecube controller, they are buttons like the Wii classic pro controller but they are well made so no complaints.

I haven’t really used the camera much, but it works fine; it took a good picture of me to make my Mii. The GamePad also includes speakers which are loud and clear. It is interesting to have something in stereo so close to me while playing the game without having to wear headphones. If you’re worried about battery life, don’t be. By time your battery gets close to dying you should probably be letting your system have a break anyway and while the GamePad can’t be charged by the system, the dock with the deluxe bundle makes charging it easy and looks nice on display.

Now that screen which is the main focus, well frankly it is awesome. It is responsive just like the DS and 3DS touch screens, just a lot bigger and the resolution is pretty good. It isn’t going to be as clear as your HD TV screen but it doesn’t look sloppy either. In fact its quality reminds me much of the 3DS, just bigger and maybe a bit crisper. I also found that reaching for quick touches with my thumbs is easy, and I have shorter digits. I’ll talk more about actually using it in gameplay in a moment. If you are weary on the GamePad, don’t be.

The last thing it does is work as remote for your cable box and TV. It works well surprisingly and I was excited to use it since I lost my original TV remote. It is nice to switch the input on my TV from the GamePad before switching to playing a game on it, no getting up. Sadly I can’t seem to use it for both my satellite box and my TV; what the GamePad sets the controls to for each function conflicts with each other and I can’t find a way to change that. For example the D-pad is meant to be used both for scrolling my input selections on my TV and scrolling on the TV Guide; so only the TV guide scrolling seems to work when I have it set up to control both. For now I just opted to use it for my TV control which is the most beneficial use since I lost my old remote and the universal one doesn’t switch the inputs either.

Online

Now there are tons of features on this system, too many to get into detail on. I’ll try my best cover the big things before moving onto gameplay. Let’s start with MiiVerse!

MiiVerse is what makes the online experience of the WiiU stand out. Sure you have video chat, and friend lists but how MiiVerse integrates into everything is the bread and butter of the system when you turn it on or play games. MiiVerse as an app is essentially where you manage your friends and profile but the beef of it is a giant Nintendo forum or to be more exact a social hub where you post twitter like updates and photos of your gaming experiences. It also allows you to have chats going with friends; I’m hoping later on it integrates like Steam and can give you a notification when your friend has responded.

Now while this is all cool, how it integrates in the best part. For example when playing the new Mario game MiiVerse updates can appear on the over world map relating to each level. Or when you are sitting in the Mii plaza the Miis that appear are essentially talking using the MiiVerse posts. You may even see Miis show up in games, the best example right now is in Nintendo Land where they walk around your theme park plaza or show up in the background of the games.

 

MiiVerse can be accessed on the fly while playing any game too, so you can always update MiiVerse or see what someone else is saying about the game. When you switch to MiiVerse your game pauses and that screen is what you can post to MiiVerse if you so desire. Certain games can even implement a sort of achievement system where they ask if you want to post to MiiVerse when you do something cool; New Mario U does this now.

The eShop is what you would expect and can be used on either the GamePad or the TV screen, and the TV apps are supposed to be the same way when they launch. There isn’t really much to talk about here yet.

All of this is linked and used with a Nintendo Network ID, aka a Username. No more friend codes are needed or anything else as ridiculous. This makes users easy to friend and easy to find which is a big and welcome change to how Nintendo handled things before. Unfortunately these IDs are linked to the console you register them on, which I’m sure is related to some sort of privacy and protection policy Nintendo has thought up, but it needs to change. If for some crazy reason my system dies on me or I want to update to a special edition color later, I shouldn’t lose all my information.

Wii Compatibility

The Wii compatibility function causes you to boot to a new menu, which kind of sucks. But it works fine so I won’t complain much about it. You’ll use your Wiimote at this point and only Wii accessories, no GamPad. Also, Wii games do actually play in 1080p, as do all the menus and anything else. This was a big surprise! I played Goldeneye for a bit and you can see a difference, both good and bad. Some things in game look much smoother from the upscale but mistakes or ugly filters stand out more. The cut scenes looked really gross though! This is because it is an upscale of resolution but no re-rendering is happening, no new filter or anything. This isn’t like emulation where new rendering processes can be applied; it is just a resolution increase. So you’ll get good things and bad things from playing Wii games on WiiU, it probably all depends on the game.

Power

Alright no more stalling, time to talk about the power of the WiiU. This is a tough subject but here are my feelings on it.

Honestly Wii U games look just fine, very modern and very clean HD graphics. New Mario U looks very sharp and Zombi U like most launch titles had good things and some sloppy things in the graphics department; some of the shade issues remind me of Far Cry 2 which is made by Ubisoft and it uses too many filters to get that dirty world look which hinders the crispness of the graphics. I have yet to experience any frame rate issues at all. So is it under powered?  I doubt it fully; it reminds me of the 360 launch actually. When the 360 launched many people talked about how some games just kind of looked like Xbox games and here the Wii U will have some games that look only like current PS3 games. But look where those systems have gone in 6 years, the stuff in the WiiU is more current than both those systems and it shows promise so I expect some great looking stuff coming very soon and especially as years roll on.

All systems look better as developers get better at programming for the system; this was true as far back at the Atari 2600. Will it hold up with consoles that come later? Who knows really, I don’t think whatever can come in a year from now (if they are even that close) can be so much better that it will matter. Almost one year between Xbox 360 and PS3 didn’t mean a world of difference; in fact it really meant nothing at all. Besides, graphics aren’t everything and there is little reason to keep arguing about it; so let’s talk about where the WiiU will always stand out, gameplay.

Playing Games

Playing the Wii U is very interesting and very new, and at the same time I feel right at home with it. Most of the Wii U experience (at least for now) will be had with the GamePad. You’re getting a dual screen experience between your TV and a screen in your hand. All games will probably put this to use differently and can be as complicated as a dual screen experience like the DS, just using for maps and inventory, extra buttons, all of the above, and/or just for allowing off the TV play. While playing ZombiU it makes it for inventory and maps mostly but it is also used for in game events and as a camera. Using the controller to look around the game, by looking around your room in real life is cool, but I can see that being annoying if I need to use it too often. Plus too much of something like that can break the flow of a game.

 

It also allows for mini events such as lock picking to take place on the GamePad screen while your game on the TV switches views for optimal awareness of your surroundings, this might be my favorite use so far. Using the GamePad in Nintendo Land shows off a large amount of things; more camera control, full gameplay, secondary buttons, and just being an input device like the DS. Balloon Trip (based on the Balloon Fight from the NES), has you using the touch screen to control the wind to move your character. This is a very relaxed approach very reminiscent of many DS games and will likely show up in many casual or chilled titles.

Of course some games may not use the GamePad at all; in fact I bet plenty won’t as they try to target more “hardcore” crowds. Which I feel will be a shame; the GamePad doesn’t really slow down anything and allows for more options. But using both the Pro controller and having the GamePad sitting on its stand to be used for other things could be an interesting feature as well. Only time will tell on that!

The Wiimotes are still usable on the Wii U and I’m betting some games will be motion control based still; the GamePad itself can be used for motion control. While many people scoffed at motion controls for all these years, the numbers don’t lie. Plus some developers will be content doing what they have been doing with their games and franchises but just want them on a new system and as Nintendo Land shows using the GamePad and WiiMotes for multiplayer opens up possibilities.

Conclusion

To sum it all up, I’m pretty happy with my Wii U and feel like it has a promising future. My Wii had its moments of constant play and heavy dust collecting and even if my WiiU met that same kind of fate I don’t feel like my money was wasted. The system has a great price point and has already proved that it can be very fun and open a world of new gaming possibilities. The system has had some hiccups, most of them just being Day 1 woes; but my system did freeze on me once and this doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident. It probably isn’t an immediate pick up for every gamer but I think it will be a fun system to have around and as the game library increases we will see some fun games; if you are a social gamer and a social network lover it may be a system to check out just for that. It will find its place in the next gen and I hope it is a good one.

Have any more questions or concerns? Feel free to post them in the comments and I’ll answer them and update the review as needed.

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About Kevin Atomic

Kevin Atomic is a channel about collecting vinyl records, making fancy classic cocktails, and playing video games! First up is RetroActive; a show Kevin started back in 2009! Now it is back and still focusing on the retro video games that have never stopped being awesome. Kevin will talk about games from the early days with the Atari 2600, Nintendo NES and Sega Genesis all the way until the Gamecube, Xbox and Playsation 2. Then is Kevin Atomic Plays; where Kevin will be playing games new and old and making jokes; good ones I assure you. Cocktail Party is a show about making classic and delicious cocktails (such as an Old Fashioned) that are perfect for any get together (or when you just want a drink!). Lastly is Record Spin where Kevin will be spinning awesome and odd records new and old and also talking about record collecting. Favorite Games: Sonic 2, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, StarTropics, WonderBoy III, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Half-Life, Shenmue, Kid Icarus Favorite Platforms: Sega Genesis, Sega Master System, NES, Atari 2600, Gamecube, PC, Dreamcast