It's already been a few weeks since Nintendo released their latest home console to markets, but what do the fine editors of Darkstation think so far of their shiny new consoles? Well you came to the right place as three of our editors who were so inclined to go out and purchase the new console have sat down and given us their initial thoughts on the Wii U, and what they have to say may surprise you.
Adam Schedler So far, my time with the WiiU has been a mostly enjoyable and entertaining experience punctuated with with moments of abject jankiness. They probably should have tested out their network connection code more before launch, for example. They also could have optimized the OS, which is slow to launch games and apps. The actual important, game part of the WiiU has been great, though, and I've been having fun with most every title I've tried.
The WiiU gamepad augments each of the games I'm playing in fun, sensible ways that feel pretty exciting to me, and you'll hear a lot more about that over the coming week or so of reviews.
I'll say now that it wasn't too long into my first session with the WiiU that I started to think of the whole thing as a bigger DS - in the best ways - and I'm glad that developers haven't gone overboard with trying to implement every feature whenever possible. I don't want needless gimmicks, and so far I haven't seen any analogue to the dreaded "waggle" concept that sucked the life out of the first Wii.
Like any other console, the WiiU's future will be dictated by its software, and the near future seems pretty bright in that regard. Rayman Legends looks in every regard like a rock-solid sequel to one of my recent favourites. Platinum Games' offerings will certainly be something to watch for, too. And LEGO City Undercover, well…that may well be the game I'm looking forward to most right now. For obvious reasons!
Nintendo's newfound commitment to online features feels similarly bright. The MiiVerse is a social platform where each product release gets its own Facebook-like "wall," where users can leave text or sketched messages that flow through the system's main menu and are often directly embedded into games. New Super Mario Bros. U, for example, might ask you to write a letter to Bowser to vent your frustration at a course, and these posts will be pushed out to MiiVerse as well as other players' world maps. I've been checking out the online stuff every day just to see what's up, and Nintendo's moderation of comments makes the WiiU online community a shockingly pleasant, positive place. Surely a first for a large group of people on the Internet!
Of course, how long-term support will play out is anybody's guess. But right now, I'm happily digging through games I like with a controller I love, and I'm pretty confident that I'll have plenty of good times with this, Nintendo's latest system. That's enough for me.
So yeah, the Wii U finally happened. Out of the two SKUs available, I decided to pay the extra $50 and pick up the Deluxe Edition mainly for the 32GB HDD. A smart move considering the day one 5GB firmware update and now I feel bad for those who suddenly find themselves stuck with a 3GB hard drive (the standard model comes with an 8GB HDD). I think the Wii U has expandable memory, so that could be a great help for those already fighting for space. Not only does the Deluxe Edition come with the extra space but also a console stand, HDMI cable and two controller stands - that last item confuses me. What’s the point in making two gamepad stands? I guess it will make sense when Nintendo allows for two gamepads to be used on one machine but that’s not a day one feature.
The much ballyhooed Gamepad is the Wii U’s most prominent feature and for the most part, it works as advertised. I found that the touchpad isn’t so responsive all the time and occasionally requires repeated taps before the on-screen keyboard can register a keystroke. When fingertips fail, the handy stylus can make quick work of typing out messages or drawing out notes (since launch, I’ve discovered that there are a lot of talented artists out there). The gamepad is sturdy and not very heavy although my hands did get a bit tired after an extended playthrough of New Super Mario Bros. U. If the gamepad has a failing, it’s that the resolution on the screen doesn’t match the lovely HD picture on the television. This is most telling for Super Mario Bros. U as the picture quality on the controller resembles that of an original Wii game. The gamepad has its own set of speakers that offer additional backbeats, vocals, dialog and other audio flourishes that don’t come from the TV speakers.
Fancy touch screens and HDMI inputs are nothing without the games. Although I only have three titles in my Wii U arsenal, I feel much better about this launch list than the Wii and 3DS. I purchased the console specifically for Rayman Legends but have grown quite fond of ZombiU. Super Mario Bros. U is fun and while it often feels like an extension of Super Mario 3D Land, it does some nifty little tricks with level design and power ups. Mario Bros. U is pretty lazy with the touch screen as it simply duplicates what’s on the TV (allowing for others to watch something other than the game). ZombiU uses the the Wii U’s features quite well as the gamepad stands in for the map screen and inventory management. As a game, ZombiU is very much like Dark Souls: when your character dies, the game puts you in the shoes of another survivor. When you come across the zombie of your previous character, killing it will give you all the gear your previous self had before they died. Die before that and those items are lost forever.
As for Nintendo Land, I have to admit I’m a bit surprised at how good it is as a tech demo and doesn’t feel as dumbed down as Wii Sports. That can be attributed to the features of the Gamepad as it does so much more than the original Wiimote. As such, the mini-games in the collection are actually pretty entertaining.
All in all, I find myself somewhat pleased the Wii U so far. It has some issues - the firmware update and the lengthy load times associated with getting in and out of games and apps - but here’s hoping will find some way to rectify those issues in the future. I have yet to dig into the Wii emulation (having given up on it years ago, I have no data to transfer) but hopefully someone else here will be able to tackle that.
There was no way I wasn’t going to buy the WiiU. As soon as the system was announced, I was excited, and even though I missed out on a pre-order, I was happy to be able to pick up a deluxe edition at the first store that I tried. Totally jazzed, I ran home, plugged, and waited.
See, I love my WiiU. I think it’s a fantastic thing and there’s a lot that can be done with the Gamepad’s screen and features. But the whole day one debacle we felt emphasized one thing- Nintendo’s first steps into this type of integration and online infrastructure is one of the clunkiest things I’ve ever experienced, no doubt because of the obvious rush that the system was plagued with. Why are there so many menus just to add a friend to the list? Or why does transferring games and saves take such a long two-consoles-on-swapping-SD-cards approach when something more simple could easily have been done? Sure, the Pikmin animation was cute, but at some point, I think we’d all agree that we’d trade usability over a cute animation and a menu screen that’s populated with Miis talking about the games.
I’ve been able to look past these things just because I assume they’ll be fixed (and I really liked that Pikmin animation because I’m a sucker). It’s all software related, and that can be patched in later. As for games, I’ve only been able to play Nintendo Land so far, and I’m surprised how much fun I’ve been having. I saw a lot of disinterested previews, but when it comes down to it, the game is just fun, and the art style is great. It’s really exciting to see Nintendo’s art style in full HD over HDMI, and I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but dude, seeing that much color on screen is a great counter to the greys and browns on the other consoles.
I like just using the console itself, too. That day one patch, though it totally sucks that it’s 5 GB and that there was so much trouble for so many people with wifi, really does add cool things to the system. Controlling the TV with the Gamepad is convenient when I’m watching Netflix, and the little communities that grow in WaraWara Plaza are fun to scroll through. People have been putting great drawings on, and I know it’s essentially “Facebook By Nintendo”, but I like seeing so many people come together and just talk friendly about games. And the controller? Surprisingly comfortable and nice to use. I’ve already used it in cases where I couldn’t turn on the TV for whatever reason, and it’s cool to have that experience without having to worry about interrupting a show or something. The question is, though- how will it be used in the future? Where Nintendo Land does a good mix of on the screen and on the Gamepad, we’ve seen a lot of ports do even more lazy second-screen use than the DS ever had. It seems developers have to choose- make the Gamepad integral to the experience, or make it so that you can play on it without the TV no problem. I hope the former happens more, because it’s been cool so far, but later, we’ll have to see.
So should you buy a WiiU? Maybe. I think it’s worth it because I know there are going to be a lot of games I get for it. But always remember that you’re buying a system for what it IS, not what it WILL be. What is it? A very fun, yet clunky device with a lot of promise for the future. Wait for some of that promise to start showing itself more. If next year, you don’t have enough reasons to get one with Pikmin 3, a new Smash Bros, Rayman Legends, The Marvelous 101 and Bayonetta 2 at least being announced, maybe it’s not the system for you. Do those games and the ones that are out sound awesome to you? Then pick it up. Just know you’re getting into a little bit of jank on the software side.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.