Console Review: Nintendo's Wii U starts its own dual screen revolution
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Browsing the web on consoles certainly isn't a new feature, since the PS3 has been already doing it for years, and badly I might add. The Xbox 360 has brought Internet Explorer to the console with its new Fall Dashboard Update and has certainly shown massive improvements to browsing the Wold Wide Web on your big screen TV.
The Wii U however trumps all of them. It's surprising since the DS and 3DS had a terrible web browser. It's obvious that Nintendo has put a lot of work into this feature since I can honestly say that I prefer browsing on my Wii U, rather than on my iPad.
It all goes down to speed. Everything loads almost instantly, though granted it will hinge on your internet connection. Pages seem to pop open without any delay, and no longer have to gradually load as your scroll down the page. What's more, YouTube works perfectly as well, which means you'll be able to stream all those cute kitten videos directly to your TV.
You can manage bookmarks, zoom in and out of pages with some tilt functionality (if you so choose) and navigate pages with ease thanks to the stylus. There is no Adobe Flash to speak of, which isn't all that surprising, given the possibilities with a touch screen and stylus, however HTML5 works wonders, and its clearly visible in sites like YouTube that now have a dedicated HTML5 player.
Miiverse, Nintendo's very own Facebook
Out of all the new features and advancements Nintendo has made with the Wii U, none is as triumphant as Miiverse. Miiverse is for the lack of a better descriptions, Wii U's Facebook. It's a place for players to socialize, express their feelings, draw and even ask questions regarding any Wii U titles.
When playing Scribblenauts Unlimited for example, I can bring up Miiverse, which will automatically take me into the Scribblenauts Unlimited Community. I can then ask how to beat a certain puzzle, show my accomplishments via screenshot, or just see what other players have been saying about the game. This feature allows me to have a better sense of community than I've ever had on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, since you're not limited to posting just to your friends, but rather your posts can be seen by everyone, all around the world.
More than that however, is how Nintendo and third party publishers can use Miiverse to gather information from their fans. Each community lets you know how many people have actively participated in it. In this case, it's no surprise that games like Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U have the most amount of people, while games like SiNG Party have a very low number. Granted, it doesn't directly correlate popularity since the same amount of people that bought Mario could have bought SiNG, but they aren't posting in the SiNG community. Even so, it allows game developers to see exactly what each player is loving and hating about their game, and can use this information for future patches and even future titles. You could say that any of this can easily be achieved on internet forums all across the web, but the Miiverse brings all of this into one single, convenient place.
Of course with the ability to draw anything, comes the question of not if, but when, you'll start seeing penis images all across Miiverse. Thankfully, Nintendo has this covered. Everything from obscene images to spoilers, Nintendo is making sure that anything inappropriate is getting flagged, as to keep Miiverse clean and family friendly.
Miiverse has also played its part with recommending games to players that weren't sure whether the game was right for them or not. Game review sites can only take you so far, and sometimes, you're better off listening to what other fellow gamers have to say about a certain title. Such was the case for ZombiU. Aside from our awesome score, it got very mediocre scores everywhere else. Gamers didn't care for this however and instead posted that despite the low scores, the game is awesome, and deserves a much higher score. It also allowed for gamers who didn't own ZombiU to see those posts, and ask questions of their own about the game, which ultimately led to them buying their own copy. Pretty powerful stuff.
So what about the Apps?
If Microsoft and Sony learned anything, it's that besides gaming, people want entertainment all in once place. With Netflix and Hulu satisfying nearly any Movie and TV craving you might have, it's easy to understand why these services are found on almost piece of technology these days.
Nintendo had streaming services on the Wii as well, however they finally shine thanks to the Wii U's HD capabilities. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Instant Video and YouTube all come preinstalled (though only Netflix worked day 1) and are ready to be watched right away. Each of them come with the ability to switch your displays, although Netflix is without a doubt the most user friendly at the moment.
Wii U Video Chat is... well exactly what you think it is. You can call up anyone on your friend list and use the gamepad as the communicator between the two of you. It works well, and the picture is really clear. Now if only Nintendo allowed a Skype app on their system.
How do the graphics stack up?
I won't really give you any sort of technical mumbo jumbo, because I'm not qualified to. However I can tell you that the games look mighty impressive. It's hard at first to aknowledge that I was playing in HD, since after all, Nintendo has opposed this for quite some time. However, after playing around with games like Nintendo Land, ZombiU, Ninja Gaiden 3, New Super Mario Bros. U and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, it's clear that this is truly a step into the HD direction for Nintendo.
But does it look better?
Well in some cases it does. First party titles look amazing, with Nintendo Land being the stand out here, and third party games like Black Ops 2 are clearly just as sharp as they are on other consoles, if not slightly better looking. Some EA ports like Madden 13 and Fifa 13 however don't look all that great when compared to their other console counterparts.
How well does this entire framework actually work together? Quite well actually. Despite the long load times between switching to different apps or games, it's all quite intuitive. With the touch of the Home button on the gamepad, you can easily access your friend list, browse the web, check the eShop, manage your downloads and post to the Miiverse, all without actually exiting your game.
The gamepad integration with various games is hit or miss. ZombiU manages to make the gamepad feel essential, while New Super Mario Bros. U just simply mirrors what's on your TV. Of course as time goes on, developers will surely think of amazing ways to use the gamepad, it will just take some time.
Migrating from the Wii might be slightly annoying for some people, since you have to switch back and forth between the Wii and Wii U, swapping out an SD card from one system to the other. Since I barely had anything on my Wii, my process was pretty painless and went fairly quick, however for those with a lot of games and save files might not have such a pleasant experience as me.