Is the console right for you?
While I love the Wii U, I can see why it won't appeal to everyone. Those with either the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 might be better off sticking to those systems. Games like Assassin's Creed III and Black Ops 2 play great on the system, but you most likely have already bought and played them on the other consoles.
With that said, if you do own multiple consoles, and have a big family of gamers, then the Wii U might be the perfect system for you. Not only does it offer some great multiplayer content from games like Nintendo Land, but allows you to split screen with one person on the gamepad and the other on the TV on other games. What's more, if you have avid gamers in your family who like to play other consoles, you can still enjoy the Wii U on your gamepad while they play the Xbox 360 on the TV. It's a win/win!
It all comes down to your love for Nintendo, and the interest in the gamepad. Looking forward to titles like Zelda, Mario, Star Fox (crossing our fingers) and Metroid, it's easy to see why Nintendo fans will get the most out of seeing their favorite franchises in glorious HD. The console isn't cheap by any means, ranging from $299 to $349, but it's easy to see why many are hopping on board to see where Nintendo can take their fans in high definition.
Nintendo has certainly stepped up its game, and it shows. While the system might need some improvements through patches and updates, its clear that Nintendo knows how to finally appeal to the hardcore gamer. With games like Black Ops 2, Mass Effect 3 and Assassin's Creed 3, Nintendo fans will be happy to have these games as part of their library, while looking forward to the amazing first party titles Nintendo has in store.
The gamepad, while gimmicky, is certainly a neat piece of technology. It might not have the best battery life or the best choice in touch screen technology, but for what it does, it's awesome. The fact I can continue to play an online match in Black Ops 2 while I go to the kitchen, or keep on playing Mario while my wife wants to watch Revenge is just plain awesome.
Kudos Nintendo, kudos.
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.
Nintendo, the company who modestly started with their 8-bit NES has certainly evolved into a much more experimental company these days. The Wii brought dedicated motion control gaming to the living room, and the DS had gamers playing games on two screens. Nintendo can be thought of more as an innovator in that regard.
The Wii U is Nintendo's latest console, and the first to take the plunge into HD visuals. Beyond the new console however, is the Wii U's controller, which is without a doubt the star. What was previously just secondary to consoles is now in the forefront, and will have gamers interacting with their console games in ways that were previously impossible.
Quite possibly the biggest letdown of the Wii U is its console design. Not that it looks bad or anything, it just doesn't look all that new or flashy. It might be due to the fact that the attention should be spotlighted on the gamepad, but I can't help but feel Nintendo was just being lazy when designing this thing.
The Wii U bears a striking resemblance to the Wii in both shape and size. It's only slightly longer than the Wii but just about the same height. The front houses a flip open compartment which has 2 USB 2.0 ports and an SD Card reader. The back also has two more USB 2.0 ports along with a new HDMI slot for those crisp, clean, HD visuals. If you get the Deluxe Edition, you also get some snazzy stands which prop up your Wii U much better than the previous grey stand that the Wii came with.
As I previously stated, the controller that Nintendo cooked up with a screen built directly into it, is almost more important here than the console itself. The gamepad not only provides new avenues of gameplay, but allows for direct gameplay of many popular titles without the need of a TV.
Let's get the negatives out of the way first, which first and foremost is the touch screen itself. It's still the same old resistive touch screen that Nintendo has been using for years on their DS and 3DS systems. Living in an age of capacitive touch screens, with iPhones, Vitas and smartphones, it's pretty surprising that Nintendo is sticking to their guns rather than conforming to the norm. But hey, that's never been Nintendo's way.
The other problem is its battery life. While it's no big deal to play with the gamepad mostly plugged in, thanks to its long cord that also conveniently plugs into its own outlet, it makes sense to want to play unhinged, without cords, without limits! You'll get a few hours of straight game time out of a fully charged gamepad. More or less depending on how intensely the gamepad interacts with the game.
However it all goes uphill from here. The gamepad is truly a revolutionary controller. It has its own speakers and microphone, as well as jacks for headphones and headsets so you can play games without disrupting others. You can even set it to act as a universal remote for your TV, satellite and cable box. It's also extremely lightweight, which at first glance doesn't seem that way, and the ergonomic grip design will have you holding it very comfortably for extended periods of time.
Most, not all, Wii U games have the ability to also be played on the gamepad exclusively, and this is truly a gamechanger. This feature will show its importance differently in various households. As someone who is married to an avid TV show watcher, it's perfect, since it allows me to continue playing my game, without the need to compromise the TV.
The only feature I find the gamepad to be lacking is a button that would allow you to swap your TV screen and your gamepad screen. I say this because each game has a different way of allowing you to do that. Madden requires you to hold the – button, Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor's Edge requires you to go into the options screen, and then games like New Super Mario Bros. U and Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper just have the game play simultaneously on both screens, which I find to be a big waste of battery if you're solely planning on playing it on your TV.
Keep those Wii Motion Plus controllers!
Nintendo wasn't kidding when they announced you'll still be getting a lot of mileage out of your old controllers. Many titles require them for any sort of multiplayer action. Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U and others all require these controllers if you ever want anyone else joining in on the fun.
It's a little strange to be using an outdated controller on a brand new console, but it works. I just hope that even though Nintendo still recognizes these as viable controllers, we won't get any more dedicated motion control games.
The interface slow down
The new UI doesn't scream new, as it generally borrows similar designs from both the 3DS and the Wii. The gamepad will display your selection menu, while your TV will display the new Wara Wara Plaza (which I'll get to later).
It's certainly easy to use and makes switching from game to web browser, to eshop, back to game rather easy. The problem is with the long load times. For some odd reason, any sort of switch to a separate app, or even going back to the Wii U menu takes an astonishingly long time. It's frustrating that something so trivial like quitting your game to access the Wii U menu takes more than 10 seconds. This can be said for booting up apps as well, which is somewhat more forgiving, albeit still quite annoying. Hulu Plus is yet another instance of it taking more than 10 seconds to show.
My only solace lies in hoping that Nintendo will fix these issues with future updates and patches, and make navigating its menus a breeze.