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Wii U Review November 29, 2012

Posted by Maniac in Reviews.
1 comment so far

I’ve had the Wii U for over a week, and while many of the people in the gaming media have already posted their thoughts on the console, I decided that before I posted any review of the product I would need to ensure that I had used it as much as possible under the circumstances that any other gamer would. Well, it has been over a week since the console has launched. I have played through several games on it, and tested many of the system’s important features.

So, is it worth the price and will it stand the test of time? Lets break it down.

Interface

The first thing you’ll notice when booting up the system is that the interface on the Wii U touch screen is minimal and easy to navigate. Every different program just has a simple square to select on the list. In a way it’s like a logical evolution to the Wii’s dashboard, only greatly expanded with the help of the Nintendo Network. On the TV screen you can see all the Miis on the shared network gathered around the games they’re playing or programs they’re running, posting up notes and sketches. It’s great to hear all the comments from the other players through the Miiverse and see their amazing sketches on your TV as you load your games and programs. I loved the fact that the login system made use of the Miis. In fact, you can transfer an already created Mii from your 3DS and use that as your Nintendo Network avatar. If you don’t have a 3DS, you can use the updated Mii Maker to create one and a new online Nintendo Network account to go with it, or port over one from your Wii once you transfer all your Wii’s data to the Wii U. I’ll get to that later.

Once again, Nintendo has hit it out of the park with their Nintendo eShop. I love the Nintendo eShop interface for the Wii U. It can only be used with the touch controller but there are a few reasons why and the easier control you have over navigating the shop makes it totally worth it. There are a ton of major retail games that are already out and available for purchase and download through the service, including most of the Wii U’s launch lineup, like Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros U, and ZombiU. If you can’t find those games on shelves, the eShop may be your saving option.

I think the most vocal concern most people had about the Wii U on its first weekend was the extremely time-consuming day one firmware update. Well, I did not mind the firmware update at all, I simply left Wii U controller on its charging cradle as I prepared my old Wii for its eventual data transfer. You see, while the firmware update may have taken a long time, it was one of the first things that the Wii U prompted me about, and one of the first things it took care of, a feature that the 360 may have, but the PS3 and Wii never did and badly needed to. Of course, rest assured that all the typical warnings are in place about not unplugging the system and the Wii U disables the auto off feature during update, some people online were asking about that. In a world where software updates are an ugly necessity, its nice that the system is up front with the user about its need, and streamlined the process as much as possible.

In fact, without the day one update installed you wouldn’t be able to do one of the most important features I appreciated having for owners of the original Wii, Wii to Wii U data transfer. The process performed flawlessly for me. It transferred over all the save games and downloaded purchases I made to my Wii over the years, including tons of classic Nintendo games from its historical back catalog. Armed with the fact that it can take all your original saves and downloadable content to the new system, the Wii U is aimed to almost completely replace the Wii hardware, enabling users to sell their older consoles as soon as they finish transferring their content. I have heard about issues if the transfer procedure is attempted on a broken Wii, but really if your hardware is broken for any reason, there are a myriad of problems that can happen with it if not fixed, be it a Wii or a Toaster.

Controller

Okay, lets move on to the most important feature of the Wii U, and probably the feature that everyone has the most questions about, the new Wii U Controller. I think the new controller can be summed up in one sentence. It takes a while to get used to but once you do you’ll never know how you did without it. When used in the same room as the Wii U, I noticed no lag in gameplay or control at all. The controller’s bumpers don’t click, and for some odd reason being so used to the 360’s controller bumpers clicking this surprised me, however even without clicking all buttons are perfectly responsive.

The controller’s battery lasts about 3 hours (give or take) on a full charge. It takes about the same time to charge, and it can be charged either with the included charge cable or the Deluxe Edition provided dock. The power port on the controller looks almost identical to the 3DS XL’s charge port. I think they may be compatible but I’m too afraid to damage the controller or charger testing if they are. I also noticed that the controller’s range isn’t very far. When I switched Arkham City over to play exclusively on the controller and then left the room the game started to lag out until I returned to the room. This may have been caused by the fact that the controller’s signal would have had to travel through my receiver to get to the controller (and a few walls), but I don’t recommend trying to play a game on the Wii U controller in a separate room from the Wii U.

However, I did notice something kind of odd the first day I used it. On one TV (Sharp 60″ Quattron) I could hear an audible delay between screen and controller on a streamed video from the Nintendo eShop, but did not happen on my Sony HDTV when playing in surround. My guess is either that the audio lag had to do with the Quattron’s settings or the lag issue got resolved on Nintendo’s end.

Games

It really brought a whole new dimension to game play when using it to play through Arkham City: Armored Edition, a game that I already had played through on the Xbox 360 last year. I don’t think I could go back and play the game on the 360 after experiencing how great it was on the Wii U.

I also had a lot of fun playing ZombiU, but have yet to play through all of it or its multiplayer mode. Multiplayer for that game is almost perfect for gaming nights I typically have with my friends. I did enjoy using the Uplay features with the game, which allowed me to unlock bonus game content using the Uplay app on my iPhone. I loved the Me as a Zombie feature and plan some day to prank my friends and family with it. Of course, you can also unlock those features through any Uplay enabled platform, I just happen to like the iPhone version the best.

The Wii U, when armed with the most recent firmware, also has its own sub menu which can play classic Wii games with the original Wii controllers. The Wii U has the ability to play these older games in full 1080p and 5.1 surround sound. The new upsampled game image isn’t perfect (I’ll get to that further down when I discuss the issues) but it sure looks and sounds great regardless, and will probably make you want to dust off all your original Wii games just to see them with fresh eyes all over again.

For multi-platform releases and ports game performance is comparable to the other consoles. For example, the graphics in Arkham City look as good or better than the versions that are on the current-gen platforms, but my guess is that the Wii U would not have the capability to beat out the PC. However, I did notice across several games, especially Arkham City, that pre-rendered in-game cinematics seem to have performance issues on the Wii U, and my guess is the system’s CPU could be the reason. Hopefully a new encoder will be developed that can work around this limitation.

Issues

Okay, with all that out of the way, lets talk about some of the bad. The system isn’t perfect, there are bugs present. Now, I did have both hard and soft system crashes while playing Arkham City. At first I thought this was a hardware failure but the system rebooted perfectly fine on both occasions and continued to operate without issue after plenty of game time playing immediately after crash. It seemed software related not hardware, and for all I know could simply have been a bug in Arkham City, as I have not had crashes on the Wii U menus or other games yet.

I did have a disc boot issue once. I inserted a game disc when I was updating Netflix and when I tried to load the game after the Netflix update the game would not boot and I got an error message telling me to eject and reinsert the disc. Kind of scary message to get when inserting a game disc for the first time. However, ejecting and reinserting the disc cleared it up and the problem has never happened again. My guess is this is possibly a bug triggered while inserting a game disc during a program update and if it can be fixed down the line it probably will be.

I wish there was more content in the eShop. In particular, there aren’t really a lot of videos yet. This makes it kind of feel like its lagging behind the Wii’s Nintendo Channel or the 3DS eShop, as both have a lot of videos of upcoming games, where the Wii U eShop strictly has game trailers for games that are already out or close to coming out on the platform. However, as of this review, Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and Hulu Plus all have native Wii U programs you can download free of charge to augment the Wii U’s capabilities. Hopefully a Nintendo Channel or Nintendo Video app will be coming as well.

I also noticed green bars on the screen edge of some games, in particular original Wii games. Green bars are typical for content played in non native resolution on older tvs. However my tv doesn’t have this issue playing non native resolution content. I noticed it mostly when playing original Wii games, but I did see it infrequently when in a Wii U game. This was likely a side effect of content upsampling, as I did not notice it when playing ZombiU.

My biggest problem with the Wii U is it takes a VERY long time to boot a program! A typical initial load time for anything, even programs that are part of the console OS and aren’t games, seemed to be around 30 seconds. It also takes a very long time to quit a program or game to return to the dashboard. Even loading and quitting NOTIFICATIONS, a simple feature that can run in the background of the 3DS and simply updates you on news from Nintendo and new features to the Wii U, takes upwards of thirty seconds to boot up and another thirty seconds to quit out of.

I also had one more little nit pick. When updating or installing a program or game, I thought that the download time remaining clock was in minutes and seconds instead of hours and minutes. When installing the ZombiU update, I noticed the clock hung at 00:02 for a while, and I was concerned that my modem had reset itself again. By the time I went to check on it and came back the game was loaded fine and I thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until I installed one of the new programs like the YouTube or Amazon Prime app that I figured out the clock was in hours and minutes and not minutes and seconds. I wish that were clearer. Less than 1 minute remaining indicator was fine though.

Overall

The Wii U is an AMAZING launch for the next generation consoles and for the price its at. It has an excellent launch lineup and great potential with its upcoming games. The issues I had with it were minor at best and probably were rare bugs that will be ironed out down the road. If you need to know just which version to pick, Black or White, the Wii U Black Deluxe Edition is a great value. A new copy of Nintendo Land alone costs around $59.99 US retail or online and when it comes bundled with the 32GB Deluxe Edition at only a $50 premium over the Basic Set (White), it makes the more expensive edition practically the only choice to buy. It doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or just a kid at heart, Nintendo has something special in this new system, and it has all the high quality that you would expect from them. Get it!

I’ll see you in the Miiverse.

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