On the morning of launch day I waited outside the doors of my local GameStop to pick up my preordered Wii U Deluxe Set, overly excited to get my hands on Nintendo’s giant step into the next generation of gaming. It’s only been hours since I opened the box and finished an extremely long system update that is required to get the most out of the console, and I was just going to give you some quick impressions, but it kind of turned into a review. So call it what you will, but just know that you are about to read something far deeper than a first impression, but less informed than what’s in a full review.
In case you don’t know what the Wii U is, let me just cover the basics. It’s an entirely new console made as the successor to the Wii by Nintendo. It’s an HD console with a very, very epic controller: The Nintendo GamePad.
Essentially, the Nintendo GamePad the swiss army knife of gaming controllers. It has a 6.2 inch touch screen, included stylus, motion control (powered by an accelerometer, gyroscope and geomagnetic sensor), a front facing camera, microphone, stereo speakers, rumble features, Near Field Communication functionality (the same stuff that is used to make the Skylanders interact with the portal), dual analog sticks, four face buttons, a d-pad, four triggers, a button to control basic functions on your television, and various buttons to access menus. Currently, you are only able to use one of these with a Wii U console, but the Wii U also supports up to four of the Wii Remotes we have all come to love as well as most Wii accessories and the new Wii U Pro Controller (identical to the Xbox controller with the buttons moved around). The Nintendo GamePad is the king of controllers.
One of the first things I noticed opening the Wii U’s package was how incredibly light the GamePad feels. It doesn’t feel substantially heavier than a Wii Remote. That, and if fits in very well in your hands. Instantly I felt right at home.
Before you can begin playing anything on the Wii U though, you have to do a system update that enables a lot of the Wii U’s online capabilities. I could complain for a long time about it, but instead I’ll just tell you that it sucks. It’ll take 1-3 hours to update the console plus additional time to update games, create a user account, and do other system setup. Certainly frustrating, but once it gets up and running, the brilliance of the system does take the sting out of that considerable pain.
If you have been playing a Wii, the graphical difference will become instantly apparent. Glorious 1080p HD visuals have finally hit the home console of the house of Mario. Everything is stunning and at least up to par if not better than what I’ve seen from my Xbox 360.
The Wii U does something incredible that no other Nintendo console has succeeded at from day one: the Wii U has a fantastic virtual eShop to download games. There is an AWESOME selection of titles right on the front page. You have most of the console’s retail games available digitally (at the moment they are they same price as the physical versions) and you have a GREAT line-up of indie titles, including one of the games I’ve been most excited to play this year, Little Inferno (NOTE: This is a Teen rated game and I don’t recommend it for young audiences unless they are really demented and want to burn toys in a virtual fireplace as they try to stay warm in a seemingly apocalyptic world). The virtual eShop is intuitive to navigate and I’ve been hearing great things from developers talking about the ease of publishing games on it.
Another interesting feature of the Wii U is Miiverse, Nintendo’s new online social network. It’s essentially Twitter divided into game based communities. You can post either text or small drawings and can follow and friend other Wii U players. There are odd limits to things, but overall it’s really done well (although my console has had some connecting issues on occasion. I’m sure it will be sorted out).
Of course, the whole console isn’t flawless. There are some areas that need to be addressed. Having only one of those fantastic GamePad’s in a family with multiple children will cause some arguments. Sure up to five people can play at once with other remotes, but only one can use the GamePad at a time. Fighting over the controller is bound to happen, and that is certainly something worth thinking about. Overall though, I love the Wii U and anything I don’t like about it is just nitpicking.
If you are reading this, and are considering purchasing a Wii U, you simply have to get the 32GB Black Deluxe Set instead of the Basic Set. The Basic Set ($300) includes a white Wii U with 8GB of internal memory, a white Wii U GamePad, sensor bar (identical to the Wii’s), and all the cables. The Deluxe set ($350) includes the Wii U in black with 32GB of internal memory, a black Wii U GamePad, sensor bar, all the cables, various stands (a charging dock for the GamePad, a stand to prop your console up vertically, and a little plastic thing to hold the GamePad up vertically), AND Nintendo Land, one of the Wii U’s best titles and the equivalent to the Wii’s Wii Sports. For $50 more you get a lot more internal storage (8GB will go really, really fast considering the console uses up a lot of that without downloaded games or save data) and a fantastic game that retails for $60 on it’s own.
I can talk about all the features of the console for a long time (and I think I just did), but the most important question is only a few words in length: “Is it fun?” And to that I say a very loud “YES.” It’s incredibly fun. It SCREAMS fun. I’ve been laughing and playing it with my family and on my own for these two days and the fun hasn’t died down for a second. It’s interesting, unique, and makes you play video games in ways you never have before. I’m glad I could share my thoughts with you, but now I just want to get back to playing New Super Mario Bros. U. Princess Peach is waiting. — Cooper McHatton