Release Date: 11/18/12
Basic MSRP: $299.99
Deluxe MSRP: $349.99
The Good: Clean OS, friendly community, opportunities for fun for both casual and hardcore gamers, virtual console, HD graphics, original controller which presents a lot of opportunities, awesome internet browser
The Bad: Huge lack of games, Miiverse feels like a police-state, not any more powerful than current gen consoles, lack of structured online modes in games, too many controllers, feels more like a current-gen update of the Wii, overpriced
I’d like to state beforehand that I am a Nintendo fan and while I may name many negatives of the Wii U in this review I do not hate it. It is not a bad console by any means. It just has many shortcomings which I believe Nintendo can fix if they put their effort into it.
My feelings about the Wii U are very conflicted. First things first, this console is very overpriced for the amount of space it can handle. A PS3 with 500GB and one year of PSN for free (which includes 12 amazing games) is $299.99. The Wii U with Nintendoland and 32GB (Deluxe) is $349.99. Sure, it does work with hard drives, but that’s hardly an excuse for the price.
But the price is hardly the most noteworthy nor important element of a gaming system. The GamePad is obviously the system seller here and my feelings on it are mixed. When used properly by developers, it can benefit a game experience. Games with off-tv gameplay are a solid solution to television arguments, yet developers that use this never utilities the GamePad’s unique features and it often feels like a lazy excuse to avoid making GamePad-specific features. When used improperly, the GamePad feels gimmicky, just like the Wii remote often felt. This is specifically noticeable in the scanning moments developers for some reason decide to add to their games (I’m looking at you Zombi U).
The GamePad’s touch screen works well but does not accept more than a finger. It never feels too big and the screen in the middle is just the right size. Its battery does not last long which is very disappointing however if you get the Deluxe version you get a cradle which charges it. The stylus is fine and is my preferred method to touch the screen. The microphone and camera work fine, however, they aren’t anything special and you’ll rarely if ever, use them.
The GamePad is not the only controller though. The Wii remote can be used in most, if not all games on the Wii U. I would say Wii remotes are basically necessary for this console and it is disappointing that they do not come with the console (although the sensor does come with Deluxe) They are mostly used for multiplayer experiences. As well as that, the new Wii U Pro Controller (very similar to the Xbox 360 controller) can come in handy depending on what type of games you play and the Classic Controllers (both versions) can be used in some games as well.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Wii U OS (after installing the first two updates) is that it feels very clean and the music is soothing. The way the Gamepad plays some beats from its speakers and the TV play other beats feels almost majestic even though it is such a small feature. However, this will all be lost the moment you click on an application and are forced through a long loading screen. Opening up system settings can take up to 8 seconds! While the loading times were much longer before the update (nearing 20 -30 seconds), it still feels really annoying.
Mii’s return in the Wii U and are more refined this time around. The “make a Mii based off of your picture” feature still sucks just as it did on the 3DS. Or maybe I’m just really that ugly. Miiverse, Nintendo’s version of Facebook, is a mixed bag. On one hand, the community is very nice, helpful, and supportive. Gone are the friend codes of the past, however you have to add someone from Miiverse (not friends list) if you ever want them to see your friend request. On the other hand, you get the feeling that everyone’s being watched and is frightened of what Nintendo might do if they speak out. I’ve heard of people’s posts getting removed for simply offering a link to their youtube account because they were “giving away too much personal information”. Honestly, I was afraid to write anything bad about Wii U on it. I love the way you can take screenshots in-game and upload them to Miiverse seamlessly, however. The drawing feature is also pretty nice even though I suck at it.
Speaking of seamless features, the internet browser is a great example of one. Let’s say you are stuck in a game on a particularly challenging puzzle. You can pause the game, select the internet browser, look up the solution, and then return to the game. The internet browser works surprisingly well. It’s unusual (not in a bad way though) to consider that the internet browser runs so quickly considering that downloads go incredibly slowly (Injustice first said it would take 8 hours, then 11, then 2, then it had an error, and finally when I restarted the download it took about 2 and a half hours).
In-game online features are lacking because Nintendos’ Miiverse is not structurally integrated throughout all games unlike Xbox Live or Playstation Network. This means no achievements and leads to many developers ignoring social features such as private matches in their Wii U versions of games. This is very unfortunate.
Also, don’t toss your Wii games away yet. You can run the Wii in its full glory on the Wii U. This is a nice feature even though you have to reset your console to open up the Wii mode. I used to play a lot of Wii games back in the day so this feature is incredibly useful for me.
No matter how good the Wii U’s GamePad is, it is not nearly as important as the games released on the system. I’d prefer a gaming console with a crappy controller and amazing games (such as the Gamecube and PS3) over a console with an amazing controller and lackluster/very few games, hence the name gaming console. This section is not a review of Wii U games, but instead, is looking at the games of the Wii U as a whole and judging on whether or not they make this console worth it.
So, the number one question on almost everyone’s head is, “How do the Wii U ports of games hold up to the other versions?” Well, it seems to vary from game to game. the one thing that stands true with almost every game is the Wii U has worse frame rates than its counterparts (with the exception of Injustice: Gods Among Us, which according to user reviews looks better and runs better than its counterparts). Graphics are basically the same, with lighting looking a little bit worse, however, textures looking a little better.
Nintendo’s biggest struggle with their games is finding a core audience. On one hand, the games for younger people might be too difficult for non-gaming parents to jump in and play, which was one of the beauties of the Wii. On the other hand, mature games have been dumbed down for the Wii U, with Catwoman put into a more modest outfit in the T-rated Batman: Arkham City and Ninja Gaiden Razor’s Edge taking out guards who plead for their lives. These are all minor nitpicks but are very disappointing from a gamer’s perspective.
I’m not trying to be Mr. Negative, however. Some games really benefit from Off-TV play such as Black Ops 2 and the Wii U GamePad is helpful in Injustice because it can display a moves list. Games such as ZombiU use the Wii U GamePad well, however, the best use of the GamePad can be found in the multiple minigames of NintendoLand. The Wii U has some very good games, it just doesn’t have any system sellers. We’ve already seen games like New Super Mario Bros. U multiple times before, and games like AC3 are available on other systems and anyone really interested in games like that would already own an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.
The rest of the year, however, seems very hopeful for the Wii U. For the past few months the Wii U hasn’t had many games released, but with some major announcements coming this E3 such as the new Super Smash Bros. Game and 3D Mario as well as the upcoming Pikmin 3 and Bayonetta 2, Nintendo could really improve their console. I believe that the Wii U can and will become the greatest current gen console by 2014 and this is because Nintendo knows better than anyone else that gaming is less about the specs and graphics and more about the experiences they can bring.
— Second Opinion –BinaryMessiah–
The Wii U is a system I swore up and down I would never get. My girlfriend brings one home and I’m standing there looking at the thing like after you had an awkward fight. There’s Injustice: Gods Among Us sitting there in it’s tantalizing glory waiting for me to play it. I pull open the box and hook it up. Setting up systems is a nice feeling and doesn’t happen very often.
After setting it all up, I realize that the first feature to really get me to like the console is the TV remote feature. It’s really neat and not something that has ever been implemented into a console before. After I create my Nintendo account and pop in Injustice I start liking the system. The gamepad is easy to hold and super light. This was key to be sure that long periods of play time didn’t cramp your hands. The dual analog sticks are very nice and the button layout is perfect. The ergonomics of the gamepad are just spot on. Anyone in doubt, even hardcore haters, just know that this is one of my favorite controllers. The DSi XL stylus comes out and that even surprised me. The triggers and bumpers in the back are laid out perfect. I applaud Nintendo for getting this right. It’s so useful! There’s so many possibilities with this thing, but the system is only 6 months old.
I then notice that the game is playing on the screen. Even if you hate Nintendo it will make you giddy. It’s a really cool thing to see. You can take the gamepad, plug in headphones, and play while someone’s doing something else on the TV. Why wasn’t this around 20 years ago?! This is only for games that don’t use the gamepad for much though. My only major complaint is the battery life. Nintendo made this huge oversight and it needs to be fixed.
The Wii U was designed for people who already own a Wii, that’s obvious. It comes with a Wii sensor bar but no Wiimotes? Pretty stupid actually. I do like that it emulates the Wii menu and you can still use the Wii shop channel. It’s nice to see Wii games upscaled into HD, not as crisp as the Wii U games, but still nice.
This is also Nintendo’s first HD console. They are behind in times (they always are) but the Wii U looks razor sharp on my 50″ 1080p plasma. The colors are rich and vibrant, and some of the games look pretty good. The only issue is that the Wii U has weaker hardware than current gen consoles when it comes to processing power. Nintendo fan boys can scream all they want that it’s a next-gen console, but in terms of power it isn’t. This is what the Wii should have been.
The Wii U has a tri-core 1.24 Ghz “Expresso” CPU. Sad. I think Nintendo was trying to keep down costs, but the gamepad seems to have cost them more than the unit itself because it seems like two systems in one. The Wii U has a 550 Mhz GPU “Latte” that is AMD based and totally custom made. Combined the Wii U is about 4x as powerful as the PS3, but that’s not that big of a jump. The GPU has slightly faster clock and BUS speeds. The Xbox 360 has a tri-core 3.2 GHz CPU while the PS3 has an 8 core CPU (1 PPE 7 SPEs) so right now the Wii U is only about 4x as powerful as the current gen consoles. It’s not the big jump that everyone expects. It’s like from the GameCube to the Wii (the Wii was only 4x as powerful as the GameCube). It isn’t nearly as powerful (about a fraction) as the top PC rigs and Xbox One and PS4. The big disappointment is that the Wii U doesn’t support DirectX 11 architecture like the Xbox One and PS4 do. Don’t expect seeing Crysis 3 or any other DX11 game on the Wii U. The Wii U has 4GB of DDR3 RAM at 1600Mhz which is about slightly above average RAM speed that people use in PCs. 1GB is held off for system stuff so developers still only have 3GB to work with. Still better than the 256MB that’s on current gen consoles, so this is the only leg up the Wii U has. It’s still 10x as powerful as the Wii, but that’s not saying much.
In the end it comes down to games, right now the Wii U is lacking. There are quite a few high budget ports, but they’re ports. These games people have played on other consoles. Thankfully there’s a huge Wii library out there you can play while you wait, but even the eShop is pretty much empty. I’m impressed with the hardware, but not so much the software. All we can do is wait and see.