tl;dr - I like the Wii U but do have some pain points. Also affiliate links, so many affiliate links.
I grew up in the 1980s. I got to experience the 8-bit console wars first hand. The Wizard taught me that the Power Glove was “so bad” (and how to cheat on Super Mario Bros. 3 ;). Sonic the Hedgehog may have been fast but slow and steady won that race. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m a Nintendo fanboy. With a few exceptions, I have owned (or had open access to) every console that Nintendo has released in the United States over the last 30 years. As a casual gamer that prefers indie games to shooters and family friendly games to… well, also shooters, Nintendo has always been my pick with each “next generation” that comes around. With the recent releases of the Xbox One and Playstation 4, the obvious thing for me to do was finally break down and pick up a Wii U.
I’m rarely the one to get my hands on a console before everyone else (okay, so I got an original Xbox the first week and a PS3 Slim arrived on my doorstep launch day [same with the original iPad] ;) so procuring the Wii U on a whim a year after the initial release seemed about right. I can definitely understand the market skepticism surrounding the future success of Nintendo and the Wii U console considering the library of games that were available on launch and even up to the release of the Super Mario 3D World. Nintendo’s been hit or miss on launch day in my opinion but hell, this all lead to a price drop so I was pretty pleased to pick up the console with 1.5 games (sorry, but New Super Luigi U only counts as half of a game IMHO) for $300 bucks. No, I didn’t go out on Black Friday to buy one and I’m pretty sure I probably missed 100 sales the last few days and probably “over paid”.
So let’s get down to business, what’s my first impression of the Wii U? Well out of the gate, when my daughter player Rayman Legends on the demo system at Target, I was very impressed with the graphics quality. More so than the quality on the TV, I was really impressed with the graphics on screen of the Wii U Gamepad. We recently picked up some Nintendo 3DS XLs and expected the Wii U Gamepad’s graphics to be comparable to that. Way exceeded my expectations, I assume the higher quality is perhaps due to the fact that the controller isn’t a game system and it’s somehow streaming game content to the device. Just a hunch considering the lighter weight of the controller compared to the 3DS. Definitely a huge leap from the original Wii’s graphics. In fact, I haven’t even hooked up my original Wii to our new television because it lacks the old school RCA hook up and I hadn’t gotten around to picking up an HMDI converter for the Wii.
Speaking of the original Wii, the fact that the Wii U has full backwards compatibility for the Wii games is epicly huge. In a world where Sony and Microsoft are aggressively abandoning their old systems for the latest and greatest, it’s great see that I won’t have to throw away my Wii library and if nothing else, can still procure older (and typically cheaper) Wii games and play them on the system. What I didn’t care for was the emulation layer and transfer process to get my Wii data over to the Wii U. I was hoping to just pop in the SD card from my Wii and it be ready to go on the Wii U, but there seems to be a bit more to it than that (which I haven’t gotten around to quite yet). Playing a Wii game on the Wii U requires launching a Wii app (emulator) that boots up into the familiar Wii system menu. I just expected it to be a bit more seamless but I guess the emulator app is to maintain backwards compatibility with the Wii apps and Virtual Console games. I’m happy that I can play my old Wii games but I was hoping they’d magically look better on the new hardware / via HDMI. They didn’t :(
Jumping back to the games, my 6 and a half year old daughter was the one that tried out the Wii U at Target and had a fucking blast with it. She was able to hop right in and play the game and had a very easy time of figuring out the gameplay as well as the interaction with the Wii U Gamepad. I think part of that is her recent experience with playing the 3DS and having to interact via both the controller as well as the touch pad. The menus and interface on the Wii U and 3DS are very tight-knit making the jump between consoles a painless task. The only games we picked up were Rayman Legends, Pikmin 3 and New Super Mario Bros. U / New Super Luigi U (which came with the bundle) as well as the latest Skylanders game, SWAP Force (Christmas gift, so I can’t comment on it yet). We’ve yet to bust into Pikmin but both Rayman and Mario Bros. have been quite fun and as mentioned before, the graphics have been superb. I hate to buy games I’ve already played through on another [older] console, but the new HD revamp of The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker is now on my wish list because I absolutely loved the original cel shading and can’t wait to experience it in “stunning HD”.
The only thing I’ve been somewhat perplexed about is the Wii U Gamepad itself. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about there being 3 distinct controllers for the system, the Gamepad, the Pro Controller and ye old faithful Wiimote (or Wii U Remote Plus if you want the modern experience). I mean, I guess I get why there would be three types, Gamepad for games that require the interactive touch screen, Pro for a more “traditional” gaming experience and the Wiimote for games that require the interactive controls. Some games have the option to simply play the games on the controller without the need of a television which is great when you want to watch TV / play another console while someone is playing on the Wii U but I don’t quite understand the need to constantly run the screen on the Gamepad. During New Super Mario Bros. U, the Gamepad screen constantly displayed exactly what the TV was showing, it just seemed like a huge battery sink. It was nice to see that Nintendo finally went with rechargable units with the Gamepad and Pro Controller (albeit with a bulky charger instead of just a USB cable) but fell short with the Wii U Remote Plus still requiring batteries. I know I could just use rechargable batteries in it, but I’ve grown quite fond of the Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries, they have provided me with the best results in all of my gadgets. Seriously, I get like 6 months of life out of my Magic Trackpad with them!
The most irritating thing I ran into with the Wii U is the fact that the username I wanted to use to set up my Nintendo Network account was deemed as “offensive for some users” or some bullshit like that. If anyone from Nintendo would like to chim in, I’d love to know why the username “joshtronic” was deemed inappropriate and will not be offended if you offered me free eShop credit to compensate me for my pain and suffering thus far ;)
Overall, I’m really liking the Wii U. It’s family friendly, the graphics are exceptional and it seems like the library of games is starting to ramp up in year 2. I’m not going to buy into the hype that Nintendo will be abandoning the console so early in it’s life but I can see where they may cut the console’s life a bit shorter than the 6 to 8 year cycle we’re used to seeing. To say that Nintendo can’t lose money because their entire business is video games is a bit short sighted in my opinion considering they are the dominant handheld gaming company and will be for the forseeable future. Even though I think Apple is going to enter the console arms race eventually, I still think Nintendo will always have a place in the world, that is until all of us 80s babies die off and Mario just gets too old to help with the Mushroom Kingdom’s plumbing and Koopa problems.
Late Night Amendment
The wife is pretty glued to Pikmin 3. The graphics are excellent as to be expected and the game utilizes the Gamepad’s screen by showing a map, way better than just cloning the screen. Now I have to figure out how to kick her off of it so we can watch the mid-season finale of the Walking Dead!