OXCGN’s Wii U System Review
Is this truly the next generation?
by Nicholas Laborde
©2012 Nicholas Laborde
While traditional generations have lasted anywhere from three to five years, this one technically began in 2005 with the release of the Xbox 360, and the other two consoles in 2006 and has lasted until where we currently are.
Is this truly the next generation, or is Nintendo merely playing catch-up with a fancy controller?
- Black console with 32GB of memory
- Charging cradle for the GamePad
- Subscription to Nintendo’s new Network Premium service
- Nintendo Land
Interestingly, the system does not come with traditional component cables, but does supply what most people will use in the form of a HDMI cable. Support for component cables on older TVs is available, but the cables must be purchased separately.
The most immediate thing about the system is that it really doesn’t look like a traditional console. It’s more of a simple box. In fact, I had trouble figuring out how to position it at first!
I won’t lie: it’s a tablet with analog sticks in its simplest form. But where Nintendo truly strikes gold is that it really would be a crime to simply dismiss it as such.
I can assure you of this: the next generation will not be defined by how fancy your hardware is, or what resolution your games run at.
It will be defined by how you play games.
The GamePad is your gateway to the next generation of gaming, and Nintendo has effectively set the precedent for what Sony and Microsoft must do.
I’ll get in to how the GamePad itself is used with the system in the software section below, but in terms of its physical application, it’s a great piece of technology.
The analog sticks feel great in your hands, and the hardware as a whole is much lighter than it appears. In an average length session, you won’t need to charge it, but for longer sessions (i.e. 3+ hours) you’ll need to plug it in to its dedicated AC adapter.
The Deluxe edition of the system comes with a nice charging cradle, and a stand for the pad itself. It’s very nice that Nintendo went the extra mile to ensure we take care of our GamePads, because they won’t be sold separately for a very long time.
It’s something more magical than anything Apple could ever produce with its own products.
Following in the footsteps of the Wi’s user interface (UI), the Wii U’s dashboard will instantly look familiar to anyone who played the previous system.
Similar to most modern smartphones, your installed items (such as games, the store, etc.) are on a grid system and there are multiple screens to store them on. Simply move left or right, and you can store more applications.
It’s very simple, and works very well in coordination with the GamePad. You can tap the corner of the screen and switch what’s on your television and what’s on the controller, allowing the user to explore even more options and see what your Miis are up to.
The GamePad, as mentioned previously, is an incredible piece of both hardware and software. Modern consoles are more about what’s on the system, with a controller being used to access them. The Wii U is the complete opposite; it’s all about the GamePad.
In addition, you can also track your exact playtime, which is always great for weird people like myself who like to know these things.
The biggest and most incredible single piece of system-equipped software comes in the form of the MiiVerse. Imagine a conglomerate of Steam Game Hubs and Facebook, and you’ll understand what the MiiVerse is.
It’s a place for all Wii U users to share what they’re thinking about games, ask questions about a part they may be stuck on in a game, and all-around stay in touch with other gamers.
At any time within a game or while on the main Wii U dashboard, the MiiVerse can be accessed. If you’re in a game, you’ll be taken to that game’s specific community page on the MiiVerse.
There, you’ll see every single post by other gamers who are in that community. You’ll see players posting screenshots of cool things they accomplished, drawing pictures about what they’re experiencing, or just asking questions about how to proceed.
The best application of it came in the form of ZombiU. As I state in my review, it’s an extremely difficult game designed to make the player try, fail, try, fail, and try and fail again.
If you check the ZombiU community page, you’ll find hundreds upon thousands of player posts: screenshots of weapons they found, questions about how to get past a part, or just general discussions about how far they’ve come.
ZombiU has a rather unique feature that lets you write messages on walls for other players to find (i.e. giving advice, or being cruel and leading others to their doom), and oftentimes you’ll check the MiiVerse and see people commenting on these messages and how it affected their playtime.
I use it actively, and it’s a saving grace in a game as difficult as ZombiU.
While simple in nature and by no means original, it’s utterly brilliant and an example of classic Nintendo innovation.
I died in ZombiU within two minutes because I couldn’t get a grip on the controls, and because I was dying to get away from the chaos that is E3.
When I opened my Wii U on launch day and finally was able to get time with it in my own home, I was blown away. The GamePad can only be accurately described as incredible, and makes me want to spend all of my money on games I’ve already played just to see how the controller is used.
I love the Wii U. No other console has ever hooked me this quickly, but at the same time, no other console has been this inherently interesting.
Nintendo makes some extremely important decisions on the part of the consumer, such as allowing all Wii accessories to be backwards compatible. The only drawback? A required 5 GB update when you boot up the system for the first time.
You read correctly: five gigabytes the first time you turn it on. This enables online functionality and Wii backwards compatibility.
If you purchased an 8 GB system, you’re more or less screwed (although the target consumer for the 8 GB system is more than likely not going to need that space). You can use external harddrives for up to 2 TB, but you’re not going to need that much space.
While this may just be for the launch lineup, most big launch titles (New Super Mario Bros. U, Assassin’s Creed III) were available as digital downloads through the eShop. I still prefer physical discs, but for the dawn of an even more digital era, this is a wise decision.
Nintendo succeeds at all of these things.
The Wii U will sell more off of its name brand rather than its feature set, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Hardcore and casual alike will find a safe haven from the stagnation period that has been plaguing gaming for the past few years.
With a fierce battle cry from Nintendo, the next generation has arrived.
Your move, Sony and Microsoft.