The Next Generation is here whether you realized it or not. Now we have no idea really, what Sony or Microsoft has in store for us, but Nintendo has dropped its new console, the Wii U, and it is defiantly…. Different.
Is that good or bad you ask? Well… neither really. Different is different. The Wii U gives you a unique gaming experience. Something you will remember for better or worse. Now, the majority of my review is going to consist of my assessment of the physical gaming console, the interface, the apps that are currently available, and two of the consoles major launch titles, New Super Mario Brothers U and Nintendoland. I’m not planning on focusing too much on the games, but with a game console it’s pretty hard to avoid. So… without further adu, I give you the Nerdwest Wii U Review.
The whole process of assessing this system is going to be difficult because of the nature of the Wii U’s interface. It’s creative and different… well, to a certain extent. The Wii U’s controller basically makes the console a larger, more eloquent version of the Nintendo DS. The controller contains a separate LCD screen, which displays, usually, a different screen than what your TV is displaying. Upon booting of the system, the controller displays a very familiar, simple interface similar to the original Wii Display. Simple boxes that say things like… Settings, Netflix, Play Disc, etc.
While this is happening in your hands, on your TV, something completely different is happening. Your custom Wii character, or Mii, is getting lost in a sea of other Mii characters from around the world. This is the gateway to the Mii Universe. The Mii universe is kind of like a very PG version of Xbox Live. It’s alright; just nothing worth talking about… kind of a same old social device type thing.
Overall, the interface brings classic, clean, simple navigation to a very intimidating looking next generation console. It’s nothing we haven’t really seen before, but sometimes that’s alright.
There are two major sections here. The first section is going to tackle the built in applications that were available at launch and the second section is going to go over my basic impressions of a few of the consoles retail launch titles. Got it? Good.
First off the preloaded on board apps; Pretty basic really, you have Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime. Nothing special, you can get all of these apps on any current generation console. The Netflix interface is very similar to that of the Xbox 360, just a bit more responsive, which is nice. Another thing that’s nice is if you don’t currently own a tablet, the controller can be used for streaming Netflix. Pretty sexy Nintendo. The YouTube app looks pretty fancy as well, but again, same content. Same goes for Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. The most intriguing application on the Wii U is the Tvii app, which, as of the time of this writing is currently unavailable. Sad Day.
Secondly, the Wii U that was used for this review was the 32 GB Black console which came with a copy of this consoles version of Wii Sports, Nintendoland. Nintendoland is basically a combination of mini games that star of some of Nintendo’s most famous characters. Mini games such as Metroid Blast, Pikmin Adventure, and Yoshi’s Fruit Cart just to name a few. Most of these games are pretty terrible. No way around that…well ok. I’ll play devil’s advocate here, if I was a parent buying this system for my six year old kid, my six year old kid MIGHT like it. This game doesn’t have the universal appeal that Wii Sports did. It feels like a game for little kids, and although there are some gems here and there, specifically Pikmin Adventure, it still does justify the stand alone price of $59.99. It just feels gimmicky, almost like they wanted to show everyone what the Wii U gaming Pad could do, which is ok, but not at that price. That’s a bit much.
Now that I’ve gotten Nintendoland out of the way, let’s move on to much, much better things like New Super Mario Brothers U. God bless Nintendo. They could make the worse console to ever exist.. cough..Virtual Boy…cough and still get Mario right. And this is the case with the Wii U. Mario U is gorgeous in its simplicity. It’s a Mario game done right. Nintendo added some new content, but stuck to the basic side scrolling game play. My favorite thing about this game though? This is the first time we get to see Mario in beautiful High Definition, and yes, it is glorious.
Controlling system is, by far, one of the most exciting prospects of the Wii U in my eyes. The new Wii U pad is designed to make you want to play it. It’s intriguing. Same thing with the original Wii really, the first time I saw it I just really wanted to know how it feels to control a gaming console like that. Now, the Wii U game pad doesn’t have that much wonder in it, due to the fact that there isn’t a “nunchuck” attachment, but you still want to see how the LCD screen works with games. And, as shitty as this sounds, sometimes great, sometimes not so much.
The LCD on controller was a cool addition, but it also raised a lot of questions involving cost of secondary controllers, replacement batteries, durability, etc. And these concerns are all well grounded. The controller is cool, but it’s also a very expensive piece of equipment. There is no number yet on how much replacement controllers are going to cost, but we do know that Nintendo is selling these consoles at a loss. So… that’s probably not good. The controller seems durable enough, but that being said, I don’t think I’ve ever treated a controller as nicely as I have treated the Wii U gamepad. And lastly, having a rechargeable lithium battery on a game console controller could turn out to be an Achilles Heel for the longevity of the system, which was an interesting decision, coming from the company that released the NES, Super NES, and N64, three consoles that I still use to this day. All in all, the Wii U gamepad is a cool novelty item, but I believe it will, in the end, limit the longevity of the console.
There are a few that I did like about the console that I didn’t get to, for example , all of the original Wii controllers work on the Wii U and the Wii U contains an original Wii dashboard, so all of the original games and Wii shop downloads are all available for use of the Wii U. At the same time, there are a few things that I disliked that I didn’t get to, for example, every single application and game needs to be updated before playing. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal, but unlike the Xbox 360, the Wii U takes on average, about 20 minutes on High Speed Cable Internet to download a single update. Pretty weak.
Overall, the hardware has some minor flaws but is sound. The software is hit or miss, like most consoles, but I believe that there is a chance that the Wii U can do great things. Now, we put it in the hands of developers to come up with some creative, new titles that take advantage of some of the Wii U’s unique attributes and hope they can come up with some of the most exciting Nintendo games that we’ve seen since the Nintendo 64.