Review by neonreaper
"Rocky software start, tablet+console gaming is a fun idea but not the trend setter that the Wii was."
The first thing you do with the Wii U is fire it up and perform some basic setup steps to get your Mii created and your Nintendo Network ID established, get the right display connection... and then you wait for an hour while the system downloads a huge update. The screen for this is just a progress bar, nothing to distract you or indicate how much actual time is left. This is a giant misstep for Nintendo, as most users just want to plug in the system, create a Mii, and start playing games and exploring the new features the console has. Initial word of mouth from the Wii? "It's so easy to just start up, make a Mii, and play Wii Sports". The Wii U? "You just download updates for everything". Nintendo enters the generation on shaky ground, having saturated the casual market and alienated the hardcore gamers. Feeding into the negative concerns of consumers is troublesome.
Once you're playing the Wii U, you may notice that it doesn't have a means to adjust the OS screens for your screen size. I have a Panasonic TV from last year, the Wii U puts menu items into the overscan regions. The Miiverse and eShop feature screen size options. I don't understand why this isn't handled system-wide.
Menus take 5-10 seconds to load, which is strange given how simple the interface is, and how much RAM is dedicated to the OS. Some menus are just strange, like the Mii Maker menu has an "Edit Mii" option. Selecting this option pops up a message "You cannot Edit a Mii in the Mii Maker screen". Why is the option even there? Or how you hop into the Miiverse, and try to find a friend. You are instructed that you need to setup your Friends List first, but you are not told how to access that setup. The setup is not linked from the Miiverse. So you hunt down the Friends List setup, and it asks you to add friends. Ok. Worse, the Friends List friend request is provisional. You need both people to add each other in order to be friends. The Miiverse friends function sends a friend request message to the person. The Miiverse is pretty good. Why it tells you to use the Friends List functionality, which is bad, is beyond me. I'd say overall there was a terrific direction and application for Nintendo in the Miiverse, but it wasn't ready for showtime, so some of the old standby services were kept in place. It doesn't present itself well at all.
So really Nintendo has burdened with their excellent new Miiverse system with a system barely above Friend Codes, when the latter is completely pointless. Again, I imagine they didn't have faith in the Miiverse being ready, so they kept something stable in place. I really hope future updates for the system software eliminate the needless and outdated functionality when they have something GOOD and MODERN in place already. A lot of this feels like Nintendo is shooting themselves in the foot, and probably 6 months away from where it should be. Is that the new reality for gaming? Games have often shipped with D1 patches, consoles haven't been perfect at launch, but this is something on a whole new level.
The hardware itself is pretty good. The Wii U Gamepad is decent quality. There's a little rattle when you shake it, which seems cheap and worrisome. The touchpad is low quality, which is a shame. The sticks are OK but not as good as the Wii U Pro sticks. Again, a shame. But it's a good size, the display is nice, and for simple casual games like Nintendo Land or NSMBU, it's great. I was able to play some Black Ops 2 without much issue on the Gamepad while the TV was in use. It wasn't perfect, but I imagine for less demanding games, it'll be awesome.
The console is mostly just a longer, sleeker Wii. It takes the same output plugs as well as having an HDMI port. It's easy to swap out your Wii for the Wii U as a result. I haven't transferred my Wii data yet.
I think Nintendo has a ways to go with this console. I think there is a lot of potential for this to be a great Nintendo console - you have so many options for control, the Miiverse is pretty cool (the drawings make it feel much more 'alive', if nothing else), the Gamepad idea is a novelty. They need to have better system software though. All the things you could NOT hold against the Wii, you can pretty much hold against the Wii U, and if the next gen Sony and MS consoles come out strong while Nintendo is still trying to catchup to its own day one... that could be trouble. I will adjust the score over time, but right now... rocky start.
I also don't think this tablet gaming interface is a meaningful addition to the console gaming world. It's neat but most people would prefer to settle on regular controllers. This is not the next big thing that everyone copies.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 11/20/12
Game Release: Wii U (Deluxe Set) (US, 11/18/12)
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