Review by paleselan

"Nintendo's Back for The Casual and Hardcore"

With the launch of Nintendo's newest console, the Wii U marks the first console released in the eighth generation of gaming. Many are wondering whether this new console should even be considered next generation or if it's worth buying. Fortunately, other than a few flaws, the Wii U is a great system overall, and should be picked up by every person who calls himself a gamer.

Hardware

It has been widely disputed whether the Wii U hardware really is “next generation.” I'm glad to say that after playing and researching the Wii U I am rather optimistic about the Wii U's future. First of all, in order to clear up any doubt, the Wii U is more powerful that the PS3 and 360. Hackers and experts have dissected the Wii U and have concluded that albeit not by huge leaps, the Wii U is more powerful than the current generation consoles. Furthermore, the compact design of the Wii U allows for the various parts of the console, such as the CPU, to be used much more efficiently than it could be on the PS3 and 360.

From the multiple games I've played, it seems like the Wii U has a very promising graphical future ahead. Games like Trine 2 and Nano Assault Neo look stunning. Although they don't look overall look better than games on the 360, they're definitely on par with them. The games also feature some lighting and particle effects that simply have not yet been possible on the 360 and PS3. This makes me so optimistic about the Wii U's future. When the 360 came out, many of the games just looked like PS2 and Xbox games. The system has made huge strides to get to where it is now. If this is just the starting point for the Wii U, then I cannot imagine how games will look on the system in five to six years.

The exterior of the system has four USB cables, two in the front and two in the back. Since the system comes with so little memory, players will most likely have to buy an external hard drive. These aren't super expensive, but a cost that must be kept in mind nevertheless. I bought a 500 gb hard drive for less than forty dollars. Another thing to keep in mind is that newer hard drives don't power themselves. This means that the hard drive I purchased must use the power of the Wii U. Since the Wii U doesn't feature 3.0 USB ports, but only 2.0 USB ports, these smaller hard drives will need to be powered through two USB ports instead of one. Therefore, those with newer hard drives will need to also pick up a Y USB splitter, which in my case cost me five dollars. This is a slight nuisance since many newer hard drives will not work without the Y splitter cable.

Another deficiency in the hardware is the lack of an Ethernet port. The Wii U features wireless connectivity, which works great during online play and other online connectivity features, but begins lacking when updates need to be downloaded. Those picking up a system will have to endure a two hour system update when booting up the system. This update would download much faster with a more efficient and reliable Ethernet cable.

Gamepad

The trademark feature of the Wii U is the all new gamepad. The gamepad sports a six inch touch screen which allows players to use the Wii U like a large Nintendo DS. This allows for deeper immersion in games through the use of the touchscreen and also helps unclutter the screen by placing hub objects on the gamepad for reference. At first glance it may seem like the gamepad would be uncomfortable to hold, especially during long gameplay sessions. I'm happy to say that even I, with relatively small hands, enjoyed holding the gamepad. It was comfortable to hold and wasn't by any means too large or too long.

Another great feature of the gamepad is off-screen play. Many games allow players to turn off the tv and play on the gamepad instead. Unfortunately, in my case, I cannot play the gamepad while on the loo, but I can play the gamepad in a nearby room. Although the range of the gamepad isn't as long as I would have hoped, it is definitely convenient and allows for play in a different room. Ideally, if your bathroom is next door to your Wii U, then you're set for eternity… unless you have to come out to eat.

The one downside about the gamepad is the battery life. I never got out more than two to three hours out of the gamepad before it shut off. This can become quite annoying, especially for those gamers that are ready for long gameplay sessions. Fortunately, the charging cord for the gamepad is pretty long, so players can always play Wii U with the gamepad plugged in. Even better is the fact that players can take the battery out of the gamepad, so third-parties may begin to release better battery packs for the gamepad in the future.

Interface & Online

When booting up the Wii U, players will be greeted with an interface similar to that of a Wii and 3DS. Games and applications are treated as channels, and players can rearrange all the icons at will. Players can multitask in the middle of games. In the middle of play, one can check the internet, Miiverse, and the status of their friends. This is incredibly convenient, since this is rather unexplored territory for other companies. If I get stuck in the middle of my 360 game, I am unable to check the internet for solutions, while on my Wii U I can. Unfortunately, the load times in between loading applications are infuriating. Want to load the internet? You must wait 15-30 seconds. Want to play a game? You must now wait another 15-30 seconds. Fortunately, Nintendo has already released a patch that has addressed this issue by cutting loading times by about five seconds. Although the loading times are still pretty long, this means that this problem is fixable and can be addressed in the future. Load times can improve.

One of the newest internet features is Miiverse, Nintendo's version of Twitter. Players can join different communities belonging to different games. Here, players can post pictures on the community's wall or messages for others to read. This Twitter-like space is unlike anything on any other console and allows for a social experience unlike any other. Like on other consoles, you can have a friend roster and send messages to others. Unlike other consoles, though, players can follow others, to track what they're posting, and they can post messages for the whole world to see.

Unfortunately, even with all these advances, Nintendo's online structure is still lacking in many aspects. There is no cross-chat play available. So, players can only speak with their friends that are playing the same game as them. Even stranger is that when talking to others online, players cannot use the built in microphone in the gamepad, they must use a third-party microphone. This adds unnecessary costs to the player that could've easily been addressed. I'm still hopeful that a future patch will fix this problem, though.

Another shortcoming of the online system is the lack of achievements. Many gamers disregard achievements, since there's really no real value to them. Although I understand where these people are coming from, I still get why system-wide achievements are appreciated. First of all, achievements provide some extra incentive for players to go back into a game after it is completed. Achievements also allow players to boast to their friends about their accomplishments. I understand that I'll still be buying the next Zelda game on the Wii U whether there are achievements or not, but what about a multiplatform game? A recent example of this is Assassin's Creed 3. Why would I buy the Wii U version of AC3 when I could buy the game for my 360 and get credit for finishing the game? Had Nintendo included achievements into the Wii U, then they would've had an extra game sale. Yet again, I'm hoping that Nintendo releases a patch fixing this problem.

The last thing I'd like to address about the interface of the console is the incredible convenience of the TV functionality of the gamepad. Wii U owners can wirelessly use the gamepad as a TV remote. This may not seem all that convenient, but once you begin using the gamepad as a TV remote you'll see how convenient this functionality really is. Now, in the middle of playing a game, I can adjust the volume on my TV without stopping the game. Furthermore, if I want to play my Xbox after my Wii U, then I can change the input displayed on my television without ever reaching for my TV remote. This television functionally eliminates the nuisance of a TV remote.

Software

In terms of software, the Wii U has had a great launch. The Wii U launched with Mario, Scribblenauts, Nintendo Land, and ZombiU; just to name a few of the games. On top of this is a great eShop offering, including wonderful games like Nano Assault Neo and Trine 2. Even now, just a month into the launch, there are tons of games for people to play. These games not only serve the casual, but the hardcore as well. Looking at the software thus far, it seems like Nintendo really is making a console for everyone.

The near future looks very promising as well. Just within the next few months Rayman Legends, Pikmin 3, Lego City Stories, and The Wonderful 101 will be released. I've already had the chance to play a few of these games and they seem very promising. A platformer, such as Rayman Legends, from Ubisoft can only be amazing, especially since Rayman Origins was so great. We can only expect the best from Pikmin 3, since it's a first-party game. Lego games aren't revolutionary, but they do suit their own crowd. Platinum Games, with its pedigree, can only release The Wonderful 101 if it is great. This is just a list of promising games coming within the next few months.

Looking even farther into the lifecycle of the Wii U there is a promise of first-party software from Nintendo. We know that eventually there will be a Zelda game released, which is alone a system seller to most people. We can also assume that Nintendo will release a Kirby, Metroid, and Donkey Kong game. We could also probably expect a 3D Mario game eventually as well. Lastly, we cannot forget Super Smash Bros, which has already been announced, and Miyamoto's secret new IP that we have barely heard anything about.

Simply by looking at the games already released, the games coming in the next few months, and the games coming in the console's far-off future, how can one pass on buying a Wii U. A console is defined by its software, and the Wii U is already proving that it will have plenty of amazing software for years to come.

Conclusion

Though the Wii U has some flaws, the positives outnumber all the fallacies. The Wii U is more powerful than current generation consoles, and the games look gorgeous. Although the online and interface has some flaws, all the problems can be fixed through future patches. Lastly, the library on the Wii U will be incredible by the time the console cycle is over. For these reasons I recommend every single gamer picks up the Wii U. For $300, the console is a great investment into the future of gaming.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/20/12

Game Release: Wii U (Basic Set) (US, 11/18/12)


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