Review by super_luigi16

"This IS Next Generation"

Here it is. The Wii U. It marks the end of the seventh generation of console gaming and the beginning of the eighth generation; it marks the end of one screen and the beginning of two screens; it marks the end of an old era and the beginning of a new era. Simply put, the Wii U is vastly better than the Wii and noticeably better than the other seventh generation consoles. But what makes the Wii U better? The GamePad. The online. But most of all--the potential.

The GamePad

This is the most revolutionary aspect of the Wii U--its controller. Like the Wii, the controller is what's going to define this console. The GamePad is basically a tablet with buttons: lots of buttons. There's the normal ABXY pad, two analog sticks, a TV power button, a home button, ZR/ZL buttons, R/L buttons, and a D-pad; altogether, this gives the GamePad great versatility. Furthermore, gyroscopic and touch screen capabilities just layer on more ways to play.

Layout

Despite initial concerns that the GamePad might be uncomfortable, confusing, overtly large, distracting, or “cheap,” it is frankly none of the above. The GamePad is comfortable. The GamePad is well-implemented. The GamePad is polished. The button layout is utilitarian, the components are, for the most part, put together well, and the GamePad itself is coherent and cohesive as a controller. Furthermore, the second screen is responsive, and smart--there are no response issues with the main unit. Overall, the GamePad as unit is sleek. I've never had ANY problems with, barring gyroscopic deficiencies due to poor programming (Captain Falcon's Twister Race in NintendoLand is simply a horrible attraction). The GamePad is just amazing.

Potential

However, what is astounding is just how much versatility the GamePad affords. With so many different control methods, buttons, screens, and ways to play, future games have a lot to work with. One game could masterfully use the gyroscopic controls, much as Marble Mania did with the Wii. One could beautifully implement the motion controls like Wii Sports and others. Another could utilize the touch screen in a big way much like The World Ends With You did on the DS. RPGs, FPS', and Action/Adventure developers will salivate over all of the different button possibilities and combinations. Combine all of these opportunities for innovation, and we're left with a controller that simply cannot be defined by one game. What one game implements well is what another game will ignore altogether--I can't wait for a game that uses all of the control methods to truly bring the GamePad's merits to fruition.

The second screen by itself should be more than enough to allow innovation to take off. Various menus, information screens, and other utilitarian uses are just the tip of the iceberg--games like NintendoLand thrive on being able to show different information on the two screens. Even if the TV is relegated to a cinematic role, simply playing out what is executed on the other screen (much like how the top screen of the (3)DS has been used since the original DS launched), it will still allow profound versatility. This type of setup is already being implemented; certain games like New Super Mario Bros. U can function without the aid of the TV. The Wii U is full of options, choices, and more opportunities for game developers, Nintendo, and consumers.

Criticisms

Of course, the GamePad is not without its fair criticisms. The most concerning aspect of the GamePad is its atrocious battery life--being a tablet, it has less battery life than a 3DS with 3D fully activated. You will be lucky to get more than four hours out of the GamePad, and this is seriously concerning, given the above versatility. You either need to stay near an outlet, or let it charge in the cradle--you cannot play for an extended period of time, especially if said period of time is greater than five or six hours. The GamePad simply does not have the battery to do so. Furthermore, the GamePad is innately tied to the Wii U; it cannot function on its own in most instances, and it cannot be removed too far from the actual console itself. Want to play New Super Mario Bros. U in your bedroom? You can't--unless, of course, your bedroom is about 10 feet from the Wii U. The GamePad's major criticisms mitigate some of the versatility the Wii U would otherwise undoubtedly have. The Wii U is a slam dunk in all other respects.

The Pro Controller

While we're talking about controllers, let me address the Pro Controller--it's simply magnificent. For games that require more of a traditional control scheme, the Pro Controller nails it. It has over 80 hours of battery life (rarely needing to be charged is a good thing, as demonstrated by the GamePad's defining dilemma), and is completely wireless. Furthermore, the layout of the Pro Controller is comfortable, the buttons are versatile, and overall unit is polished. The Pro Controller is a wonderful alternative to the GamePad for games that rely on a more traditional control scheme--perhaps the eventual Mario Kart Wii U?

The Online

After the online debacle with the Wii, and the marginal gains attained with the 3DS, the Wii U takes a markedly different approach with regards to online. Everything is online. Everything. Social interaction is key. Internet is key. Media integration is key. The Wii U can act as an internet browser, a social network, a TV, a pseudo-DVR, and a game console; in part, its strength is derived from its online versatility and integration. Your Nintendo Network ID is unbreakably bound to your person and allows you to interact with the rest of the world.

Miiverse

Miiverse is Nintendo's version of Twitter, to put it colloquially. Create a Nintendo Network ID, create a Mii, write a post under 100 characters (or draw a picture, if you're artistic), send it off into the open world. However, Miiverse is integrated into practically all first-party launch titles, and will likely be an integral part in most upcoming releases. Miiverse's most profound use is its ability to help you in-game--if you're stuck on a level, post about it! Others will respond, and other responses will show up. Furthermore, games like NintendoLand will show posts that directly pertain to what just happened in your game. Did you just die on Level 6 of Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest in NintendoLand? Well, so did nine other people, and here are there posts. Still stuck? Here are some more helpful posts. Miiverse is astoundingly useful in this respect.

Miiverse's Potential

The greatest merit of Miiverse is its potential in the future. Given that everything is now integrated and locked in to your Nintendo Network ID, it will become much easier to share, post, and receive content from friends through the Wii U. The potential is right there; perhaps Nintendo will allow you to share ghost data with friends for a Wii U incarnation of Mario Kart. Maybe you'll be able to set up Smash Bros. private rooms over Miiverse. Frankly, I don't know what Nintendo and third parties will be able to do with Miiverse, but the foundation is there for something truly great to sprout up.

Other Features

The Wii U also offers a variety of other features. While not altogether revolutionary, the Wii U offers Netflix integration; it also allows voice and video chat, internet browsing, and eShop integration. Furthermore, the Wii U also allows you to surf TV options (including Netflix, Hulu, and others) using Nintendo TVii on the Wii U; it isn't all that different from having the TV guide on the DVR, but it certainly is a welcome addition. The Wii U strives to be an all-around media unit, and it, for the most part, nails it. There is plenty of apps and games available from the eShop, shows to be found on TVii, movies to be watched on Netflix and other software, and friends to chat with through video chat; the Wii U brings it all together in one nice, neat package.

The Overall Potential

However, the biggest euphoric wave Nintendo can ride with regards to the Wii U is the future potential. The Wii U is a strong, polished, and all-around balanced system that can handle nearly anything thrown at it. It has very few detracting factors, and its overall appeal is high for developers that want to try to stretch the limits of gameplay with the GamePad. Many genres can benefit immensely from the versatility the GamePad offers--RPGs have a second screen to toy with and use to their advantage, racing games have a second angle to work with, FPS' have an interactive scope in the Wii U, party games have different control schemes to work with, and every genre can benefit from the ability of the GamePad to detach (for the most part) from the Wii U. Moreover, there is ample online integration that can be worked with; Nintendo can allow all sorts of interactions via your blanket Nintendo Network ID.

Many further improvements to the software could push the Wii U even further. Many of the detracting factors with the Wii U could be solved in simple software updates; for instance, the low quality video chat could be drastically upgraded with a basic update. Music files could be adopted onto the Wii U system. The eShop could be expanded dramatically. With the Wii U, there is a lot to look forward to, given that Nintendo makes the right moves. As long as they don't abandon their system, the Wii U is shaping up to be an amazing eighth generation console.

FINAL SCORE: 9/10

+ GamePad is comfortable
+ GamePad versatility
+ Pro Controller is polished
+ Overall coherence of the system
+ Online integration
+ Nintendo TVii
+ Potential control schemes for games
+ Miiverse networking
+ Ability to play Wii games
+ Strong launch library
- Poor GamePad battery life
- Nintendo Network ID and eShop funds tied to system
- GamePad tied to system
- Some aspects of Wii gameplay are poor quality
- Longer loading times


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/07/13

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


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