This Could Be Nintendo’s Best System Yet, But I Can’t Be Sure.
The WiiU hasn’t enjoyed the same level of media stardom as its predecessor thus far, but with Nintendo’s latest system hitting the market over the weekend, they have officially kicked off the next generation of gaming consoles. However, for all of its innovation and newfound power, the Wii U still doesn’t feel like it’s elbowing its way into Microsoft or Sony’s wheelhouses. But that’s a good thing.
Wii owners will probably feel a bit of déjà vu when they unbox the little system. It looks and feels very much like the Wii. The console itself measures about 11 inches in length and weighs about three and a half pounds. Those of you who preordered the Deluxe Edition found a shiny, black system inside the box, complete with a charging station for the GamePad, a couple of stands for the console, and a copy of Nintendo Land.
Aside from the usual suspects (power button, disk drive, etc), the front of the unit sports a couple of USB slots and full-sized SD card bay. Predictably, the back of the Wii U has all of the primary cable connections like power, motion sensor bar and an AV port and HDMI port (finally).
The system itself is a massive powerhouse, at least compared to the Wii. It sports an IBM multi-core processor (which is purportedly slightly less powerful than an Xbox 360) and 2 GB of RAM (compared to 512mb in the Xbox 360, and 256mb in the PS3). It also contains a Radeon HD graphics card, which we don’t know a whole lot about at this point. However, we do know that the GPU is based on AMD’s Radeon HD 5000 “Evergreen” series, which is purportedly significantly more powerful than any of the competition’s hardware.
So, processor aside, the Wii U packs a far more powerful punch than Sony or Microsoft’s systems, but let’s not forget that those units have been on the market for six and seven years respectively. And, even though it will probably quickly become outpaced by the competition in the upcoming years, it’s been a while since a Nintendo system had more power than the other big-name consoles, so a small celebration is probably in order.
However, getting hung up on the console’s hardware would be a huge mistake. Nintendo isn’t in the business of impressing their customers with power; they’re in the business of innovation.
The Wii U’s GamePad is the centerpiece to Nintendo’s new vision for the future. It’s around 10 inches across and houses a 6.2-inch, 16:9 touchscreen, which is the hub of your entire Wii U experience.
The touchscreen itself could have used a little more time in the oven. It seems unfair to compare the touchscreen to Apple’s iPad, but if you can think of another touchscreen industry standard, I’m all ears. So, when compared with an Apple’s touchscreen tech, the problems become readily apparent.
The level of inaccuracy can be pretty disappointing at times. As you use the onscreen keyboard, you may often be forced to retype several letters, and there’s often a significant amount of latency between the console and the GamePad. Anyone who’s tried to use the touchscreen to operate the Netflix interface is obviously aware of what I’m talking about.
However, once you get into a game, all of the complaints seem to disappear. The Wii U’s launch lineup, especially Nintendo Land, has done a spectacular job at showcasing the GamePad’s unique interface options without accidentally highlighting the drawbacks. So, perhaps the problem isn’t in the touchscreen itself, but in Nintendo’s software interface.
The thing is, Nintendo’s interfaces have never been great, and the Wii U is no exception. Many of its core elements are buried under a mountain of confusing finger swipes and button clicks. For instance, last night, Cheat Code Central’s editor, Josh Wirtanen, and I fumbled around on the phone for about a half hour trying to figure out how to add one another to our respective friends lists. Obviously, much of this time was spent hurling lengthy insults at one another, so it’s not entirely Nintendo’s fault, but considering the developer’s gigantic social networking push, you’d think that the friends list would be more centrally located.
For the most part, however, players won’t have many problems finding their way around the Wii U’s interface. In fact, several of the options are far easier to operate than they probably should be.
One of these options is the GamePad’s universal remote function. Yes, you can operate your television with your newly purchased Wii U, and the setup is remarkably simple. This functionality is obviously a part of Nintendo’s big push to take over your entertainment center. In the near future, Nintendo will be rolling out their TVii application, which will allow users to control their live TV feed from the Wii U. It will also add DVR functionality. It sounds a little like Google TV, only, you know, functional.
Until TVii arrives, though, we’ll have to make do with standard streaming services like Amazon, Hulu Plus, and Netflix.
The funny part is that the Wii U’s GamePad often render’s the television useless. As I was playing through several stages in New Super Mario Bros. U, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t looked at my television in some time. So I used the Wii U’s universal remote function to change inputs and watched an episode of Knight Rider while I punished one of Koopa’s kids. Impressed? I was.
I’ve already heard about several reviewers complaining that the GamePad feels cheap, but that’s a complaint that you can probably ignore. Some people equate weight with value, but since I’m not one of those people, I can safely report that the Wii U does not feel cheap at all. The build itself is solid, lightweight, and functional. In fact, if it were any heavier it would make several game types more difficult. My arms are very small and weak, and they wouldn’t be able to hold the device upright for long enough to complete so many rounds of Nintendo Land’s The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest if not for the lightweight build.
Also, speaking from experience, it can easily withstand a fifteen-month-old baby’s desire to smash it on a hardwood floor. So, unless you’re planning to stand on it, I think you’re probably going to be fine.
Now, even though I may have underlined several of the Wii U’s most obvious problems, because that’s the job of any reviewer, don’t confuse this with a lack of affection for the console. I genuinely love what Nintendo has done with the Wii U. Their concept of asymmetric gameplay could genuinely revolutionize the industry in the same way that motion controls did.
And the Wii U is, without a doubt, the logical next step for Nintendo. Not only does it build on the Wii’s motion gaming philosophy, it draws inspiration from the wildly successful DS handheld, and it reintegrates Nintendo into the hardcore gaming realm.
Before I had a chance to spend some quality time with the Wii U, I was worried that Nintendo was beginning to lose focus on their market. By edging back into the hardcore market with titles like Assassin’s Creed III, Darksiders II, and Mass Effect 3, Nintendo is obviously taking the fight to Sony and Microsoft’s doorsteps. And as I played with the console, it became clear that they haven’t lost focus. They’re positioning themselves back into the center of the gaming market. The Wii U may not be the go-to system for every hardcore gamer, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s everything that a hardcore gamer needs at this point in time, but it’s also the perfect choice for a family room, a college dorm, or a community center.
Nintendo systems are all about potential and creativity, and considering that the console builds upon everything that’s made Nintendo successful in the past, while adding a boatload of extra functionality, there’s a good chance that this could be Nintendo’s best system yet. But only time will tell.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
The graphical capabilities are on par with or better than anything on the console market today. 4.5 Control
Impressive functionality. However, there are several functional drawbacks. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Often a distracting amount of latency between the gamepad and the television. 4.2 Play Value
The future may be a little unclear concerning exactly how the new technology will be used, but it’s exciting so far. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best