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The Wii U


The Wii U

Platform: Wii U
Category: Consoles

The Wii U is out folks and just in time for the Christmas shopping season. Of course, that along with the system being released a year in advanced as the next generation of systems for its competitors is an obvious decision from a marketing viewpoint. Usually when one of these gaming systems is released a significant amount of time before its competition, it manages to win out on sales. By the time the PS4 and the Xbox 720 come out, a number of people who aren’t diehard loyalists to Playstation and Xbox will have already spent their budget on a system. Of course, for a gaming system, this is always a mixed blessing.

First, the good news. Nintendo has always, and this has been most apparent with the Wii and the Wii U, attempted to compete with its major competitors by offering something different and attempting to market towards a completely different demographic. While Microsoft (Xbox) and Sony (Playstation) seem to be wrestling over the same crowd, Nintendo is off trying to make other friends (well, customers but ‘friends’ just sounds nicer). I think that this mentality has compelled Nintendo to offer creative alternatives that you won’t find on Xbox or Playstation who tend to, for the most part, offer similar features. Yes, I expect some flak from diehard Xbox and Playstation fans for that. No doubt Playstation does some of these features better (plus it plays Blu-Ray) while Xbox does other features better. Regardless, the point I’m leading up to is that you’ll find that Nintendo is more likely to set a noticeable trend. The motion controls of the Wii came out, then eventually Xbox and Playstation followed. Now, we have the touchscreen remote. I admit I was a tad cynical when I first heard about it. I was concerned that it would A: Require a lot of getting used to in terms of just holding it (I find that getting used to PS3 controllers and then trying the Xbox 360 controllers difficult and vice versa) and B: Having to constantly look between the two screens would be a major distraction. For me anyways, the controller was a lot easier to get used to than I thought it would and most games either have alternatives to constantly looking up and down at the touch screen or would have you look back and forth when, gameplay wise, it’s not a major detractor. I’m probably going to be focused on the TV screen when I play Ninja Gaiden instead of distracting myself by looking at the screen but for the moves that the touchscreen allows you to use, you can also just press an old fashioned button combo instead if you prefer.

The graphics are sharper, obviously. For a newly released system, the game selection is actually quite promising. Some of the games have the option of playing them on your TV or exclusively on your remote basically giving you a portable hand held gaming system, as long as you stay in range of the Wii U, so you can casually play New Super Mario Bros. U while you watch TV instead of tying up the screen with either/or. I also found I was able to play Assassin’s Creed III on my remote in an adjacent room. If you have a Netflix or Hulu account and feel like watching something outside of your TV room and don’t have a laptop or other handheld device with that capability, you’re in luck.

Now, the bad news. Load times. Okay, the in game load times, once the game is up and running, aren’t really that bad but going through the various system menus (main menu, settings, etc.), takes long enough that after a while, it really seems to add up.

There is a means of transferring all your save data from your Wii to your Wii U which is good but the process seems unnecessarily complicated; maybe not too complicated for a true nerd but for a more casual gamer, it might seem like more annoying work than it really should be. It requires an internet connection (okay, no biggy); an SD Memory Card with at least 512 MB (inexpensive but if you don’t happen to have one, that’s a trip to the store); downloading a transfer application from the Wii eShop for both the Wii and the Wii U; running the program with the memory card in your Wii U first (I honestly don’t remember why and wonder if there isn’t a way they could’ve done the same thing in the Wii); moving the memory card to the Wii; running the program on the Wii side (it’ll copy all your save data including downloaded games, transaction history, and points at the eShop); and then finally moving it BACK to the Wii U, running the transfer program for a third time where it transfers the Wii data onto the Wii U. Now, to access the Wii games and whatnot that you’ve just transferred over, you tap an icon on your touchscreen controller, are asked to use your old Wii remote to click an onscreen message where you’re transferred over to a menu identical to the old school Wii menu and your touchscreen goes dark and it’s just like playing your old Wii. Basically, several steps and a system reboot, not to mention a pretty decent wait. I would have liked to keep everything on the Wii U menu. I was also hoping I could have played some of the Virtual Console games I’ve downloaded over the years on the handheld touch screen but they currently lack that feature. Hopefully they’ll have a patch that will change that but frankly, I doubt it.

I did mention that you could watch Netflix on both the game pad and the TV; however, it would be more accurate to say that you could watch it on the gamepad OR the TV. Basically, if you’re watching something with a group of friends and you want to go to the kitchen to grab a snack, don’t expect to be able to take the gamepad with you just so you could avoid pausing without being a jerk. It’s one or the other.

I haven’t personally dealt with this myself yet but I have heard stories of the social network site, Miiverse, which is included on the system, having Orwellian level restrictions on allowable content prohibiting any sort of posting of information that can basically hint of your identity beyond your name as well as restrictions on language that are strict even for a G-Rated environment. One mother said that her son, Killian, couldn’t use his name because it could be deemed offensive (…because it has the word kill? Seriously?). Another person was banned briefly for a humorous post about Batman that used the word ‘idiot’.

The gamepad has been stricken with a small battery that lasts maybe a few hours at best. Granted, you probably won’t be too far from an electrical outlet if you’re using it but still. By the way, the Gamepad uses its own AC Power Cord which is great if you’re using it in the other room but it means you have to free up a spot on your power bar.

One more note: I was asked to include this but in order to access some of the system’s features such as online chat, the eShop, or Netflix, there is a system’s update that is required. Just make sure you’re connected to the internet and keep your system running until it’s done. One time issue is that this is a massive update and it will take what feels like forever. Fortunately you only have to suffer this once. This is a moot point now but when I got the Wii U to review a few days before the launch, the system’s update hadn’t been released yet and I felt like Captain Kirk in Star Trek: Generations on the Enterprise-B being told that several of the major systems “wouldn’t be installed until Tuesday” (running gag). Like I said, it’s a moot point now but it’s an analogy to Star Trek and I had to take the opportunity to use it. Depending on your internet connection, it may take over an hour to download.


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