It’s not every day that a new console is launched. In fact, it’s been years since the last new TV console, the PlayStation 3, hit the market.
And with that in mind, we’ve gone all out to be comprehensive with the Digitally Downloaded review of the console. Read on for the thoughts of three of the team of the console and its hardware, as well as its future potential.
Find Mii on MiiVerse: Midori
I’ll be honest – the Wii U is not a console that ever really impressed me. I began gaming with Nintendo and have always made it something of a habit to pick up the latest gadgets, but I did not bother pre-ordering a Wii U. The tablet controller did not come off as particularly ground-breaking and the internals seemed middling. Nintendo reps were changing details to the point where it seemed like people in the company didn’t know what they were actually producing. After going hands-on, I am cautiously optimistic but convinced there is a market for this new system. If Nintendo can tap into that, this console has a bright future ahead.
I honestly (really) wasn’t sold on the Wii U at all. In fact, right up to the console’s launch date, I wasn’t all that interested in the Wii successor and didn’t see why anyone should be. After all, a console that was described as being ‘as powerful’ as the current PlayStation and Xbox doesn’t sound all that appealing at first mention. And the fact that the controller has a screen just looked to me to be another gimmick like the Wiimote and ‘motion controls’.
Apologies if you’re in the camp that actually liked waving your arms around like a lunatic to play a game. If you liked it, you liked it- I didn’t. Kind of the exact opposite way I felt about the Wii U was how I felt about the Wii. I really thought I’d dig the extra functionality of the Wiimote and snapped up a console at launch. I was as wrong about that as I’m fast finding I was about the Wii U though, because (so far at least) it’s a fantastic little console and has seriously blown away my expectations.
This is the first time since the Nintendo 64 that I’m legitimately excited about actually playing games on a Nintendo console and as an old school Nintendo fan, that’s a pretty exciting prospect.
Visually the Wii U looks a lot like the Wii at first glance. It’s similar in size and shape, and even the dashboard has a somewhat Wii-esque look to it.. well, the on screen dash anyway, as the controller displays something all together different and you can swap the functions at will between the two displays. More on that later though because I want to make sure I get across that even though some things may look similar (and you can still use a Wiimote for some things), this is an evolution of the form and function- not a stagnation or a retread.
For starters, the GamePad is cooler and already does more for games on the console than the Wiimote ever could have hoped to. The addition of a second screen experience means that the game you’re playing can now expand it’s borders and offer even more functionality than ever before on a home console.
I have yet to play something that offers ‘second screen’ expansion, but even playing games that don’t is a great time unto itself as you can play full-on games on the GamePad. I can’t express how great it is to play New Super Mario Bros U on the GamePad (and get the full console experience while doing so) while someone else gets to use the TV for an entirely different purpose- even playing another console.
And the GamePad offers pretty much the full range of options that you’d expect to get from a fully fledged portable like the 3DS too. It offers a camera (not 3D), independent volume control that actually does a reasonable job at surrounding you with audio, a headphone jack and more. It’s a great device that would be a solid ‘console’ even without the Wii U and its television displaying HD visuals behind it.
On those HD visuals- Mario, by the way, looks fantastic in HD. It’s really terrific that Nintendo finally embraced the technology of the day and added that beautiful HDMI port in the back of the Wii U because the Mushroom Kingdom never looked so good as it does now on the big screen, in all its 1080p glory.
A little note about the cables in the box since we’re on the subject of displays- there’s only an HDMI hookup included with the Deluxe set. If you’re going to be looking to use anything else, make sure you pick up what you need when you bring your console home because that’s all that’s in the box.
Now, a slight caveat: as great as I think the Wii U is at the moment, there are still some (more than likely) very powerful new consoles coming in either 2013 or 2014 courtesy of Sony and Microsoft. That’s something that might once again might spell a bit of trouble for Nintendo.
Releasing a console this early (which seems strange to say since this is the longest console life cycle… maybe ever) in the game and this far ahead of the competition definitely has both its advantages and its drawbacks.
The bottom line is that we just don’t know what the specs are going to look like for the consoles that the remaining two-thirds of the big three will be bringing to market. If they’re drastically more powerful than the Wii U, it could be a problem for Nintendo once more. History may repeat and developers might again find themselves working on beastly-looking games for the neXtbox and PS4- then porting them to the Wii U with less than top-flight, stunted versions.
Hopefully not though. Hopefully the Wii U can at least remain competitive in the specs department with the rest of the ‘next gen’ and keep rolling along. The launch alone was definitely a step in the right direction as Nintendo hit all it’s marks and had the Wii U’s catalog loaded with digital and retail offerings, a Super Mario title on the shelves, and plenty of ‘Mature’ rated games for older audiences available.
Yes, I know a lot of the third-party titles are just ports of games that are out now (some that have been out for a while) but it still says a lot about where Nintendo’s collective head is and what the company is thinking. They covered all their bases- even the online ones -and didn’t just play to the core fan base. That’s not something you usually see from them and it’s a very welcome sight.
Everything’s looking good right now. With guys like Gearbox’ Randy Pitchford saying things like the version of the upcoming Aliens: Colonial Marines to get will be the Wii U edition (thanks to the motion detector being mapped to the GamePad), things certainly seem more evenly rounded than they have in years for Nintendo. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next, and that feels good to say.
Keep it up guys.