Sunday, 12 May 2013

Wii U Premium Review

Says uploaded Sunday, actually uploaded today (Monday). 

The Wii U is the first console of the next generation, so technically speaking it is now the current generation and the PS3, Xbox 360 and the Wii are last generation. As is typical for Nintendo these days they have chosen to tread their own path and focus on innovation over power. The Wii U is a powerful console with good HD graphical abilities but its the new ideas it brings to the table that make it great. 

Physically it isn't that different from the Wii. It comes with a stand or it can lay down and it really does look incredibly similar to the Wii in terms of it’s size and shape. It has a couple of USB ports to expand its meagre 32GB hardrive, an HDMI port and an ethernet port, everything you need and would expect. All in all its a good looking, simple console that fits neatly just about anywhere. The gloss finish does mean it shows marks easily and it does look so similar to the Wii that its a marketing nightmare but, all in all, its a good design. 

The console isn't too noisy and it doesn't get very hot, both of which are very good things. Some of the last generation systems (the 360 mainly) were very loud so I'm glad this is a problem that is being addressed. 

In terms of its UI the Wii U looks very similar to the 3DS and WII in terms of its menu layout, the differences being that you can display it on either the TV or the GamePad and can access some elements of it, such as MiiVerse and the eShop, without having to close your game. this is a fantastic idea and really encourages the use of Miiverse during play time. Before the spring update it was painfully slow but the update has fixed all of that so I really have no complaints when it comes to the UI. Its fast, neat and easy to understand/access. 

The Wii U boasts video apps like LoveFilm, Netflix and YouTube and all of them run smooth and fast and can be used on either the TV or the GamePad. The console also has the best internet browser of any console to date. Basically its a multimedia machine that works fantastically and can be used without bothering the person using the TV.  Without a doubt though its best non-game function is the MIiverse. Nintendo have created a social network dedicated to Nintendo and it can be accessed quickly at any time, without your game closing. The Miiverse is split into communities based on games and subjects. One of the uses I've found, beyond simply talking with people about great games, is that in ZombiU I was stuck with a door code, so I went on Miiverse and asked how to find it and people responded telling me to upgrade my scanner. Of course you could go to the computer and look up a walkthrough but having a community of Nintendo lovers in your hands ready to help or just chat is simply mind blowing and by the looks of it this social interactivity will be a big part of this generation. This, perhaps more so than the GamePad, is the Wii U’s USP. The Miiverse is simply amazing. 

Of course there is also the eShop which boasts a wide range of indie games, download only titles, demos and of course full retail games. The eShop, like the other apps, is fast, laid out well and consists of great content. Nintendo are courting a lot of great indie developers so there a lot of great games in the store already and plenty more are on their way. The eShop is a fantastic thing and its only getting better as new games come out and the newly available Virtual Console grows. Throw in the backwards compatibility with the Wii and there’s a lot of games on offer here before you’ve even bought a full retail game. The small hardrive does make the eShop problematic but third party drives and memory add ons are cheap so this isn't as big a deal as people make out.

Of course the most obviously exciting element of the Wii U is the GamePad. It looks big and heavy but it really isn't. Its incredibly comfortable to hold, nice and light and the buttons are all very satisfying and responsive. Like the console the gloss finish means it gets messy fast but its a small complaint. The touchscreen is a good size and is very responsive. No its not as good as a multi-touch screen you might find on an iPad but typing and gaming on it is easy and I have yet to have an issue with it. It does come with a stylus but fingers work just fine. Its so good to finally have a full keyboard built into the controller and the touch screen is a great way of doing this. Maybe this could pave the way for good console RTS games? Who knows? The best feature of the GamePad though is, of course, playing games on the GamePad only. Not all games support it but big ones like New Super Mario Bros. U, as well as all of the Virtual Console games, work on GamePad only. If, like me, you live your partner or family and share a TV then being able to play without the TV is the single best feature of this console. I can play whenever I want and my partner doesn't have to miss anything on TV. Like wise if I'm watching TV or playing one of my other consoles, she can hop on YouTube or LoveFIlm on the GamePad. Genius Nintendo. SImple. Fucking. Genius. Every console could be improved by this idea. 

So as a console then the Wii U is truly superb, it has a great design, great features and great innovations. But whats a console without games? Well the launch lineup was very solid and the games that have come since are awesome but, sadly, its all quiet on the western front over the summer. There are no games coming for the Wii U that interest me until August. That sucks. It doesn't take away from how good the console is but it does mean that , once you’ve exhausted games like ZombiU, Lego City and NSMBU, you'll have a hard time going on the console other than for the usually very short (but awesome!) eShop releases and the Virtual Console versions of games you've probably played before. The console can’t survive without big full retail games coming frequently. This will happen come the end of summer and the autumn but until then take your time with the games that there are now. The games there are are awesome there are just too few of them. Also here in the UK they are at least ten pounds more than a 360 or PS3 game so it can be hard to purchase the new games that do come out. 

All things considered the Wii U is hard not to recommend. It has a lot of good games out, a lot of potentially great games on the way, a flowering eShop, great apps and the GamePad. Its reasonably priced and its packed full of fun. If you like Nintendo or want to play games without hogging the TV then go and buy it. I love mine and I am very glad to have it. Buy one and you wont be disappointed.

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