With the Wii U only a couple days old, a few staff members here at Gaming Age decided to give our readers a few quick impressions on the launch, hardware, and software line-up. Not quite a full review, not yet at least, but check out our initial impressions below! [Update: Chris D's impressions added]
The set up and following updates the system had to go through upon first hooking it up were a bit of a pain. Fortunately, it really didn't take too long for me, maybe about an hour. I've read about others that had to wait almost 3 hours for their set up to complete. Since I was lucky enough to score one of the last 32GB systems from my local shop, I got NintendoLand and I'll have to say it's… "interesting". A few games on there are only for 2 or more players, so couldn't really play those. Everything else I played on it seemed OK, but nothing that would make me run out and buy this if I didn't get it with the unit. I quite liked Takamaru's Ninja Castle the most, it seems to be one of the more developed games.
One other game I grabbed was New Super Mario Bros. U, and so far its a vast improvement over past "New" Mario games. Levels are longer, enemies are tougher and the challenge you'd expect is all here! I've only seen one new power up, the Squirrel suit, which give you a little flight ability and floating jumps. I'm not that far into it, but this is definitely the game to pick up if you are lucky enough to score a system.
My only gripe with the unit, I don't like the battery life on the Wii U Pad. It seems to only get about 3 hours of continuous play before it needs charging. If you are downloading a large game from the eShop, you may kill the battery just waiting for a download to complete. If Nintendo puts out a better battery, I would pick one up! Other than that, I can't think of any reason why someone would pass up getting one. Price might be a factor for some, but I didn't let that stop me. If you are a Nintendo fan, save up your coins and track one down!
After a year and a half of waiting the Wii U is finally here! Ever since the new Nintendo system was announced at E3 last year, my wife and I started setting aside money from our budget to purchase it. This was somewhat difficult considering we were trying to buy a house at the same time. For those of you who know what it’s like you understand. It took us most of the year and a half to do it but we pulled the money together and purchased 2 extra games. The wait and the saving was well worth it.
Just opening the box we were as excited as when the Wii first came out. Unfortunately it came with a good deal of setup. Plugging the system into our receiver, attaching the sensor bar to the top of our projector screen, then waiting until the controllers where charged. We found ourselves trying to do things around the house so we wouldn’t think about waiting for the awesomeness to begin! Once the controllers where charged, we turned the system on. The initial software setup seemed very easy. The touch pad had a simple step by step guide to create a Nintendo ID and password. There is even a setting that requires a password to be entered whenever the system was turned on. This is great news for parents as they can set parental controls for separate users. However, before all this started, we had to run an update for the system. The update took about an hour and a half to just download! Now, I am hoping to rack it up to launch day bugs, especially since the MiiVerse was down almost the entire time we were playing. The same thing happened whenever we put a game in, a new update needed to be downloaded. Thankfully the system is smart with patches for games. Much more so than the PS3 or the Xbox 360. If players don’t want to wait for an update to download, they can just click on start game. The patch will continue to download in the background until done. Then the next time a user launches the same game, the patch will be automatically installed.
Now it was finally time to pick the first game we were going to play. We decided on New Super Mario Bros. U or NSMBU. We played this game for hours, we started with three players. Two playing characters and one on the touch pad creating platforms for us to jump on. The game was everything you expect out of a Mario game and more. The game is colorful, pretty and the soundtrack is excellent. We actually had to tell ourselves to stop after finishing the second area just so we can savor the game, otherwise we would have played all the way through yesterday and not touched any of the other games. Next we slipped in NintendoLand. We did not get a chance to play all of the games NintendoLand has to offer. However, the ones we did play, were quite enjoyable. Mario Chase would be much more fun with 5 players but we had to settle on 2. Donkey Kong: Crash Course is a fantastic game where players try to navigate a vertical maze with a cart that is delicate. Some spots in the maze make you just hit a button, others make you blow into the microphone to make a windmill turn. Ninja Castle has players throwing ninja stars at paper ninjas. I loved the way the stages looked like origami.
Overall the Wii U experience was great, the only black mark on the day were a couple of, hopefully, launch day bugs with the long download times for the updates. Otherwise, all of the accessories feel great in your hand, the pro controller, the GamePad, both are comfortable. The touchscreen on the GamePad is great. The Wii U has the ability to move any Wii U title to be played from the touch pad much like remote play works on the PS Vita, the only difference is that the Vita will work across the internet, but not play every game, and the Wii U GamePad will only play Wii U games. The GamePad is awesome and integrates well with all the games I have played on the system so far.
Console launches have always been the most exciting part of the industry for me, whether I actually get to lay my hands on new hardware day one or not. And the Wii U launch was no different. I was bummed that my local GameStop wasn't going to do a midnight launch, but since I had already been steadily paying off my pre-order there, I decided to wait things out. They opened at 9 AM Sunday morning, with just a few scant souls in the store picking up pre-orders, with all units already devoted to those that jumped on the pre-order wagon between September 13th and the 15th of this year.
Walking out of the store with my wife, our new Deluxe console, and New Super Mario Bros. U in hand, I couldn't wait to get home and plug this sucker in. The night prior I had stayed up fairly late just watching a stream of a guy who received his console early on Own3D.tv, watching him run through the MiiVerse settings, Wii U Chat, some of the mini-games in NintendoLand and more. It just made the wait that much tougher, but I managed to get some great impressions out of that streamed content that already made me happy with my impending purchase.
But, as is typically the case with launches, not everything went off without a hitch. After unboxing and setting-up the console, an easy enough experience especially considering the Wii U is one of the few consoles to include an HDMI cable in the box, I was stuck updating the console with a launch day patch like most other users. This patch was borderline ridiculous, taking over an hour to download, and then install. On top of that, after downloading the patch, there were more patches to download for the individual games. Like Chris mentioned above, those patches can be run via background downloads while playing, which is certainly a great idea considering how long they take otherwise.
But once that mess was done, I was able to dive into the games. New Super Mario Bros. U looks pretty gorgeous in HD, like I expected it would. Having played through three worlds now, I will say that it feels like a much tougher game than its handheld brethren, so if you were put off by how easy something like New Super Mario Bros. 2 was on the 3DS, I think you’ll be happy to see the difficulty go up a bit with this one. World design seems solid, but the soundtrack is largely recycled from previous efforts, and is frankly disappointing. The constant Bah-Bah’s don’t bother me as much as other folks, but I really wish Nintendo would introduce a little more variety to the music. Outside of that, the game incorporates a lot of elements from Super Mario World specifically, and I love all the little throwbacks present here.
NintendoLand has impressed me far more than I would have thought. It too looks pretty fantastic, and it’s sort of weird seeing your Mii rendered in HD for the first time. The theme park setting is pretty well realized, and I like the idea of earning coins by playing games that can in turn be spent for prizes to display in the park. I also like the active lobby that draws in other Mii’s from across the world, allowing you to see and add friends from those Mii’s visiting your park. The mini-games are all pretty solid, and some, like Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, are downright addicting. I’ve only been able to experience most games with 2 players, so certain games are a little lackluster, but for the most part I’m having a lot of fun with this pack-in game.
On Sunday I also went through the process of transferring over my Wii data to the Wii U, which wasn’t as painless as I thought. With an SD card in hand, you’ll access the Wii menu via the Wii U, which in turn will install transfer data to your SD card. You then take that SD card to your Wii, download the transfer tool from the Wii shop, and start to load all that Wii storage info to the card. Then you take the card back to the Wii U to upload, and that’s it. There’s a greatly entertaining sequence of Pikmin moving data back and forth that has a surprising amount of thought put into it for such a basic service, and helps to pass the time a bit.
I am a little disappointed in the Wii functionality on the Wii U though. For one thing, while games certainly benefit from both an HDMI cable and from being displayed in 1080p, you can’t alter screen settings from 16×9 to 4×3. That means that all 4×3 content on the Wii, specifically Virtual Console games, are going to be stretched. Also, it’s stuck allocating storage space to the original 512mb’s that the Wii had. So while my console is a 32 GB console, I can’t store all my VC games on the console at once, and am still forced to run games from the SD card. This seems like a silly rule, and one that could be rectified.
But overall, I’m pretty happy with my purchase. It’s great being able to play Nintendo games in HD finally, and while I have yet to spend any time with the ported games brought to the console, the first party stuff so far seems excellent. We’ll have some full game reviews up this week and next for you to check out, and some final thoughts on hardware as well, so keep an eye on the site for future updates!
Ever since I got my hands on the Wii U GamePad at E3 2011 I knew I had to have the system. It’s gone through a couple cosmetic tweaks since then, and many of the “proof of concept” software showcase titles have been rolled into Nintendo Land, which is included with the black Wii U system bundle (Deluxe Set). I had my system preordered at GameStop, picked it up early Sunday morning and had a Wii U launch party that afternoon with a bunch of friends – a perfect setting for me to try out all of the multiplayer games.
If you've been interested in the Wii U, you've no doubt watched unboxing videos and seen what’s in the package, so I won’t bore you with those details. The true star of the show is the Wii U GamePad. It has all of the functionality of a normal controller, combined with a huge touchscreen in the middle. With a built-in camera, gyros, 2 analog sticks and the ability to play many games on the Pad as well as the TV, this might be the best controller ever made. It feels great in my hands, with grips on the back and it’s not too heavy so don’t worry about playing for extended periods of time. The screen isn't in HD, but it’s very clear and looks pretty darn close to the HD images on the TV. The touchscreen is very responsive, even with just a finger swipe, although Nintendo does include a stylus for precise input. The GamePad won’t replace your iPad, but it’s a bit silly to compare an entire console plus a tablet controller retailing for $299 to a $499 device.
As was explained by Chris and Dustin, the first time you boot up the Wii U it lets you know there is an update available. This update took me about an hour to download and install, which could totally deflate one’s hype level. While it is excessive, I expect the time needed to update the system will be reduced significantly when there aren't hundreds of thousands of people trying to update simultaneously. Having said that, Christmas morning may be just as chaotic as many of these will no doubt be opened on that day and trying to connect to Nintendo’s servers all at once. One thing to consider is that you don’t need to install the update right away to play any of the games. So, if you have children wanting to play this thing immediately after getting it (or if you are impatient – can’t say I blame you), then just skip the update and have fun with your games.
After initial setup, the first thing you see on your TV when you turn on the Wii U is the Wara Wara Plaza. This is a place where floating rectangles appear with different games or applications in them. A bunch of Mii characters will run out onto the screen and will group around these floating icons. These are real people that have been playing these games and they’ll shout out text blurbs (100 characters or less) or hand written messages or even drawings. You are able to select any Mii on the screen and you can immediately add their Mii to your system or view their postings in the Miiverse. The Miiverse is really Nintendo’s innovative ace in the hole when it comes to Internet connectivity. Basically it’s Twitter, but only for Wii U owners. You can follow users and they can follow you. You can even send a friend request – that’s right no need to exchange those awful Friend Codes any longer! Each game that’s released has a Community page that you can post to. In addition, at any time while you’re playing a game you can hit the Home Button and go into Miiverse. Whatever is currently displayed in your game (on the TV or on the GamePad) can be used as a screen shot to post with your message in the Miiverse. You can flag your own posts as Spoilers if it’s something from the game that’s a secret. Likewise, users that view your posting can flag it as offensive or as a spoiler – and Nintendo will look at it and change it accordingly (or delete it if it’s offensive). I must admit, the very first time Miiverse starting working properly after the huge update, one of the first posts I saw was a drawing of a gigantic penis. I clicked on the post, and by the time I had clicked on it, Nintendo had already deleted the post. So parents, if you’re worried about your kids communicating with strangers or being exposed to bad language or crude drawings, keep in mind that Nintendo does censor these things, or if you like, you can use Parental Controls to make that part of the system inaccessible to your kids. Overall, the Miiverse is brilliant and really addicting. I find myself posting to it quite frequently as I make my way through Zombi U. Also, the number of artistic people on there is amazing. Some of the drawings are stunning. You can “like” any post by clicking the “YEAH!” button and it’ll show how many “Yeahs” that post has gotten, along with small pictures of all the Miis that have liked it. I expect the other consoles to implement something like this very soon as it truly does add to the gaming experience and I can totally see this becoming the new standard across all platforms.
A couple other quick notes regarding the built-in software. At any time you can see which friends are online and what they’re playing. There’s an Internet browser that works quite well from what I’ve seen. In typical Nintendo fashion they’ve added the ability to block the TV view with a curtain so other people in the room can’t see what you’re about to show them. It’s a very quirky idea and probably not one that will be used all that often, but it’s kind of fun to mess with. The eShop is available from the get-go and it’s very easy to navigate. It has a search function as well as a button at the bottom of the page that lets you browse all of the software available for the Wii U. Many retail games are available for download, but you’ll want to invest in an external USB hard drive if you’re going completely digital since many games will take up gigs and gigs of information. Smaller Indie games are already available on the service, with more scheduled to come out prior to the end of the year. So far no demos and no virtual console games are up. Wii U Chat is a video chat program where you can call people on your Friends List to talk with them live. It works surprisingly well with way better video quality than PS3 or 360. However, the implementation leaves much to be desired as the person receiving the video call must immediately exit whatever game they’re playing without saving. Nintendo has hinted that an update will be coming that will allow us to suspend the game and enter the video chat. Once this happens it will be a great way to talk with your friends.
These impressions are getting long in the tooth, so a few other random snippets. You can transfer your existing Miis from the Wii or the 3DS if you don’t want to have to create all new ones. Some games have Spot Pass (just like 3DS) where you can be notified when updates or new content is available. YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu Plus applications are installed on the system, but aren’t available as of this writing. Netflix instant streaming is available right away. One of the features I was really anticipating, NintendoTvii, was delayed until sometime in December as well.
If you’ve been reading this site over the past 15 years, you’ll know I’m a huge Nintendo fan. I own all of the systems, but I still get the most excited over Nintendo hardware and software. So it will come as no surprise that I love the Wii U so far. Seeing Nintendo games in HD is a dream come true. The GamePad works great (even if it has a short battery life of around 3 to 4 hours) and the hardware seems well designed. I’m looking forward to what the system has to offer with innovative games that use the GamePad in unique ways as well as Nintendo’s stable of franchises making their way to a more powerful console (3D Mario, Zelda, Metroid, F-Zero, Star Fox, etc). While I did have a few hiccups with my launch unit (it’s frozen on me twice and it’s given me disc read errors 3 times), I’m hopeful these small bugs will be squashed with more system updates. I’m loving New Super Mario Bros. U and ZombiU. They are my 2 favorite games on the system so far, with a close third going to Sonic Racing Transformed. I've also played Tank! Tank! Tank!, Tekken Tag 2, Nintendo Land, Scribblenauts, Batman Arkham City, Darksiders 2, and Assassin’s Creed 3. We will be updating the site with reviews of these games, and more in the very near future.