The original Wii system by Nintendo launched on November 19th, 2006 as a direct competitor to the Xbox 360 and PS3. It touted move integration with the use of its Nunchuk, Wii Remote, and sensor bar to get gamers to feel more like a part of the games they were playing. While still successful and very popular with younger kids and families it lacked the HD graphics and options some next gen consoles had… until now.
I’m not a fan boy for Nintendo, but when I was given my Wii U Deluxe set from my wife I was still super stoked. I’d heard a lot of mixed reviews. I’ll give you my initial impression of the hardware and how I think it stacks up. I’m a gaming veteran who’s tested hardware/software, worked tech support, sold systems, and owned all the next gen consoles. I know my stuff. I went in already hearing the Microsoft and Sony boys puffing up and beating their chests, talking about how it will never be as good as “insert console,” blah, blah, blah.
Now the first thing I noticed is that this beast loves electricity. Not only does the main console have a good-sized power brick, so does the Wii U controller. It plugs directly into the controller (with a decent length cord) or into a charging dock you can purchase (or comes with the deluxe set). I would recommend a decent surge protector and just plug them both in. Thankfully, you can charge the controller while you set the console up. A nice perk is that the system comes with an HDMI cable that makes calibrating the video a snap if you have a high definition television with an HDMI input. Once I had the power plugged in and the HDMI jacked in, I turned it on. Now for the sake of the review I’m not going into the reverse compatibility for the Wii and the components used to play original Wii games. It has a sensor bar and can use Wii remotes from the original Wii system.
The console is fairly large as far as it’s length. To put it into perspective, take 2.5 Wiis end to end and that’s roughly the size of the console. With that being said, it’s quiet, really quiet. It’s a bit louder than your normal Wii, but when put next to the jet engine of a 360 or the high-pitched whine of a PS3, it simply hums.
Now I was put off initially when I first saw the controller on all of the TV spots and demos. It looked massive and I have mongo Donkey Kong hands. When I picked up the controller to sync it with the console after turning the power on (just a push of a button) I thought maybe it was missing parts. I was floored by how light and ergonomic the controller fit in my hands. I called my 7-year-old daughter to try it out and she had no issues at all using the controller.
The screen located in the center of the remote is very bright and can be adjusted via the settings in the menu. The touch screen is fairly scratch-resistant and is very responsive as far as tactile interfaces go. There’s a front-facing camera and, on the very top, there’s a notch for a stylus. The controller layout is the typical next gen fare with four trigger buttons, XYAB face buttons, start and select, d-pad, and two analog sticks. You can adjust rumble and screen brightness to conserve power as far the battery is concerned. Now, the manual says fully charged, the controller lasts about 3.5 hours. I’d say closer to 5.5, but that’s because I knocked the brightness down from solar eclipse retina burn to something a little less… blinding. Once I tweaked the brightness and adjusted the volume and rumble setting, it chugged along for hours without even a battery warning. It’s pretty and the graphics are amazing. Scribblenauts and Zombie U look fantastic and the HD is a welcome sight for a Nintendo console.
After getting everything paired and powered-up, we got started with the network setup. The Wii U handles things wirelessly and is a snap to set up. Scan networks, enter password, done. Sweet, all we have to do is run the initial system update…
This is the longest update in the history of updates. I don’t know exactly what it was for, or how Nintendo handles downloads, but damn. It’s like the update time forgot. In my opinion, that was the worst part of the set up. At one point I almost quit out since there was zero progress and my daughter and I were getting bored. It was an exercise in patience, but 1.5 hours later we were ready to create our Nintendo profile and Mii’s.
Setting up profiles and Mii’s is just like on the Wii, except the front-facing camera can be used to design your personal Mii. Just take a picture of your face with the front facing camera and the system will generate a Mii based on your facial features and what not. The main menu has community options, Hulu, YouTube, and Netflix integration.
All in all, I’m impressed with the Wii U and the games I’ve tried so far. There are some issues with network connectivity for downloads/updates, some freezing issues with the controller screen (simply reboot controller), and I think some of the menu options need to be simplified, but over all, this is an excellent system that should not be underestimated. With exclusives like Bayonetta 2, Zombie U, and the new Super Mario games, the Wii U is on a collision course with the 360 and PS3 as far as next gen superiority. May the best console win.