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A Wii U review from a Wii hater

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Wii U


Perhaps “hater” is a bit strong, but it is true, I never had much affection for Nintendo’s white, waggle machine. I guess my main problem was that the Wii simply couldn't fulfill its panoply of drunken promises. The motion controls weren't terribly immersive, and before the MotionPlus, they weren’t very accurate. The system’s hardware was outdated before it even came out. Most of the games were garbage, and the ones that weren't belonged to a series of increasingly stagnating franchises. As a core gamer, there just wasn't much there for me. Despite all the Wii’s failures, when the Wii U came out, I ran out and bought one. I’ve had it for a while now, and here’s what I think.

My first impression of the Wii U post-unboxing, was how understated it is. Nintendo’s consoles have always had a lot of visual panache, I mean the GameCube was purple for god’s sake, but the Wii U is just a black… ovaloid with a couple of lights on the front. It’s gorgeous, for what’s its worth, and so is the new controller. The Wii U gamepad looks like an Android tablet with some the junk in the trunk, but surprisingly it fits an adult’s hands quite well. That fact alone, the fact that the gamepad was designed for an adult, was the first sign that, perhaps, this time will be different.

The most notable improvement in the core functionality of the Wii U over its predecessor is the online feature set. The Wii’s online system was, in short, a mess. Playing online with the Friend Code system was like trying to sow with a lawn dart. The WII U has ditched Friend Codes in favor of Nintendo Network IDs, which operate much like Gamertags or PSN IDs. The most charming aspect of the new system has to be the MiiVerse forums. Every game and app comes with a forum that players can post written or drawn comments on. These comments become visible on either the individual forum, or each player’s personal feed. Some of the drawings that people can produce with the Wii U’s relatively primitive paint program are amazing.

While the new online and touch pad are welcome improvements, not all the Wii’s flaws have been worked out of the system. For example, the Wii’s technical inferiority hasn’t been adequately addressed. Upon starting up the system for the first time, I was greeted with a mandatory system update. Only problem is, it took almost four hours, and apparently if it was interrupted for any reason, it may brick the system. Swell. Also, the games all have load times that can grind the action to a halt. This supposedly next-gen system seems to be having a good deal of trouble delivering last-gen content. Speaking of content…

The Wii U’s launch line up was fairly large, 23 games and a legion of legacy content, but only three of the new games are especially instructive. Nintendoland came boxed with the premium SKU of the console, and is likely the most played game on the system at the moment. It is essentially Wii Sports, but with Nintendo themed mini-games. All the “attractions” control well, and do a good job showing off the Wii MotionPlus and gamepad, the experiences aren’t complete. ZombiU is meant to be the “mature” launch title, but it’s a bit shallow and the gamepad features are gimmicky. Last, and probably least, is New Super Mario Bros. U, which is a… new Mario game, I guess. Have you played one recently? Then you’ve played this one already.

The Wii U hasn’t taken the world by storm like the original Wii did, which is a shame since it is demonstrably a better console. It may have some technical issues, and no killer app, but it has something that the Wii never had, consistency. The gamepad and MotionPlus controllers function as advertised. The gamepad reproduces my drawings perfectly, and the Wii MotionPlus can track my movements 1 to 1. The Wii U isn’t there yet, but it will be one day. Check it out.