When Nintendo first showed off the Wii U, I’ll be honest: I was really on the fence. While their new device promised better graphics and a new way to play, I wondered if they would also change their way of implementing internet connectivity; I also wondered if the new controller would be appealing to everyone in the massive niche that they carved out with the release of the Wii. At every event, the new device grew on me; and while it is not perfect, I think it’s a step in the right direction.
My aim with this post is to talk about my general experience with the new gaming device, addressing both the cool stuff, and the not-so-cool stuff.
One of the first things that I noticed about the Wii U as a platform was that it was definitely a social machine. The concept behind Miis has been elevated to a whole new level from the previous hardware. From the get-go, the user is encouraged to share their experiences in the MiiVerse (think of it as a Mii-driven Twitter). Messages are delivered instantly to the MiiVerse and make it to home screens all over the world. I know that I have seen some of Ricky’s posts on my main screen – most cool.
Sadly, the fact that this function uses the internet shines a bit of a spotlight on internet connectivity issues. The Wii U comes with no wired port, relying entirely on wireless connectivity. I found that the connection was fairly unreliable; I would have to make three attempts to connect – each session. Setting up my Wii U and transferring files over from the Wii took longer than it should have due to the strange dance that I would have to do every time I needed to access the internet – for both machines. This was odd, especially considering that I had created a static IP for the Wii U on my network. Now, since everything has been transferred over (and the Wii has been retired), I have noticed that my connection has been far more reliable – but I can’t explain why, since both devices were nowhere near each other when I was setting them up (ie: no interference). All I can say about this is that it would have been nice to have a wired connection for the internet – especially since I happen to have a switch right next to my TV for all of my other electronics.
Some of the new ways to play are a lot of fun!
One of the biggest (and most obvious additions) to the platform is the GamePad. With its large touch-screen and array of buttons and sticks, it is a catch-all interface method. The quality of the graphics seems to be much better than on the display models I played with back at the Nintendo post-E3 event. What I love about the controller is the creative use of the touch-screen as well as the responsiveness of the controls. For the most part, things are within easy reach – but this is me: a guy with big mitts. I wonder how people with smaller hands will fare? I noticed during my play-time with Ninja Gaiden that my hands (particularly my left one) would cramp up. To be fair, it is still too early to tell if this is something that people will get used to*, especially since that was the only game in which I had that particular problem – so this isn’t really a beef.
What is troublesome, though, is that I can’t seem to play with the GamePad outside of the room that my Wii U is in. I have read in various places that up to 24 feet is the magic number for “best performance”. However, I have been in an adjacent room and suffered a spotty connection** which was a bit disappointing. I suppose if Mrs. Thumbs wants the TV to watch her stories I’ll have to break out the ol’ headphones and hang out on the couch in the same room – which really isn’t a bad thing.
Family oriented games? Yes. Not-so-family-oriented games? Also yes.
So really, aside from two valid gripes, practically everything else is solid. Like the Wii before it, the Wii U is geared towards making fun easy and accessible. After that, though, there are a lot more points to consider grabbing yourself a Wii U. For one thing, the graphics and sound are definitely much more appealing than the previous hardware iteration. Every game that I have played on it so far is easy on the eyes and the ears. The added function of the GamePad makes things a lot more interesting than a standard controller. I secretly home that someone makes a Dungeons & Dragons type of game where the Dungeon Master gets to use the GamePad while everyone else gets the Wii-Motes and Nunchuks.
Also, there are some great services available (YouTube, NetFlix, etc.), as well as some more on the way. Nintendo is definitely trying very hard to make an all-in-one entertainment solution.
I’m looking forward to seeing how this does and what other neat things come out for it. What about you folks? Care to share your experiences so far? Drop some words in the comments!