Wii U and Mii: Impressions
You may have heard, perhaps even from me while reminiscing about its predecessor, that Nintendo’s Wii U console launched this past weekend. There are a whole host of reviews and impressions up online, but I decided to wait it out a bit and get to know the console better before putting anything out there. It’s been nearly a week and the system I picked up at midnight from my local Walmart is not the same system that’s sitting next to my Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Updates have been applied, video streaming services are now live and my Wii U is constantly bustling with random Miis from all over!
To see a Nintendo console evolve like this in the course of under 7 days is truly odd–but a great sign for what’s to come. You see, this time Nintendo’s learned from many of its past mistakes, leading to a console that, quite honestly, surprises and delights in many ways — even before you focus on that bizarre GamePad controller.
By far, the standout feature of Wii U is Miiverse. The strides that Nintendo’s made in the realm of online interaction mimics the best features of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to connect with communities based on your favorite titles. At first, this may seem a bit superfluous for a gaming console but in practice it’s just so damn charming that you can’t help but fall in love. Where else can I see Miis gathering to talk about various games and then dancing and butt-bumping together? Nowhere, and that is a travesty.
With Miiverse, I get the feeling that Nintendo’s been thinking a lot about multiplayer experiences and the social aspect of getting a group of friends together with Smash Bros. In some ways, Miiverse feels a bit more intimate than other online spaces. Its not quite the same as couch-multiplayer, but it straddles a line between the two and for somebody like me who enjoys getting friends in a room to play, this blurring is welcome. Miiverse has a lot of promise and I’m excited to see what 3rd party developers do with it in time. I can only hope Microsoft and Sony take notice for their fancy new machines.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Wii U Impressions article without talking about that funky GamePad. The first thing you’ll notice when picking it up is the weight — it’s incredibly light! Those who are worried about long gameplay sessions getting tiresome due to the size, fear not. In fact, several of the minigames in NintendoLand require you to hold the GamePad vertically in one hand, which isn’t a problem at all. Nintendo’s designers have always been great at making a controller that feels right even when it looks weird (a la the Nintendo 64’s… thing) and that’s no different here.
In each game, the GamePad takes on a different function. Outside of the varied minigames, NintendoLand displays what’s on the screen with added gyroscope control to look around the theme park’s plaza, while New Super Mario Bros. U is simply streamed to the GamePad, with the added function of placing platforms — so long as you’re either playing with a Wii Remote or there’s another player. ZombiU is perhaps the most intriguing of all the launch games, really showcasing how the GamePad can change the way otherwise more “traditional” games are experienced. The GamePad takes on the role of map, radar dish, inventory system, an augmented-reality like scanning system and even more.
With so many features sent to the GamePad, it’s no wonder Nintendo focused on making it look crisp and sharp. Colors are wonderfully displayed, and in Super Mario Bros U’s case, games almost look as fantastic as they do on the television. The touchscreen aspects of the controller are quite responsive as well. From Takamaru’s Ninja Castle to New Super Mario Bros. U’s Boost Mode to deploying sonar in ZombiU, it performs its job well with only slight pressure and you won’t need to press hard on the screen to get it to register what you want.
In a stroke of sheer genius, Nintendo’s made the GamePad capable of turning on your television and cable box as well as the Wii U itself. At first this feature doesn’t seem like a big deal, but after using the system for this long I no longer use my TV’s actual remote. This is a big deal and a huge win for Nintendo. Accessibility and convenience are king and getting consumers to pick up your controller to do everyday things is almost downright diabolical. I’ve reached for my GamePad to turn on the local news only to find myself thinking “Well, how about a quick game of Pikmin’s Adventure, instead?” Evil genius at its finest, folks.
Of course, the system isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. With as many steps forward as Nintendo’s taken, in some areas they’ve taken only a half step–particularly with the advent of their User Accounts. Currently accounts are tied to a Nintendo Network ID, but that NinNet ID and account are also tied to only the particular system they were created on. I have no doubt in the future this will change, but the entire thing is somewhat astounding. There’s no reason that this should even have to be changed.
The Wii U’s OS occasionally feels slow, with certain apps taking their time to load. Exiting to the main menu too, at times, can take longer than it seemingly should. However, these slowdowns are inconsistent. Sometimes the system feels quite fast! Again, I have a feeling Nintendo will address this sooner rather than later, but it does currently hurt the overall presentation just a bit.
The Wii was a console for people who liked the idea of playing games, but were too intimidated by past consoles and complicated controllers. The Wii U, on the other hand, is for people who love playing games–not just the idea. The GamePad is proof of that, opening up new avenues of play. Even the ability to sit back and play without the need for the television can drastically change the gaming dynamic in your household. It’s a little change with big repercussions, something that holds true throughout the console. The Wii U is a system comprised of little changes, coming together to create something truly worthwhile.
Now when is Super Smash Bros. U coming out?