After getting my hands on Nintendo’s latest hardware at NYCC I wasn’t planning on buying it, but being the technophile that I am, the new shiny precious was calling. For those not in the know, the Wii U is basically the Wii 2. It’s backwards compatible with all of your Wii controllers, and games, but it adds a new touchscreen tablet, and HD graphics. I’m pretty sure my Wii U will get way more use than my Wii has, which I’ve used on average once a year since launch 6 years ago.
The Wii U comes in two varieties. The Basic Wii U is white and has 8GB of storage, while the Deluxe Wii U is black and has 32GB of storage, and comes with the game Nintendo Land. You can connect up an external USB hard drive to expand your system’s memory. You can also use a USB stick, though Nintendo doesn’t recommend using them. I think they even disable you from downloading games to USB sticks and will only allow you to download them to hard drives. The Wii U will support up to 2TB on an external drive so you should be able to expand without a problem. The only bad thing about is the Wii will format the hard drive to something only the Wii U can read. If you want to use that hard drive on a PC you would have to format it again. There is an SD card which will be used for old Wii information.
When you first get the Wii U, don’t plan on playing it right away. There is a launch day update that takes up a while to download even on the fastest of connections. I’ve heard of times ranging from 45 minutes to an hour and 45 minutes. Personally it took me 45 minutes to do the download, and then another 9 minutes to do the install. The Wii U only has Wi-Fi support, so don’t plan on using Ethernet. The update is fairly large which is an issue because the 8GB Wii U will only have about 3GB left usable after the update is complete. Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U are about 3 GB so you would only be able to download one of those games from the eShop.
Right now several of the launch titles are available to download from Nintendo’s eShop where you can pay retail price to download the game and forgo a physical copy. I like digital, but I believe I shouldn’t have to pay full price for it. If Nintendo makes a game like Nintendo Land, and sells it in Best Buy for $60, that’s one thing. Best Buy gets their cut, and Nintendo had to pay for shipping and packaging. It doesn’t make sense that the same game should cost $60 if I download it online when Nintendo is the retailer, and there isn’t any packaging. Aside from full price retail games the eShop also has the equivalent to Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) games that they are calling Indie Games. These games so far range in price from $9.95 to $19.95. Most of which are ports from 3DS games with better graphics for the Wii U.
After you finally get everything up and running you will be presented with a Wii/3DS like Menu system on the tablet, while the TV will something a bit more modern and circular in a Mii Plaza. Unfortunately not all of the items are completely mimicked on both screens so finding what you are looking for can be a problem. You can flip the menus so that the more modern one appears on the tablet while the old school version appears on the TV. If you have a Wii remote you can control the actions happening on your TV which includes interacting with various Mii’s.
On the main classic menu there are several apps that just don’t work yet including Hulu, Amazon Prime, and YouTube. There isn’t a specific date that these apps will be released, but so far Nintendo is claiming December. I think it’s a mistake to have so many apps on your main screen that just aren’t usable yet.
Thankfully Netflix is there to hold down the fort until the other apps are working. This version of Netflix might be the best version yet on any platform. You choose what you want to watch via the tablets touch screen. Once chosen, the info about the show will stay on the tablet while the show plays on the TV. You can use your finger on the tablet like you would a mouse if you need to jump ahead in the show you’re watching. Most importantly you can swap screens instantly, and watch the show on the tablet instead, with the audio coming out of the tablet speakers or through the headphone jack.
The web browser is also surprisingly good from what I’ve tried so far. It’s a tad bit slow, but not bad. Videos played on YouTube without a problem. By default your tablet is the main screen when browsing, and your TV is hiding what you’re browsing for privacy. You can easily change that instantly to display what you’re browsing on the TV as well.
The tablet is the centerpiece of the console, and for the most part it does a pretty good job with being responsive, and lag free. It feels a bit cheap like a kid’s toy, but it doesn’t act like one. If I had any complaints about it, I would have to place them on the glossy finish which starts to look disgusting quickly, and the charging. The tablet can’t be connected to the system for charging. It has its own power supply which has to be plugged into a separate power source. To add insult to injury, the tablet’s power port is shaped like a USB plug, but it isn’t. If the Tablet could be charged via USB like EVERY OTHER TABLET EVER it wouldn’t be so bad.
Later this week I’ll complete my review with part 2 where I will get into gaming, friends lists, backwards compatibility and multi-player. If you have any questions that you want to see covered feel free to ask, and I’ll try to accommodate.