Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Pros and Cons of the Wii U: From A New Owner's Perspective

I have now officially owned a Wii U for three days. It has been an eventful and arduous journey, but my wounds have healed and my hands are free of blisters.

In all seriousness, the Wii U is the first home console of the eighth generation of gaming hardware, and it is the newest gaming hardware edition to the SuperPhillip family. There are many aspects of the Wii U that I adore, but at that same token, there are many aspects of the Wii U that I abhor. This written piece is a pro and con list from the viewpoint of someone who is new to the Wii U. From the innovative controller to the future lineup, this is what I like and dislike about my shining new Deluxe Wii U.


-CONS-

- Initial Update: Or, Update Me on When I Can Finally Play, Nintendo

Let's start with the bad first, shall we? I hate to end on a negative note, after all. We begin with what all new Wii U owners will most likely have to deal with after hooking up their system-- the initial update. Now, the length of the update varies depending on connection speed and other factors. It personally took me just under two hours, and I have a satisfactory connection. However, I have heard horror stories of updates taking up to five hours. Throw in the idea of unknowing users powering off their systems mid-update, which is an absolute no-no in firmware updating, and the problem becomes even more troubling.


The update that every Wii U owner needs to install does a myriad of online functions such as the ability to create a Nintendo Network ID, installing new features like Miiverse (more on that later), the Nintendo eShop, the friends list, Wii U Chat, the Internet Browser, and there's a lot more where that comes from. Thus, it is a necessary evil that all of that gets installed. It's apparent that the Wii U systems were manufactured long before these aforementioned features were fully realized, so that is why the update is so large.

- Hardware Problems: Or, Problems With the Hardware

Someone actually, with a straight face, said to me that the Wii U was so weak that Nintendo should scrap the console in two years and release a successor. I didn't call the person stupid or anything, but I gave him that look. You know, the one where you look like you're squinting at the guy and your mouth is open. Your face is basically saying it cannot believe he just said that either.

Anyway, the modest graphical power of the Wii U does not really bother me. I mean, I am amazed that current generation games can run on a little GamePad's screen. That is really cool to me. It doesn't make sense for Nintendo to try to go head to head in power with Microsoft or Sony either. It tried that with the GameCube, and it failed (it wasn't the only reason, but you know what I mean). Nintendo has successfully carved out its own niche, and I think it needs to continue to do that.

Regardless, there were other problems associated with the hardware from a technical perspective-- countless reports of hardware freezes, and the operating system of the console is still rather slow. I am uncertain whether the former issue has been resolved yet or not. If someone who has experienced such issues in the past would let me know, I would really appreciate it. In any case, the hardware as a whole is a somewhat troublesome issue.

2013 Is Barren: Or, How Nintendo Is Keeping Its Cards Too Close To Its Chest

Nintendo has opted for an altered strategy concerning their release dates and the announcements of new games. To avoid incidents like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, it has decided to not announce a game until it is far enough in development-- sometimes near completion. This can be a good thing in the sense that a given game is not subject to over-hype by the gaming populace and turns out to be a disappoint. It is a bad thing because it makes the future of Nintendo's systems look barren and uncertain.

Nintendo is happy to give us a bone now and then with the official announcement of Pikmin 3 at last E3. This game goes against that strategy I was talking about, as it is in the further future. Another title that goes against that strategy is The Wonderful 101. Meanwhile, games like LEGO City Undercover, Wii Fit U, and Game & Wario are coming out rather soon.


This strategy bit Nintendo in the butt rather hard. The company said it was building up strong relations with many third-parties. When little word was coming out of future games for the Wii U, many believed it was because of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). However, when the sizzle reel was released of upcoming third-party titles, a bitter pill was swallowed by fans claiming Nintendo was hiding the good stuff with all of its secrecy. There basically was no good stuff to be found.

Now don't get me wrong. I am sure there is plenty of "good stuff" coming for myself and others as Wii U owners. I jumped in (forgive me for stealing the Xbox brand slogan there) to the Wii U full well knowing that the release list was dry after launch. I have Rayman Legends and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate to look forward to and hopefully Nintendo has a lot more that they are getting ready to astound the gaming world with, as they are wont to do. Let's just hope that stuff comes down the pipeline sooner rather than later.

- Sixty Dollar Games: Or, What Am I, Donald Trump Here?

Well, no, because my hair isn't that questionable. Regardless, while I am on the subject of games, it was an inevitability that Wii U games would get the "next gen" selling price of sixty smackeroons. Why would Nintendo want to isolate third-parties even more by keeping its game prices at a solid fifty? All it means to me is that I cannot buy as many games as I did on the Wii, which was admittedly a lot (underrated system, that was). It also means that I have to much more careful on my purchases. Getting burned by a sixty dollar game hurts far more than getting burned by a forty or fifty dollar one. I get a moment of repose, however, by seeing Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed have a forty dollar price tag at release. (By the by, if you have not checked out that game out, you are doing a disservice to yourself.) Could we see more budget-priced software on Wii U? I certainly hope so!

-PROS-

- The Controller

My first experience with the Wii U GamePad was at my local Best Buy. (You folks in the industry don't have your product demos at Best Buys? Well, I'll be.) I did not think that much of the GamePad in a gameplay sense. Sure, the resolution and visuals were sharp on the GamePad's big screen, but I had trouble with the gyro-controlled sections of the Rayman Legends demo. Now that I have the GamePad in my possession and have spent a good amount of time with it, I can say that it does impress. In fact, it impresses big time.

I love the ergonomics of the controller. It is not overly hefty as one might expect. I have piano player fingers, and mine can easily fit around the good-sized GamePad. Holding the controller just feels right. It feels great in my hands.

I feared that sense the GamePad was glossy, it would get a lot of unsightly fingerprints on it, especially with my Deluxe Black Wii U GamePad. This, however, isn't as bad as I thought it would be. You can see fingerprints on it, but only on the front and only from close range. The back of the controller is entirely a matte finish. Now, where was this on my Nintendo 3DS, I wonder.


The GamePad's touch screen can only read one mark, swipe, touch, etc. at a time. This is a bummer as I know Apple and other tablet designers have made the thought of such technology seem prehistoric. Still, the screen is clear, crisp, and it looks exquisite. I love just wasting time doodling gibberish words and ugly stick figure men/women.

Without a doubt one of the coolest features is the ability of some games to be played entirely on the GamePad while the television screen is used for something else entirely. Perhaps you could run through the Soda Jungle world of New Super Mario Bros. U while keeping up to date on the big game. Yes, the big game-- that pinochle world championship. ...That isn't what you guys watch? Never mind.

Regardless, the Wii U GamePad offers something that I didn't feel was really explained well by Nintendo-- asymmetrical gameplay. This is most prevalent in Nintendo Land, a title that has truly surpassed my rather high expectations. One great example of this is in the Animal Crossing: Sweet Day attraction of the game. In this, one side of the game is trying to retrieve 15 fruits and take them to a safe spot. These players use Wii Remotes and look at the TV screen. Meanwhile, the player using the Wii U GamePad controls two armed guards, and his or her job is to utilize both analog sticks (one controlling each guard) to tackle the fruit gatherers three times. Two different vantage points are being seen, one on the TV screen and one of the Wii U GamePad. This is what asymmetrical gameplay is all about, and Nintendo Land showcases it brilliantly. It's something that the Wii U does the best, and it should do it the best when the console's focus is built on the GamePad's unique features.


- Fun Launch Lineup

I talked about how the future release schedule looked barren and uncertain. Maybe that is a good thing as the Wii U had so many titles at launch that it is an impossibility to have gotten through them all.

We have Nintendo's home-developed software such as New Super Mario Bros. U, the first new Mario game to launch with hardware in seemingly ages, and Nintendo Land, which comes automatically with Deluxe systems.

New Super Mario Bros. U takes the tried and true 2D Mario series to new heights-- high-definition heights, to be exact. It is the second 2D Mario to allow four players to run and jump through levels together, and the first to allow five players. The fifth player can use the Wii U GamePad to place blocks for everyone else. The GamePad player can even play the entire game by their lonesome on the controller's screen, offering a chance to play NSMBU in the luxury of their bed while watching a Roseanne marathon, for instance. Maybe a certain writer has done that...


Meanwhile, Nintendo Land has seriously astounded me by how good and clever it is. While it is fun in doses by one's self, the game is truly meant to be played in multiplayer. Even with only two people, it is a blast. However, when you can get five friends or family members around the Wii U for some Metroid Blast, Luigi's Ghost Mansion, or Mario Chase, then the true fun begins. I've mentioned a brilliant use of the GamePad above, but it really cannot be emphasized enough.

Then there are third-party offerings like the intense and terrifying ZombiU. There's Batman: Arkham City - Armored Edtion, featuring Wii U-exclusive features and all the DLC from the other versions on the disc for free. There's Assassin's Creed III, Darksiders II, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, Skylanders Giants, and Scribblenauts: Unlimited. Don't forget the download-only games (all retail games can be purchased digitally from eShop) like the gorgeous Trine 2: Director's Cut.


I found myself flabbergasted when I went to the store to pick a game for my new Wii U. The choices are really amazing, offline or on.


- Miiverse and Nintendo's Improved Online

I am absolutely in love with Miiverse. It is so simple of a concept and very Twitter-like. It gives users the opportunity to share all sorts of things-- comments, completed goals, and even old school handwritten notes with any game's community. A game can be suspended while a message is posted (messages are swiftly moderated for appropriateness) and then the player can jump back into their game. Not only is Miiverse available in many games (at least those that are supported), it is of great prominence in the Wii U's system menu.


What I adore about Miiverse is the capability of seeing what other players just like myself (and those completely not like myself) are doing in the games I am playing-- what they're struggling with, what challenge they just overcame, etc. It is also fun to see users express themselves through art, and boy, might I tell you that a lot of that art is amazing. Jeremy Perish has a lot of doodles he has done through Miiverse messages.


Miiverse goes along with the Wii U's online. Compared to the Wii, it is a night and day difference. Gone are those miserable, ill-conceived friend codes that plagued each and every game, and what has replaced them is the NNID, or Nintendo Network ID. You can choose a name, six characters or more, and assign a Mii to it. There the fun ensues. I must admit that I don't ask for the world when it comes to online gaming, but even with that said, the Wii U and Nintendo have gone a long way to impress me with their efforts.

- Fast Internet Browser


Following the online, let's go into something from a similar category. I know what you're thinking-- "So what. I have a computer that already can browse the Internet, and it can do so faster. I use a gaming console for games." Well, yes, Mr. Scrooge, you can. However, I am not like you-- I am a simpleton who gets amazed by the simplest things. For one, being able to browse the Internet on the Wii U GamePad and the TV screen is just stupendous to me. I can view my favorite sites (SuperPhillip Central, SuperPhillip Central, SuperPhillip Central, Amazon, SuperPhillip Central), select and manage bookmarks, and effortlessly zoom and scroll to my heart's content. If you have ever dealt with the Wii or Nintendo 3DS Internet Browser apps, you know how horribly slow and how much they were wastes of time. Now you can get a browser on a Nintendo system that actually works and works well. That is the definition of progress.

===

For you new Wii U owners, are you liking the system? What are your likes and peeves regarding everything Wii U? Let me know in the comments section.

Also, if you wish to add me as a friend, hit me up with a message to my email account, seen in the sidebar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice article.

I just picked up a Wii U for my kids for xmas and they love it, but there are a couple of things which bug me.

The wii backwards compatibility is atrocious in that you have to load in the wii menu, it seems a very clunky way to do it.

The way you cant use the gamepad to actually play normal multiplayer in mario is stupid. The boost idea is fun but there should be an option to just use it as a pad.

The pro controller not having motion sensors is retarded.

Like i said my kids love it but if i had bought it just for myself then i would be frustrsted with it.

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