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Stewart: Wii U console review

BY SAM STEWART | NOVEMBER 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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Price: $299.99-$349.99
Released: November 18th, 2012
Developed by: Nintendo

For the last six years, Nintendo has been known for having the system that was different, for better or worse. Wii was the first video-game system to fully embrace motion-control technology, which helped it get the attention of the mass market while simultaneously alienating the core crowd. Love it or hate it, Wii has always been the go-to place for unique experiences not possible on other consoles. While Sony and Microsoft have spent the last few years playing catch-up with their own forays into motion gaming, Nintendo has developed a new way to play in hopes to recapture the hearts of the core gamers. With more power, HD graphics, better online capabilities, and a unique controller, Wii U has potential to provide great new ideas alongside traditional ones, and become a system that everyone can enjoy.

In the box

There are two different Wii U bundles available. For $299.99, you can get a white 8-GB Wii U with everything you need to get yourself started. For only $50 more, you can get a deluxe model that comes with a black 32-GB Wii U, a copy of Nintendo Land (a $60 game), and a few other knickknacks, such as a stand for the console. The 8-GB and 32-GB hard drives are painfully small for a game system, but Wii U supports the use of most USB drives, SD cards, and external hard drives for your save data and downloads.

Regardless of the bundle, inside the box you will find the system, a GamePad controller, power cords, a sensor bar, and an HDMI rather than component cables this time around. Your Wii component cables will work if you have them, as will your old sensor bar, Wii remotes, and Wii games. The system is backwards compatible, and you can transfer your save files and purchases from your Wii with an SD memory card. Wii U is slightly bigger than Wii but still smaller than the Xbox S and PlayStation 3 Slim. The GamePad controller is much bigger than a traditional controller but surprisingly light. It also has a 6.2 inch resistive touch screen, similar to the ones on the Nintendo DS systems.

Gaming

The GamePad is the big selling point of this new system, though it won’t feel unique to anyone who has played a DS (Wii U GamePad even comes with a large stylus). That doesn’t mean they are the same, and games such as Nintendo Land have shown me that this dual screen idea still has some untapped potential. The screen makes navigating menus, surfing the web, and perusing the eShop simple, just as any tablet does. It isn’t until you start playing games that the value of that second screen becomes obvious.

Many games have used the second screen as a placeholder for maps and other icons that clutter the main screen, but many games have taken more creative approaches. In Nintendo Land, two players can both have their own screens while playing competitively. In Call of Duty, two players can do the same cooperatively. Many games even allow you to play entirely on the GamePad, freeing up your TV for someone else to use as long as the system is on. The GamePad display is not HD quality, but the difference is hardly noticeable on the smaller screen. This may sound like the Wii U GamePad is just another handheld system, but the controller must stay in range of the console to be effective.

The range isn’t very big, but while playing at my house, I was able to walk two rooms away and continue playing. As for general play, the large controller and different button layout are strange at first, but I had no trouble adapting after a few hours of play. It has just as many buttons and joysticks as an Xbox or PlayStation 3 controller and is comfortable to hold. Sadly, its battery only lasts for around three hours before needing to be charged.

Apps

The games are the most important part of any new system, but being a multimedia device is becoming increasingly important as well. On this front, Wii U delivers but not all the way. Netflix, Hulu, and other services are all available, but some announced features still are not, such as the new TVii feature. The GamePad can be used as a universal remote to control your TV, and along with that is the new TVii app that allocates all of your TV apps (including your cable) into one so you can browse them all at once. A great idea, but it wasn’t ready for launch, instead being pushed back to December.

Nintendo’s experimental social networking app Miiverse was ready at launch and is one of the systems most interesting features. Sort of like a Twitter for games, you can use it to post your thoughts on games while playing them and leave notes for other players to read.

Overall

Much like Wii, Wii U is hoping to show us something new, and in that regard it mostly succeeds. Despite some early issues, including a day-one online update, the system has had a strong start with quite a few great games. If you are dedicated Xbox Live gamer looking for a new online platform, Wii U isn’t there yet, and it may never be. But if you are looking for something all new, something unique in the same way that Wii is, Wii U is the new must-buy.


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