A Week with the Wii U

I got a Wii U Deluxe on launch day. Sales have been mixed, and so has the reception. I figure jotting down a few notes about Nintendo’s latest console is a cheap way to get a quick blog post done. As opposed to some of the more scholarly articles about this controversial console, let’s just do some bullet points.

  • The Wii U as a concept is ridiculous. It’s a tablet, but the guts of it sit under your TV. The console transmits video to the dumb-terminal GamePad, thus you can only use it within 30 feet or so of your console. This is despite one of the big features being the ability to play games on the tablet instead of using the TV. If you taped the Wii U console to the back of the GamePad and got a really long extension cord, it would be kind of like a tablet, I guess. Or…you could just get an iPad.

  • Dual Screen is distracting. In many cases a dual screen interface is more annoying than innovative. Many Wii U games don’t seem to have thought it through. Having to constantly look up, then down, then up, then down during the course of a game is irritating. Perhaps later games will find a more natural way to use this interface.

  • The load times are ABSURD. Nearly every single system menu you cycle through on the Wii U takes 15-30 seconds to load. This makes the Wii U interface almost entirely unusable. I can tell Nintendo is keenly aware of this problem, because instead of fixing it they play theme music while the loading wheel spins and spins. I’d invest in some better engineers instead of composers.

  • Wii support is sub standard. First, you have to boot the Wii U. Then you have to select Wii mode and watch it boot again. The Wii U makes a sound like a little elf in the box pushes the Wii U chipset out of the way and attaches a dusty old Wii motherboard to the video-out. Which probably isn’t too much of an exaggeration. At the very least, make it boot automatically in Wii mode if you power the console on from a Wiimote.

  • The Miiverse is brilliant. When playing games I usually have my iPad open to a Wiki or GameFAQs looking for clues and solutions. Nintendo captures all of this traffic in their own ecosystem with Miiverse–a Twitter-like message board featuring micro posts in both text and sketch form. If you’re stuck in a game, just hit the home button and browse the Miiverse to see if anyone has figured it out. Miiverse needs to be a bit more organized, but it’s a great start.

  • ZombiU is a close contender for game of the year. Seriously. With Resident Evil 6 face-planting, there’s a new king of survival horror. I truly don’t get the negative reviews. Perhaps the writers were expecting a different kind of game. ZombiU is, as others have said, is a blend of classic Resident Evil and Dark Souls. At first I found the dual screen interface annoying. Later I realized having to look down at your inventory while zombies lurk in the shadows adds a sense of panic. The game is dark, tense, and beautiful. ZombiU is one of the most interesting designs of the year and a game of astounding quality, especially considering it’s a launch title.

Overall the Wii U is an unimpressive package. It’s nice to finally get a Wii that supports HDMI–and ZombiU is a triumph. However, the 2013 slate doesn’t look like many Wii U games of that quality are on the horizon.

2 thoughts on “A Week with the Wii U

  1. Sometimes the “new and improved” version of a product really doesn’t live up to claim. The Wii U falls into that category, and most people will stay with proven version of the Wii.

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