I was lucky enough to get a Wii U last week thanks to a surprise from my wife so here are my early impressions of the system & the games I have.
The system takes quite a bit of time to get fully setup. First, you need to plug in the Gamepad and let it charge (takes about 2 hours). While it was doing that, I went ahead and got the system itself plugged in and hooked up to the TV. This part was almost identical to setting up a Wii – in fact, the Wii U uses a regular Wii sensor bar for the motion controllers. I did greatly appreciate that the system came with an HDMI cable and I didn’t need to buy one separately like you need to do with the 360 & PS3. Once the system is plugged in and the gamepad has finished charging, you turn on the system and then slowly start filling out information in the Wii U’s setup menus. The system wouldn’t autodetect my wireless info so I had to go look up that information and manually enter it; surprising since the regular Wii autodetected just fine. After you’re done with all this (and it takes longer than it should because the Wii’s system menus are sooooo slow), then there was a day 1 patch that took about an hour to download and install. After that, if you want, you can download the program to switch your saves & data from the original Wii to the Wii U (which takes about 30-60 minutes and features a surprisingly intricate Pikmin video while you’re doing it). Then when you’re done with all this, you need to download a patch for whatever game you’re playing, although at least these were only a few minutes.
So, approximately 4-6 hours after you unboxed the thing, you finally get a chance to play games on it! But before I talk about the games, let’s talk about the defining feature of the system – the gamepad! It’s noticeably heavier than any game controller or portable system I can remember but despite the weight, it’s pretty comfortable. The screen isn’t as high quality as the most recent iPad or the Vita but it’s good enough. Likewise, the touch controls require more force than the iPad or Vita to register if you’re using your fingers but you get used to it. At the default setting, the battery life only lasts about 3 hours although if you mess with the settings you can make it last a little longer. In any case, you definitely want to be charging the gamepad whenever it’s not in active use. The range on the gamepad isn’t great – it’s fine when you’re playing it in front of the TV but don’t expect to be playing it in any room of the house.
By far the coolest feature with the gamepad IMO is one that I haven’t heard much buzz about – there’s a headphone jack! Most of my TV time is after the kids are in bed so to be able to turn off the volume on the TV and listen to the music through headphones is fantastic.
Now for the games!
My wife, my sister (who was in town for Thanksgiving), and I gave Nintendoland a try and we weren’t impressed. It wasn’t horrible or anything but in the end, the overriding thought in my mind was that we would have had more fun if we had just pulled out Wii Sports or Warioware. Admittedly, we didn’t try all of the games but after playing the Mario chase game, the Metroid shooting game, and the competition mode for some of the 1 player games, we were getting bored so we quit. The Mario chase game was kind of fun (but seemed very unbalanced in favor of Mario if you weren’t playing with the maximum number of players) but the mini-games for stuff like Metroid & F-Zero just made me wonder why I was wasting my time with dumbed down mini-game versions of these great series and not playing an actual Metroid or F-Zero game. I’d go ahead and sell it if I thought the resell value was going to be any good but I expect a lot of people are going to be trying to sell this one ASAP. Luckily, I’ve been greatly enjoying the other games we picked up with the system.
I’ll confess that I wasn’t a big fan of NSMB Wii so I was greatly surprised at how much I’ve been enjoying NSMB U. The controls feel tighter, the graphics are obviously much improved, but most importantly, the levels feel much better designed. I’m a big fan of how they handled the world map this time around (very reminiscent of Super Mario World) and am an even bigger fan of the non-story modes they’ve thrown in where you have to complete various challenges in a time limit like collecting all the coins or reaching the goal without touching the ground. In short, this is one of the best 2D platformers around and I highly recommend it to all new Wii U owners.
Zombi U was the other game I picked up with the system and I haven’t been disappointed yet. It’s a little rough around the edges – the melee attack gets repetitive and the monster visuals look weak compared to the environments – but other than a few minor complaints, Zombi U is a great game. Supplies are limited, 1-hit deaths abound, death actually means something, and having to switch your attention between the TV and the gamepad adds a lot of tension. This is a game I could see actually replaying on the hardcore mode (you die, it’s game over) after I beat the story and seeing how long I can last on a single life. If you’re looking for a high-speed shooter, stay far away, but if you’re looking for survival horror, this looks to be the best game in the genre since Amnesia & Siren Blood Curse.
All in all, I’ve been greatly enjoying the system and look forward to more games coming out – in particular, Monster Hunter (which I’ve never played before) and The Wonderful 101. I’ll probably also pick up the new Sonic & Sega racing game once it gets patched (I hear the day 1 Wii patch really broke the game).