Nintendo Wii U review of reviews

By Shem Pennant,

The Nintendo Wii was like a firework of its generation of consoles – it burned incredibly brightly and shot up fast and then kind of fell away. Opening up the casual gaming market (the same market that has been such a boon to smartphones) was in many ways a genius move, but certain casual gamer-centric decisions like making the Wii an underpowered, family friendly standard definition console alientated a lot of “hardcore” gamers. The casual nature of casual gaming left a lot of Wiis gathering an awful amount of dust.

Fast-forward six years and the all new Wii U is hitting the shops. Nintendo used to be kings of the console so will their bigger, faster, better offering have enough to wow the crowds back?

Wii U

Kyle Orland over at Ars Technica is pleased that the Wii U addresses one of the major failings of the Wii.

One thing is clear, at least—the HD graphics on the Wii U are at least on par with those of current HD systems. I loaded up the opening cut scene for Mass Effect 3 simultaneously on both my Xbox 360 and the Wii U, switching TV inputs to compare the rendering between them. If there was any difference in the quality, I couldn’t make it out.

The Wii’s detractors would often complain about the system’s underpowered hardward – making it somehow less of a gaming machine than the XBox or PS3. Nintendo have finally caught up – with the previous generation of console.

I’m willing to believe the Wii U is more powerful than the older HD consoles though, primarily because the system is also pushing a lag-free wireless image to the Wii U GamePad while it generates those HDTV graphics. Sometimes that touchscreen image is just a mirror of what’s happening on the TV, but often it’s a totally different viewpoint of the same scene, or a different scene entirely. I’d have to imagine ignoring the touchscreen altogether might actually give developers more horsepower to spend on the image being pushed to the TV

GamePad

One of the most innovative things about the Wii was the Wii-Mote a motion-based gaming system that was wildly popular and copied by both Sony and Microsoft. After 6 years of resting on Wii-mote laurels, David Piece at the Verge notes that Nintendo is bringing something new to the table with the GamePad.

The GamePad is huge, about 10 inches long and fairly thick and wide as well. Fortunately it only weighs about a pound, and thanks to ridges underneath your fingers in the back is quite comfortable to hold as long as it’s in both hands — it’s a little awkward in one hand, especially when you hold it in portrait mode. It’s made of black plastic, and is glossy on the front and matte on the back. The glossy part is incredibly fingerprint- and smudge-prone, just like the console, and Nintendo might have been better off using the matte material everywhere. The whole thing feels a little cheap and flimsy (a common occurrence with Nintendo consoles) though it’s plenty sturdy in use. The build quality is one of many sacrifices Nintendo seems to make in the name of creating a lighter, smaller GamePad. Most tradeoffs I could live with, but not the battery, which insisted on dying after only about three hours of gameplay — Nintendo obviously sacrificed battery size to keep the GamePad light, and it overshot the balance a bit. I had to have the GamePad’s charger, which includes yet another huge brick, accessible at all times when I was playing, because as you’ll see there’s basically no Wii U without the GamePad.

Back at Ars Technica Kyle Orland has issues with the launch titles.

But if the Wii U is capable of generating graphics more detailed than those of other current systems, the launch games I’ve seen so far don’t do a great job showing that off. First-party titles like New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land capture the company’s signature bright, cartoony style, but they come across as high-definition versions of games that would have been possible on the original Wii.

However T3 have some kind words about some of the titles.

The Wii U’s launch line-up is strong, covering everything from triple-A big-hitters to cheaper indie downloads, single-player adventures to multiplayer feasts. Nintendo Land – A great intro to the Wii U’s inputs a la Wii Sports, this comes bundled free in most packages. Includes 12 meaty mini-games themed round Nintendo classics from Donkey Kong to Zelda. New Super Mario Bros U – Sure, it’s a 2D platformer (Galaxy will have to wait), but the breadth of its multi-terrained world is stunning and collaborative multiplayer engaging.

Wii U GamePad

Consoles stopped being gaming machines a long time ago and the orginal XBox media centre hack was (at least for me) a revalation. So how does the Wii U fit into this new media hub landscape?

Although the deluxe Wii U shipps with Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and YouTube apps all preinstalled, Cnet uncovered a major failing.

Unfortunately, one section where the Wii U majorly fails — compared with other consoles — is media playback. Truth is, there is none. Even with all of its USB ports and SD slot, users cannot play their own media on the console. Throw this into the missed opportunity category.

So what’s the verdict? Techrader manage to sum it up the best.

For Nintendo fans looking to finally enter the HD era, the Wii U may seem like a beacon of light in an endless downpour – and if you’re coming from the Wii, it will be quite impressive, indeed. Not only are the publisher’s own properties sleeker than ever before, but third-parties can finally deliver the great games they’ve been making for other systems in recent years. But gamers who already have an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 may struggle to see much of the appeal for now. Many of the Wii U games are lightly enhanced ports, with just a few noteworthy originals. And the online interface and streaming media options aren’t quite as polished or robust as what’s seen elsewhere. It’s difficult to point to a brilliant, system-selling game that justifies a new console purchase. There’s great fun to be had on the Wii U right away, but we struggle to call it an essential purchase for those still enjoying games on other platforms.