Nintendo Wii U review of reviews

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.

Nintendo at E3: Wii U and endless unanswered questions

Nintendo has just finished its E3 press conference and as many had predicted they did show off their new console which has been named Wii U – but in true Nintendo fashion they did their way by only showing off the revolutionary controller and not the actual console itself. It was more like a half unveil with the actual console being shown off properly sometime in the future.

Nintendo-E3

Quite why Nintendo thought it would be a good idea not to show the actual console is puzzling. Either they wanted the controller to take centre stage or they haven’t actually got a console. Were betting on a bit of both. It’s almost as if they forgot to show off the console for us it was one of the most bizarre console unveiling in E3 history.

They did have some small wafer thin box next the screen in some of the videos on show, but they didn’t show it off physically or go into detail about it. Today it was all about the controller, not the box that powers it.
The Wii U has what Nintendo and others are calling the most advanced controllers ever. It looks like a small 8-inch tablet device with DS-like screen and traditional Xbox/Playstation controls all baked into one rather impressive looking controller.

Nintendo showed off how you can play games on a normal HDTV using the controller like you would any other consoles. And how can play games on both your HD TV and on the 6.5-inch on the controller at the same time or just on the 6.5-inch on it’s own.

They then went on to show innovative ways on how future games could use the second screen. One eye catching example was the new controller laying on the ground showing a golf ball in a bunker on the screen. The user was the stood over the controller with the original Wii remote and nunchuk and the game on the HDTV in front of the player. It looked mighty impressive. All at the same time seamlessly with no lag or latency.

Nintendo went on to promise that all the controllers from Wii would be backwards compatible; so you’ll be able to use your Wii Fit Board, Wii remote and nunchuck for the new console.

The tech demos showed off new types of gameplay you’d usually expect to find on the DSI and 3DS on the new console. Players can use the touchscreen with your fingers or Nintendo Stylus a la DSI or 3DS on the controller, which then appeared on your TV seamlessly with no latency. One such example was painting on Art Academy on the new controller then appearing in real time in high-def on your TV.

They promised that the controller would have gyroscope, accelerometers, front facing camera and microphone. The console and controller would have internet browsing as well as video chat all through the controller and TV.

What didn’t say anything about is how long does the controller last on battery, does it even run on batteries or have they created all-new power source? Most worrying was the lack of price or release date during the press conference.

They went on to announce a new partnership with EA, which will see all of its massive gaming franchises coming to the new console including BF3, Madden and FIFA. There will be full online gaming for all the titles, as well as exclusive support of the second screen capabilities. This was shown off with Madden, where all plays were handled on the screen on the controller leaving the TV for the actual gameplay.

We’re slightly concerned that there wasn’t any mention of the actual console. Call us old fashioned but how can we make a judgment on the console if we can’t even see it. We have no idea how powerful it is, what media will the games come on? Is it Full HD? Even little things like how many controllers can play together. Most of all is how much is this very impressive new controller going to be? What storage solutions will be offered? All of this was not mentioned during the press conference.

Nintendo always do things a little different, but for consumers to take the new console serious we need to see some bricks and mortar. Today’s announcement has left more questions than answers. There’s no chance that you’ll seeing this console anytime soon. They haven’t even got a console from the looks of it. They’ve got a controller. All be it a very nice one. So we need to be patient and see what they come up with. The controller looks incredible. But it looks like it is going to cost an arm and a leg. Then you have to buy the yet to be seen console. Were slightly worried. But Nintendo has a lot to still show off. When. That is the million-dollar question. Nobody knows.

Although they didn’t say any of this Nintendo during the event – the new console will run in full HD, via HDMI, but the touchscreen isn’t HD. The console has internal Flash memory which can be augmented with “SD Card or USB solutions”. It will play optical disks and downloadable content, and will be backwards-compatible with Wii software. And it will launch some time between 1 April and 31 December 2012.

It will be the oddest console ever, and possibly the best, too. Or it may turn out to be a complete cul-de-sac. But one thing is for sure: it won’t just be another generic games console.

Batman: Arkham City, an Assassin’s Creed game, Dirt, Ghost Recon Online, Tekken, Metro Last Light,Aliens Colonial Marines, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, and Darksiders II all got a mention as coming to the Wii U. Yes!