I felt I just had to write a review on the Wii U, hopefully this will be of help to future buyers.
As a previous owner at varying stages of all 3 PlayStations, both Xbox's and a player of the original Wii, when Nintendo announced the release of the new Wii U, I was excited, after all, it's not every year you get that new console experience which everyone has to do at least once.
There's something nice about having a product on release date and the console turned up, I was like a kid at Christmas, but unlike a child, I was more interested in the contents of the box, rather than the box itself.
After unpackaging it and setting it up, the first thing you notice is how huge the controller is, I mean it makes Microsoft's original Xbox pad look like something The Borrowers use, but it is well put together, buttons feel responsive, analogue sticks are smooth and it has a nice weight to it and there's a neat stylus tucked in the top incase you have sausage fingers. The pad also has a volume slider if you dont want the tv sound on and a headphone port which i'm yet to try yet. Sound out the pad is tinny and I turn it off because it causes an annoying echo noise down to a slight delay, but if the tv was off, it wouldn't be a problem.
TV was off you say? Yep, you can play some games just from the controller itself with no telly, Marios one of them, pretty cool.
The console itself is actually not much bigger than the controller, and is a front slot loading affair with power and eject buttons to the top side of the unit (if mounted upright with the enclosed stand).
Other than the 2 buttons, the front of the unit comprises 2 x USB 2.0 ports, an SD card reader under a flap and apart from a couple of LEDs and the Wii U name stamped on the front, thats about it really. Finish is a glossy plastic which quickly attracts finger marks, but if its tucked in the corner of the room out the way, who cares really.
Round the back of the unit is a further 2 x USB 2.0 ports, a video out connector if you want to use composite or SCART, an HDMI port, the power port and a fan vent for cooling, thats your lot.
The remaining items in the box are a sensor bar for the TV like the original Wii, 2 power packs (yes 2, the controller needs its own power pack as it doesn't charge form the console itself), a stand for the Controller and a stand for the console itself, if you can call it that, it's actually just 2 feet, but I guess they do "stand" the unit up, so i'll give them that one.
After connecting everything and powering the console up, you're met with a setup screen, configure your wireless and time/date etc..., this is done via the touch screen on the gamepad which is nice, then once connected to the internet, the machine updates and boy, its one hell of an update.
We don't have the fastest broadband connection on the planet at 8Mb, but the update still took an age to install, so much so I got bored waiting and turned the telly on for a bit while it did its stuff.
When completed, I created some Mii's, using the photo feature was fun, the gamepad has a camera in the top portion of the device so you get your scary mug appear on screen and the Mii creates a face based on your photo. Its actually pretty accurate, sadly, it picks out your "distinguishing" features to create your Mii, so if you have a big nose, chin or ears, prepare to be insulted.
WIth all this done, I thought i'd have a quick dot about the system to see what there was, there's a settings menu, Miiverse, chat stuff, a web browser etc and the Nintendo Shop where you can buy games and also download videos and other stuff like Lovefilm and Youtube apps if you so desire.
I was quite disappointed with the Nintendo Shop, its slow to navigate, most of the games advertised don't offer demos, so you end up looking at trailer videos for the games which inevitably turns out to just be an animated trailer which has no bearing on how the game actually looks or plays.
My main annoyance with the Nintendo Shop is the complete inability to view any trailers for anything with a PEGI rating of 18 or above before 11pm. There must be a setting you can change to allow you to view the trailer I hear you say, like a date of birth entry, well unfortunately, like me, you'd be wrong as it turns out that even though they may have your date of birth, they don't believe you.
It wasn't until very recently that Nintendo actually explained to Wii U users via a message that the reason you can't view over 18 trailers during the day is because the Germans have strict policy on the viewing of adult material if you're under age and you can only view the trailers between the hours of 11pm and 5am or something. I understand policing age ratings, but i'm pretty sure if they're under 18 and they want to watch it, they are more than capable of staying up past 11pm in the same way they could watch an 18 cert dvd whenever they wanted or lie about their date of birth. Utterly ridiculous in my view but there we go, what can you do.
Back onto the games in Nintendos Shop, the number of titles available is frankly, dire, as of time of writing, there appear to be about 20 titles from known manufacturers and a load of sub £20 mini type games, Sony would never release a console with this few games, it brings me back to the Sega Dreamcast days, great console, no games, exactly why it died a death. Sonic All Stars Racing is there though, a Sega title at release date, I'm sure there's some irony there somewhere.
My first quibble, other than the lack of games is the speed, damn it's slow, in fact this isn't just a criticism of the Nintendo Store, but the console as a whole, everything about it is slow, pressing the home button on the Gamepad takes the console 5-10 seconds to get to the main menu, going into the settings menu takes over 20 seconds and you get a silly grey screen with a settings spanner in the middle, just incase you forgot what you clicked on when its loading. Why does it take this long to flick between menus, its crazy, the Playstation is practically instant. Even quitting out of menus is slow, you constantly just have a grey screen or a spinning wheel saying please wait, aggghhhh, it drives you mad after a while.
I have not used the web browser, although I did load it up and it was so slow, I cannot imagine that anyone would have the patience to use it when they probably have a laptop.
Anyway, slowness aside, what are the games like.
Well as of time of writing, I have Nintendo Land (I hate it, but I can see its appeal to children possibly), Super Mario Bros U and Zombi U.
I'll skip Nintendo Land because I have nothing good to say about it, just my personal preference, but Mario is excellent, it's still keeping me amused now after completing it with collecting coins, great game, colours are vibrant and animations smooth, graphically, noticeably better than the Wii.
Zombi U - awesome, very hard but awesome, I have read the Gamespot review who slate the game for a few reasons, but I can't help but think they're just finding stuff to pick at, its pretty realistic as well, I certainly nearly had an unscheduled bathroom stop with the music turned up, it's definitely atmospheric. I did find the controls a little tricky to master though, you need 2 sets of eyes really, one for the gamepad and one for the TV!
I've now had the console a few weeks and some other annoying points have arisen which might be worth noting. I had this really frustrating sync issue with the pad, it kept saying it had lost connection or the connection was unstable and playing Mario it was driving me up the wall, Mario every so often decided to commit suicide and it was completely beyond my control. not even the Samaritans could help.
I guessed the pad was playing up, so I googled it and low and behold, it turns out lots of people had the same issue and the resolution was to turn the console on using the button on the console and not the power button on the pad. Apparently, if you knock the analog stick when its shutting down, it unsyncs the pad, sounds odd to me but turning it off and on with the console fixed the issue so one to note.
Other things, the console is noisy, it doesn't run hot, infact i've had it running for about 5 hours now, but its barely warm on the edge so the fan is working well, but it aint quiet, I wouldn't like to watch a film with it, but then past using Lovefilm or Netflix, it doesn't play DVDs or BluRays so you probably won't be in that situation anyway. No DVD playback again Nintendo, really?!!
Another annoyance is the gamepad screen, I mean, this thing does last ok in battery terms, although I haven't timed it, but it's Nintendo's apparent lack of interest in trying to save power where possible. I left the unit unattended in the menu system for 2 hours, then came back to it and the gamepad screen was still switched on. No sleep mode it would seem, that to me is ridiculous, surely someone at Nintendo thought that maybe after 10 minutes they could put it to sleep, it's got quite a large touch screen which I can only imagine saps quite a lot of power, odd. The screen does dim slightly, but why can't it turn off, just seems like a massive waste of battery to me.
In contrast, the PS Vita puts the whole console to sleep after inactivity.
There is an auto power off setting for the console itself, but if I'd finished using the console, id power it off myself, I just want a low power sleep style mode. Seems crazy to me its not included.
Fortunately, looking at the back of the Gamepad, it would appear you can change the battery when it dies, so thats at least one plus over the other manufacturers. Read more ›