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Customer Review

84 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Affectionately called 'Super Wii', 9 May 2013
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This review is from: Nintendo Wii U 8GB Basic Pack - White (Video Game)
Not since the Sega Dreamcast have I seen such a fascinating games console suffer so unfairly. This isn't to say that the Wii U has sold poorly, but the unprecedented success of the original Wii has simply raised the bar of expectations to a crazy level, and so early on too.

That success clearly left Nintendo underestimating any need to promote this product with the same exposure. As a result, the Wii associates itself with the Wii U in quite negative ways, despite the fact that the Wii U has a 'Wii mode' built in... Confused yet?

The other mistake is of course in the name. 'Wii' works both as a universal brand and reference; a group activity. The addition of 'U' to highlight a more personal gameplay has zero impact on how this new product is an improvement over it's predecessor. The most logical names would have surely been 'Super Wii', or 'Wii 2'.

But business school over; here are some of the reasons for why the Basic Pack is a better deal over the Deluxe.

- The Game Pad Charging Cradle and Stand aren't necessities
- The eShop Digital Promotion is far from rewarding unless you spend a huge sum of money
- The Wii Remote Sensor Bar is cheap to find elsewhere (or you may already have one)
- Though the Basic Pack has only 3 to 4GB of available storage, this is plenty of room for Virtual Console content and demos, unless of course you intend to download retail games (which range between 2 and 14GB on average).

In the Wii U's teeny-tiny box you'll find

the Wii U console itself,
the Game Pad, with a stylus included,
a charging cable for the Game Pad,
AC power cable for the Wii U,
HDMI cable (which is nice and chunky, unlike cheap versions),
and of course the obligatory leaflets/manual. These arrive in more languages than C-3PO's memory banks.

When you first unpack and hold the Game Pad, it's clear that there are a whole variety of applications for this unique device and it's large LCD screen. Although the screen dominates the surface, the Game Pad also includes buttons that are familiar from the NES right through to the GameCube, only coupled with up-to-date features such as a camera, microphone, speakers, NFC sensor and more. The finishing touch is a stylus, which allows more precise input on the touchscreen. It is powered through a rechargeable battery (and USB cable).

The touchscreen is resistive, meaning that it can be input with any kind of contact, but at the expense of not having multi-touch support.

Here is the most important thing to understand. The Game Pad is complimentary to the Wii U console; think of it as quite possibly the most advanced gaming controller yet. It does NOT operate without the Wii U, as it is a controller. The included touchscreen can be viewed as another means of input, but with the advantage of changing its behaviour depending on what game you're playing. Not only this, but it can also act as a secondary or alternate screen, meaning that your TV no longer has to be the centre piece. This to me is groundbreaking - it's altered the way I now play my games, because you can go for a large scale experience on the TV, or play quite intimately on just the GamePad.

Perhaps the greatest feat however is that, in hand, it still feels very comfortable, despite all these latest additions and hefty size. And if you don't need the touchscreen for your gameplay, then you're free to use the Wii Pro Controller that is sold separately - this looks and behaves more akin to a GameCube controller.

But the Wii U doesn't just have to be controlled with the Game Pad or Pro Controller. Although certain applications or games with benefit from them, the console is backwards compatible with Wii accessories, including the ever popular Wiimote. So, if you're familiar with the Wii or even still own one, keep your Wii Remote and Sensor Bar as they are invaluable. The Wii U menus can all be controlled with a Wii Remote as normal.

Bear in mind however that if you do want to play a game with just a Wii Remote/Pro Controller, you'll still need to control some of the Wii U functions with the Game Pad.

The Game Pad can also perform basic operations for controlling your TV/Sky box, which is very handy for turning the volume down on loud games. This is activated by a single 'TV' button.

Setting up the Wii U takes between 15 and 20 minutes, though most of this time can be dedicated to creating a new 'Mii' character (your on-screen avatar). In operation, the console is very cool and literally silent without a disc. This is an area people often forget, but Nintendo have always built very reliable and rugged hardware; the Wii U is certainly no exception. It draws significantly less power than the PS3 and Xbox 360, so it's peace of mind that Nintendo have designed such a green machine. The console also has the ability to download software/update data when it is off, which is great for silent and energy efficient tasks.

After turning the console on, you're greeted to a new plaza that contains your Wii U's Mii avatars and others from around the world, all bustling and looking funny. The object of all this is that popular discussions or themes which may interest you (based on your own activities) are displayed as posts, whether it's a player who can't get past a certain stage in a game, or someone who has drawn a picture. But all this chatter is taken from the new Miiverse application, where the user can enter a discussion and post text or a drawing. It's fun, friendly and well moderated. Discussions are separated for games (old and new) or special topics (such as 'The Year of Luigi').

The second home screen contains your channels, almost exactly as how they would appear on an original Wii. You can switch the plaza and channels between your TV and Game Pad in a single button press.

This software does take some getting used to, because you'll be so tempted to keep looking at the TV when, in fact, you realise the options and buttons are right there in front of you on the GamePad. Once you overcome this, it's easy to use the Wii U without the TV. In fact, this is a large draw for the Wii U, because you're not tied to the TV. If I want to check out Miiverse, browse the Internet or kill five minutes on a NES game, it can all be done solely on the GamePad.

As mentioned earlier, you can connect a USB hard disk drive to expand your storage, but at the expense of requiring another power outlet. This is primarily to store full games or demos that have been downloaded from the eShop; SD cards can only store game saves. What I like about this feature is that the file management is absolutely painless, with simple options to move content between your Wii U's memory and the hard disk. With the drive plugged in, your content appears just as it normally would with other channels, and if you unplug it, they disappear. Therefore, the drive doesn't need to be connected if you're not playing games on it, which is fantastic. This also means that if you don't want to buy a hard disk, then you can even use a USB memory stick to store things temporarily.

One strange decision by Nintendo is how you access original Wii Software, such as discs and Channels. Rather than allowing the software to seamlessly integrate into the new Wii U Menu, the console actually emulates the original Wii Menu in a partition, and therefore requires a system reboot just to switch back and forth. This is pretty lousy because the Wii Menu itself is redundant, unless you're still playing software that you downloaded for your original Wii.

There is no reason to talk about the 'power' of the console. This is a term that is as broad as saying to someone "Is your car any good?"... Regardless of its engine, the journey you take decides how enjoyable the ride was. All that needs to be said is that the step up to HD is beautiful, and Super Mario Bros. U - though not pushing the hardware much - is already a major improvement over the original Wii graphics. Some textures often look equal to or better than current consoles, and the lighting/shadow techniques are simply outstanding.

The GamePad responds well and there is no lag between it's own screen and your TV screen. It's screen resolution is average at best, but providing you hold the GamePad at a normal distance, it's not a concern. Also, colour and saturation are excellent. Be aware however that there is limit in the distance that the Game Pad can operate from the Wii U, so don't expect to hop upstairs and still be playing. I normally get to around 6/7 meters from the console.

Battery life is between 4 and 5 hours, depending on how you use the GamePad. Some critics may refer to this short play time as a flaw, but Nintendo have been very clever about it as the battery is removable on the back of the GamePad (Not many people have picked up on this). Therefore, it's almost a certainty that Nintendo will release a 'Pro' battery in the future with a larger capacity.

Although mirroring the TV and the addition of extra controls are great, the Game Pad actually comes into its own with a surprising feature in 'Virtual Console'. Nintendo has begun offering a library of video games that span between the NES and - as promised - the GameCube in their eShop store, and they can be played on the GamePad or TV. Although the current catalogue is small, I downloaded several classics and have since been reluctant to put them down... The transfers are nothing short of astonishing in 1080p, with Super Mario World in particular looking like night and day in a comparison to my SNES. Virtual Console games can also have button assignments and Restore Points, in case things get a little tricky.

Internet browsing is OK, but nothing special. I was quite surprised at how fast the actual speeds are, but the controls feel a little clunky if you're used to using a multi-touch display as on most tablet computers. I like how you can control an internet page on the GamePad, and then hide or reveal it on the TV.

The included video applications on the Wii U menu are hit and miss; YouTube is excellent, Netflix and LoveFilm obviously requires subscriptions, and Nintendo TVii isn't compatible in the U.K yet. Doh!

The rest of Wii U is not without faults. It's eShop, which enables you to download games rather than owning a disc, is sadly over-priced in comparison to retail products, because they are sold at their RRP. Switching between applications can be a little slow, although this was recently updated and is so less so (though could still be improved).

My real beef however has been with the convoluted data transfer process between an old Wii and your new Wii U. What on earth were Nintendo thinking? First off, you must 'still' possess the original Wii console in order to perform any kind of transfer, so if like myself you copied all your data to an SD card believing that it was readable, and then ditched the Wii... then I sympathise with you.

This process exists due to digital rights management; you're transferring a license to own the games on the Wii U, not just simply copying the game data. Nintendo should have made this clearer in their promotional content.

Final thoughts? The Wii U is simply stuffed to the helm with innovative features and potential, yet it hasn't got the recognition it deserves. Some may suggest that the RRP was too high on release, but this argument is lousy when you're comparing the vast functions of this new console to its predecessor. I fear too many people have judged the Wii U harshly by its appearance rather than its actual performance.

Likewise, those who suggest that the Wii U has been too expensive ought to prepare themselves for any future console from Sony or Microsoft.

Providing you view the Wii U's operating software as a work in progress, then you can appreciate how beautifully designed this machine is - balancing power consumption, performance and cost all while still maintaining that typical Nintendo quality.

I've no doubt that its competitors will release more 'powerful' hardware, but that doesn't equate more enjoyment. What really makes the difference is when a video game captures your imagination, and to that end, visuals only tell part of the story. The Wii U is an insanely fun piece of kit that combines the best of two worlds: the Wii input that we all know and love, and a brand new tablet-like controller. Now it's just up to developers to take advantage of the Wii U GamePad and it's obvious potential.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 May 2013 02:27:56 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 4 Oct 2015 11:37:25 BDT]

Posted on 11 May 2013 12:40:43 BDT
Martin says:
Its a bit misleading to say setting up the console takes 15 minutes because it took mine an hour to update and I have very fast broadband.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 May 2013 16:31:08 BDT
Picard says:
It's not misleading at all as the update is not compulsory. The day I set my Wii U up, I couldn't find the password for my router and so set it up later in the day for the system update.

Posted on 16 May 2013 15:05:28 BDT
....great review, my thoughts exactly - can't wait to see what games Nintendo has at E3.

Posted on 2 Jun 2013 11:57:21 BDT
Matt says:
I disagree with a lot of what you said, mainly because of the overly biased Nintendo leanings and apologies, but I totally agree that it should've been called the Super Wii. The "Wii U" name just sounds like an accessory for the original Wii instead of an new console.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jun 2013 19:29:54 BDT
Picard says:
I've had a great affinity for Nintendo since the 1980's, so I make no apologies for any bias towards them. Thanks for your comments though.

Posted on 11 Jun 2013 18:11:30 BDT
How are you enjoying the Wii U mate ?

Posted on 26 Jul 2014 23:31:13 BDT
Fantastic review very informative and detailed, has helped me decide to buy. I was going to trade my old wii whilst buying a wii u till I read in the review about the data transfer so that part alone has been very helpful. Thanks for posting this well-written and thought provoking review.
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