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Wii U First Impressions: The Good and the Bad

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So the Wii U came out Sunday, and I managed to pick up my pre-order yesterday. Here are my impressions of my first day with the new system. I haven’t given enough time to the games to ethically be able to give impressions of them yet, so look for reviews in the future.

Scroll to the bottom if you want a shorter recap and ignore the more nit-picky details.

THE GOOD

Hardware

Nintendo’s Wii U just looks and feels good. It’s small and simple, which certainly isn’t bad. It saves shelf space. It can sit either horizontally, or vertically if you use the special feet that comes with it.

wii u first impressions 1The gamepad works surprisingly well. It came charged, and can be charged either through the cord directly, or resting on the dock that came in the box. It’s not too heavy, and not too light. I’ve heard from some people that there were fears of the controller feeling too light or too fragile, but I have yet to get that impression. It feels very sturdy and has a good heft.

Going into the purchase, I had a bit of a fear about the touch screen. With my Nintendo DS, I felt the touch screen wasn’t sensitive enough, and I was worried I’d get a similar issue with the gamepad’s screen. Even though it isn’t capacitive, the touch screen is amazingly responsive. Just look for some of the pictures drawn in the MiiVerse and you’ll see how responsive it is. I worry, however, about how long the touch screen can last with active or constant use.

The range of the Wii U game pad was tested, and I can say that it’s pretty impressive. With doors open between the room where the system is set up, I was able to travel all around the apartment without experiencing many interruptions or lag. I had Netflix playing, and any interruptions in the video were just short hiccups, maybe a minute or two apart. I then switched to MiiVerse and started constantly drawing. The screen response demonstrated a similar issue with the hiccups where occasionally it didn’t detect the finger at all.

With the doors closed, the range dropped a bit, and the hiccups grew more frequent, however connection was mostly still maintained. Between two closed doors, the signal continues to drop a bit, but I was actually still able to play New Super Mario Bros. U with success. I wouldn’t recommend trying it on time trial, however.

As for the video on the screen, it looks great. It’s crisp and clean, though I wonder if it could stand to be just a little brighter. The picture quality is rather impressive and it easily handles Netflix videos and games like New Super Mario Bros. U without issue.

The Software

The Wii U’s apps aren’t entirely there yet, so I can only currently look at what I have on hand. Netflix works perfect either on the TV, or on the gamepad screen. It’s simple to switch back and forth between the big screen and the little screen.

wii u first impressions 2One of the big apps for the system is the Nintendo MiiVerse. It’s essentially Nintendo’s own social media site with specific communities for games as well as the ability to post text or drawings. And seriously, some of you artists out there make me look like a dolt. I have no actual artistic ability. Still, the program is actually pretty cool, and if you turn spoilers on, some people actually are nice and post hints about difficult areas.

One of my favorite features is the ability to control my TV with the remote. I’m often annoyed by the fact that I have to keep my second remote around that I can lose. The gamepad allows me to turn the TV off, change its input, and control the volume or sound. The setup for this function was remarkably simple. I just had to know the TV manufacturer, and the Wii U did the rest.

The internet browser also shines pretty well. It’s simple to use and navigate, works with most websites, and even allows tabbed browsing. I will admit, I haven’t gone too far into this yet, but what I did browse looked great.

THE BAD

Hardware

One of the most annoying factors of the Wii U is the gamepad’s relatively short battery life. Expect all of three to five hours of battery life between charges. It’s passable for casual sessions, but if you’re looking to marathon ZombiU, you may be disappointed. Instead, you’ll have to keep the gamepad plugged in, or rest it in the charger while you get up to get snacks or something.

I would have like the addition of a back-facing camera, but that’s just being nit-picky, isn’t it?

The D-Pad and the XBYA buttons below the thumb sticks takes a while to get used to, and requires finding a good middle ground so you can use the full range of motion on the sticks, while reaching the full D-Pad or XBYA buttons without having to stretch and waste time.

The LZ and RZ shoulder buttons should be pressure-sensitive triggers. Instead, we get simple on or off buttons which will make racing or piloting simulations more difficult and frustrating. I will be interested to see how developers get around this limitation.

Software

Right off the bat, loading times. They are currently ridiculous, and much longer than expected. It’s frustrating, and currently probably the worst part of the system. I should clarify, though: These loading times are in the OS itself. In games, or in programs, there isn’t a problem. In the Wii U Home Menu, however, the time it takes to switch apps is indefensible.

Nintendo has released a statement saying that they are “exploring ways to enhance features for consumers’ overall experience.” This is most likely an early adopter issue, and howfully will be resolved VERY soon.

Another huge annoyance is the day 1 update. It takes at least an hour, but sometimes more (from what I’ve heard) to download the update, then install. This interruption in initial plug ‘n play joy definitely hurts the experience.

Along the same thread, when going through each app or game I try to use, I’m always treated to a new update before I can use the program for the first time. It’s frustrating when you first start using the console again because of the constant interruption. It doesn’t feel seamless anymore. Of course, after these initial updates everything is less frustrating.

I would recommend everyone open each app available to begin with. Some Wii U apps require access to another. For example, I couldn’t friend anyone on the MiiVerse for a while because I hadn’t opened the friend list app yet and said “sure, allow friends”. That just seemed gratuitous.

In Closing

So far, I love the system. My initial impressions are remarkably positive despite the slow OS and annoyingly long updates. I wasn’t able to use all of the apps yet since YouTube isn’t available, neither is TVii, and I didn’t try Amazon Video or Hulu Plus since I have accounts with neither.

Similarly, I wasn’t able to try multiplayer gaming yet, but this coming weekend that should change.

All in all, the Wii U makes a fantastic initial impression. It’s clean, beautiful, and there is so much that simply makes sense with its design. Will it hold up with future updates? We’ll see. I will post another update in a week with much more information about where it stands.


About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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