Mastodon First Impressions: Nintendo's Wii U

First Impressions: Nintendo’s Wii U

Because of the time it takes to really get to know a system and being limited by only those few games at launch, it wouldn’t be fair to give a full and formal review of the Wii U console just yet. Instead, I’m just going to give my first impressions of it with a full review possibly coming later.

When getting the Wii U, the first thing I noticed and was unfortunately disappointed by is its setup time. If you plan on using the Wii U to its fullest potential, you are going to need to do an update to the system right off the bat. While this is automatic when doing your network setup, it is required to use the Wii U’s full functionality including things like the YouTube app. Nintendo has never been known for their online features and like Sony doesn’t have fast download speeds for consoles.

As a result, it took almost an hour of setup and download time before my Wii U was ready to go. Tip for parents, if you are giving your kid a Wii U for Christmas, open up the box and do this before you give it as a gift. Nothing is going to disappoint little Jimmy Xmas morning than having to wait an hour before he can actually start playing his Wii U.

Once that initial hassle was over though, the Wii U began to show its true colors. It is amazing how addictive the second screen can be. The way I am as a gamer, I have my TV and consoles set up near my PC and usually play sitting in my desk chair. I am more of a “lean forward” gamer instead of a “laid back” gamer who would prefer to sit from their couch relaxed. With the second screen of the Wii U controller, I quickly found myself paying more attention to the controller screen than the big screen. With New Super Mario Bros. U, the smaller screen looks just as good as the full 1080p 42 inch TV does.

The conveinence of the second screen is also great for bedroom gamers. For someone who just wants to play a few levels and would normally pick up their 3DS, DS, PSP or iPad, now they can continue their console game from the comfort of their pillows. The system’s automatic shut off is a great feature for this too (as long as players remember to save) as the console will power down after a set time of being idle.

The Wii U controller is surprisingly comfortable considering its size, much more so than an uncased iPad would be. It isn’t heavy and the ergonomic design fits well in an average sized adult’s hands. The bumper buttons are not the most comfortable to reach for however compared to the triggers. The power supply is somewhat limited in the controller as well but can be extended if players turn down the internal speakers. Luckily, players can play and charge simultaneously.

The Wii U controller as a television/cable box remote was amazingly easy to set up and worked fine. As a feature, it is cool but not only I feel like I am going to end up using. Especially since the controller is going to sit in its charging cradle when I am not gaming, the last thing I want to do is waste the precious battery life instead of just using my regular remote control.

So far, with the limited amount of time I have had with the games, it seems like the Wii U is going to try and stay a party system. While the single player games in Nintendo Land are fun, it is in the party games that you want to keep coming back for more. The individual games lack a ton of depth but, like Wii Sports, it is when you get a group of people around a TV together playing the mini-games of Nintendo Land that the real fun begins.

The same can also be said to an extent about New Super Mario Bros. U. While the single player levels are awesome, much of the game still feels like an HD upgrade of the classic Super Mario World. But, put a person who is an expert at trolling their friends and you have probably one of the loudest party game experiences going. It was one thing in New Super Mario Bros. on the Wii when players knocked their friends off cliffs but now, one is basically given a hand of god to place platforms where they see fit to either aid or hinder the progress of the players (usually hinder). Taking turns and getting revenge turns out to be an ideal party experience.

At first, I was worried that the lack of achievements or trophies was going to hinder my gaming experience. Literally every other platform other than Nintendo ones seems to have them. XBox 360, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Steam, Game Center but still Nintendo holds out and you know what? I didn’t even really notice that they weren’t there. The game experience was fun enough that I didn’t need the extra little rewards to keep me playing. Who would have thought.

As I said, this is only really my first impression of Nintendo’s Wii U. It is going to take some time to see what the hardware, the controller and the software is fully capable of but at first glance I can say I already enjoy my time with it more than I did the Wii. The Wii coming out alongside the HD PlayStation 3 and a year after the HD XBox 360 just felt ugly. Now, the Wii U can hold its own visually. It also has a “normal” control scheme too with the Pro controller as well so the system isn’t limited by the gimmicky nature of the Wiimotes. While time will tell about the success of the system, it has the tools to be one that gamers will head to and give Nintendo another chance.

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