Wii-U; The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

So after a good nights sleep and some careful thinking, I sat down and looked at my Wii-U and started thinking; can I squeeze one more blog post out on it? Of course I can! So here is my more detailed review of the Wii-U and what it is like to live with. Because I can. And it’s fun. I insist.

 

It’s quite easy to ramble on for me, so today I’m going to try to divide my ranting and raving into three sections: the good, the bad and the ugly. And by ugly, I don’t mean mere aesthetics; stuff that simply shouldn’t have been an issue, things that just grate for no reason and such forth. Like what superstars do to their faces. The unnecessary things that make an otherwise very pretty, natural face look like they’ve been possessed by aliens.

So without further ado, I shall begin.

THE GOOD

The Gamepad (U-Pad) is sensational!
It’s nothing short of a revelation how utterly brilliant the concept of bringing a touchscreen into a full gaming console is. Nintendo have had touch-screens for some years now with the DS, DSi and 3DS but it strikes me as somewhat odd that no-one else thought, “If it works for handhelds, can it work for home consoles?” Plus I doubt anyone would have been quite so focused on making the U-Pad the technical marvel that it is, with a transitional lag that often beats HDTVs at twice the Wii-U’s cost. Sure, Nintendo could have spent more on having a multi-touch screen but really for the most part there’s no point. The U-Pad is all function and no unnecessary extras, and it’s light and comfortable to use as well. It’s easily the sort of controller that its rivals will be looking at with the kind of seething jealousy that goes with finding such a good idea, especially since they had years to come to it on their own accord as well.

Most of the Games are great!
It’s never really easy for a new games console to come out with a good launch line-up, even with the most articulate planning and timing delays and issues happen and as such, most new console releases tend to be fairly dry on games. The Wii-U does have a slight issue here, but what they got out there was very good. Some of the ports have technical issues (more on this later) but so far everyone playing Black Ops 2 have said they’re not sure if they can ever go back to normal controllers after this. On Nintendo’s part, they have very good games (although not outstanding) and UbiSoft have arguably released the machines most killer title, Zombi-U, which continues to make me cry tears of laughter, frustration and joy. So on the games front, all is quite rosy and yes, the U-Pad does seem to be the crux of some of this. Used well, it really is quite something and that surely is a good indicator for future releases!

Miiverse is VERY special.
Most people laughed at the idea of the Miiverse, Nintendo’s attempt at a social network platform for the Wii-U. And lots of us are laughing, but not at the idea but because using it is probably just as much silly fun as the games themselves! Think of the Miiverse at the moment as a glorified forum, but people are drawing funny pictures and making good-natured jokes and stuff. Admittedly, it’s a little light on features right now and yes, the likes of Nintendo Land WOULD have made more sense as an interactive part of the Miiverse. But this is the kind of thing that can be bolted onto it. There’s nothing in the Miiverse currently that you’d want to take away, because it’s just such fun and laughs. And that really is important. Like anything, adding is easy but taking away is harder, and as a result it’s a pleasing canvas for Nintendo to do far more with in the coming weeks and months. Also, some of the artistic talent on display in Miiverse blows my mind. Seriously!

THE BAD

The U-Pad will probably affect your electricity bill.
The U-Pad is a hungry, hungry beast when it comes to power and this should come as no real surprise, the U-Pad itself is quite technical and is being asked to do an awful lot of things and stuff in relation to what your average controller would. It can’t hold a charge particularly well, but this isn’t an issue; if you treat the built-in battery semi-properly it should last a good while. But it’s just how much the pad does that surprises me and why they didn’t consider wiring this to the console. Whilst I don’t have an issue with the U-Pad itself, if we’re going to start progressing controllers now we’re going to have to accept the controllers need more power, and that power cannot be served by internal rechargeable lithium batteries or your average double-A’s. Which means that wireless can no longer be a valid option; to go forward with what controllers do, we need to go back and make them better at holding power. And if not, back further to traditional cables.

The range on the U-Pad is pretty pathetic.
Clearly everyone in Japan lives in wonderful, awesome open-plan living spaces because the wireless on the U-Pad, for as awesome as it is, clearly wasn’t built for your average house. You know, ones with brick walls and multiple rooms? The U-Pad doesn’t seem to get through my wall, which is disappointing. More than that, my cheap-ass laptop can pick up stuff at a far greater range with its built in wi-fi connector so it feels a little strange and sad that the U-Pad range and penetration of signal is so disappointing. It’s not the end of the world, admittedly, because I’m likely one of those people who will never separate the pad from the console but it is a little disappointing that I will be “one of those people” who cannot enjoy the benefits of playing it on the loo, simply because it doesn’t seem to have the ‘oomph’ needed to get the streaming that far. It would have been nice to have taken this into some consideration.

Nintendo Land is no substitute for the real deal.
Whilst it’s great to see the options in Nintendo Land to play a Zelda-themed game, a Yoshi-themed game, a Metroid-themed game, F-Zero and so forth, the experience actually left me with an overwhelming and crushing sadness that we don’t have these games. And we haven’t really seen them (apart from the Legend of Zelda tech demo in 2011!) – there is nothing so depressing as reminding us of how awesome and fun and great these games are and then cruelly reminding us that we can’t actually BUY these games yet. I understand that Nintendo might want to let third-parties have first bite of the cherry but even then, it’s the joy and love you get from the F-Zero style drag-race, the Ninja Assault, the frankly excellently done Pikmin-clone (is it a clone when it’s done by the same company?) and then that emotional crash just after it when you really just want to go out, buy a game and have a lot, LOT more of that. Sorry Nintendo. That’s just wrong.

THE UGLY!

The console is… well… hmm.
I wouldn’t say the console is aesthetically unattractive or anything, but the console unit itself just has no actual style to it. It’s like a squashed tube, with a flat top and bottom and the sides are still curved. You might have to forgive me on this front because even the Wii had a particular style to it. as did the old X-Box 360 model I have, and the old PS3. Even the PS2, X-Box and Gamecube have something of an intelligent nod to their actual aesthetic design, they kind of look the part and dare I say it, look like games consoles. They have aged quite well, and the Wii-U design in contrast is actually pretty unimaginative and boring. The U-Pad is obviously where most of the attention is, and has gone, but I don’t know – the Wii-U Main Unit just looks like “a box”. Call me strange or old-fashioned, but I just find that awfully depressing, I miss the sharp lines of the Wii or the metallic silver flourishes of the PS3, or the clean ridges of the 3DS.

There’s still no excuse for so little storage.
A half-decent 32GB SD Card costs about $15, so I’m sorry Nintendo, I’m simply not convinced that the lack of storage was to save money and weight. The 3DS came with an SD Card, after all, and they’re getting ever cheaper. Likewise, a 500GB External Hard Drive can cost as little as £25. I totally understand the desire to keep the Wii-U Main Unit small and light and nice, but come on. These things are not inherently expensive and I am sure if Nintendo had tried they could have got some of this stuff thrown in cheap or even as a free extra. The lack of storage space is simply an oversight I genuinely do believe they will come to regret, I’m all for using SD-Cards and not having a proprietary hard drive model (at least some credit for Nintendo there!) but 8GB for basic and 32GB for premium is like opening a single packet of potato chips to find one solitary chip, and a multipack to find six lonely chips. I’m sorry, I just expect better.

And seriously… do we still need an Internet browser?
I am all for small little extras that may not be used but are nice to have, but it strikes me that most of us have a PC or a Laptop or a Smart TV of some kind and therefore I have to say I don’t particularly see the point in including an Internet browser into the Wii-U firmware. Especially since it’s one they presumably had to pay an actual licence to use, and is still not that great if we’re being brutally honest. It’s not necessary and it certainly isn’t going to be used and yet it squats at the bottom of my U-Pad Menu like an unappetising stain on a shirt, like a fly on a pristine white wedding cake. At least the e-Shop is kind of interesting in all its chaos and hilarious, oddly manic layout; the browser is boring and has no real style or grace to it. I just don’t think it’s the kind of addition these days that one should be expecting; we can’t choose what browser to use and it’s not as feature-rich. So just do other stuff instead. We have actual computers. We won’t miss the browser.

Anyway, that’s my selection of thoughts about the Wii-U, over the weekend I’ve got two more articles to go up, which are as follows;

  1. Asymmetrical Annoyance (Why I think Nintendo’s insistence on Asymmetrical Gameplay is a bit of a damp squib)
  2. Zombi-U – The Agony and the Ecstasy (Basically a big Zombi-U review!

There might be others, but that’s what I want to do right now.

Anyway, back to the Wii-U proper!

(image used via Google Images/E3 Press Releases)

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