November 19, 2012 by GEL
The 18th of November marked the launch of the Nintendo WiiU, the successor to the wildly successful and equally maligned Wii. With so many people spurned by the Nintendo Wii, facts on the launch remain questionable. Nintendo fans spin it in Nintendo’s favor while the haters continue to scream that the system is a complete flop. I, meanwhile, sit squarely in the middle: a long-time Nintendo fan who, while spurned by the Wii, nevertheless acknowledged its greater games. As such, I present to you my own personal WiiU launch experience, both bad and good.
For starters, I knew one thing right away: this thing would be hard to get initially. Would it take two years for it to become commonplace like the Wii, or will the initial rush merely be scalpers trying to sell them on EBay only to realize there isn’t much demand?
I preordered my system at GameStop. Unfortunately, they ran out of the deluxe set preorders quickly so I settled for the basic model. Knowing full well that the deluxe was a superior purchase though, I went out to find one while waiting for GameStop to open. No luck. Target, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Toys R Us had all sold out of their WiiU’s hours before I had arrived.
So I grabbed my WiiU, a copy of Tank! Tank! Tank!, and Nintendo Land. This is when I got hit with sticker shock. Nintendo Land is $60! I am fully aware that Wii U games are the same price as 360 and PS3 games, but this is the pack-in mini-game collection! This means that buying a basic console and a copy of Nintendo Land actually costs $10 more than buying the deluxe set. I was, needless to say, wary about opening up my copy.
I brought everything home and cracked it open. The first thing I noticed was how un-inclusive it is. It only comes with an HDMI cable, and it only uses Wi-Fi internet. While these are pretty standard it would really suck for people without HD TVs (then again, who doesn’t). Luckily, it uses the same AV cable as the Wii so if you have a Wii AV or Component cable, those should work. I do hope you have Wi-Fi internet though.
You see, after transferring my Mii from my 3DS I tried to connect to the internet and had no luck. Apparently, the WiiU demands a static IP address from certain types of routers. This allowed me to see what an un-updated WiiU is like. It is completely bare bones. Basically, all you can do is play WiiU games, make Miis, and play Wii games.
Once you do connect to the internet, you will slam face-first into a 5 gig update that can take hours to download. What’s more, if something goes awry during the update, your WiiU will be bricked. This is nothing new, firmware updates tend to brick systems when they’re halted unexpectedly. However, firmware updates also aren’t usually 5 gig downloads. With the lengthy amount of time it takes, there is too much time for something to go wrong.
Should you make it through the update, you will find you now need to make a Nintendo Network ID. I initially thought this was the long overdue Club Nintendo registration, but sadly, I was wrong. Nintendo Network is a new thing designed to replace the much loathed friend codes, allowing for greater online functionality and giving Nintendo the power to ban people.
Once you do though, there is quite a bit available.
Most notable to me was the Miiverse, a sort of Nintendo themed version of Twitter where you can post short messages to different game communities. You can even post screenshots and draw pictures. Astonishingly, I have not seen any crudely drawn penises. Until I realized just how policed the Miiverse really was.
I posted that Tank! Tank! Tank!‘s story mode was freaking Earth Defense Force, and the post got removed for sexual content! As a Phantasy Star Online veteran, this makes me wonder if I can post about eating pork and drinking coke in the basement while wearing shoes.
It should be noted that the system’s central gimmick of playing games on the gamepad while people watch TV is surprisingly well-implemented. The picture quality is fantastic, with no noticeable visible lag so far. While the range on it isn’t as incredible as I’d like, it is pretty neat playing the WiiU while in another room on a gamepad. It sort of gives a glimpse of a near future where a central entertainment box streams media to screens all over the house. Or it would if iPhones and tablets weren’t already pretty darn powerful and capable of grabbing their own media off the internet.
The web browsing deserves special mention. Most console browsers suck. This one, however, not only works astonishingly well, but you can use it while playing a game. Yes, bringing up the Home menu while playing a game allows you to access the web browser. It even lets the player pull up the Miiverse, among other things, and then resume playing. I have not found a way to display a webpage on the controller screen while the game plays on the main screen, but it should only take a bit of practice before I’m full swing.
It is also worth mentioning that the WiiU shop is up and has four downloadable games available at launch. Kudos to Nintendo on that.
However the backwards compatibility is…rough. It seems to work near 100%, but it involves loading up the old Wii menu from a special button. The Wii graphics are not enhanced at all, and Gamecube backwards compatibility is nonexistent. It is highly aggravating since the Gamecube and the Wii are similar enough that allowing one should allow the other. I keep my fingers crossed for it to be added in later, but I doubt it. I just hope that if Nintendo decides to start putting Gamecube games on Virtual Console, then they display them at a higher resolution.
Perhaps the most awkward thing about the backwards compatibility: all old Wii downloads are booted from the Wii menu instead of the WiiU menu. That means no easy access to your Virtual Console or WiiWare titles. It’s a battle to say the least.
If I can say one nice thing about it though, it would be the fact that you can exit from the Wii menu back to the WiiU menu. It’s a little thing, but I appreciate it.
So I guess that leaves one last question: the games.
Tank! Tank! Tank! is a port of an arcade game, some neat added features, and a campaign mode. The campaign is highly reminiscent of Earth Defense Force and even supports 2-player split-screen. Meanwhile, the core multiplayer mode supports up to four players and adds a new mode as well: My Kong. In My Kong, a picture of your face gets mapped to a giant pink robot gorilla and the player with the gamepad controls the giant monster while the other three shoot at it. It’s pretty neat. However, the game lacks online play despite being built entirely around multiplayer. This coupled with the simplistic game play and $50 price tag definitely hurt the game.
If, like me, you think $50 is a bit high for Tank! Tank! Tank!, $60 for Nintendo Land is madness! As a pack-in this would be alright, but as a stand alone purchase, it is offensive! The mini-games are simplistic and lacking in content. In many ways Wii Sports Resort is a far, far better game. Digging out your old Wiimotes reminds you of just how awful they are and games like Takamaru’s Castle highlight the WiiU pad’s flaws (shurikens fail to launch, etc.). Adding insult to injury, the graphics are so over-stylized that they don’t even really look like the games they’re supposed to be. At no point in Zelda Battle Quest does it ever actually look or feel like Zelda. If this were a real amusement park, people would be sorely disappointed.
If you’re getting a WiiU, get Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. While I’ve only spent time with the 360 one thus far, it is a phenomenal game and at only $40 it is also the cheapest game on WiiU. Great game play, online multiplayer, and five-player local play in all modes.
While that adequately describes my first day experience, it leaves many questions unanswered. How are the graphics? Is the WiiU more or less powerful than the 360 and PS3? I honestly couldn’t tell you. Some report that Ninja Gaiden 3 looks worse, but Batman Arkham City looks slightly better. Either way, it is too early in the game to tell. One could argue that 360 launch titles were often accused of looking like original XBox games, for example. The point is, the visuals I see right now are comparable, but that may be because I’m looking at ports. Exactly how much better the graphics can get is a good question.
How was your Wii U launch experience?