Wii U – Early Impressions
So I’ve had my Wii U for nearly a week now, so I figured: Why not talk about some early impressions, both about the console itself, and the few games I’ve tried on it. For full disclosure, I got the Premium edition, which had a few extra bits and bobs with it, along with Nintendo Land (and is black rather than white).
Definite first impression when turning the thing on is that people are crazy talented. The amount of stuff they’re able to draw and post on the Miiverse when the only settings are three thicknesses, pencil and eraser is nothing short of amazing. I really can’t draw at all, so I am not about to try to step to any of this.
The first things you are asked to do when you turn the thing on for the first time is to make a Mii, set up your internet connection and make a Nintendo account. You can skip all of these, I believe, and sadly this Nintendo account only applies to the Wii U, and is not shared with anything you might have on Wii or 3DS.
Then you’re placed on the main menu, where a bunch of Miis rush in and congregate around various icons representing Miiverses and you’ll see random posts pop up, something I find a bit charming. Meanwhile on the gamepad screen the actual menu icons exist, and honestly it took me a few moments to realise that the first time.
This may come as a surprise to people, but I actually like the gamepad. For its size it sits amazingly well in my hands, and none of the buttons really feel hard to reach, maybe with the exception of the D-pad. And having a keyboard pop up down there every time I’m asked to type something in feels almost like a relief, as all sorts of games and apps ask for login info and codes and crap these days. It’s also a lot lighter than I honestly expected, even though it’s almost as big as the console itself. I had heard about the battery problems beforehand though, so I’m keeping mine plugged in with the AC adapter.
In case anyone is wondering, the console is indeed bigger than the regular Wii. About 50% bigger, maybe? Still smaller than my XBox 360 though; somewhere between half and 2/3 the size of that.
And yes, there is a big firmware update that it wants you to download once you get started. I do not know what happens if you refuse, but since there is the option of not connecting to the net, I assume it should be possible to skip the update. Maybe it’s just like 360 where you lose some online functionality. And definitely like the 360 there always seems to be a patch when you start up a new program/game for the first time, unless you just downloaded it. There is the option to just click “Start Software” and skip that though. What happens then I guess depends on what you’re running. And I like that it doesn’t install anything you ask it to download without asking for your permission first (unless it’s a patch).
I guess that kinda brings us onto the topic of the E-shop. I’ve dealt with the E-shop on the Wii, on the 3DS and now the Wii U, and I can definitely see the evolution there. The menus are getting better, the download manager is getting better and the selection is getting better. Best of all, even payment options are getting better. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s getting there. Just a shame that they already should have been there years ago. Also, it should be noted that the only way to access the download manager is to press the Home button on the gamepad and select it from there.
But yeah, payment options! Unless I missed it, the only way to pay for something on Wii or 3DS was to fill up with a preset amount of credits first, and then spend some of those credits to unlock what you wanted. This ran into the ‘Microsoft point’ problem of never letting you just pay exactly what something cost, so you’d always have some left over, unspent. On the Wii U, it allows you use your credit card to pay the exact amount something costs using the “Pay remainder with credit card” option (while also having the preset options, like for gifts cards and such). Maybe not a huge step forward, but definitely one I appreciate.
As for the selection, I was surprised at how many of the games were available for online purchase and download, both indie and AAA titles. Everything on the screenshot above is for download. In fact, only a few titles were listed as Disc Only. Why they were still listed on the store I shan’t say for sure, but I’d guess to let people know they are available out there. The console doesn’t have the largest line-up yet, but I’m sure it’ll grow fast enough. Which runs the risk that the E-shop becomes a lot worse to browse. It would also be nice if they had a category that just showed everything alphabetically, but I’ve yet to find it. As a negative the hard drive is kinda too small to buy a lot of the AAA stuff, even with the Premium’s 32GB.
I’ve been checking out a few of the apps that came pre-installed. Netflix looks and functions pretty much exactly like the browser version I’ve used, so that’s good. The Youtube app is fairly terrible. I’d recommend using the web browser if you wanna look at Youtube on the Wii U. Interestingly enough UPlay did not come pre-installed, in spite of AC3 being a launch title. Still had to log in for the game, but I couldn’t actually unlock any rewards without installing the app separately (though I could still get achievements, not sure how that works).
Right! Onto stuff I’ve played.
Rayman Legends Demo
This one is absolutely gorgeous. It contains a trailer, three playable levels and four playable characters. One of the playable characters is a woman in green armour with a winged helmet and a battle-axe. So that’s the one I played as. Can you blame me?
For some curious reason you’re only allowed to start up the demo a total of 30 times. I can’t imagine that anyone would want to start it up on more than 30 separate occasions (except maybe if it’s used for in-store demoing), but it seems really weird that there’s a limit at all. Is that Ubisoft’s decision, or Nintendo’s?
You have to play the first level to unlock the other two. It starts you off on the regular platforming, but then it switches you into the co-op mode, and you have to assist an AI-controlled character with getting through the rest of the level while you control the little green flying thing on the gamepad screen, which shows a few extra things from the TV screen. It’s a decent tutorial, but kinda hoping it won’t be a required thing in the main game in single-player.
Then you have another level that’s all platforming, and it’s a decent way of getting a feel for the controls. But then comes the third level which is basically just a runner level. The twist is that it’s set to music, and stuff happens to fit the tune. It is actually pretty amazing, and it’s what sold me quite definitely on the title. Can’t wait!
Trine 2 Director’s Cut
I got this and intended to play it until AC3 arrived, but then I got AC3 the very next day, so I really only got past the introduction stages for all three characters. It still looks gorgeous though, maybe even moreso than on PC, but perhaps that’s just because my monitor isn’t the greatest.
As for the controls, I’m so used to mouse and keyboard for this game that it feels weird to play with a controller. They have done a pretty good job on the porting though, so it didn’t take long to get used to it. I especially like how you just use the right analogue stick to aim and fire arrows, and to bring out and direct Pontius’s shield. Even creating boxes works fairly well, though that requires ZR + right stick.
Once AC3 is done, I want to play more of it, and I might come back with a more in-depth impression if I feel that’s warranted.
Assassin’s Creed 3
Since I waited for the Wii U version, I guess everyone else has already played this. What’s special on the Wii U? Not much, really. The biggest thing, at least for me, is that the gamepad screen acts as a larger version of the mini-map. I have dubbed it (quite unimaginatively) the not-so-mini-map. I find it very useful, especially when navigating city streets at high speed, and when sailing.
It also plays cutscenes on the gamepad screen concurrently with the TV screen, but honestly this can be a bit distracting. The lower quality of the gamepad image does make the cutscenes seem somehow more cinematic, so I guess that might be a bonus for some.
I almost forgot to say; AC3 actually supports toilet gaming. You can set it up to play just with the gamepad screen if someone else wants to use the TV. As I live by myself, that’s not a thing I need, but if anyone wants me to, I can try it out to see how it handles.
This is basically a collection of tech demos. A series of minigames meant to showcase what the Wii U and its gamepad might be used for. And some of them are honestly pretty fun. I’ll have to get someone to come over to help me try out the multi-player ones, but I’ve tested all the single-player ones and they work quite well.
Your little ‘park’ will also get inhabited by lots of other people’s Miis, and there’s another minigame concerning finding certain people and inspecting them. I guess the intention might be to find new friends or something? Or maybe online multi-player is supported, but I missed it because I went on to other things?
And that’s about it, so far. Feel free to ask any questions you’d like, and I’ll come with updates if I feel anything warrants it. And if you own or get a Wii U, do check out the Rabbids Land community in the America region on the Miiverse. Dafoeverse forever!