I was able to go to Best Buy yesterday morning and purchase I believe the last Wii U Deluxe system they had shortly after 10am. I’ve played it a good bit since then and I’m now comfortable enough with the system to feel like writing up some quick impressions of the system and the GamePad.
Wii U is really quick and easy to set up. Both the Basic and the Deluxe versions come with a HDMI cable and a sensor bar. The system also includes a massive power brick. I look at my PS3 and just for the life of me can’t figure out why this big thing is necessary. I mean the brick is huge. After hooking everything up to the system and the TV, set up is as simple as following the instructions that appear on the GamePad. It takes just a couple of minutes.
I originally skipped the Internet set up because I heard that the day one firmware update (which I’ll get to) was 5GB and was taking people who had the system early a couple of hours to download Saturday evening. I assumed with more people having the system yesterday, launch day, that the servers would be taking a pounding. I did download the update yesterday evening, and it definitely isn’t 5GBs. I have a good Internet connection and routinely download more than 5GBs on the PS3, and I’d say this Wii U update which took me a little less than an hour was more like 1 to 2 gigabytes. But if you’re worried about, you can always skip it, get to playing your games, and then update later (and you’ll definitely want to update as soon as possible though).
The GamePad itself is as advertised and talked about. It looks big and it kinda feels big, but it’s light and easy to hold in one hand. I don’t foresee having any issues playing with this controller for long periods of time. Again it’s light and it’s comfortable. Despite the light feeling, it doesn’t feel cheap (although I wouldn’t recommend dropping it). The screen, which is bigger than the PS3 Dualshock controller I’m so used to playing with, is really good. It’s a great size and everything so far as looked really good on it. Nice bright colors, and the touch screen is nice and responsive. So far, I have no major issues whatsoever with the GamePad. The only negative I can think of is the battery life, which is pretty pathetic at about 3 to 5 hours and it requires an outlet to charge. Fortunately, I have a spare outlet and easily play it while the system is charging, but for some folks that could be an issue. And the black one is a fingerprint magnet, as was expected.
The Deluxe model comes with the a charging cradle for the GamePad. You simply plug the GamePad AC adapter into an outlet and plug the other end into the cradle, and you can then set up GamePad on the craddle. It works the same as the stand that is included, only it charges your GamePad. If you got the basic version, I do recommend purchasing the Charging Cradle. It’s about $20, and its a better way of charging your GamePad while you aren’t using the system. It’s not a necessity, but is definitely nice to have.
The update I mentioned earlier adds all of the online features: Miiverse, Nintendo Network, Nintendo eShop, and Video Chat. I’m not going to fool with Video Chat, but the rest of the stuff is quite nice. I’m already a fan of the Miiverse. It may not be the best looking thing (design wise), but it does what it needs to do and I think gives Nintendo a great online feature. I think its such a good idea that Sony and Microsoft will copy it and introduce their own social networks with their next systems. It’s basically a simple message board that acts like a Twitter or Facebook. There’s a community for each game and app, and you can post comments on the game and share drawings and screenshots (which is a great feature; when playing a game simply press the home button and it’ll create a screenshot of whatever was on the screen when you pressed the button, and then you can post it to Miiverse.).
Nintendo has ditched the Friend Codes that so many people despised with Wii. Now you have a Nintendo Network ID, which is the same as a PSN ID or a XBOX LIVE ID. There’s some confusion out there over what it takes to add someone as a friend. Some people claim, and I think the system itself does as well, that you’ll need to know the ID of the person you’re wanting to add as a friend and they’ll need to know your ID as well and you both have to do it. I don’t know what that’s about or how people are trying to add friends, but from my experience it is as simple as accepting a friend request.
Staff member Monkey added me as a friend earlier today on the system. I didn’t know his Nintendo Network ID. I received a notification of it, and it was as simple as touching “Accept Request” to become friends with him. I was added as his friend and he was added as mine. It works exactly the same as it does on PSN. So I don’t see where people are getting confused about it and acting like it’s somehow different from PSN or Xbox LIVE.
To illustrate what I’m getting at, take this quote from GameInformer’s Wii U Hardware review:
The days of entering a string of impossible-to-remember numbers to lock in Wii friends is over. To add a person to your friends list, go to the orange happy face in the Mii plaza and enter in your friend’s gamer tag. All the other person has to do is enter yours and, bam, you are now friends! It’s not quite as simple as saying yes to a friend request on Xbox Live or PSN, but I’ll take it.
Actually is is that simple. If you’re both having to enter each others name, you’re doing it wrong. If you want to add me as a friend on Nintendo Network/Miiverse, just add PatriotPaine.
The Nintendo eShop looks great, particularly on the GamePad, but it’s a hot mess. There’s no categories to speak of, but there are some filters for searching. When there is a ton of stuff on the store, it’s going to be a mess to navigate and find stuff if they keep it as it currently is. Currently there are no demos available or any virtual console titles (although you can enter “Wii mode” and purchase virtual console titles from the Wii Shop channel, but you’d be better off waiting until the Wii U’s eShop gets its own virtual console section where the titles can actually be played on the GamePad. I was particularly disappointed with the lack of demos though, especially considering it was reported days ago that a demo for Rayman Legends would be available on day one. It’s not there.
So far, the only games I have for the system are Nintendo Land and Madden NFL 13, both of which are great. My favorite mini-game in Nintendo Land is by far Donkey Kong’s Crash Course (it’s addictive and hard). Nintendo Land may not be an immediate “ah-ha” like Wii Sports, and it won’t be a system seller (a lot of people bought a Wii because of Wii Sports), but I actually do think it has more value. These are some great, mostly, min-games for single player or with up to four other people (local only).
Nintendo Land does have some Miiverse connections (you’ll see comments from other people), and it’s a nice addition. Madden NFL 13, which I’ll have a review of later this week, also works really well on the GamePad. The screen is fantastic when playing on the TV, since you can use the GamePad to select your plays, see an entire page of audible plays, and even draw routes for your receivers. You can’t use that functionality if you’re playing in detached mode, which is playing entirely on the GamePad, but that’s okay. I played a full game away from the TV and it was a enjoyable experience on the GamePad.
This is an impressions article, not a review (you need more than a day with a piece of hardware to properly review it), but so far I am absolutely happy with my purchase of a Wii U and see it getting plenty of playing time far into the future. The GamePad really is a game changer, and for stuff like Madden, it’s going to be hard to want to play with a standard controller again. If you’re on the fence and even have a slight interest in playing Nintendo first-party titles, then I highly recommend the Wii U. The OS is a little slow, but it is, so far, proving to be a a great next gen console that warrants a place on your entertainment center.