Hands On: Wii U

Before I went hands-on with the Wii U for the first time, I had mixed feelings towards it. My initial reaction on hearing that Nintendo was releasing a new Wii was that it would have to be something spectacular to be worth the money and effort that was undoubtedly being put into its development. The beauty of the Wii is that it is so intuitive and universally appealing that almost anyone can use it. My mom has a Wii. Queen Elizabeth II of England is said to be a fan of Wii bowling. Despite the bashes from more “hardcore” gamers, the Wii was able to capture a huge segment of the casual market that I feel wasn’t reached by prior systems. But while this market was one of the reasons for the success of the original Wii, I feared that it would be the downfall of the Wii U. The system didn’t appear to have the specs to recapture the hardcore market, and I wasn’t convinced the casual market was ready to shell out the money for a new system.

Photo Credit:  Takimata

Photo Credit: Takimata

As more was revealed about the Wii U, I admit I became intrigued. I honestly had a hard time picturing the Game Pad, but I was interested in the possibilities it presented and how it would be utilized by game designers. But I still remained skeptical. I’ve been burned in the past by Wii Motion Plus (which I spent a lot of time cursing as I played Skyward Sword) and the Kinect (so vastly underutilized for anything that isn’t a dance game).

I finally had the opportunity to get my hands on a Wii U. On first impression, I found the Game Pad’s construction a bit disappointing; I was not impressed by its clunky size and cheap plastic-y feel. As I actually got to use the Game Pad, however, I decided that although it certainly isn’t elegant, it feels substantial enough that I’m not worried about breaking it. Jimmy and I played through a bit of Rayman Legends, him with the Wii Remote and me with the Game Pad. At first, I will admit I was a little stumped as to what role the Game Pad and I were supposed to be playing, but the further we got into the game, the more I found myself getting absorbed into the unique gameplay offered by the dual screen layout.

One of the other big points in the Wii U’s favor is that Nintendo has finally joined the land of HD. This, however, I feel is too little too late. Yes, it was a necessary feature to put the Wii U on level with the current gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony, but it does just that: catches Nintendo up to the competition without helping it surpass them. I thought the HD was nice, but at this stage of the game it didn’t blow me away.

My brief hands-on time with the Wii U didn’t allow me to get into some of the things that have been its major pros and cons. I wasn’t using it long enough to experience any of the battery life issues that people have complained about with the Game Pad. I also would have liked to have tried a larger variety of games. Zombie U, while it probably would have prevented me from sleeping for a few days, seems to have one of the better implementations of the Game Pad of any current Wii U title. I also didn’t have the opportunity to delve into Nintendo TVii, which could arguably be a make-or-break feature for the future of the Wii U (if Nintendo ever finishes tweaking it). At this point, only time and a larger game catalogue will tell.