Wii U in Review

Skewed n’Reviewed sat down with Ken Jager of Nintendo to discuss the new Wii U console, which launched on Sunday, November 18th. Nintendo sent their rolling display trailer to Seattle Center to meet with the press and continue promoting the new system as the holiday season approaches. It should come as no surprise that Nintendo is making a mad promotional push, as new systems do exceptionally well during the first Christmas season immediately following their launch.

As we sat down with Ken, I wanted to know what was new, what they were most proud of, and what was going to set them apart from the rest of the big-boys (the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, most notably). He was quick to cite the Wii U’s most popular feature: their dual-screen technology

Dual-screen technology for this system includes the normal TV display, and also the Wii U’s GamePad controller, which has its own sizable touchscreen. This touchscreen has been integrated into every game. In some cases, like ZombiU, your mini-map, backpack and other options are all available on the GamePad screen, freeing up 100% of the main screen’s real estate for the actual gameplay. No more cluttered screens!

Jager said the console has the ability to go seamlessly from big screen to small, back again, pause, flip to the full internet browser, or even play a game while streaming a movie. It’s all possible with this system, and it’s done in full 1080p with a powerful video processor if you have another streaming device hooked up to another source in your TV, but not both running on the same console.

The Wii U is backwards compatible with all things Wii, meaning that Nintendo will, over time, phase out Wii sales in favor of the superior system. If you already have accessories for your Wii, fear not; they are all usable on the Wii U.

Other features of the Wii U make it clear Nintendo is taking a page out of Microsoft’s book. With the availability of Miiverse (for social connections), streaming services (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant), and a full browser, Nintendo is developing an online service to rival Xbox Live. Miiverse allows you to share successes, ask for help on challenges, and post thoughts on the latest sports game to Facebook/Twitter/etc. You can see your friends, and even other Wii-U owners in your local region. It’s an interesting new way of connecting with other people via home entertainment.

The new controller pad feels large in your hands at first, especially if you are a long-time console gamer. But you still have the standard double thumb-sticks, ABXY and directional cross buttons, and the accompanying shoulder and Z triggers. Having the fully-functioning touch-screen in your hands while trying to play a game takes some getting used to, but most gamers will have an easy time adapting. Once you get in sync with this new method, you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life.

The control pad comes with a gyroscope sensor, and it’s really amazing to see how games like ZombiU integrate that technology. It has to be experienced. But once you do, you’ll have a smile on your face like we did, watching our avatar on the screen scan the area with his pad as we tilted ours. (Or moved it around to fire the machine gun!) The bat computer also rest in your hands when playing the new Batman: Arkham City – Armored Eddition, as another example of the second screen usage.

Lastly, regarding the new Wii U GamePad: it does come with an integrated camera, so you can video chat with anyone else that owns a Wii U. Third-party programs like Skype are not needed.

With 23 games available on launch day, including a Mario game (which hasn’t happened on a console launch day since the Nintendo 64), there is a handsome selection from which to choose. It includes titles from Nintendo’s iconic intellectual properties, such as Zelda and Mario, as well as several third-party games, such as the aforementioned ZombiU, which was developed by Ubisoft.

Ken said Nintendo is most proud of the community and the successful integration of internet, gaming, and a multitude of ways to consume the entertainment through Miiverse. While the Wii U is first and foremost a gaming platform, Nintendo is very keen to point out how important it was for them to create a true home-entertainment system that allowed for gaming, tv/movie streaming, and split-screen multi-media consumption, not to mention creating a community to connect Wii-U owners with other players in addition to friends and family.

With a variety of titles like New Super Mario Bros. U, ZombiU, Ninja Gaiden 3, Pikmin 3 (coming soon), Wii Fit U, and Batman: Arkham City – Armored Edition, there are games for anyone and everyone. Don’t worry; they still have dancing and karaoke games for those of you with a penchant for such things!

The Wii U comes in two versions:

Basic: White console with 8 GB of flash storage drive: $299.99
Deluxe: Black console with 32 GB of flash storage, plus a pad-charging cradle, bundled with the game Nintendo Land. Price: $349.99 (only $50 more — easy decision.)

This is clearly the system to buy if you are a Nintendo console gamer. If you don’t own a Wii and you’ve been thinking about buying one, I just gave you a reason to get the Wii U instead, and another reason to invest in Nintendo’s console business.

Nintendo has done it again. They continue to be innovators in the gaming market. Their newest contribution to home entertainment is sure to delight a very broad range of users. For kids and adults, for everything from gaming to video chat, this system is a must-have.

Edited By: Jeff Boehm
Pictures by Neil Jordan