Posted by Patrick
It’s pretty impressive that a company founded back in 1889 still exists today and is considered one of the most innovative and creative companies in their field. Nintendo has survived throughout these years not by sheer luck, but by being able to adapt to markets and get ahead of the game. Nintendo didn’t always make video games – it started out making playing cards and when that business was waning the CEO of the time Hiroshi Yamauchis decided to move into other businesses like instant noodles, a taxi company, and even a TV network. Eventually, Nintendo made its way in the video game business and released the NES; 27 years later, Nintendo has finally released its sixth console, the Wii U.
Nintendo’s philosophy has never been about creating the most powerful console with the best graphics, but to create a console that anyone could enjoy, developers could create fun games for, and is affordable. They constantly try to innovate without going overboard. The Nintendo 64 was the first console to introduce analogue sticks and 4 player controller ports right out of the box that competitors adapted in the future. We’re seeing similar advancements with motion controls that Nintendo introduced with the Wii and now Nintendo has taken another step forward by introducing the Wii U and the Game Pad.
Mark was able to hook me up with a Wii U from X-cite to review and I got the chance to test it out by playing Super Mario Bros U, ZombiU, Nintendo Land and Batman Arkham City.
The first thing I was curious about was Nintendo’s new social network called the Miiverse and so far it’s been informative, entertaining, and pretty promising. For those who don’t know, the Miiverse is where you interact with other Wii U users through a community for every app or game out for the Wii U. So if you want to discuss some Youtube videos, you can go to the Youtube community and post about it there and other users can reply or give you a “Yeah!” (equivalent to a Facebook “Like”). If you want to discuss a specific game and you’re unsure about buying it, you can go to that game’s community and ask them about it. Other times, people will draw some really elaborate drawings using the Wii U’s gamepad and the community walls turn into a temporary art exhibit. And it works well – comments are posted instantly without delay. People will comment and try to solve things. For example, I was going through the ZombiU community and found a thread with over 25 comments of gamers trying to decipher some code someone found spray-painted on a wall in the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if communities like this sprang up in the next iteration of consoles Microsoft and Sony release.
The gamepad obviously plays a huge part with interacting with the Wii U and even though I had some concerns (no multi-touch?), I was left with a pretty positive experience. First off, the size of the gamepad isn’t a problem – at least it wasn’t for me and my hands aren’t particularly big. It has a nice feel to it; it’s not really heavy but it also doesn’t feel like it was made from cheap plastic. The touch screen is very responsive and clear and after using it I didn’t feel the need for a multi-touch screen anymore. The gamepad makes the simplest things like browsing the web an enjoyable experience. For example you can open multiple tabs that show up on the gamepad, but not on your TV so that way it keeps it clutter-free. With the YouTube App the description and other details of the video will be shown on the gamepad while your video plays on the TV. Nintendo were quite clever in the way the gamepad was implemented into the apps.
One of the games I was looking forward to playing was ZombiU. I was surprised that the game had gotten so many mixed reviews online when it looked like a promising game that was supposed to give us a different take on zombie games. ZombiU is set in London and you play as some random person struggling to survive. The catch is that if you die in the game, you lose that character permanently – the next character you use is a different survivor and you can go back to where your previous character got turned into a zombie, kill them and retrieve your supplies. The gamepad here is used for inventory management, aiming a sniper rifle and you can use it to scan the environment by holding the gamepad up and moving it around. I’ve played the game for a few hours and so far I think it’s pretty entertaining, scary, and intense. The game does a good job of making you feel like you’re struggling; ammo is scarce and when zombies are chasing you it can feel pretty terrifying.
Super Mario Bros. U is great. It’s Super Mario which pretty much everyone has played and if you’ve enjoyed it before then you’ll love this version. The world is a little less linear than previous games and you’ll come upon forks in the road where you’ll be able to choose which world to play next, which is a little different than previous side-scrolling Super Mario games. The details and level design in this game are pretty good; Super Mario in HD looks very vibrant, dreamlike and colorful. Now what happens if someone wants to use the TV while you’re playing? Super Mario Bros U lets you continue playing the game on the gamepad without the use of the TV.
Nintendo Land is the equivalent to Wii Sports. It’s a bunch of mini-games that have a surprising amount of depth and based on Nintendo franchises like The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and Super Mario. It’s obviously more fun when you play with friends, but the single player mini-games offer quite a bit of entertainment as well. Most of the action in these mini-games takes place on the gamepad unless you’re playing multiplayer. So for instance in Donkey Kong’s Crash Course you have to guide your trolley through an obstacle course by tilting your gamepad in the direction you want it to move while using the analogue sticks to assist you by activating levers. In one of my favorite games, Balloon Trip Breeze, you guide your character through the levels by swiping on the gamepad to create a gust of wind that will move you around.
Batman Arkham City is the same as the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions but the Wii U version comes with all the DLCs plus some little additions like a new suit that features a new special move while some gadgets implement the gamepad nicely, so for instance you can use Batman’s sonar gadget to get an idea on how many enemies are around you or you can view a map of your surroundings, keeping the HUD on the TV clean and uncluttered. If you never got the chance to play this game before, then be sure to pick this up because it’s a brilliant game… and it’s Batman.
I was also able to play the Rayman Legends demo, which is going to be exclusive to the Wii U when it comes out early 2013. If you’re into platforming games then you should know that the last Rayman game – Rayman Origins – was the only game in the last ten years that rivaled Super Mario Galaxy in terms of platforming perfection so my expectations were quite high when I tried out the demo and I was thoroughly impressed with what I experienced. There were three levels to play each showcasing different aspects of the game, in one level you controlled a companion of Rayman using the gamepad to guide him, cutting down obstacles and opening paths for him. Visually, the game is an improvement on Origins with the game’s cartoon-like appearance and with so much happening on screen, it really looks like you’re playing an interactive cartoon. This is definitely a game to look forward to in 2013.
My only concern with the Wii U is in regards to the E-Shop. For those who don’t know, it’s where you can go to download retail games, indie games, apps and demos. The service works fine, but I find that it’s not organized too well. For instance, there’s no section for demos – this might be because there were only a handful of demos when I checked it out, but to find them you had to search specifically for those games.
Other people have noted that the gamepad’s battery doesn’t last too long, only around 3 to 4 hours. I personally didn’t find this a problem because I have a power supply next to my couch that I can plug the gamepad into and continue playing, I also rarely have 3 to 4 hour gaming sessions anymore unless I have nothing to do for the day.
Other negatives that come strictly with being located in Kuwait is that we can’t take advantage of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video, which would have really been a huge bonus.
Overall, the Wii U is a pretty solid console especially at the price it’s being sold at and what it offers. It’s too early to tell how powerful the console actually is given that it just launched, but there are some solid games to keep you entertained till then. The gamepad is an interesting move for Nintendo and so far it’s been put into some good uses. Hopefully, the trend continues with developers taking advantage of it in the future. Nintendo also seems to be taking a step in right direction when it comes to their online policies, Friend Codes are a thing of the past – you can just search for people using their Nintendo Network ID and send a friend request. It’s perfect to have in a living room, especially if you hang out with family and friends often, browse the web, and watch Youtube videos together.