Well, it's been almost a full two weeks since the Wii U came out and we've poured tons of time into playing around with many of the Wii U's system features and launch games. It's been a surprisingly great time overall, so check out our initial impressions and some secrets about the Wii U we discovered along the way after the jump.
- Wii U set-up in general is very smooth and quick with instructions appearing on the TV and most of the actions taking place on the GamePad. The universal remote feature in particular was as easy as selecting "LG" for us and we were good to go.
- The first update that adds Miiverse among other things takes about an hour to download and install even if your Internet connection is really fast. This is unfortunate, but not really world-ending.
- Each game you go to play for the first time will also have an update to download and these usually take an average of about 10 minutes or slightly more to download and install.
- Miiverse is overall one of the very best things about the Wii U, but is restrictive in a way reminiscent of fascist Germany or the world in George Orwell's 1984. Big Brother is always watching you on Miiverse, and you'll be surprised with what you can and cannot post.
- I got into trouble no less than three times with Miiverse's moderators: twice for putting GameUsagi.com in my profile in different ways and once for my Mii's name MrMiyamoto (which they eventually relented on and let me keep). When your Mii's name is under review it shows up as a bunch of asterisks (*******) in Miiverse.
- The screenshot uploading functionality, spoiler marking, and ease of access from the Home menu make Miiverse a truly revolutionary video game community. I got stuck in Scribblenauts Unlimited a few times and was always able to get answers to my queries on Miiverse in the matter of a couple minutes.
- Friend-adding is already far superior to previous Nintendo systems, but still has a little way to go before it's perfect. To add a friend, you can go into the Friend List app from the Home menu and enter their NNID, but it doesn't inform them in this way that you added them. People you add only receive friend requests if they're added through Miiverse instead of through the Friend List app. This disparity is confusing and unnecessary, so I hope it gets patched fairly soon.
- Even though I've played many different kinds of games on the Wii U, I was surprised that by and large you use either the GamePad screen or the TV, almost never both of them together (even in Nintendo Land).
- The Wii U Internet browser, aside from no longer supporting flash and some very poor data management decisions that I discuss below, is a definite winner. Websites (including Game Usagi) all load very quickly, look just as good as they would on a computer, and are easily navigated and used. Easily beating out the PS3 browser and IE on the Xbox 360, if you're looking for a robust Internet solution for your TV (or on the GamePad) look no further than the Wii U.
- Nintendo Land makes a good case for "asymmetric multiplayer" wherein the person with the GamePad is given a different role than those using Wii remotes or Pro controllers. While it doesn't feel amazingly revolutionary, passing around the GamePad so that everyone can have a turn being the special character works quite naturally and is much more fun than inconvenient.
- A downside to having Miis representing actual people roaming around your Nintendo Land plaza is that they share messages from other players, which all too often regard large wangs, and unlike the sometimes stifling moderation on Miiverse, there is no way to report Nintendo Land messages.
- The selection of games and the number of levels therein in Nintendo Land is quite impressive when compared to games like Wii Sports and Wii Play.
- Black Ops 2 performs admirably on the Wii U in both single player and multiplayer. Where the game really shines on the Wii U, aside from the free quality online matchmaking (which is just a little short on players at the moment), is the ability to take the GamePad around in a 20-30(-ish) foot radius so that you don't need to skip out on a few more multiplayer matches if you have to do something like go to the bathroom or go to bed. The lack of clan management through CoD Elite as well as the Nuketown 2025 map and Double XP promotions are major annoyances, but the game still stands on its own without them.
- Black Ops 2 is also where the Pro Controller really shines. After only a day or two of getting used to the controller, I now prefer it for FPS' over the 360 controller (*gasp* I know! It's crazy!). The Pro controller is really comfortable and quickly becomes second nature for any core players.
- ZombiU is dastardly difficult. Difficult to the point that I stopped playing it. I can understand how some people would like it, but for me it felt really clunky having to keep looking down at the GamePad when I was searching bodies or trying to fast travel. Time doesn't stop while you're doing these time-consuming things, either. My first attempt at fast travelling resulted in my first demise as I couldn't figure out the fast travel menu fast enough at first glance. If this sounds like heaven to you and you're a masochistic gamer, then have at it, but I prefer immersion to forced unnecessary difficulties.
- Scribblenauts Unlimited is charming and fun as always. The content level is indeed quite on the low side for a game that costs $60, especially when the exact same game (without the very limited Nintendo characters) can be had on the PC for $30 or without the confusing and hard-to-use item/character creation feature for the 3DS for $40.
- The Nintendo characters in Scribblenauts Unlimited are neat, but they can't really be used to solve puzzles and you can't do anything fun with them like dress them up or use them in the item creator, which is an enormous bummer.
- While quite fun, the Scribblenauts Unlimited multiplayer is difficult to use and too restricted to be amazing. Players with Wii remotes can take control of virtually any item spawned by the player with the GamePad, but when you're controlling them you have to go through menus to interact with anything and since you can't spawn anything yourself or usually help too much in the main starite missions, it becomes a drag pretty quickly.
- Assassin's Creed 3 I actually haven't played much yet even though we have it. It looks great from what I've played, but I'm still not sure yet how indispensable or not the GamePad features will be.
- There is a uPlay app available where you can manage your u point things that you earn in AC3/ZombiU and this fortunately works pretty well and is a nice feature overall.
- The Youtube Wii U app is unfortunately garbage right now. The Youtube website runs beautifully in the Wii U Internet browser, though, so this isn't that big of a deal. But since you can't navigate the app or watch the actual videos on the GamePad it's more or less useless until this gets patched in.
- If you press X to switch WaraWara Plaza to the GamePad, you can use ZL and ZR to spin the game icons around freaking all of the Miis out. Also, if you pan to the top of WaraWara Plaza, you can see some of the icons that float around behind the channel menu floating above the Miis.
- The Miis in WaraWara Plaza express the emotion chosen alongside the message in Miiverse when they talk.
- The GamePad accepts many headphones that include microphones as headsets including the headphones that come with iPhones and iPods. Rocketfish does make official Wii U headsets as well, though.
- In channel loading screens there is a rounded border near the top of the TV screen and near the bottom of the GamePad screen making it like they're one big screen.
- In many menus, the sounds and music coming from the GamePad are different than those coming from the TV giving the music a funky surround sound effect if you have them both on at once.
- The GamePad can be used as a TV remote without turning the Wii U on, just press the TV button and you can use the controls like normal.
- The Pro Controller connection is handled by the Wii Remote/Other controller menu on the Wii U even though it can't be used in Wii emulation mode.
- Don't plan on viewing any porn or other sensitive sites through the Wii U's Internet browser unless you want everybody using the console to know, or don't plan on keeping any bookmarks. While there is a separate clear cookies option, clearing your history can only be done by completely deleting the browser's save data including settings and bookmarks. This is particularly unusual because the 3DS (and I believe even the Wii) browser has a regular clear history option just like every other decent browser for the past 10 years.
That's a summary of what we think about the Wii U and some of its launch games overall. Did we miss touching on something you want to know about? Ask us in the comments section and we'll do our best to answer all of your burning Wii U inquiries.