Wii U Review: A Confused, Conflicted Console

Editor-In-Chief Evan Tognotti and Senior Editor Clint Prentice both got Wii Us at launch. A conversation about the console is featured below. Remember to check out Clint’s reviews of Nintendo Land and Scribblenauts Unlimited, as well as Evan’s reviews of New Super Mario Bros. U and ZombiU

EVAN: Alright. So, Clint. You and I both got a Wii U on launch day. This’ll be interesting because I’m still not entirely sure what your feelings are on the console as a whole.

CLINT: I’m not entirely sure what you’re doing here, but yeah. The Wii U is certainly a console that came out.

E: I’m just trying to start the review with some sort of introduction for the reader. Clarity and all that. What do you think thus far?

C: I mean, Nintendo consoles have been a bit of an oddity since the N64, really. They’ve never been up to snuff with the competitors but always attempt something entirely different. And the Wii U is no different. The GamePad is this new concept that is a bit difficult to grasp, especially after the Wii’s motion control.

E: Certainly from an advertising standpoint that’s the case, but one of the more positive things I have to say about the Wii U is how intuitive most of the GamePad stuff feels. I think it’s comfortable to use for a long time, and pretty easy to manage with the television screen once you get used to it.

C: I’ve seen some complains about the button and analog stick positions on the GamePad, but that never became a problem for me. After spending about an hour getting use to the GamePad, button input felt natural. The protruding back gives you a nice place to rest your index finger for the shoulder buttons; it’s even comfortable to hold one handed for the times you need to use a stylus as well.

E: It’s also much lighter than I was anticipating. Light without feeling insubstantial. I still can’t help but worry about the button placement in real, honest to goodness shooters, though. I haven’t tried out Call of Duty with the GamePad yet, but the distance from the stick to the A button remains a concern of mine. The only thing I’ve played that comes close to a shooter is ZombiU, but that game moves so slowly that it was hardly ever an issue.

C: I guess if developers learn what works for the GamePad’s layout, or give players more options to move those inputs to more comfortable buttons, that could be a way to solve it. But every controller from Microsoft, Sony, and now Nintendo, has it’s own style and layout. I think it’ll become less of an issue once we get more of the action focused games and developers know what to do with the GamePad. Right now we’re seeing the first ports being rushed to the shelves without getting proper development time or money to make sure the ports are substantial, and that’s a real shame. But hopefully this new controller will give developers what they need to at least make comparable ports onto the Wii U.

E: I definitely think one thing Nintendo needs to fix is this whole “port” mentality. If a game comes out for both the Xbox 360 and PS3, people don’t view the PS3 version as a port of the 360 version, or vice versa. I’m honestly hoping right now that Nintendo can get games to launch 360/PS3/WiiU and be nearly identical across all platforms. That would be a step in the right direction.

But let’s step back a minute and talk about the design of the console itself. I can’t help but feel like everything about the hardware and OS design is horribly confused; from the weird, off-putting “Wii Mode,” to the flat menu designs and lack of TV interaction. Any of that stuff bother you as much as it does me?

C: I guess we should start back to that major day one update that added basically any and all functionality necessary for the console to thrive. Essentially all of the features they were touting back at E3 are non-existent without this update. That seems pretty telling at how much Nintendo does not understand the internet.

I had issues even getting my Wii U to sync with my router. I know you didn’t have that issue, but I’ve also heard of others having the same problem. After about two hours of fiddling with the DNS settings, manually configuring the IP address and everything else, the internet connection finally took and I spent yet another hour actually downloading and installing that update.

Internet problems aside, the interface is definitely confusing. Load times into specific system level menus are atrocious, and some settings aren’t even in their logical place. The overscan settings for if the interface isn’t lined up properly on your TV aren’t in the system settings menu, but buried deep in the Miiverse settings. These things, especially when Nintendo has had just about seven years to look at what Microsoft and Sony have done with their OS and online services, are just a giant frustrating mess.

E: The thing that really bothers me is how useless the TV is in the main interface unless you’re using a Wiimote. There are two main screens of interaction, and you can throw either onto the GamePad screen, but while the other rests on the TV, there’s nothing that can be done with it. If you grab a Wiimote, the whole process becomes a ton easier.

That also leads me to my biggest concern with the Wii U, which was my biggest concern before it came out as well: the reliance on Wiimotes. I reviewed New Super Mario Bros. U, where you straight up cannot play 2-player Mario unless you have two Wiimotes. That sort of foul-up wouldn’t be an issue if this were some lame third-party shovelware, but it’s easily the highest profile first-party launch title. It makes the Wii U feel less like a new generation of gaming and more like an HD Wii with a cool bonus controller.

C: Nintendo Land was much the same way where if you were playing one of the multiplayer games, the people with Wiimotes were doing something entirely different from what the person with the GamePad was doing. In multiplayer games it becomes this weird disconnect where the GamePad is used for antagonistic purposes, rather than cooperative.

The Wii U has this strange reliance on the past, without much of a look toward the future.

E: Ultimately, we’ll just have to wait and see. Right now I’m starting to feel like the way the different controllers are segmented is terrible, and perhaps prohibitive of Nintendo making this into a console that can be competitive with Sony and Microsoft. The infrastructure of the whole thing definitely needs improvement, and long load times seems to be an issue in games as well as navigation. I wanted to either definitively love or hate this thing, but I’m feeling about as mixed as I felt when it was announced.

C: I’ve certainly had a lot of fun with it so far. Taking Nintendo Land and Scribblenauts Unlimited over to my parent’s house and playing with people who don’t normally play video games, there was a similar kind of magic that happened with the Wii. It’s definitely never going to reach the same mainstream appeal, but I really enjoyed playing with family.

Much like the Wii and the Kinect, the Wii U has the ability to bring a lot of people together and have a unique kind of fun that is unmatched by anything else out there. If I can have that same fun, while playing some great games made by first and third party developers, then the Wii U will have done what I wanted it to do.

But the interface and weird technical mishaps need to be addressed, because it’s kind of unacceptable in 2012.

E: Alright then. Let’s give this a score and call it a day.

Evan gives the Wii U…


Clint gives the Wii U…