Review

Wii U with GamePad

Every Which Way

The Wii U lacks the clear direction of its predecessor. That might be a good thing. For now, it feels a little lost.

By John Teti • November 19, 2012

Note: This review focuses on the Wii U hardware and the Nintendo Land game, touching on a few other launch games. Reviews of Wii U games will become part of regular coverage in the coming weeks as more of our contributors get their hands on the system.

When people are lost, they tend to drift in circles. Even if you’re trying your damnedest to walk in a straight line, your brain will make many small, unconscious adjustments that add up and cause your path to veer. Launched yesterday, the Wii U offers a similar experience. It wanders in one half-hearted direction and then another, the whole time insisting that it’s forging straight ahead. Now that I’ve spent the better part of a week with the thing, you’ll forgive me if I feel a little lost.

The Wii U is the successor to Nintendo’s Wii, a device built around the notion that your motions translate into action on your TV. The focus of the Wii U is a controller, the “GamePad,” that contains a full-color screen. The difference between these two centerpieces is that one of them is an idea, and one of them is a gadget masquerading as an idea. That explains why the initial experience with the Wii possessed a “Wow!” factor while the Wii U warrants more of an admiring “Huh.”

Along with the GamePad and the console itself, the Wii U Deluxe Set—which is the version Nintendo supplied to critics—comes with a GamePad charging cradle, a GamePad non-charging cradle for some reason, a console stand, cables, and the game Nintendo Land. The cheaper Basic Set ditches the cradles and stands, and it doesn’t include a game. It also offers only eight gigabytes of storage to the Deluxe version’s 32. That’s a paltry number, but the Wii U is compatible with standard SD cards—the same ones used in many digital cameras—so expanded storage is readily available (and pretty cheap). Also, while the Basic is white, the pricier Deluxe is black, so that your visitors will be able to see at a moment’s glance exactly how dedicated you are to the Nintendo cause.

Pro Controller

The Pro Controller

As an object, the Wii U is one of the nicer gadgets that Nintendo has produced in a long time. The Wii always felt a little cheap, with its clattering disc drive and rickety access doors. And while later iterations of the handheld DS system were fairly refined, both releases of the more recent 3DS have come off as homely, plasticky-feeling toys. The Wii U unit is sleek and sturdy in comparison, and the GamePad is a minor marvel. It is surprisingly light but still solid, and it’s a handsome thing, too, with a pleasingly bright screen.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that this enormous control surface is so easy to hold—only a little bit cumbersome. Unlike this year’s PlayStation Vita, which disregarded human anatomy whenever it inconvenienced the Sony engineers, Nintendo has taken pains to ensure that this intimidating device would start to win players over as soon as they got it into their own hands.

If only the experience of using the Wii U were as consistently pleasurable as these first impressions. The Wii U offers all of the technological advances that have migrated from PC games to TV games in the past decade—custom user profiles, networked play, an online store, downloadable updates—but it fails to integrate all of these features into a coherent system. Sure, Nintendo has come up with cute names and adorable icons for each of these things, but these superficial feints at user-friendliness are slathered on top of one setup screen after another.

After Nintendo made internet features available to reviewers late Saturday, it was time to link a Nintendo Network account to my user on the console. The Wii U wondered, did I already have a Nintendo Network account? It sounded like something I would have. But the Nintendo Network did not recognize me. That’s because I was putting in my Nintendo eShop credentials (I think), and those two things are not the same (I think), even though the eShop account is linked to my Club Nintendo account (also not the same). So I tried transferring my user information over from the Wii. To do this, I would need the Wii Transfer app. To get this, I would need to download the app from the store. But I couldn’t access the store, because I needed to link the Nintendo Network account to the cat that killed the rat that ate the cheese that lay in the house that Nintendo built.

Wii U publicity shot

A Nintendo person has Nintendo fun with his Nintendo game. (Photo: Nintendo)

Navigating the Wii U’s firmament of features and online systems is an unacceptably baroque experience; it’s almost as bad as the ongoing human-interface bed-shitting that takes place on Sony’s game consoles. I recognize that the infrastructure of video games has become far more elaborate since the days when you could slam a cartridge into the NES and it would flicker to life almost instantly. I do, however, wonder why we have allowed those structural improvements to take us so far from that power-on-and-play ideal.

It seems that from the first time we, as players, grudgingly accepted a “Now Loading…” progress bar as part of the TV game experience, the console makers have bitten off larger and larger chunks of our time while we reaped diminishing returns. It’s not just games that take a while to load on the Wii U—even going to the main menu freezes up the machine for a disturbingly long stretch. If the executives at Nintendo’s Kyoto HQ are wondering why smartphone games are eating their lunch, might I suggest one reason: Neither Apple nor Google would ever ship software that takes 20 seconds to bring up the system-settings screen.

(Indeed, one of my favorite stories from the early days of Apple is one in which Steve Jobs muses that with a reduction of 10 seconds in the Mac’s boot time, multiplied by millions of users, Apple engineers could save the equivalent of a dozen lives. In contrast, here’s the Wii U and its “Please Wait…” screens, gradually pressing a pillow over our collective faces as it hums the theme to The Legend Of Zelda.)

Nintendo Land

Nintendo Land

Nintendo Land is designed to show everything that the Wii U can do, and it does a nice job of that, but “technology demo” is not a very appealing formulation for a video game. The implicit question of Wii Sports—the phenomenal game that came with the original Wii—was, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could hit dingers on screen just by swinging your arms like a baseball player?” The technology acted in service of the idea. In Nintendo Land, the ideas act in service of the technology.

The game takes place in a Nintendo-themed amusement park, and the park is gorgeous even if the amusement end of things can be a bit shaky. Each of Nintendo Land’s 12 mini-game “attractions” is clearly designed to show off another aspect of the Wii U’s genius. For instance, in “Mario Chase,” up to four players with regular old Wiimotes (the same ones used for the Wii) try to chase down Mario, who’s controlled by the player using the GamePad. The twist is that the Wiimote players have a limited view of the playing field on the TV, while Mario benefits from a bird’s-eye view on his personal GamePad screen. It’s a demonstration of the GamePad’s capacity for asymmetrical play, in which one player works with a different set of information than the others.

Nintendo Land

Nintendo Land

That concept seems to have deep potential—it is the closest that the Wii U comes to a Big Idea—which is why it’s odd to find such a thin execution of it here. While “Mario Chase” is definitely enjoyable, it plays like a stripped-down interpretation of the “battle mode” arenas from the Mario Kart games. Another asymmetrical game, “Luigi’s Ghost Mansion,” has a spooky atmosphere and twisty architecture that do a little more to hold the players’ interest. Even so, its “Wiimote players chase down the GamePad villain” format is awfully similar to “Mario Chase,” and it could be a sign that Nintendo is already struggling to come up with ways to use its vaunted second screen.

On the other hand, perhaps the company’s developers are saving their cleverest stuff for something other than a grab bag of mini-games. I wouldn’t blame them. Some of the attractions in Nintendo Land are quite fun, like the Rube Goldberg-style Donkey Kong obstacle course that has nothing to do with Donkey Kong, or a wonderfully silly Animal Crossing capture-the-flag type game that has nothing to do with Animal Crossing. (Nintendo’s profligate branding might be just a touch cynical here.) But aside from their graphical polish and technological trappings, the Nintendo Land games possess the sophistication of an above-average browser game. They are designed to explain as much as they are to entertain.

Indeed, the emcee of Nintendo Land is an androgynous flying television with a robot voice who does nothing but explain. This creature swoops in whenever you try to do just about anything in Nintendo Land, wagging its finger at you to expound upon the rules, and the device, and whatever else it feels you might not understand on your own. This character is a huge annoyance, but Nintendo’s developers seem to think that players will find the Wii U baffling otherwise (an attitude I’ve noted before).

The trouble is not only that the litany of instructions is tedious, but also that the machine can be baffling anyway. Nintendo Land is supposedly a “party game,” but not even a key party in The Castro would force its guests to dick around with so many weird-looking toys. Some attractions require just the GamePad; others the GamePad and the WiiMote; still others the GamePad and the Wiimote and the Wiimote nunchuck attachments.

There are further permutations. New Super Mario Bros. U—which is exactly what you’d expect it to be, for better or worse—can be played with either the GamePad or Wiimote. If you play with the GamePad, the full game displays on the controller’s screen, complete with audio, meaning that you can take the controller into the next room and play while another member of your family watches something else entirely on the TV. This is actually a nice perk of the Wii U system. It’s even better than playing on a true portable system in some ways: Because the storage and processing guts reside in the Wii U console, the GamePad is noticeably lighter than an all-in-one handheld game system or, say, an iPad. Just don’t get used to this feature, because sometimes it won’t be available. Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge and Madden 2013, for instance, use the GamePad to display additional information to the player, so the mirroring function isn’t available.

New Super Mario Bros. U

New Super Mario Bros. U

So sometimes the GamePad is a venue for asymmetrical play. Sometimes it’s a readout for supplementary info, or a different view of the action on the main screen. And sometimes it’s just a TV alternative. This is without even mentioning the Pro Controller, which is yet another interface for Wii U games. It looks like an Xbox or PlayStation controller, except that the joystick and the buttons on the right half of the Pro Controller are reversed from the positions that “Pro” players are used to. Why did Nintendo reverse them? Because shut up, that’s why.

The upshot of this gadgetry kudzu is that before you even start playing a Wii U game, you practically need a flowchart to figure out what you’re supposed to have in your hands, and how you’re supposed to be holding it. That state of affairs is perplexing when you remember that not so many years ago, in the heyday of the Wii, Nintendo was stridently insisting on design simplicity. But this is what happens when a company loses track of a clear idea to orient itself. These myriad details are all the results of little adjustments that Nintendo has made, perhaps without being conscious of their effect on the whole, since the early days of the Wii. Each new feature is minor, yet each of them veers from the Wii’s once-clear path.

The upside to this less directed design, of course, is versatility. Games like ZombiU, in which the GamePad is used to “look around” your environment with, for instance, night vision or a sniper scope, offer some early promise of this versatility. It may be only a mild twist on the shoot-at-zombies trope, but this is where the greatest potential of the Wii U lies: in offering a new and thought-provoking window on the game worlds we inhabit.

Whether that potential will be fulfilled is anyone’s guess, and I don’t pretend to know. I will admit that I’m bearish on it. It’s easy to look at the Wii U hardware and say that it provides an opportunity for experimentation, even more so than the average high-definition game machine. Still, the Wii U doesn’t change the underlying calculus that has made groundbreaking thought so rare on the major consoles in recent years. The experimental developers like to ply their trade with smaller downloadable games on computers and phones because the cost of entry is low and therefore the financial risk is limited. Developing for a console is an expensive enterprise, after all. Sony and Microsoft recognize this problem and make a concerted effort to fund small independent developers that can provide at least a little offbeat flavor for their machines. (Sony in particular has an admirable penchant for funding weird projects.)

But Nintendo doesn’t work that way. Instead, it occasionally pushes the bounds with games developed in-house and then frets when the major studios don’t follow its example. Nintendo seems to believe that with new, more flexible hardware, the juggernauts—the Ubisofts and EAs of the world—will finally develop a taste for fresh new design ideas. I’m dubious of that thesis. I see no reason to believe that the library of the Wii U will shape up so differently from that of the Wii: a handful of landmark titles from Nintendo itself, a bunch of multi-platform ports from other studios with some token Wii-specific features tossed in, and a vast sea of chaff.

The Wii U may provide the venue for some world-changing games. It is not a “bad” console at all. Neither is it an especially compelling one quite yet. (New consoles rarely are.) It provides yet another box on which to play Netflix and Hulu (coming soon), yet another proprietary social network to join and ignore, yet another online-shop password to remember. Anybody can find something to like in this machine, the same way that a traveler wandering in circles will end up going your way once in a while. The trouble with forging ahead in every direction, of course, is that you tend to end up going nowhere. Or getting lost.

Wii U
Developer: Nintendo
Price: Basic Set—$300; Deluxe Set—$350;
Pro Controller (sold separately)—$50;
Nintendo Land game—$60 (included with Deluxe Set)

Share this with your friends and enemies

Write a scintillating comment

  • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

    If you have any specific questions about using the Wii U, feel free to reply to this comment and ask away. I’ll try to check in throughout the day and answer those that I can.

    • double_hawk

       now I get the impression that NintendoLand is mostly “Meh” but what about as drinking games?

      Honestly I wonder if I should be a little worried that was my first thought when I heard about it…

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        You should not be worried; it’s normal. Nintendo Land drove me to drink at many points.

        To answer your question, I think a lot of the mini-games would be quite fun with a little buzz on. But watch out, the tutorial character is a complete buzzkill.

    • GaryX

      Do you share the fear that this game will turn into a Dreamcast like scenario if it doesn’t have the same mainstream popularity the Wii did (something that seems unlikely seeing as how confusing it can be)? Do the games ever feel like they separate themselves from the other console (beyond the asymmetrical gameplay I suppose) in ways like textures, framerate, etc? I’ve only seen a lot of “it’s still a good game! But I wouldn’t recommend this version! 9!” which seems confusing to me.

      I can’t help but feel the GamePad really is a gimmick and that there was a lot more refinement and extrapolation that could occur with motion gaming. If Nintendo had leapfrogged into whatever will be the next generation while retaining and refining the motion controls, they could have done something special. As it is, I worry that in twelve months when the new consoles have been announced, the WiiU will be relegated to a third-party ghetto where, much like the Wii, only poor, bastardized ports are found. I also wouldn’t be surprised to find lots and lots of 3DS ports end up on this thing.

      • ApesMa

        Sorry about not being @JohnTeti:disqus , but if the next PS and Xbox are both basically just upgrades with no big new gamechanging ideas I don’t think think the technical aspect will matter too much to most people, now that all systems are HD anyway. It matters less with every generation. I wonder how they plan to sell those systems. The Wii U seems like it could be a hard sell, but at least they have something new to offer. PS4 and Xbox whatever need to offer some kind of innovation as well.

        • GaryX

          Well, I don’t really think of upgrades in power as being purely about graphics. Having high specs allows developers to create bigger worlds, more robust ai, etc etc. That’s the stuff that won’t be able to easily scale down for ports, so I’ll be interested to see how it goes. 

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           @GaryX:disqus : That’s a very good point – one need only look at the anemic, empty port of Dead Rising for Wii to see that limited power doesn’t just limit visuals but gameplay possibilities (for certain types of game). I think ApeMa’s question of how they will sell those systems is valid. Without something that is clearly and readily seen as better/different, it will be hard to ask people to by a new $600 Blu-ray player that goes online and plays HD games to replace their old $600 Blu-ray player that goes online and plays HD games on only the nebulous promise of “more gameplay possibilities.”

        • Citric

          I’m going to be an old fuddy duddy and say I don’t want any big game changing ideas. Most of the big innovative whatevers have been largely disappointing and haven’t given me a big boost in fun over the old fashioned controller with buttons setup.

          Then again, I’ve got such a crushing backlog and I’ve been getting slowly disinterested in most of the big AAA titles and am sliding into old whiny retro guy territory – hell, this weekend I was playing an 18 year old game and a 7 year old remake of a 20 year old game and I was happier than when I am playing most modern stuff – so I’m not in the target demo anymore.

        • The Guilty Party

          Nintendo is weird. They are trying to sell you on the console. I don’t buy consoles for the sake of a console anymore, though. I buy consoles because it has games that I want to play. That’s how the PS4/Xbox-whatever will be sold.

          Maybe there won’t be as many polygons pushed, but instead giant seamless worlds, constantly networked, etc. Splitscreen in every game. There’s more ways to use processing power than rendering tears of blood on some macho soldier’s face.

        • ApesMa

          Remember that online console gaming was also a major gamechanger. I’m not talking about a new way to wave your hands about, I’m saying I think they need to offer new gameplay opportunities obvious enough for the masses to bother investing in new systems. It’s not enough that people like us will buy them anyway.

        • morley

          From what little I’ve heard from game developers, one huge area for upgrading is making the consoles easier to develop on. The PS3 certainly has room for improvement in that area.

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        In terms of graphics, the games look like late-era Xbox 360. The biggest red flag for me is the long loading time required to perform even basic tasks. It may be that the OS is just undercooked and that Nintendo needs more time to optimize it, which is embarrassing for them but fixable. Or it may be that the hardware is underpowered, which is a much bigger problem for the reasons you outline in your reply to ApesMa. I suspect it’s a little bit of the former and mostly the latter.

        It does have a Dreamcast sort of feel to it. I don’t think this console is going to sink Nintendo’s hardware efforts, and I can envision a scenario where, thanks to all the forthcoming TV features and thanks to Nintendo’s own game development, the Wii U holds it own for a few years. But I read your Dreamcast-type scenario and I thought, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

        • George_Liquor

          I wouldn’t write Nintendo off just yet, at least in the short term. In fact, with the Wii U hitting the market at basically the same price as their 6+ year-old consoles, this might be a tough year for Microsoft and Sony. The PS4/Xbox720-whatevers are still a year out at least, and will probably be priced much higher than the Wii U.

        • Mikehole

          I have to agree with John, in that the biggest source of frustration I have with any of the consoles or PC that I own is the loading times.  Everyone on this discussion site is still going on about DX:HR and based on everyone’s love, I bought the game.  Its a fun game, but when I screw up a room and it takes 40 seconds to load a savegame (in the same room) it is a dealbreaker.
          The next gen consoles should work on loading speed and hardware capabilities (so we get less pop-in in Fallout 3/Skyrim type games) and less on eye popping graphics.

        • George_Liquor

          Buy an SSD, my friend, and all your loading time troubles will be solved! Skyrim load so quickly on my otherwise unremarkable PC that I can’t finish reading the hints on the loading screen.

      • zebbart

        Does the pad have refined motion detection, such that it could be turned into a virtual reality window, particularly for first person perspective games? That I can imagine would sell consoles. Imagine the possibilities if you could hold that things up and look “though” it all around you. Imagine the two-player possibilities.  A fighter pilot game where the pilot uses the TV and the gunner can turn all around and see and shoot stuff behind, above and below with the pad, or a Zelda where the player with the pad is a fairy hovering above Link and able to watch his back and blast back stabbing enemies with magic or whatever. 

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          Yup, both Nintendo Land and ZombiU do exactly what you’re talking about.

        • Aurora Boreanaz

          Ooh, now that WOULD be pretty cool.  I love multiplayer co-op games where each person has a different task to perform.

        • SonicAlligator

          I think the idea of a VR window is cool, and while I hope Nintendo can do it well (and if anyone can it’s them) I worry, since that kind of tech’s been around for years. It makes for a neat gimmick but usually it get’s old pretty fast. When I was studying VR and augmented reality in college we found the biggest problem with those kinds of screens was the lack of immersion, that you always know you’re holding a tablet and not really there. John, maybe you can speak the responsiveness of motion tracking? Usually a lag of even over a few milliseconds can create a jarring response in users for such things. 

          In terms of VR, I’m really excited to see what comes of the Oculus Rift. I think it’s considered all of the major usual problems associated with VR, and I’d be even MORE excited to see how that plays with the Wii U since it’ll be able to output in true HD. I have no doubt that if anyone can utilize that tech to its right potential in a game, Nintendo can do it. A Wiimote as a sword, the Oculus as a VR display, and a sweet-ass Zelda game in HD? Sign me the frak up!

      • sageturk

        I thought the exact same thing about the dreamcast – right down to the screen inside the controller (you could even pull em out and play mini tamagotchi style games on it). Don’t get me wrong I loved my dream cast but it was doomed to gimmick hell and so is this I’m afraid.

    • Matthew McGrath

      Will you marry me?

      • HobbesMkii

         FLAGGED! For attempting to get Teti to leave his wife and elope with you.

  • http://twitter.com/TheBryanJZX90 Bryan Reynolds

    The mirroring aspect of the tablet controller seems great to me. Much of my leisure time now is on the couch with my wife, dividing my attention between her, whatever trashy reality TV she’s watching, and playing a game or browsing the internet on my smartphone. I feel like this is not an uncommon situation. Having a console game in my hands instead of a smartphone game could be a lot of fun. It could also be harder to evenly divide my attention, since smartphone games don’t require nearly as much interaction as console games.

    It also means that any time a developer uses the tablet controller for something besides simply mirroring the action on the screen, I’m probably not going to be as interested in it, because I won’t be able to play and socialize with my wife at the same time.

    • Staggering Stew Bum

      Don’t you see Bryan that these devices are tearing you and your wife apart? You may be physically next to each other on that couch but emotionally you two might as well be on opposite sides of the world. I implore you not to purchase a Wii U, and in the meantime put down that smart phone and TALK TO HER. You say that she has some of your attention, that you two socialise, but do you really Bryan? I don’t think you do, not really. Be honest with yourself here. You need to tell your wife that she is the most beautiful woman in the world, that you love her, even just asking her about her day would be an improvement. This is what she craves, to feel special, to have her husband’s undivided attention when she needs it, to share that bond, that connection you two used to have before that smart phone usurped her as the most important thing in your life. Adding a console game to this situation would continue to cause a rift that could potentially never heal! Is this what you want Bryan? You two need to get off that couch and LIVE DAMN IT. Because in the end, what’s more important Bryan, Super Mario or a lifetime of love and devotion with your wife? I trust you will make the right decision.

      • http://twitter.com/TheBryanJZX90 Bryan Reynolds

        Well it’s either she gets to watch her stories on the teevee and I get to play the mario on the wiiu, or I’m playing Halo drinking beer and yelling at people online until 3 AM again. She can pick.

        • SonicAlligator

          You need to wine her and dine her with only the finest of vintages and bread loaves; you should also have cloth napkins.

          And Bryan, you should also sex her wild, because girl, you got what she needs. 

          or something

      • sirslud

        That brings up a terrifying question – am I willing to forgo video games if my wife gives up reality television? Is that some kind of sofa based mutually assured  destruction?

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       Sounds like you should just get a 3DS, or something else that always displays on a hand-held screen.

      • ApesMa

        But this thing has a bigger and better screen and the option of playing the games on the TV in HD when she’s not around. Plus you can play party games with friends now and then. If you rarely play on the go this seems much better.

  • dcmc_fan

    There are reports that Nintendo has been working to be more friendly to indies. Do you think their efforts, as reported so far, will be enough to get more indie games developed for the Wii U, especially in comparison to the Wii?

    • fieldafar

      If Nintendo play their cards right, they could have the next Xbox Live Arcade on their hands.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      It may make a dent, insofar as it makes the Wii U a little more welcoming to small development houses, but the best way to get the more experimental indies publishing on your platform is to give them publishing deals and marketing support. Even the latter alone can make a big difference. I have talked to a number of small-studio developers who made DSiWare/WiiWare titles only to find that Nintendo did practically nothing to help them get the word out. They were exasperated by the lack of support. I think structural changes like the one you reference can help a little, but if Nintendo wants more experimental outside voices to make a mark on the Wii U, it needs to put some money and muscle behind them.

      As far as I can tell, Nintendo believes it has enough inventive people in its own house to provide the experimental inspiration for the Wii U, so it would rather dedicate resources to their efforts. And it certainly is the most independent-minded of the three major console makers, so it’s not crazy for them to have confidence in their own creators. The downside is that it makes their platforms rather insular. They know this—they’re not dumb—but their strategy to broaden their consoles’ range of voices is to cajole other huge studios rather than making more of a grassroots effort.

      It’s not like any of the major consoles are absolutely bursting with fresh-faced experimentation, but Sony in particular seems to recognize the value of having a “farm system,” so to speak.

  • Enkidum

    Backwards compatibility? Any nifty connectivity with DSes? 

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      It is backward compatible with Wii games once you apply a firmware update (already available). Rather than play Wii games from the Wii U dashboard, you put the Wii U into a mode where it basically pretends to be a Wii, complete with the old Wii home menu. Transferring the data over from your old Wii is fairly painless once you jump through all the goddamn hoops. The data transfer also has a freaking adorable animation.

      No GameCube compatibility.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         ”fairly painless once you jump through all the goddamn hoops” is the most wonderfully qualified phrase I’ve ever read.

      • double_hawk

         no gamecube compatibility at all?  I mean i guess that makes sense (and I really only still played a couple every now and then)  but still….

        • zebbart

          Yeah half the value of the Wii was that you could buy used Gamecube games for $5, expanding the library about 200% for cheap. It was effectively what Wii Ware should have been but was not.

        • Bad Horse

          And that probably also means you can’t hook up Gamecube controllers and use them as a cheap Classic, so if you want to play Virtual Console with more than 1 person you can probably say goodbye to another $50 for another Pro controller. 

        • GaryX

          Welcome to the next generation: why let you play your old games when we can use your nostalgia to sell them to you again?

        • Dikachu

          It’s the same thing that Sony’s been pulling with the PS3… the more recent consoles have removed backwards compatibility, because they figured out they could just re-sell you the same shit you already own.

          I bought one of the first-gen PS3s as soon as I heard they were getting rid of the PS2 support.

        • double_hawk

           I mean its not a huge deal since the only gamecube games i really still play are Rouge Leader, Ocarina of time (that I got from preodering Wind waker), and… Wind Waker…shit guess I gotta keep my Wii then

        • ApesMa

          We should be happy it’s backwards compatible with the Wii and its various controllers. It’s completely unreasonable to expect it to go two generations back, what console has ever done that?

          Plus, I assume they’ll upscale the resolution on downloadable GC games like they did with N64 games. I played Majora on an actual N64 a while back and it was almost unbearably blurry.

        • Bad Horse

          @ApesMa:disqus All versions of the PS3 are fully PS1-compatible. It’s the PS2 that’ll get you.

        • Citric

          @ApesMa:disqus Well, the PS3 never stopped playing PS1 games, even after they stopped supporting the PS2.

          Though in that case it was just easy to implement, the PS1 hardware seems easy enough to emulate with software and there’s no proprietary nonsense like with a Nintendo console, it’s easy to boot CDs so long as optical media is used.

        • ApesMa

          @Bad_Horse:disqus Wow, I didn’t know that. That’s quite impressive, though of course PS2 compatability would be preferrable.

        • Bad Horse

          @ApesMa:disqus I think we partially have Hideo Kojima to thank for that one, since at one point in MGS4 the system actually cuts over to PS1 emulation to replay an opening section of MGS1. That bit both made me laugh out loud and secured PS1 emulation’s future, since you can’t proceed without it.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           I know it’s not the same for a lot of reasons, but at least for stuff 2+ generations back, there tend to be decent emulators around. My PS2 is mothballed, and even though my Wii can play Cube games, I tend to play them in hi-res (and with save states!) on PC these days.

          This of course isn’t as good for couch gaming or simple pick-up-and-play gaming, and makes the assumption that one is concurrently investing in a generally up-to-date PC, which obviously not every wants to or can afford to do on top of maintaining a console (or two) and games for it, etc.

        • ApesMa

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus You could hook up your laptop to your TV and play on the couch, provided you have a wireless gamepad?

        • Aaron Riccio

          @Bad_Horse:disqus I did not know that, and I’m immediately going to start replaying my copies of Lunar and Vagrant Story — assuming I can find my memory card.

        • Bad Horse

          @google-19efbd0104cbaffa5782aef5b7104019:disqus Memory cards as such are not supported, but it lets you make a virtual one on your hard drive that scales to an arbitrary size.

        • mad

          Actually there’s an adapter that transfers your old memory cards to the virtual one in your PS3. It works really well and now I have all my old save files in my PS3.

        • Aaron Riccio

          @Bad_Horse:disqus Wait, so you’re saying I can save my PS1 games directly to the PS3 hard drive? I may actually try to finish Thousand Arms.

        • Crusty Old Dean

          I’ll feel like a damn fool, but I’ll pay up for Wind waker in HD and widescreen…

    • http://twitter.com/Gerardi Matt Gerardi

      It can connect to a 3DS. As far as I know, the extent of that functionality so far is transferring the Mii person that you have on your 3DS to your Wii U. Maybe we’ll see more in the future. 

    • Aaron Riccio

      It’s backwards compatible, but I’m assuming you still need to buy the sensor bar and the specialized controllers in order to play the motion-related games, right? One of the reasons I gave up on the Wii was because so many of their games (Xenoblade, for one) handled better with a standard controller, and I got tired of buying extra material. When I get an XBOX, I know it’ll run any XBOX game. When I get a PS3, I know it’ll run any PS3 game. When I get a Nintendo system, I’m not sure what I’ll need to buy next. A hard-drive expansion? A goofy-looking controller? Why all these obstacles to playing a game itself?

      • George_Liquor

        I think a sensor bar is bundled with the Wii U. If nothing else, the Wii’s bar should work with the Wii U.

        • Aaron Riccio

          Either way, if you’re late to the game or already sold your Wii (like me), you’ll have to be picking up extra peripherals (controllers, possibly sensors) in order to play basic games, and that’s not appropriate. I’m not saying that specific add-ons are inappropriate (I had a Miracle Piano for the NES, just as I have Rock Band controllers), but system-specific CONTROLLERS? A hardware revision that renders the original controllers obsolete? (WiiMote+) I can’t trust Nintendo, and I certainly can’t trust them enough to buy a system of theirs right out of the gate. Even now, with Black Friday deals pushing out 3DS systems (when the superior 3DS XL is out there), it just seems wrong.

        • GaryX

          It’s bundled with the deluxe set or whatever, I believe. It’s just the Wii one. Even says so on it. Kinda funny.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000590707081 Chris Ingersoll

          Sensor Bar and A/V cables (if you still need them, like I do) are the exact same ones as the Wii uses; you can just unplug them from your Wii and plug them right into the Wii U.

          The no-GCN ports thing is a problem for my household, though. Most of my friends and I prefer the GCN pad for Brawl, and the wife needs those ports for her current DDR pad. The transfer will happen eventually, but those two roadblocks have to be overcome first.

  • Kevin_The_Beast_King

    Unless their next e3 has some really exciting game announcements, it looks like I’ll be suckered into paying 400 bucks for a Smash Bros and Zelda machine. They know I can’t resist.

    • Ziegfelding

      Same here. I’ll sit back and mock early adopters with disdain. Then they’ll release a fucking karts for it and suddenly there’s one in my living room.

      • Kevin_The_Beast_King

        It isn’t so bad a deal really. Like the GC and Wii before it, I’ll probably buy six to eight games over the life of the console and play them endlessly. Smash Bros. Melee was a staple of social gatherings for a good seven years. Can’t argue with that kind of replayability.

      • GaryX

        On the upside, unless this thing sales like hotcakes from here on out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a slight price reduction once the other systems launch.

      • dreadguacamole

         The new Rayman game is almost a system-seller for me, but I’ll hold back and see if they release it for other platforms for a while. Other than that, the sytem holds  a sub-vita level of interest for me.

        • Moonside_Malcontent

           Agreed.  If they eventually release Rayman Legends on other consoles that particular driving force evaporates for me, but a new Smash Brothers pulls too many beer soaked college heartstrings to resist.

        • SonicAlligator

          NEW EARTHBOUND (that’s a command, Nintendo!)

    • http://grantb.net GrantB

      I hear that.  Smash Bros sold the Wii to me.

      An even lamer story:

      My wife, not normally a gamer, wants this for no other reason than Pikmin 3.  She’s actually mad that the release date has been pushed back, as she wanted to burn 2012 vacation days playing it.  She has no intention of playing any other game on this system (or any system, for that matter).

      • double_hawk

         dammit this system will be worth it for pikman alone practically

        • http://grantb.net GrantB

          First time my wife has been more excited for a system than me.  Feels kind of surreal.  (Don’t get me wrong, I like Pikmin too, but I wasn’t going to race out on launch day for it.)

    • SonicAlligator

      The Wii broke me, entirely. The triforces tattooed on my wrists burn when I say it, but I’m never buying another system for one or two games again. I’ve been flatly disappointed with the Wii, which is a shame since I’m a Nintendo fanboy. 
      .
      .
      .
      .
      But… if there’s an amazing HD Zelda with a special gold WiiU then FUCK THAT NOISE SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY

      Especially if they ever remake A Link to the Past! ^_^

  • BROedipus

    I think that the most potential for the Wii U’s 4DS controller thing conceptually is with co-operative multiplayer games that encourage communication between players to achieve whatever goal; like a two-player version of that sawbuck gamer game, uh… http://gameological.com/2012/04/half-and-half/ where each player sees one part of the screen and coordinates jumps or something. Puzzle games will definitely find a home here, too (for obvious reasons). Unfortunately, puzzle games have become increasingly “indie”, even with fantastically successful games like Portal 2 showing behemoth publishers that there is, indeed, a market for them.By the way, the Wii U Smartglass deathcontroller does have some kind of motion sensor in it, right?

  • HobbesMkii

    So, um…only 9 out of 10 stars, then, huh?

    • Staggering Stew Bum

      Teti’s working title for this article was “Assassin’s Creed Wiii”.

      • Effigy_Power

        Last words of John’s transmission:
        “My god. It’s full of pumpkins.”

  • Raging Bear

    Excellent review. And I fully endorse being bearish on the Wii U’s future, and indeed, on all things.

  • JohnnyLongtorso

    So, is the reason Nintendo makes money off their consoles because they cut corners on stuff like storage (8 GB, really? You could barely install one PS3 game on that) and use technology from five years ago? This looks like a good console for 2007, but it seems really outdated for 2012.

    • Bad Horse

      And the Wii was pretty powerful for 2001, when it was called the Gamecube, but they still sold a quadrillion of them on the basis of Wii Sports. Nintendo is pretty clearly banking on the novelty to sell this thing again, but Nintendo Land isn’t nearly as compelling a hook. 

      Wii Bowling you could play with one controller and one hand, and you could get the entire family crowded around the thing at Christmas and take turns. You can’t do that with Nintendo Land, if I understand right. You have to be all playing at the same time to use the asymmetric information, so you need to have enough controllers to hook up 4 players and the main person. Maybe you have that from the original Wii, maybe you don’t. And if you do, then you’re still paying $300 for a hook that you can easily duplicate with some iPhones.

      And who is the market for this? I can’t see this thing selling to non-traditional gamers like the Wii did – it looks too much like a regular console, with the dual sticks and the loads of buttons. But I also can’t imagine most gamers shelling out $300 for 2007-level hardware and a gimmick that they probably already have elsewhere in the home.

      What I’m saying is, I don’t get what Nintendo’s up to here. They’ve been in search of something to innovate for a long time, often at the detriment of the system overall. 

      • GaryX

        I think the flowchart comment by @JohnTeti:disqus is spot fucking on. Wii worked because you could pick up the controller and, for better or for worse, generally intuit what to do. With WiiU, it’s anybody’s fucking guess as to what you’re going to do. Over at Giant Bomb, they did a live stream and played a bit of the new Rabbids minigame, and it required them, at times, to sit there and swap controllers with each other depending on whatever random game they were chosen to play. It also only allowed any two people to play at a time.

        I think Nintendo has tried to put one foot in each camp here, and I’m honestly not so sure how this is going to work out. I was actually one of the idiots who waited in a midnight line for the Wii. I don’t regret it, but I’d never have dreamed of doing it for this thing.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        I don’t believe the lack of bleeding-edge tech is as significant as it feels for dedicated hobbyists.
           But Nintendo is beginning to feel like the kid who inadvertently did some awesome gymnastics falling off the jungle gym, was wildly cheered for it and now keeps on straining to replicate that initial success in hopes of maintaining the popularity it brought him.

        • Bad Horse

          It’s not the tech per se. It’s the fact that the PS4 and Xbox 720 are probably coming in a year or so, which means that in 2-3 years the Wii U will no longer be getting direct ports of AAA new releases. The tech positions it between generations, so it will be obsolete soon for the core audience.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          @Bad_Horse:disqus   That’s fair, and certainly a commonly cited worry, given precedent set by the Wii.
             I guess in the abstract I just hope for the success of a system, artistically as well as financially, that deviates from the incremental tech upgrade that so-called hardcore gamers feel is the sole gauge for judging a console’s legitimacy. 

        • GaryX

          As I said above, the tech upgrade is important for me not because of “OMG GRAPHIKS” but because of what is capable of being performed on those systems that wasn’t manageable on the previous whether it’s about scale, interaction, etc. They’re generally more subtle but still key.

          I would much rather a big push towards this rather than outright visuals, too, as that might help keep rising costs a little more level.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          @GaryX:disqus   That’s also fair.  And I don’t mean to imply I’m some sort of gaming auteur who dislikes improved tech because it’s favored by the hoi polloi.   I do very much enjoy improved tech.  And not just for the legitimate gameplay ramifications you site.  I like filters and resolution and polygon counts and mapping and all that superficial lacquered shine.
             But boy, it’d be nice if Nintendo actually succeed in breaking gaming out of this binary path dictated by porting and publishers and all the (legitimate) business concerns.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           @GaryX:disqus I remember when I ran head-first into that realization a while back on my last PC. It was an oldy, but I had just installed the best graphics card its old motherboard could handle, and was able to play contemporary games with pretty high settings. However, I blindly grabbed GTAIV on sale without checking the specs, and when I tried to run it, everything ground to a crawl. While my graphics card was more than up for the job of rendering the world, my old single-core processor was not up to the job of simulating it, and the game was unplayable.

          While I’m the furthest thing from a hard core gamer or a Nintendo hater (the Wii and DS are my only ‘current gen’ consoles), I think it’s definitely worth acknowledging that increased horsepower affords more than more realistic graphics.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       Also, according to Polygon, the system update that allows online functionality eats up about 4+ gigs on onboard memory, leaving you with about 3 or so left for other content if you got an 8 gig (though the system allows for non-proprietary external storage, so you can expand your memory with a cheap HD of memory card).

      • The Guilty Party

        What century did they write this OS for? You need a special update for online functionality? Does the console still use an RF adapter to hook up to your tv?

      • George_Liquor

         Are you listening Sony?! You can shove that $100 Vita memory card right up your proprietary ass!

    • George_Liquor

      You’re one to talk about corner-cutting, @JohnnyLongtorso:disqus You’re the man who comes in pieces.

  • zebbart

    Has no one told Nintendo how annoying it is to have to switch an HDMI cord every time you want to go from playing a game or watching Netflix to watching a DVD or Blu Ray? For $300 I would think they could include something Sony and Microsoft have had for years. Especially since Nintendo is supposed to be the non-techie family friendly brand.

    • http://grantb.net GrantB

      I don’t understand.  Why do you have to switch an HDMI cable?

      • zebbart

        Uh yeah, not HDMI but component cables. See I’m the perfect example of the dumb non-techie target demo. Anyway, I finally upgraded to a HDTV just a couple months ago and it only has one set of component inputs, so now every time I want to switch between the Wii and the DVD player I have to move the TV and change five plug-ins.

        • http://grantb.net GrantB

          Unfortunately, component inputs are falling out of favor now.  You can’t blame Nintendo for that.  If you visit your local Radio Shack, you can buy component switch-boxes to manage multiple component-ins (great for multiple classic-console setups).

          Now that HDMI is the dominant standard, I’m sure the Wii U comes with an HDMI cable.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it was now the component cable you had to buy separately.

          For the Wii, you can buy an HDMI adapter.  I can endorse this one, which I bought for myself 2 months ago and has worked perfectly:
          http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=108&cp_id=10830&cs_id=1083007&p_id=9742&seq=1&format=2
          You will also need an HDMI cable, which you can buy on the same site for very cheap.  (This is a great site for cables.)

        • GaryX

          The WiiU comes with an HDMI though. So if you want to still watch DVDs, just leave that plugged in and hook your DVD up to the component input.

          And that still sounds like more of an issue with your television than the system…

        • zebbart

          I’m not saying it’s a huge or unsolvable problem, I’m just saying that one solution would have been for Nintendo to say, “Hey for $300 guess what, you don’t have to figure anything out, just pop your DVD in the WiiU and it will play! Like PS and Xbox did 10 years ago!” I’m just saying if Nintendo’s identity is to be the user friendly, family oriented one you’d think DVD/Blueray capability would be part of the package, especially at that price.

        • GaryX

          Oh okay. Now I get your complaint. I thought you were blaming Nintendo for the actual inputs/outputs, not its inability to play physical media. Got it.

      • Pgoodso

        He’s complaining at the fact that the Wii U has no DVD or Blu-Ray playing capabilities, and that he has limited HDMI inputs. Thus, his innate human laziness would cause him to use an Xbox or PS3 to do everything than use the Wii U for only a couple of things and having to switch back.

        • http://grantb.net GrantB

          No, that’s not what he was saying at all.  See his reply to me.

        • zebbart

          No yeah that’s exactly what I am saying. Um, see my reply to GrantB? Even though I meant component and not HDMI, it’s the same problem except only changing one plug instead of five.

        • zebbart

          True my particular whine is solved if I upgrade to WiiU as long as I stick with my current DVD player and component cables for it. But Nintendo is counting on people having an open HDMI port or forcing them to get behind the tv and switch cables all the time. Didn’t the NES even come with a little switch box for the coaxial cable so that you didn’t have to unplug the Nintendo from your TV every time?

        • George_Liquor

           There’s some sort of AV jack on the Wii U that probably supports component video, if you really need it. Frankly, I’m thrilled they bundled an HDMI cable instead of another damn composite cable.

          Yeah, the NES had a little RF switch box that sat between the TV and the antenna, cable, VCR, other game console, etc. You could theoretically connect an unlimited number of devices to the TV this way, though the signal would get progressively worse. HDMI won’t daisy-chain like that, so each device needs either it’s own HDMI port on the TV or a 3rd-party HDMI switch.

    • GaryX

      Wait, why do you have to switch HDMI?

    • double_hawk

       thirded on confusion on this issue

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/63QALNXMNTYWAUYSBGMZXEOJ3Y Adam Connor

    It sounds shite…

    but I might buy it.

  • double_hawk

     Can’t really afford one at the moment but that seems to be fine as no launch titles really jump out at me (and it looks like there are some kinks to work out anyway).  I’m confident Nintendo can can deliver though

  • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

    If i were the head-honcho at Nintendo I would’ve tried to do more to light the hype fire under this thing.  I know it apparently sold out but the marketing has been abysmal and it seems like it was just announced 2 seconds ago.

    But if they release a good super smash bros…

    • Bad Horse

      It’s not like Nintendo’s supply chain is incapable of cranking out enough of these things to meet demand, they just don’t want to. They artificially constrain supply to make it look like demand is off the charts. Weird that they’re still doing it, since the trick is older than dirt and I would think people are wise to it by now.

    • GaryX

      Honestly, it’s been disappointing how baffling their presentation of it has been. Everyone was waiting for them to blow it out of the water at this E3, but even that was muddled and confusing at best. The dissonance between what was on stage and what they were saying had shades of the Wii Music unveiling. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

        I get the sense that during E3, they knew how byzantine the console would be just in the set up, which is why they kept harping on going to the website and keeping any and all explanations vague and inconclusive.

        At this rate they’ll probably set up a “Nintendorks” hotline or something to call when setting up stuff becomes ultra-confusing.

        • GaryX

          “I get the sense that during E3, they knew how byzantine the console would be just in the set up, which is why they kept harping on going to the website and keeping any and all explanations vague and inconclusive.”

          Also known as the Romney Strategy.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       Last weekend my mom (who’s entire gaming universe consists of OG gameboy Tetris and digital Scrabble) was asking me what exactly this ‘Wii U’ thing was, and if it would work with a normal Wii, etc.

      This is a marked contrast with the Wii, which she comprehended immediately, and overtly suggested I get so she could try it out, indicating a certain degree of enthusiasm/ curiosity. The Wii U is less about the enthusiasm and curiosity and more about the bafflement, I guess.

      • GaryX

        The amount of people mistaking the Wii U for an add-on to the Wii must be infuriating to Nintendo. I think even Jimmy Fallon, who appears to at least get games, messed that part up. 

        Probably exactly the opposite of what the branding was intended to do.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Would calling it the “Wii 2″ have been so bad? It differentiates the new console from the original Wii, and still leaves room for loads of terrible puns.

      • The Guilty Party

        Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Wii U

      • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

        It’s economics 101. How do you sell a ton of something; confuse the hell out of consumers.

        That’s at least what I learned at the Pensacola Community Business College for ex-cons.

  • duwease

    “Ongoing human-interface bed-shitting” is exactly the phrase I’ve been searching for to describe my Sony experience all this time.  Can we shrink this down to a single word and include it in the English vocabulary?  How do the Germans go about doing it?

    • Bad Horse

      If the Germans do it at all like Google Translate does it, the word you’re looking for is “Verbindungzummenschlichenbettgekackt”.

      • Penis Van Lesbian

        Gesundheit

      • duwease

        Ah, as pleasing to the senses as the experience which it describes..

        • HobbesMkii

          It’s also onomatopoeia.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      You might want to forgo the German phrase, due to it’s intrinsic sexual undertone.  I recommend going with the Ukrainian for the antiseptic nihilism.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         The Russian idiom is reportedly extremely filthy, and involves defecating in a bed containing an aborted foetus of a prostitute with whom you had carnal relations and who is intimated to be either Sony or Sony’s mother.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          A “Putin Wednesday” as it’s colloquially known.

    • Citric

      I wonder how much Sony marketing plays into how bad their interfaces are. Like how the cursor starts on the PSN store tab for some reason, as though they can get someone to accidentally buy something by making getting to your actual game slightly more annoying.

  • GaryX

    UNRELATED AV CLUB AWARDS UPDATE

    In case you guys don’t venture over to the AV Club or didn’t see it, the AV Club Awards (aka The Commies) are now LIVE.

    You can vote for a number of nominees over at http://www.avclubawards.com

    If you have any questions, feel free to ask them to me here, on the AV Club, on the website, or on Twitter @guyneiljames:twitter . 

    Thanks!

    OT: I really want to get interested in this thing, but the hardware just isn’t selling me. I think part of it is that stuff doesn’t seem quite as imaginative as I want it too. New Super Mario Brothers U, besides having a terrible name, just looks so dull visually. I really wish they had taken a more adventurous style, or at least gave it its own look like Mario games of yore. For whatever reason, that kind of “bleh”ness seems to fill the WiiU as a whole for me. Really hoping that Nintendo takes full on advantage of the HD abilities while combining it with their usually interesting art styles.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

      Early reviews for NSMBU are comparing it (lightly) to Super Mario World, with that kind of clever, wide-expansive level design that forces you to pay attention to what works (and doesn’t) to proceed. It’s tempting, but I doubt it’s GET WII U NOW tempting.

      • GaryX

        Yeah, I’ve read that. I’ve also read an equal amount of one’s similar to Teti’s reaction up there which is “This is maybe a little too similar too soon.” I guess it would look better if they hadn’t just released that 3DS one.

    • HobbesMkii

      Completely unsurprising: the AV Club Awards ballot is nearly as long as Florida’s.

  • Dikachu

    Jesus, the Mii’s look even worse in hi-res.  Goddamn, Nintendo, if you want “core” gamers back, cut out the cutesy shit.

    $300 is a touch steep for a Nintendo console, especially since (as they’ve shown in the last couple of console generations) there will be like 3-4 really good games in 5 years. 

    Also, I’m assuming that “proprietary disc” format is to prevent piracy, but does it play Blu-rays or DVDs?  If not, then they really missed the mark on why a lot of people buy consoles these days (as an all-around entertainment center).  I probably wouldn’t have a PS3 if I didn’t need a Blu-ray player…. but I’ve wound up buying a bunch of games for it cuz I already had it.

    • GaryX

      Like the Wii, it plays neither.

      • double_hawk

         you’ve got to be shitting me.  That was one of the biggest missteps in my mind to the Wii

        • Bad Horse

          Nintendo’s love of proprietary formats will be the death of them. Cartridge manufacturing costs kept the N64 from achieving its full potential and the lack of DVD functionality crushed the Gamecube. How can you make the same mistake 3 times? Is piracy really that big an issue? 

          I mean, at some point you’ve just got to throw up your hands. These guys used to be so great! What happened?

        • GaryX

          Yup. No idea why. As @Bad_Horse:disqus wonderfully points out, you think they would have realized this by now. I pretty much bought a PS3 for 1)Blu Ray player, 2)MGS4 bundle, and 3) backwards compatibility. The first point was the biggest for me.

          And, yeah, streaming is great, but it’s not like you can’t get that but crazy cheaper in other devices. 

        • ApesMa

          It’s because the license fee they would have to pay for it to be able to play DVDs and Blu-Rays would drive the costs up. It hurts them a lot more to sell at a loss because they are a games company only, which is also why it only has 8 gigs.

          Relatively few people cared that the Wii didn’t play DVDs so it doesn’t seem to be a very big problem for them. As Blu-Ray player prices continue to drop and more people can afford or already own one it becomes less and less of an issue.

        • HobbesMkii

          Nintendo is to consoles what Apple is to computers. They create a controlled environment and subsequently Nintendo products perform best and are most likely to succeed on it. It creates a smooth, mostly error free experience in exchange for sacrificing the functionality that consumers of other products have come to expect.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          Nintendo’s main goal with hardware is to keep costs down. Part of this means not paying for the licensing to play proprietary formats that their customers likely already have 1 or 2 devices to play. (Part of this also means cutting “unnecessary” things like storage and on-line infrastructure, only to find out those things aren’t really unnecessary, as well as using dirt-cheap materials of unspecified origin and not sweating things like green manufacturing practices…)

          It’s not about piracy, at all. If GaryX bought a PS3 mainly because it was a Blu-Ray player, then it would be silly to assume he will mainly buy a WiiU because it is also a Blu-Ray player, and he desperately needs two of them.

        • Dikachu

          It was one thing for the Wii to not support any movie disc formats, because it was pretty damn cheap.  At its price point, you could justify something like that only playing games.  But at $300-350 I think they’re gonna lose that market of people who want a console that can play movies too (whether they can’t afford to have two consoles, or they just don’t want extra clutter).

        • The Guilty Party

          @HobbesMkii:disqus Yeah, except like Apple, it sounds like Nintendo forgot about the ‘make it work smoothly’ part and only now focus on the ‘lock this shit down so that we get every single penny out of it’ part.

        • zebbart

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus that’s a reasonable line of thought if Nintendo is marketing to serious gamers and early adopters, but that’s not what I think Nintendo is. I for one still don’t have a Blue Ray player at all so if the Wii U included one I would be a lot more inclined to buy it. The only people I know who are still playing their Wii’s (which is just extended family who are busy adults with young children like myself, and so not the market for the big AAA games Wii never got anyway) are similar. I have also never owned any console other than every Nintendo system so far. But at this point with Steam providing plenty enough interesting cheap small games, emulation providing more and more libraries of games I missed when they came out, and enough replayable GC/Wii party games to for holiday get togethers, Wii U would have to offer something more than another Zelda and Mario gate pass for me to drop that kind of money. Serving as a good movie and music player so that it could be the core of a very modest home entertainment set up could have gone a long way towards that.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           @zebbart:disqus : I’m likewise a Nintendo-only non-”Hardcore” late adopter, and I think that’s actually who the no DVD/no Blu-Ray thing is courting. I already have a DVD player because everyone does, and I don’t have an HDTV, so I’m not interested in getting a Blu-Ray player. It sounds like you already have a Blu-Ray player, anyway. At this point, folks who want Blu-Ray largely already have shelled out for a player, and folks who haven’t don’t care or don’t need one.

          Conversely, in the last generation, when Blu-Ray was new, it made sense for Sony, targeting the early-adopter who pays a premium price for next-gen tech, to bundle/trojan-horse their new format into the system (also, they didn’t have to pay royalties to use their own proprietary format). I don’t think Nintendo has to do that, particularly in this generation, and particularly with a format they would have to pay extra to support. Just as the PSP billed itself as a kind of pocket media center, while the DS was strictly a game machine, the Wii and WiiU billed themselves as strictly game machines. I don’t expect it to play Blu-Rays anymore than I expect it to play Audio CDs or whatever.

        • Asinus

          The Wii (and gamecube) discs aren’t proprietary, they’re DVDs. It’s the MPAA licensing fees that they chose to sidestep by not building in a decoder for video. It kept the prices down (though by how much, i have no idea). And I do/have um… backed up both gamecube and Wii games on DVD-Rs (and there are ways to play DVDs on both the Wii and the Gamecube).

          Even GD-ROMs (Dreamcast) could be copied onto regular CDs as long as you tricked it by doing some formatting tricks (I think the first track had to be a blank WAV file of a certain length). 

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    Were my kid three years older, I can see this being more of a legitimate consideration.  Well, assuming she has any interest in video games.
       But as much as I wish Nintendo well, I haven’t been able to muster much excitement for the WiiU.  And I love new, dubious tech!  I bought a Vita -the handheld that came from the future to die in the present.
       But then again, my loins aren’t stirring at the thought of the next Playstation or Xbox, either.  Maybe after participating in half a dozen console generations, I’m ready to get off this crazy roller coaster.
       Or roller coaster theme park sim…

    • ApesMa

      I don’t get what they were thinking with the Vita at all. “The PSP was disappointing, so lets drop that brand but continue doing the same exact thing but with a touchscreen like everything else has by now”. They should have known by then there isn’t much demand for a super powerful handeld console

      The Wii U has a similar problem: a touchscreen no longer impresses anyone at all. Compared to motion controls, the gamepad seems like it could have more actual use for a wider variety of games without getting in the way, but the benefits seem way more subtle and the technology is so familiar. Are people really going to run to the stores to buy a DS for their TVs?

      • GaryX

        Worse still about the Wii U is that it’s not a multitouch touch screen. Not only are you not impressing people, you’re taking a step back from the tech they normally use.

        • zebbart

          Jeez. I remember a day when you could defend Nintendo for not rushing their next generation machine to market half baked like Sega or Sony, holding off until they had it really perfected. Now it seems like they are just waiting until they are 3 years out of date.

        • Guybrush Threepwood

          Capacitive touch requires less memory and has less lag than multitouch, so it’s probably for the better as the gamepad has much less latency issues.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        I still have hope for the Vita, but it’s a hope solely based on my owning one and wanting it to do well, not on reason or logic.
           That and it’s a neat machine that’s beautiful to play, but certainly not an experience sublime enough to overcome Sony’s clusterfuckery in their handling of the product.

  • Aurora Boreanaz

    One of my biggest complaints about the last two generations of consoles has been the lack of appropriate controllers for at least two players included in the box.  If you’re going to sell me a console that comes with a two player game, and force me to buy a second controller for an additional $50, you are going to severely annoy me.

    Introducing the Sony PlayStation 6!  Enjoy six degrees of freedom for up to 36 players*!  Only $899!

    *-One controller/headset included.  For full 36-player support, you will need to purchase an additional 35 VR headsets and controllers at $395 each, as well as two HD Surround Hotseats for Random Hotseat Play, $1495 each.

    • Citric

      Last two? Try last four. My SNES didn’t have a second controller, I had to wait until my birthday to get it, back when I was a boy.

    • HobbesMkii

      Well, now Sony doesn’t have to write their own copy for the PS6.

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

       Not that it matters, because there will be a total of 2 PS6 games that support more than one person playing at the same time.

  • Sini_Star

    Question: Can I sell one on EBay for 3x what I paid?

    • Bad Horse

      I’ve heard they’re going for $500, so you can probably get 1.5x at least.

  • zebbart

    Does the Wii U actually only support one of the screen controllers at a time? If not, how much does one of those cost?

    • GaryX

      They said there will be games that support two controllers, but no games at launch do. As a result, you can’t yet buy a GamePad separately.
      Also, when using two GamePad’s the framerate will be cut in half from 60 to 30 though based off of giantbomb.com ‘s live preview, some games seem to already have this feature.

  • mad

    Good review, Teti. It nicely lays out some of the reservations I’ve had with the concept since it was announced (and it’s overall meaning regarding the future direction of Nintendo).

    But I’m sorry, I have to say this: “key party in The Castro”? Wha…?
    I don’t think the Castro has ever been that square, and certainly not in the 70s.

    • Bad Horse

      At the risk of overexplaining, the joke implies that swinger key parties in the Castro involve a lot of toys that go into strange places. Sex toys in orifices.

      • mad

        I think I got that…

        It’s the premise (that Castro denizens would be so lame as to have “key parties”) that I find dubious at best. He has the basis of a good joke there, but the use of a “key party” as his bacchanalia of choice ruined the joke.

        • Pgoodso

           The joke isn’t lameness, though, it’s the plentifulness of toys. The joke is very simply just the juxtaposition of Wii U toys with sex toys.

          Reworded, it’s “The Wii U’s got more weird-looking toys to dick around with than a key party at the Castro.”

        • mad

          Oh crap, now I’m beating this to death. Sorry, guys. But I feel strangely compelled.

          I never said the joke was lameness, I got the punchline about sex toys. All I’m saying is that it wasn’t quite that effective since it’s predicated on there being key parties in the Castro. So let me be more explicit: I am willing to bet there’s never been such a thing as a Castro key party (assuming the joke is about gay men and not straight couples). I’ll go so far as to say that if one brought it up among long-time Castro residents, they’d be setting themselves up for ridicule. The concept of a “key party” is such a straight, boring suburban thing that it makes no sense in the context of the gay world, especially in the 70s, the decade of such parties. In the 70s, while white, straight, suburban squares were feeling transgressive by having key parties, gay promiscuous sex was definitely on a whole other plane of debauchery. This is so self-evident to me that I found it way too distracting and ruined an otherwise clever joke.

          Sorry again, now I feel silly for writing this much about this. And I understand that saying “key party” was slightly more elegant than simply saying “orgy,” but maybe that would’ve been better in the end.

          Ok. Sorry one last time.
          The End.

  • Effigy_Power

    “Nintendo Land is supposedly a “party game,” but not even a key
    party in The Castro would force its guests to dick around with so many
    weird-looking toys.”

    I laughed about that. Quite loudly actually. Gay humor without being gay-bashing is rare enough, so… +1 Charisma, John.

  • Drew Toal

    Made-to-order-back-of-box-quote: “Navigating the Wii U’s firmament of features and online systems is an unacceptably baroque experience.”

    • GaryX

      “”It’s practically Kefkaesque!” says online reviews.” is what I’d really like to see.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        Kefkaesque or Kafkaesque?  Though being in the fashion of a homicidal God-Clown would be fairly apropos for a Nintendo system.

        • Citric

          If the WiiU made the Kefka laugh every time you booted it up I’d buy one.

        • GaryX

          Yeah, I was making a Nintendo-relevant play on the word.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          @GaryX:disqus   Ah, of course.  I would have known that, were I not a dumb.

  • doyourealize

    An honest review, and well-focused. As hesitant as I am about this system, I have to say that one of my favorite features of the GameCube was the very few games (2 that I know of) that allowed you to use your Game Boy Advances as a controller. Both Final Fantasy Chronicles and The Legend of Zelda: The Four Swords used this feature in a way that was gimmicky, sure, but also a lot of fun to play with other people in the room.

    In FFC, the Advance screen displayed one of four different kinds of information, depending on…ummm…how you colored Mog. This allowed for conversation between players who would let everyone know about enemy placement or shortcuts, making everyone uniquely useful. With less than four players (I only played with one other person), you’d have to decided which two screens were most beneficial.

    In LoZ:FS, the GBA served as another game screen. The main world was on the TV, while you’d look at the Game Boy screen whenever you went into a cave. Not the most original use, I guess, but it allowed for fun strategic decision making.

    Since Nintendo has always wanted to be about fun, as least as I understand them, the Wii U could be the right step. I’ll admit the idea of Mario Chase, as Teti describes it, intrigues me, and games like that, while not exactly groundbreaking, have me warily excited for this system. If it’s mostly used to carry your game into the next room when your wife wants to watch the Food Network, though, I give it a shrug of the shoulders. I’m hoping it brings back same room multiplayer. Now I just need it to be 10 years ago when I had neighbors or roommates to play with.

    • zebbart

      Hey don’t be sexist. It’s also for when you wife wants to play Wii Babies when Sunday night football is on.

      • doyourealize

        Not sexist, just specific to doyourealize households.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       Four swords actually used the multi screen to really great effect. Sometimes your Links would go into different caves, and have to work together to solve different parts of a puzzle. I recall one where a Link with an arrow went into a cave with a vast, yawning chasm extending to the right. Another Link went down another cave that turned out to lead to the other side of the chasm, and there there three eye-targets over there, and he had to direct arrow Link how to shoot arrows across the chasm to hit the targets on his side.

      There was also a boss battle where you got sucked into the dark world, which was one your gameboy, but your shadow remained on the overworld, and you had to interact between the two spaces at once as a team (I forget the exact mechanics…)

      ALSO: Pac-Man Vs. had some awesome asymmetric GBA-based gameplay.

      • doyourealize

        I just meant the idea wasn’t so creative, as it effectively just played another Zelda game on your GBA. The implementation, however, was excellent. I vaguely remember that boss battle, but I mostly just have vague recollections of imaginative puzzles and a lot of fun-having.

        Never played the Pac-Man game, unfortunately.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           I don’t really draw a sharp distinction between ‘idea’ and ‘implementation’ – I feel the implementation was brimming with inventive design ideas.

          The use of common Zelda tropes and gameplay could be said to be uncreative, but that’s a criticism that can be leveled at pretty much every single Zelda game.

  • rvb1023

    I played some Nintendoland on my friend’s WiiU yesterday. Given my brief experience with the system, it’s better than the Wii but I feel that the long term is what’s going to matter. This console seems less gimmick-based at least.

  • Mighty_Ponygirl

    There are a few really good directions they could go with this.  The Wii was a real missed opportunity, I’m nervous that the Wii U will be another wasteland of gimmicky crap games and a handful of good first-party games.

    For my money:

    A Zelda: Four Swords like the one for the gamecube would be a killer ap for me. For those of you who didn’t play that, it was basically Link to the Past (2D Zelda) for multiple players. Each player would plug their gameboy into the Gamecube and control their Link from there. All players had to work co-op to get through the level, but were also in competition between each other. The second a player entered a building or went underground, they would switch to their gameboy screen, which meant that suddenly other people couldn’t see what they were doing. It was probably one of the best multiplayer games I’d ever played, and could be EASILY made for the Wii U. For that matter, any cooperative/competitive game could adapt the “outside on the big screen for everyone, inside on a private gamepad” mechanic.

    This could also be a great platform for board and card games with local multiplayer support.

    The other thing the pad is uniquely positioned for is for menu- or inventory- driven RPGs. Turn-based strategy could also excel on this platform. Anything that heavily relies on context menus, clicking-and-dragging functionality, or even just a more interesting dialog tree could be easily handled with this device.

    That said, I’m not holding my breath. 

    • GaryX

      The only problem is that you can’t have games like your Four Swords description because the system only supports up to two GamePads (at the cost of framerate), and it doesn’t even do that yet.

      • Mighty_Ponygirl

        Ack. Well, glad I wasn’t holding my breath. ;)

        • GaryX

          ha yeah. It’s a bummer because the first thing I thought of when I saw this was Four Swords and how fun that was. I want a game like that! :(

  • ShrikeTheAvatar

    Well, at least now maybe all the great Wii games I haven’t played yet will be a little cheaper.

  • choppernewt

    I found myself in a position to buy a Wii U yesterday without any line waiting or auction pricing, and I had some ready cash, so I did. And so far, it’s a pretty fun thing. I don’t really disagree with any of the reservations expressed by anyone I’ve read online – the potential for the console to be buried by more powerful offerings next year, or the dubious idea that the big controller is a new frontier the way motion control was for the Wii. But the bottom line was that my 10 year old was squealing with delight playing the Luigi’s Mansion minigame in NintendoLand, and we were having a kind of real-world version of that fake commercial family fun they try to convey in Nintendo advertising. It’s not all bullshit if you’ve got kids that play kid games.

    Other than the packed-in NintendoLand, the only other game I bought was Super Mario, and that seems like a missed opportunity. It really is just like a bigger, prettier version of the 3DS game that just came out. I think they would have been better served by coming up with Super Mario Galaxy U. That could have been amazing. Anyway, as it is it is fun and all. It just doesn’t scream “brand new console.”

  • Mike Ferraro

    Sorry Steve Jobs, but 50 million seconds is only 1.5 years.  Not “a dozen lives” of lifetimes or whatever he meant.  Unless he’s talking about fruitfly lifespans.

    • Bad Horse

      He thought he was going to sell way more original flavor Macs.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Jobs: ”Well, let’s say you can shave 10 seconds off of the boot time. Multiply that by five million users and thats 50 million seconds, every single day. Over a year, that’s probably dozens of lifetimes. So if you make it boot ten seconds faster, you’ve saved a dozen lives. That’s really worth it, don’t you think?”

      Assuming an 80-year lifespan, a life is about 2.5 billion seconds long.

      Jobs’ calculus has a faster boot time saving about 18.25 billion seconds each year.

      So the faster-booting mac would save a little more than seven lives per year. He wasn’t too far off!

      • Effigy_Power

        Mind you, he forgot the 10 seconds spent by every Mac user being smug about being a Mac user, so we’ll call it even.

      • George_Liquor

        My God, how many lives has the Mac’s startup chime cost?!

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          One iteration was written by Brian Eno, so consider the lost lives balanced out by the those saved by the sheer awesomeness of Here Come the Warm Jets.
             If a lean boot up time can save lives, I’m assuming a truly kick-ass album can as well. 

        • Effigy_Power

          We’ll deduct that from the awful Dune soundtrack and again, call it even.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          Nuts to you, Power.  Firstly, Eno only did one ambient nubbin for the movie, and second Toto’s score is rad.
             It’s like riding through space and time on a keytar.  With a muppet, for some reason.  

      • Mike Ferraro

        Oops, I forgot to multiply the 50 million seconds by one day per year.  Now I have to forfeit my grade 10 math award.

  • Peter Lashley

    “Why did Nintendo reverse them? Because shut up, that’s why.”

    Nintendo didn’t reverse them, Microsoft did on the original Xbox. The SNES button layout was identical to the controller shown here. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1a/Snes_control.jpg

    • Bad Horse

      I think he means the stick position. Not that Nintendo has been consistent about that – the Gamecube had the sticks alternating between top and bottom edges like an Xbox, and the original classic Wii had them on the bottom edge like a Playstation. And now they introduce a third configuration, which is completely different from what’s come before where both sticks are in the top position.

  • sageturk

    So Nintendo took years of innovation and industry leadership and decided it was finally time to copy the Sega Dreamcast. How could this fail.