Missing The Mark: Nintendo Wii U Review

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History has a funny way of repeating itself, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. Nearly six years ago to the day, Nintendo completely changed the way the world viewed console gaming. The Wii remote (affectionately dubbed Wiimote by most) was a brand new paradigm in gaming control, and it ushered in a wave of motion-based gaming that forced Sony to follow suit with the Move, and Microsoft to do likewise with Kinect.



Pundits seemed certain that Nintendo's risk taking would be its undoing. They seemed certain that motion-based gaming could never be a success in a world long dominated by joystick or push-button controllers. But Nintendo pulled it off. For nearly a year after its release, the Wii was practically impossible to find in stock. Sure, those fixated on first-person shooters continued to lean on the Xbox 360 and PS3, but an entire segment of "casual gamers" flocked to the Wii and made motion gaming a living room staple.

A lot can change in six years, though. Between the release of the Wii and the new Wii U, the entire smartphone universe was reinvented. iOS and Android were born, and gaming moved into an entirely new platform on the mobile front. In terms of input, the Kinect and more recently Windows 8 ushered in very real use cases for touch-based control, urging users to rely less on the conventional mouse / keyboard / gamepad and more on touch panels, gestures and waves.



Before we venture any further down the rabbit hole, let's take a look at the hardware we're working with.

Nintendo Wii U
Specifications & Features
Launch Date (U.S.)
November 18, 2012
Models / Colors
8GB Wii U Basic Kit (White) / 32GB Wii U Deluxe Kit (Black)
GPU
~550MHz AMD Radeon-based High Definition GPU
GamePad Display
6.2-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio LCD touch screen (854 x 480 resolution)
Processor
1.24GHz IBM Power-based multi-core processor
Memory
2 GB of DDR3 RAM (1GB allocated for system functions + 1GB allocated for games)
8GB or 32GB internal memory (~4GB allocated for system software)
SD expansion slot

4 USB 2.0 ports for external HDD connections
Output
Up to 1080p output via HDMI (cable included) / component (not included)
Six-channel linear PCM audio output via HDMI
Sensor Bar (included)
Dimensions
Approximately 1.8 inches high, 10.6 inches deep and 6.75 inches long
Weight
3.5 pounds (1.5kg)
Media
Wii U and Wii game discs (no support for DVD, Blu-ray, etc.)
Connectivity
802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet via option USB adapter, NFC (on GamePad)
Support
Backwards compatible with Wii games and Wiimote controllers
Price
$299.99 (Basic Kit) / $349.99 (Deluxe Kit with Nintendo Land game + GamePad charging cradle)

The Wii U has arrived at a time when there's a notable shift going on in the way consumers view and use technology. We're undergoing a transition away from the input devices of yesteryear, and we're teaching an entire generation that interacting with technology can be done in a multitude of ways. Just as the Wii ushered in the Wiimote, the Wii U is ushering in yet another new control mechanism. It's the first major console to ship with a primary controller that not only has an LCD in the middle of it, but a touch panel that acts as the centerpiece of control.

Calling the Wii U a "gaming console" may be doing it a disservice, or at the very least, understating reality. The Wii U is not only capable of being more than a gaming machine, it's built with entertainment as a pillar of its functionality. Is Nintendo's next-gen Wii deserving of a slot in your home entertainment center? Join us in the pages ahead as we seek to answer precisely that.
 

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Comments

Comments
Zorpix one year ago

Are you kidding me? Spend more time with the system. I wont mention all the problems with your review, but for one thing, there IS a notification when you receive a call when you're not in the WiiU chat app. Use the system to its fullest if you're going to review it. It's reviewers like you who think power and face value make up an entire console that are killing Nintendo. You don't understand the deepness of the system. I'm sorry, but the only thing that misses its mark here is the review.

By the way, I wrote this comment from my gamepad.

Dave_HH one year ago

I think the title is spot-on for the state of the console as it exists today. If you're an early adopter and willing to bet on the come with this new system, the Wii U could offer differentiation and innovation as a general home entertainment device with future updates. As it exists today, it falls short in more areas than it excels, though the highlight features are standout to be sure.

ray.w one year ago

The Wii U Chat slip was a mistake in testing, and the text has been updated.

In no way did I say that an underpowered CPU made this system a dud. In fact, I spent hundreds upon hundreds of words talking about the positive points of the Wii U. But, it's hard to say with a straight face that a weaker-than-average CPU-GPU is going to help Nintendo.

This console will sell like hotcakes, if I had to guess. It's got that Nintendo charm that'll win over users who appreciate it. There's plenty of positive points to focus on as well, but on the whole, $299 is a lot to ask for a system that can't handle some of the higher-end gaming and multimedia tasks that are presently handled by consoles that have been on the market for years now.

acarzt one year ago

The Wii U is, hardwarewise, where the original Wii should have been on it's release. The Wii U is an entire generation behind and no gimmick is going to make up for it.... The Nintendo 64 was the last console from Nintendo that I was willing to shell out money for and was actually satisified with the purchase.

nico07 one year ago

People need to limit their expectations on new game consoles. The Wii U is a great piece of hardware with games like Nintendoland and it's Mario Chase and others offering truly unique and fun gaming experiences. Fun as we have learned from the Wii can't always be quantitated by the speed of a CPU or GPU (which in the Wii U's case are on the same chipset). The responsiveness of the Gamepad is pretty incredible. The initial system update is large, but it completely changes the functionality of the Wii U. It enables Miiverse integration into virtually everything, but if you choose to be offline the update doesn't need to be installed. Most new game consoles take time for great games to release and for the console to grow it's legs with full functionality.

Dgskijiji one year ago

Where are the facts that the consoles power/capabilities are weak? I'm not an expert on cpu and gpu architecture but I think waiting till we see the true capabilities of the system or until Nintendo or another real qualified source reveals them theres no point in speculating rumors as fact. I agree with a few points but most of the downfalls are Nintendo's fault for pushing out an incomplete console, and the console should evolve over the years with software updates. By far this console outshines my PS3 and Apple TV in terms of ease of use for an entertainment medium, and gaming wise how much better do you think the other next gen consoles will really be? The jump from this gen to next gen is not going to be as big as everyone thinks; there are going to be a lot of disappointed people when the PS420 finally gets released.

Dave_HH one year ago

[quote user="Dgskijiji"]

Where are the facts that the consoles power/capabilities are weak? I'm not an expert on cpu and gpu architecture but I think waiting till we see the true capabilities of the system or until Nintendo or another real qualified source reveals them theres no point in speculating rumors as fact.

[/quote]

Whether you look at the Wii U's specs on paper or see it in action (which we did), it's pretty clear the platform is only on par with current generation graphics and compute horsepower.

RWilliams one year ago

Despite having owned all of the primary Nintendo consoles dating back to the original NES, the Wii U had become the first release that I decided in advance I'd stay clear of. I had reservations about the original Wii, but I was a first-day buyer anyway. Then I proceeded to get almost no use out of it because I was tired of flailing my arms around or riding an invisible dragon just to go through a game. The graphics just added insult to injury.

The Wii U simply piled on more bizarre ideas that I had no interest in. I'm not even much of a console gamer right now, but I'm not opposed to them. When I do game, I just like to kick back with an ordinary gamepad and game. The Wii U is cool in some regards, but I know I'd just get burned again and never end up playing it.

Maybe I'm just getting old, but I wish another console would come along that would capture me like the N64 or Dreamcast managed to. I don't think it'll ever happen. Any console nowadays needs to do everything, and nothing particularly that well compared to a dedicated machine.

epicrean one year ago

This article was another anti Nintendo troll attempt by a site that is obviously in love with Microsoft. Don’t get me wrong, MS was the choice in system last gen and might be this time around but only time will tell. But the Wii U is definitely next gen and in my opinion an amazing piece of hardware. What I find amazing is you guys missed all the actual flaws and focused on opinions, like the high gloss finish, the touch screen, the plug for the game pad. But all and all my absolute favorite part is where in the comments it was stated that from what you seen it was on par graphically with the XBOX 360 and PS3. So this statement means 1 of 2 things or even possibly both of them; 1 you are new to reviewing consoles and this is your first time dealing with ports during a generation change, otherwise you would have noted that PS3 games bared a striking resemblance to PS2 games and so did XBOX 360 games to XBOX games. 2 you are complete idiots. I am going with #2 on this one and basing this solely on the Article. As far as specs go… The WII U is built with new technology, at a minimum of 2011 tech as opposed to the XBOX 360 and PS3 being built on 2005 technology, your assessment that the WII U is on par with those two systems is saying CPU’s and GPU’s have not evolved in those 6 years, again a very foolish notion which questions your abilities to review technology based devices.

To be clear I am not saying the WII U is without its issues and I am not saying it will be the most powerful nexgen console, in fact to say spec wise it will be the weakest. BUT if Sony and Microsoft are smart they won’t go all spec crazy like the did last gen. Lessons have been learned and wounds need to be licked here, but for those who disagree let’s review.

PS3 MOST POWERFULL system was the lowest selling. Specs didn’t really seem to matter.

Wii the weakest system on the market and was impossible to find up to 3 years after release (not 1)

PS Vita MOST POWERFULL HAND HELD, utter failure

Lastly the scene has changed and people are hard pressed to spend 600 bucks on a new console with cheaper and comparable alternatives. SO where does this leave MS and Sony? If they go spec crazy and release a 400 – 600 console sales may be good for a bit but they alienate a huge segment of consumers, if the price match Big N they are going to sell at significant loses again. Truth be told there has to be a middle ground and I believe Nintendo is just at the bottom of that middle ground, and if Sony or MS go too far past Nintendo this time they will fail. Speculating again from a guy who has been intruiged by the video game industry since Atari days and no expert by any means. Then again if you look up my forum posts on some sites I have been pretty accurate at predicting console war outcomes. Not raw numbers mind you, just victors. I will concede I was wrong with the PS2/Game Cube/Xbox generation but I had high hopes for the Xbox and of course still do.

Epicrean

ZacharyCarl one year ago

The wii U is a great games system just needs more games, they have great kids games like Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario Bros, they done a great job remastering Ducktales and if they done that to more old nintendo games like Talespin,Chip and Dales, Friday the 13th and bring back others like Metal Gear,Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 like the xbox version's and Castlevania would help sales alot not to mention they could add to it with Paperboy, Double Dragon, and an updated version of excitebike,kung Fu and Contra would all be great to have added to todays collection.

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