The debut of a new console is always an exciting time. Electricity permeates through the air as people line up to be among the first to get their paws on the latest and greatest piece of gaming hardware. That electricity magnifies exponentially when the console comes from Nintendo as everyone wants to get their shot at the latest Mario, Zelda and Metroid game. The Wii U’s launch was no different and we were there getting our systems with everyone else.
While getting a new console is exciting on its own, actually having it set up and ready to go builds a sense of anticipation that few other things can do. Unfortunately it seems that Nintendo hates this glow of excitement because instead of letting players jump right into Nintendoland or New Super Mario Bros. U the Wii U requires a massive system update that pushed close to an hour to complete for me on a strong high speed internet connection. I can only imagine how many upset little Billy’s there will be on Christmas Day when their shiny new Wii U system requests that they update the system before they can use it.
And updating the firmware on the Wii U is only the first step in what turned out to be a three hour set up process encompassing setup of my Mii, a Nintendo Network account, the universal remote features on the gamepad and the convoluted transfer mechanic of data from my Wii to the Wii U. After spending three hours setting up the system, one would think that you could jump right into a game of Mario but you would be wrong as that also requires an update, although at least that is somewhat quick. No matter how you look at it, the Wii U setup process is overlong and somewhat of a downer if you wanted to head home and play with your new toy.
Other troubling issues compound matters as well, like the long load times from menu to games or apps and back again, the fact that the Wii U needs to boot into a special Wii emulator to access Wii games and virtual console titles, and the rather limited range of the gamepad itself. Still the hardware is sharp looking, fitting in nicely with every other piece of entertainment hardware that I already own.
Not everything is doom and gloom though as the Wii U does pack in some great ideas and interesting doohickeys. The gamepad, while taking a little time to get used to, is actually quite comfortable to use. It also features a pretty solid screen on the 6.2 inch screen with a decent 854 X 480 resolution. The Miiverse, Nintendo’s internal social network is quite fun and an actual innovation forward for online functionality; sadly so many other aspects of Nintendo’s Network are archaic. And of course the games look quite good. While they don’t seem noticeably better than other current gen console graphics, they are at least on par and bring Nintendo into the HD era, albeit six years late.
Like all console launches, the Wii U has its ups and downs and the longevity and ultimate potential of the system will not be revealed for years to come. As it stands right now, the Wii U is a solid but unnecessary addition to people’s gaming libraries, if in a few months a true 3D Mario, Metroid or Zelda title comes along and takes full advantage of the system then it will instantly bump into the needed category.