Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Third Rate Minion Plays Wii U

Six years ago, we saw the last major console launches in the US with the PlayStation 3 and the Wii.  Since then, we have seen a multitude of new revisions, relaunches, and then some.  The Wii introduced motion control gaming to the masses, and PlayStation Move and Kinect came a few years later.  Digital distribution has become a major selling-point in the gaming industry, and social interaction has become more pivotal than ever.  All-in-all, the generation has gone on for years, but now, it is time to start the next generation of consoles.

Nintendo first announced its next console venture at E3 2011, unveiling both the focus of the system and the name itself: Wii U.  Wii U is said to continue multiplayer experiences from the Wii while emphasizing the togetherness of individual gamers, the "U" as it were.  By E3 2012, Nintendo finally unveiled its major games for the first half-year of the system's life, and there we also learned of its curious social network, Miiverse.  That September, Nintendo unveiled Nintendo TVii, a media-center aggregate system for the US, but as of this article, it has not yet released.

The Wii U finally launched in the US on November 18th, 2012, available with two bundles: Basic and Deluxe.  The Basic Set contains a white, 8GB Wii U, and the Deluxe Set contains a black, 32GB Wii U with extra system stands, GamePad cradles, Nintendo Land, and a Deluxe Digital Promotion which gives back 10% of every digital sale made for the next two years.  The system released in Europe on November 30th, and the Japanese launched on December 8th.  Now a month after the Wii U launch, we here at Third Rate Minion want to show you a walkthrough of the system's setup, the OS, MiiVerse, and anything else we can grab that comes with the system freely.  Check out the videos after the break and enjoy (or follow our Youtube Playlist)!  For our written impressions, check below as well.

Part I: The Unboxing

Part II: The Hardware

Part III: The Pro Controller

Part IV: The Setup

Part V: Wara Wara Plaza and MiiVerse

Part VI: Mii Maker

Part VII: System Settings

Part VIII: YouTube

Part IX: Internet Browser
Part X: Nintendo eShop

Part XI: Wii Mode

Part XII: Daily Log, Parental Controls, Health Information, Impressions

The Verdict (Written Edition)
The Wii U looks very much like a Wii but is altogether bigger.  It is a few inches longer and is rounded in shape, as opposed to the straight-cut design of its predecessor, and because of its curved nature, it does not stand vertically on its own.  It is easy to get the stands to attach to the system, but it does look a little less uniform than compared to the Wii and its stand.  Meanwhile, the GamePad feels good in the hands, although initially some might feel the buttons and D-Pad are not in an ideal position.  After some playtime, however, the controls work a bit more intuitively.  The Wii U Pro Controller feels great, too, once the button layout gets ingrained into your mind.

The initial setup was not to our liking, thanks to the hour-long system update and the patches needed for each game.  Everything was not up to speed, with sluggish load times and occasional issues getting online.  Once the networks got going, however, the OS became much more bearable.  The ability to enter MiiVerse mid-game is great, and seeing all of the communication both on the Wara Wara Plaza and through MiiVerse made our experience feel more connected, even if we were not fully connected with other people at all times.  Downloads could run in the background while playing games, and the Friend List and Internet Browser were both easily accessible without closing the game.  Outside of the slower load times, the OS has improved greatly over time, and if Nintendo TVii can be integrated by the end of the year, it will be quite the solid launch-period OS, even if it differs a lot from its competitors.

The system does still have its issues, and some are going to be problematic for a number of players going forward.  For one, the Nintendo Network IDs, as good an addition as they are, still suffer from transfer problems; there is currently no way for a NNID to move from one Wii U to another without Nintendo's direct intervention.  This means everything is still tied to a system, and save data content will not be transferable to play on another Wii U, even if it is for multiplayer purposes.  Another issue is that the Wii U Chat program does not work in the background as expected.  Because it requires people to leave their games to use, I suspect it will be barely used in favor of direct messaging via MiiVerse.  There is also some concern that the system does not have enough power to run games coming out in the future, but that is something we will have to wait to see.

Despite its uneven first impression, the Wii U has been a very engaging experience.  The MiiVerse is a great community to work with, and the innovations developed with the GamePad are so far solid enough to stand out.  Now that the launch is nearly over, we look to 2013 with the next major releases.  Will we see the system evolve into something even better for entertainment and gaming worlds alike?  For now, we will have to enjoy what we have, and that is not so bad.

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