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11.29.2012

Wii U first impressions

I should have gone out the morning after the Wii U launch to try to find one at a smaller retailer.  I know that not everyone knew it was coming out, and since this is a smaller town I should have been able to score one at a Target or Meijer store that didn’t hold a midnight launch.  I waited a couple of days and while I was at the mall on another errand I asked the guy at GameStop if they were still doing orders for them. He told me they had a backorder list that would last through Christmas for the 32GB Deluxe package, but he had received 6 of the 8GB model that morning and had 2 left.  I grabbed one and took it home.

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The Wii U is solidly built, no weird stands or flimsy doors on this one.  The gamepad and the deck both feel solid and have a nice fit and finish. My only gripe is that the sensor bar has only changed in color since the original Wii, and while I haven’t broken mine, I’ve always worried about how thin the cord to the sensor bar is.  The new power brick is different from the old one.  It’s bigger..but not as big as an XBox 360 brick.  The system is hooked up using 3 cables.  Power, HDMI, and Sensor Bar.  The HDMI cable is included.  The new deck is a tad bigger than the original, it’s deeper.  Setup took me about 5 minutes to be up and running and about 25 total to have controllers all paired, wifi setup, and updates started downloading.

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The remote looks big, but it’s pretty light, and feels very comfortable in your hand.  The dual sticks are very much like the ones from the Wii Nunchuck, the buttons are snappy and responsive.

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The gamepad uses a simple capacitive touch panel.  Resolution looks good.  It’s not retina quality like an iPad3 or 4, but it looks nice.  I’m not sure if it’s true high definition, but it looks good enough to me.  Pairing the remote to the deck is done via an icon system.

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If you get a new Wii U…you may have heard nightmares about the system update.  Don’t sweat the update, it can download in the background and you can play games without it, you just won’t be able to stream video or use MiiVerse until you download those updates. Play your new games, then start the update before you go to bed. The updates can be slow to download due to the demand on Nintendo’s servers right now.  Updates take a minute or two to install once they’ve been downloaded.

If you want to import any download games from your old Wii, Nintendo has added a tool to the store on the old wii to move your games to a memory card and import them to the new Wii, the process looks confusing, but it’s pretty simple.  You download the transfer tool in the Wii Menu (a virtual Wii on the WiiU) and the old Wii. Then you use that to prep an SD card on the WiiU.  That SD card is used to go back to the old Wii and move the games.  Then you put the loaded card back in the WiiU and a batch of Pikmin will haul your games out of storage and into the NAND memory on the WiiU.

I got the 8GB WiiU, some folks are saying to only buy the 32GB unit because the download games will fill the NAND memory up really fast.  Well kids, that storage is really meant just for your saves, Miis, and casual download games.  Not for the big digital releases.  The 8GB unit will only have about 3GB free after system update.  The 32GB unit will have about 27.  Most of these new games can be 6 to 25GB in size depending on the kind of game and how much high def texture data is in there.  If you plan to do download titles from the eStore on this box, you need to just plan to add a USB 2.0 Hard Drive to the system.  Any standard USB 2.0 drive will work.  It needs to either be powered by a single USB port, or by a power adapter.  I dug my old SATA to USB 2.0 dock out of storage and set up an old 300GB SATA drive.  I plugged it in, the WiiU asked if I wanted to format it in their special format, wiping the drive.  I hit yes and it was ready to use in about 5 seconds.  I purchased Trine 2 and Nano Assault Neo from the eStore…both downloaded in about 5-10 minutes each and took about a minute or two to install.  (you tap to install once the download completes…the system will notify you when background downloads are done)

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Nintendo was smart to allow use of any USB drive.  They’ve don’t want to discourage you from using the eStore and there is no point in them trying to mark up the cost of storage.  Having access to AAA titles on the download store the same day as retail will be a nice bonus.
I have to say I’m really impressed with the graphics so far.  Nano Assualt Neo, New Super Mario Bros. U, and Trine 2 all look amazing in 1080p and frame rates seem super smooth.
My family is loving the ability to turn the TV over to another channel or system and let me or my daughter keep playing via the WiiU remote’s small screen.  We like the TV button on the remote that allows you to use it as a universal remote.  I hope the big N gives us more advanced configuration options for the remote soon.  (I want to control my sound bar too)
The remote is also pretty cool when you’re using it to drive one of the video playback applications. Menus and show data are shown on the remote.   I’m interested to see how this works when WiiTv is rolled out.

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The negatives thus far?  The system seems based around the Wii’s channel model.  I suspect that under the hood each individual area on the system is a separate application.  This means when you switch from a game to the WiiU menu or MiiVerse, there is a delay while that app loads.  It’s usually 5-10 seconds or so.  It feels a little slow.  I’m sure software updates may speed this up.  All the video channels are added via individual updates, so it takes a few minutes to get them each up and running, that’s a one time annoyance. 
So far I’m really happy with the purchase and with the games.  I’m looking forward to more Indie developers selling on the WiiU store.