So Nintendo’s new Wii U is a really nice piece of kit with quite a few problems. I had no issue with the concept or the price of the hardware although £50 games seems quite high. The controller is lovely to hold most of the time, it sometimes feels awkward when twisted in to various positions for gyroscopic action but on the whole just feels nice in your hands. It may be slightly too wide but that’s only to allow a larger screen, this means that even with my big hands your thumbs can only touch the edges of the screen without letting go. In Zombie U the quick access icons are positioned down the side of the screen and can be reached but touching the rest of the screen requires you to release your grip and hold the controller with one hand, it’s light enough to be able to do this but doesn’t seem ideal.
The operating system feels great and was even better on day 2 when the plaza started to fill up with what other people were playing. I’ve been really surprised how good the online community is and Miiverse is a fantastic social network. I’m unsure quite how it’s moderated, your own posts appear immediately (but perhaps only to yourself) but it makes such a change to be in a nice friendly online space. I don’t really have an issue with the moderation but hope negative comments aren’t blocked.
Of course there are issues and the big one is how to handle the two screens, it isn’t always clear and I feel it could have been handled better perhaps with some additional hardware tweaks. It seems pointless having the same display on both screens and the lack of brightness control and no easy way of turning off the controller screen is a mistake. Even with little use you see “look at the other screen” messages far too often and it seems odd (but nice) focussing on the controller with a huge display duplicated on your TV. I think the controller should have a light and rumble to draw your attention away from the TV screen. If the displays are duplicated then a button should allow you to switch between either screen or cloned screen. This would also give software developers a common approach on how to handle the two screens. It’s great being able to cue up a video or web page on the controller and then broadcast it to the TV, the problem is that it’s then not clear what actions are going to interrupt the TV display and what you can carry on doing on the controller. At the moment the Lovefilm app only shows a brief overview on the controller about what you are watching on the big screen, it would be great to be able to continue to navigate or when watching Youtube videos see the comments on the controller. Hopefully as developers understand the Wii U more these features will be built in but it would have provided consistency if Nintendo had provided a common way of controlling things.
Another slight problem is the battery life of the controller, it’s only about 3 hours and one assumes that will drop with time. It’s not hard to see why the battery drains so quickly the screen is lovely and bright, things look fantastic but if I’m only showing a map and inventory then I’d happily dim the brightness to extend the battery life.
Of course the real reason for the second screen is to allow other people in the room to enjoy a different experience from the main controller. This is highlighted in Nintendo Land where most of the action takes place on the controller screen but the main TV has a spectator mode. I’ve yet to experience Wii U with other people so it’s hard to comment how well this works which I always knew would be an issue for me as a sole player. Similarly it really doesn’t feel like I’ve seen the best of Nintendo Land, hopefully that will change over the holidays.
Those are my first thoughts on Wii U, largely positive and it really feels like the potential to do great things is there. I’m really looking forward to TVii which has just launched in the States although to be honest just having iPlayer would be great. The TV remote function is fantastic even in it’s limited form, again I hope this is improved to allow me to control multiple devices. The best thing as with all the great Nintendo products is that it is just a joy to use and that is the most important thing.