December 2018
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The Collapse of the House of Lies

This past weekend, I bought a Wii-U.

Those of you who don’t know me very well probably don’t think much of that.  Those that do are probably pointing & laughing right about now, because I’ve been saying since the system came out – or before, actually – that I had no interest in getting one.  I told friends, I told sales people who tried to sell me one, and I probably even told a random person or two.  I didn’t want it, I had no interest in it.  And now, here I am, broken.  Because you see not only do I own the system now – I actually like it.  Quite a bit, actually.

System seller confirmed!

System seller confirmed!

Someone asked me what made me change my mind, and I can’t really give a firm answer on that.  I’ve been hearing a growing amount of positive buzz about the system itself lately that certainly played into it from sites I frequent such as Penny Arcade and Giant Bomb.  And the one main game that’s made me look jealously at the system from the start – Rayman: Legends – is fast approaching release.  You may recall from a couple of weeks ago that I named Rayman: Origins my second favorite game of last year, so to say I’ve been anticipating the follow up is an understatement.  Add in a sprinkle of general new gadget lust to the mix, and I finally caved.

So I marched into Gamestop on Saturday…  OK, OK – I was more or less pushed in after going back and forth by Mrs. Greg, who got fed up of hearing it.  At any rate, I picked up the deluxe system, New Super Mario Bros. U and Zombi U and headed home to play.  I won’t really get into the specifics of the games themselves here – I’m sure reviews will roll out for both of them once I finish them – but I want to talk more about the system itself.  The package included everything you would need, from an HDMI cable to a recharging dock for the gamepad.  The deluxe bundle also included Nintendoland, but I didn’t have much interest in that – I bought the higher end bundle primarily for the increased storage space (32gb vs 8gb) and partially because it’s a sleek piano black.

Unfortunately the Miis are still ugly, but at least they serve an interesting purpose now

Unfortunately the Miis are still ugly, but at least they serve an interesting purpose now

After getting it all hooked up, I turned it on to let it start updating.  I won’t beat that dead horse further here.  There is a system update when you first turn it on, and it takes a while (I’d guess 45 mins or so).  After that I setup my Nintendo Network ID (I have the same ID across all three major platforms now!), created my Mii and started kicking the tires.  The main menu is very interesting.  On the TV, it consists of a ring of what I’m assuming are the current most popular games/apps.  In the middle is your Mii, and surrounding you are a ton of other people’s Miis.  What I find cool about this is that random messages from the other Miis will start popping up – there are forums for every game and app on the system, and I assume it somehow picks the most popular posts and shows them here.  Many of them are drawings, and some of these drawings are very impressive.  I’ll admit to just sitting & watching the posts pop up for a bit before I did anything else.

Right from the start, the system utilizes the second screen on the gamepad in very organic ways to get you accustomed to using it.  The selectable portion of the system menu appears on that screen as a series of icons, instantly familiar to anyone who has used a touch device in the past four or five years – so basically, anyone.  I will say that in some apps – Netflix is a big culprit here – the response of the touchpad seemed slow and spotty.  I feel like that is more a fault with the app itself than the pad tho, since it seemed to function perfectly in other games and applications.

Very, very cool

Very, very cool

Speaking of applications, the system comes with many of the usual suspects pre-installed such as Netflix, Hulu and a web browser.  It also has a few unique to the system, most notably to me the TVii app.  When you first boot this one up it asks you for some information such as your location, who provides your cable TV service, what package you have and also what streaming services you use.  Then once you’re in the app you can search for any TV show or movie and it will tell you all available options for watching it – what streaming services have it, how much it costs (or if it’s included in their subscription package) and if it’s coming on TV any time soon what channels, dates & times it will air.  Since the gamepad can also act as a remote for your tv it can fully integrate into your existing home theater setup.  This isn’t fully implemented yet, I’m hearing in the (hopefully near) future it will act as a DVR if you have an external HDD attached to the system – tho I have no confirmation of that.  Still, this is very promising – this functionality needs to be copied by Microsoft & Sony in their new boxes.

Again, I don’t want to discuss game specifics here, but I will say that the gamepad is VERY comfortable.  Holding it in the store made me think it might be a touch heavy, but then there was a security cable attached to it so it was difficult to tell.  It really isn’t, but regardless you’ll usually have it resting in your lap so it doesn’t really matter.  My only real complaint with it is the battery life, you only get about 4 hours of play time out of it fully charged, and it takes approx. 2.5 hours to recharge fully once it’s completely drained. You do have the option of using it while it’s plugged into the charger, but the system only includes one charging cable and you’ll probably want to connect it to the cradle – so this means moving the cable back & forth.  Thankfully some third party solutions are coming in the next month or two to address this problem, but it would have been nice if that wasn’t necessary.

All said, my initial impressions of the system are very positive.  The touchscreen can be seen as another Nintendo gimmick, but in this case it is one that lends itself very well to both casual and core games alike.  The early games I’ve played show a glimpse of the potential this system has, and I can’t wait to see where developers take it.  With a pretty decent software lineup already announced, the future of the system looks great from where I’m sitting.  It’s still too early to declare this a return to form for Nintendo, but I can say that they’re definitely on the right track.

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