By Justin Polak
Co-founder, Ambassador to the Mushroom Kingdom

I was one of the lucky few that managed to pick up a Wii U this past week. Thanks to my good buddy, Scott, who had the foresight to reserve one, and who was nice enough to let me have said Wii U reserve! For the record I was able to get a deluxe version. Here we go!

Firstly, damn it’s nice to see Nintendo in HD! The only game I’ve played so far was Super Mario Bros. U. While I have obviously played other consoles in HD, it’s still nice to see a familiar Nintendo product in HD after being so used to how the resolution looks on the original Wii.

The controller looks and feels natural. It may be bulky thanks to the large touch screen in the center of the controller, but interacting with it is surprisingly comfortable. If you have to charge while playing, the charger that comes with the console is about as long as the chord for a Nintendo handheld system. I haven’t played long enough to personally test how long the controller lasts while fully charged, but I had no issue playing the console while charging the controller at the same time.

At any point you can switch displays between the the controller and the TV display by using the touch screen or pressing a button. What’s really interesting about this feature is the ability to play a game using the controller only. Want to watch a football game on TV while you play the latest Wii U game? No problem. In fact, I am visiting my parent’s as I write this article, and the second I wrap up, I plan on continuing my game in SMBU.

The large size of the screen on the controller makes it easy to see all the action and the placement of the buttons allow comfort when focusing on the touch screen only. The sound that comes from the controller is fairly basic stereo, but it is leagues beyond the dinky speaker that was on the original Wii remote. Plus, there is a headphone jack available if you need to truly hear your games clearly.

The touch screen itself is very smooth and accurate. I had already used the touch screen to manually write a message through the Wii U Miiverse, which is a Facebook-like application (seriously, you can “yeah” and “unyeah” statuses) that allows users to talk about whatever game they happen to be playing. As for that feature itself, I found the interface entertaining and smart. For example, if you are talking about something in a game that contains spoilers, you can mark your post as such so you won’t ruin something for another user browsing the Wii U Miiverse.

There is an option to transfer all of your Wii data to the Wii U. When I say all, I mean ALL. You have no choice but to transfer everything over as a one shot deal. I haven’t decided if I want to do it or not (I probably will), but bear in mind that the Wii U is backwards compatible. My Wii U even came with a sensor bar for the use of original Wii games.

As for the set up, there is a rather lengthy update that you can opt for if you connect your Wii U to the internet. Original Wii owners that got their console on day one will remember how this story goes. That’s right, the update is a very lengthy 45 minute download followed by a five minute installation process. There was an update for when I first went to play SMBU, but that was much quicker. If you are foaming at the mouth to play your Wii U out of the box immediately, be prepared to wait a bit. Other than the lengthy wait, I had no other issue with setting up my console. There was an option to integrate the Wii U controller as my TV remote, but I decided to skip that step.

As usual, you can create a digital avatar through making a Mii. You can use the controller’s built in camera to take a picture of yourself and let the application build you a Mii that way. I could have also transferred my Mii from my 3DS to the Wii U, but I opted to simply create an all new one for the console itself. Registering it online was also very simple and easy.

I briefly checked out the online store. There was nothing that caught my eye to mess around with, but the layout for the store was logical and intuitive. I recalled how clunky the original online store was back when the Wii launched. Even the 3DS shop is a bit wonky to this day. It’s good to see that Nintendo is finally learning to make that type of experience a user friendly one.

Though my time with the Wii U was brief (and a good chunk was waiting for the blasted thing to update), my experience and general feeling is a very positive one. Sure, when Sony and Microsoft release their upcoming consoles eventually, Nintendo is going to be looking a bit behind the times in terms of graphics once again. However, everyone knows by now that Nintendo’s focus for the last several years hasn’t been about outclassing their competitors with looks, but by taking unique hardware for a fresh and fun experience. Your mileage may vary on how Nintendo succeeded on that front, but for me the Wii U is already shaping up to be yet another Nintendo product that I am happy with.

Front page image from multiplayerblog.mtv.com. Image 1 from nintendo.com. Image 2 from wired.com. Image 3 from venturebeat.com. Image 4 from nintendoscene.com. Image 5 from nintendoworldreport.com.
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