by Matthew Thompson
So I finally bit the bullet and bought a Wii U over the weekend and figured I’d give my first impressions of the system so far.
The biggest revelation for me is just how amazing the Wii U Gamepad is. For starters, it is more comfortable than I thought it would be. It took a bit getting used to, but I’m already accustomed to the way it feels in my hands. The right stick being above the face buttons was also an adjustment, but it feels fine now.
Of course, the button layout isn’t why this thing is such a winner, it is the built-in touchscreen. It is so convenient to be able to use the system without the TV. I want to check something or set up a download, just grab the gamepad while I’m watching something else on TV. I want to play in a different room, I can just bring the tablet or even move the system and just plug it into an outlet somewhere else. When I was having trouble getting the initial update, I just sat the system up next to the router and got things going through the gamepad. Even something like having a keyboard right on the screen makes typing much simpler than the cumbersome method on a typical controller.
I have mostly been playing on the big screen so far, but off-TV play is something I’m going to love. I mostly use my handhelds at home. Often times I’ll boot up my Vita or 3DS while I’m watching sports when I want to keep an eye on the game, but things are dragging a bit. So the Wii U will allow me to play some of my console games in the same fashion and should be a great supplement to the upcoming football season. And what little I have tried of off-TV play proved that the gamepad is perfectly capable of delivering a wonderful play experience just using the small screen.
As for other uses of the screen, the three games I got haven’t used it in too many unique ways. I do like the ease of swapping items via the touchscreen in Wind Waker HD, but otherwise it hasn’t been used all that well in NSMBU or Mario Kart 8 other than for off-TV play. But I am really looking forward to seeing how some games in the future might leverage that second screen. And I think that might tie into another aspect I am loving with the Wii U: how much it embraces local multiplayer.
I have yet to pick up a second controller for my PS4 since there really isn’t a ton to do from a local multiplayer standpoint. This past Saturday when I bought the Wii U, my friend ended up coming over and we played about four hours of Mario Kart 8 and NSMB U. And a lot of the games I’m looking forward to grabbing feature this as well (Super Mario 3D World, Hyrule Warriors, Yoshi’s Wooly World, etc.). It doesn’t hurt that I could use my pile of Wii remotes for other players to join in. There is some potential in that asymmetrical multiplayer that Nintendo showed off a while back too if anyone decides to embrace that. So the Wii U looks to be a nice complimentary console to my PS4. It can help fill that local multiplayer niche while the PS4 delivers more singleplayer and online titles.
The graphics technology isn’t mindblowing especially next to my PS4, but it is great to see Nintendo series finally jump into HD. Mario Kart 8 looks particularly stunning especially coming off the sub par visuals of the Wii version.
Overall I am loving the Wii U so far. I can’t wait to catch up on more of the games that I have missed and am now really excited for some of Nintendo’s biggest upcoming titles. I will be back with impressions or reviews of the games I have been playing so far soon. If anyone has any recommendations for must-have Wii U games, I’d love to hear them in the comments or on Twitter. Thanks for reading!