Wii U Day One Thoughts and Feelings

It's been six years since we had a proper new game console in our living rooms. That alone was enough to entice me to hunt down actual Wii U hardware, regardless of its quality. But questions remain: How is the GamePad? Is Nintendo finally going to get their online right? Some of these questions still need answers, but thanks to Nintendo Land and ZombiU, my faith in what Nintendo is doing remains intact despite the usual launch day jitters – and a by-the-numbers Mario adventure.

The Wii U isn't going to set the world on fire right out the gate. But so far, I've found it to be a healthy upgrade over a long-since faded Wii. It's tempting to directly compare the Wii U to the 360 and the PS3, but Nintendo is still dancing to its own drum beat, and people like us are just along for the ride. The Wii U launch has been bumpy in spots but I'm feeling pretty good about where it’s heading.

The Console and The GamePad

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Meta GWJ

The console on the whole runs cool and quiet. Other than the hour-long firmware upgrade, the system was painless to setup and get online. I like the look of it, and think Nintendo found a happy medium between the size of the original Wii and the PS3. The GamePad is bigger than I thought it would be, but surprisingly comfortable sitting on your lap or held in front of you while you desperately try to manage your inventory with zombies beating at the door (more on that later).

It's light. The screen looks pretty good (but not great). The DS-like non-capacitive touch screen is a step back compared to what we're used to, but considering that the action is happening on your TV, the lack of fidelity doesn't seem quite as harsh as it would be on your phone or tablet.

The Online Experience

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Pretty on the surface.

I like the eShop interface so far, but it remains to be seen how well is handles a larger game library. The rest of the online features, however, are predictably scatterbrained, full of half-measures and interesting ideas that haven't been fully fleshed out. Adding friends without a long string of numbers is nice, but it doesn't seem to have many ramifications for actual games so far. Still a long way to go here. Requiring both players to send a friend request instead of just receiving a notice that someone wants to friend you up should be a parental control toggle, not a rule across the board.

There's hope for the Dark Souls-style passive notes and online tie-ins for the future, but for now we're probably a year off from Nintendo really getting whatever vision they have for online communities implemented properly.

New Super Mario Bros. U

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See kids? I'm still relevant. Flying squirrel?! I've done it again.

It's fine. Really, it's fine. If video games were football, Mario would be chewing up yards on the ground and getting plenty of first downs, but he rarely crosses the goal line these days. Nothing flashy, just a few more features on a very old concept. I'm enjoying it, but it's not something you desperately need to play.

One stand out feature I like is the portable Yoshi creatures that make every level you go into easier. They're totally optional, but it's nice to have a back door to get through tough spots when you're frustrated. After clearing a few levels with one that let's me float out of trouble and devours enemies that I run into, I left it behind. It's cool having an organic sort of easy mode available inside the world, but strolling through the levels got old quick.

Nintendo Land

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You earn coins and unlock items for games. Devious.

I was shocked to find this was a full price game if you didn't get the Deluxe bundle, but after spending a couple hours in there, I can see why. Still plenty of "attractions" (mini-games) to explore, but what I've played so far with Karla has been fun. Seems more feature complete and cool than Wii Sports was. Nintendo's decision to not bundle this with every version of the device was a huge misstep. Huge.

ZombiU

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Standing in the living room is cool again.

Granted, I'm only three hours in, but this is a system seller so far. A wholly unique game that could be approximated—but never replicated—on other platforms. It takes the potentially game-killing task of taking your eyes off the screen to look at your controller pad and turns it into a total tension device. I've been playing ZombiU standing up, because not only does it make more sense that way, it's more fun. Every time you open your inventory the TV cuts to a third person view of your character rummaging through his or her pack. The game doesn't pause and you have zero situational awareness because not only is the screen showing you very little, you're concentrating on eating your health item or picking your weapon to notice. You learn to get that done quickly.

When you're walking around, you can ping your map on the GamePad, which will give you a red blip if there's something moving around within a certain radius. It's a lot like the Aliens movies. Sometimes it's just rats. Sometimes it's a zombie. Sometimes you think a room is clear and then a dead person on the floor stand up and tries to eat you while you're scanning for loot.

The scanning is why I'm standing in the middle of the living room. When you scan a room you're physically holding your controller up and highlighting drawers, bodies and other things on the small screen to see if they contain anything worth taking. This means you don't have to spend your time opening every desk you come across because a quick scan will tell you if it's worth pursuing. The problem is that what you can scan is relative to what your GamePad's view can see. It's a one-to-one prospect, so if I want to scan the area behind my character, I'm physically turning my back to the TV screen to do it. On the TV, your avatar is bathed in the white light from the scanner which makes you more visible, it's a vulnerable position to be in. You can hear the zombies screeching and moaning in the distance, rats scurrying and door creaking as you have your back to the main view.

I spent ten minutes just picking my way through a level, and Karla remarked that I hadn't even seen a single zombie and she was tense—as if she were the one playing. They've done a remarkable job making the basics of navigating a 3D space and managing your character as feeding the tension one step at a time.

The last things I'll mention for now is the way death is handled. You don't make a character: you're given one. The first hour of the game I spent as an architect named James. He got back to the safe house (with a bag full of loot like flares, medical supplies, ammo, gun upgrades and some other useful goodies) only to die when a horde of zombies attacked. It wasn't game over. The GamePad goes into white noise and the game loads you back into the safe house. Only this time I'm Shelly, the community manager, and all I have is a gun with six bullets and a cricket bat. The NPC in my ear yells "Get out of bed, zombies are coming!" and I pick up where I left off—only weaker, with less stuff. I dispatched the zombies and came face to face with James the zombie architect. It listed his name, how long he lived and what his score was. More importantly, he had his backpack with all my old stuff. Killing zombie Dave saved me a lot of trouble.

A mix of Condemned, Resident Evil and Dead Island with some definite Dark Souls and other rogue-like games influences, ZombiU has captured my imagination so far. We'll see if the rest of the game can keep up with the first few hours.

Overall Thoughts

New consoles have a great deal to live up to. In many ways, the Wii U lacks the hallmarks of jaw-dropping graphics or an online ecosystem that can rival PSN or XBLA. By all accounts, the third-party games are largely competent ports, with some suffering bad frame-rates and long loads. ZombiU can take upward of 20 to 30 seconds to load an area at times. Lots of new platform growing pains here.

But I'm not ready to pronounce the end of Nintendo's momentum or dismiss the potential of the second screen. I've found navigating the system and jumping in and out of games to be nice, and the GamePad helps the experience more than it hinders it. Is it enough to drop $500 or more for some games and a pro controller? Maybe. Few consoles really justify themselves within the first year. I don't expect that to be any different for the Wii U.

Comments

ZombiiU sounds good. Very tempting.

Few consoles really justify themselves within the first year.

Well, that's been true since the 360 and PS3, but I'd say the PS2 and original XBox were worthwhile quite quickly.

It seems like, the further back you go, the more quickly the consoles showed how important it was to own that new generation.

Malor wrote:
Few consoles really justify themselves within the first year.

Well, that's been true since the 360 and PS3, but I'd say the PS2 and original XBox were worthwhile quite quickly.

It seems like, the further back you go, the more quickly the consoles showed how important it was to own that new generation.

Probably coincides with the diminishing returns on console power and how iterative game design has gotten. I seem to recall the PS2 was a fairly slow burn too, though. Check out this sweet launch list.

There's actually a way to send requests that will notify the person on the other end, but it takes a bunch of extra steps.

Well, the overall UI experience for anything other than actually playing games is unfortunately about what I'd expect from Nintendo. They do the playing games thing great, but pretty much nothing else. That said, I have no doubt I will end up with one of these eventually. Probably when a new Zelda game is imminent. I have a thirst which cannot be satisfied.

mrtomaytohead wrote:
There's actually a way to send requests that will notify the person on the other end, but it takes a bunch of extra steps.

Better than nothing:

- Load Miiverse

- Go to User Menu (upper-left corner, with a small picture of your Mii)

- The fourth option down says 'Search User'

- Type in the name you want. (Say 'RichIGN')

- The name must be specific (though case is not important)

- View the profile

- Towards the right side you'll see the Friend Request button, near 'Follow' and a drop-down arrow that allows you to Block or Report.

Malor wrote:
Few consoles really justify themselves within the first year.

Well, that's been true since the 360 and PS3, but I'd say the PS2 and original XBox were worthwhile quite quickly.

It seems like, the further back you go, the more quickly the consoles showed how important it was to own that new generation.

I wonder if this is due to the rising expectations of the consumer.

I think ZombieU is a good game. But I feel it missed out on so many opportunities to be great. It seems like a game forced to be a launch title before it was ready. So much potential that was not used, they could have fleshed this game out to be a total system seller.

Malor wrote:
It seems like, the further back you go, the more quickly the consoles showed how important it was to own that new generation.

NES Japanese Launch: 7/15/83
Super Mario Bros. Japanese Launch: 9/15/85

Your launch titles at the time? Ports of arcade classics: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye. Most of the "classic" games we associate with the system don't start showing up until 1986, and even then a bunch of them like Metroid and Castlevania are for the Famicom Disk System peripheral.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...

But Donkey Kong was so good compared to all the other versions. Seriously. It was obvious that you were on something dramatically better than a 2600.

Also remember that this was in the depth of the huge game crash that Atari caused. People mostly weren't making games anymore, because they thought it was a fad that had passed.

Malor wrote:
But Donkey Kong was so good compared to all the other versions. Seriously. It was obvious that you were on something dramatically better than a 2600.

True, but by today's standards that wouldn't sell. Getting the arcade experience at home was part of the pitch with the NES/FC I assume. Yet the Wii U launch was full of games that "people had already played" and therefore were collectively sneered at by the enthusiast press. Go figure.

Aw man, this sounds even cooler than I was hoping. Dammit Shawn, my wife and wallet are probably not going to like you in the near future.

...I can wait. I am a patient man. I am a patient man.

Minarchist wrote:
Aw man, this sounds even cooler than I was hoping. Dammit Shawn, my wife and wallet are probably not going to like you in the near future.

...I can wait. I am a patient man. I am a patient man.

I think this is what they call "karma" for all the enabling on Sticker Star

Thanks for the write-up. ZombiU sounds very intriguing.

I want to be interested in the Wii U but I'm just not. That being said, I was the same way with the Vita and now I think it's the best piece of gaming hardware ever released. The marketing, price, and developer support are all valid concerns but the system itself is amazing.

I think I am going to wait for a price drop or until there is a list of exclusive games that I must own. Put Bayonetta 2 as the first game on that list.

How long until Rabbit caves, buys one, and then realises you could theoretically play Mario on a plane so long as you're given an outlet?

(Impractical? Yes, but that surely won't kill the novelty of doing it once.)

Minarchist wrote:
Aw man, this sounds even cooler than I was hoping. Dammit Shawn, my wife and wallet are probably not going to like you in the near future.

...I can wait. I am a patient man. I am a patient man.

Repeat after me:

It's for the kids! For. The. Kids.

Certis, the yoshi's aren't entirely optional for completionists. They let you get to star coins that are otherwise impossible to get to.

Pretendbeard wrote:
How long until Rabbit caves, buys one, and then realises you could theoretically play Mario on a plane so long as you're given an outlet?

(Impractical? Yes, but that surely won't kill the novelty of doing it once.)


rabbit already caved on launch day. We just recorded a segment that will go on the show this week!

cube wrote:

Certis, the yoshi's aren't entirely optional for completionists. They let you get to star coins that are otherwise impossible to get to.

Really? Hmmm. Ok. Not sure if I like that since it means I can't get all star coins on my first try.

Malor wrote:
But Donkey Kong was so good compared to all the other versions. Seriously. It was obvious that you were on something dramatically better than a 2600.

Don't forget the Colecovision version, which was pretty good, and out a year (or 2?) before. Donkey Kong was about the only thing the Colecovision had going for it.

Minarchist wrote:
Aw man, this sounds even cooler than I was hoping. Dammit Shawn, my wife and wallet are probably not going to like you in the near future.

...I can wait. I am a patient man. I am a patient man.

Thanks for the impressions Certis.

I think the Dreamcast had a really good set of launch games, which was good since it died so quick.

Sonic Adventure
Aerowings
AirForce Delta
Blue Stinger
Expendable
Flag to Flag
The House of the Dead 2
Hydro Thunder
Monaco Grand Prix
Mortal Kombat Gold
NFL 2K
NFL Blitz 2000
Pen Pen TriIcelon
Power Stone
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing
Soulcalibur
TNN Motorsports Hardcore Heat
Tokyo Xtreme Racer
TrickStyle

Yep, thanks for sharing.

It strikes me as very intriguing that Zombi U is getting such mixed feedback.
I mean, just looking at the list of reviews at Metacritic already shows people are torn on this one. The reviews are more or less all over the board. I wonder where this comes from.

My question to Shawn or anyone else who had a chance to play it for an extended period would be: Do you think it is a matter of how one approaches the game and its setting?

I am asking because when I read the Gamespot review (which is the lowest so far), I noticed that the reviewer reduced the game to a "dumbed down FPS feat. smack-a-zombie". Now when I read your lines up there (or also the review over at polygon), it seems like there's a lot more to this game - but apparently you are not really forced to jump on board the scanning, and other cool stuff there is.
I wonder where this comes from. Did Ubisoft fail at making the mechanics obvious to the player? I mean seriously: Holding up a screen and scanning your in game vicinity. That's really sounds like a kind of 4th-wall breaking novelty in my view. So how can something like this not even be mentioned by some of the reviews?

Certis you dirty enabler! At least I probably won't be able to find one for a while. Wallet saved for the time being!

I usually play in a dim room and hate lights on my controllers, but it looks like the GamePad's utility may outweigh any distraction worries I had.

Dreamcast has pretty much been my favorite all time launch. A solid list of launch titles kept me busy for quite some time and I really liked the platform.

Certis wrote:
cube wrote:

Certis, the yoshi's aren't entirely optional for completionists. They let you get to star coins that are otherwise impossible to get to.

Really? Hmmm. Ok. Not sure if I like that since it means I can't get all star coins on my first try.

Is it really that bad of a thing for a game to be designed to be impossible to 100% complete it the first time through? Especially one that's marketed as having multiple paths and exits to levels? Can a game not demand more commitment for that extra level of player satisfaction?

Grimmi Meloni wrote:
Yep, thanks for sharing.

It strikes me as very intriguing that Zombi U is getting such mixed feedback.
I mean, just looking at the list of reviews at Metacritic already shows people are torn on this one. The reviews are more or less all over the board. I wonder where this comes from.

My question to Shawn or anyone else who had a chance to play it for an extended period would be: Do you think it is a matter of how one approaches the game and its setting?

I am asking because when I read the Gamespot review (which is the lowest so far), I noticed that the reviewer reduced the game to a "dumbed down FPS feat. smack-a-zombie". Now when I read your lines up there (or also the review over at polygon), it seems like there's a lot more to this game - but apparently you are not really forced to jump on board the scanning, and other cool stuff there is.
I wonder where this comes from. Did Ubisoft fail at making the mechanics obvious to the player? I mean seriously: Holding up a screen and scanning your in game vicinity. That's really sounds like a kind of 4th-wall breaking novelty in my view. So how can something like this not even be mentioned by some of the reviews?

They lay it out plainly, the game teaches you well as you go. I can see it not appealing to someone who likes/wants a shooter. This ain't it.
mrtomaytohead wrote:
Certis wrote:
cube wrote:

Certis, the yoshi's aren't entirely optional for completionists. They let you get to star coins that are otherwise impossible to get to.

Really? Hmmm. Ok. Not sure if I like that since it means I can't get all star coins on my first try.

Is it really that bad of a thing for a game to be designed to be impossible to 100% complete it the first time through? Especially one that's marketed as having multiple paths and exits to levels? Can a game not demand more commitment for that extra level of player satisfaction?


For the three coins that demand player skill to reach, yes. If you want to do it like Metroid then I'd say add a second layer of things (red coins) that require out-of-level tools to collect. The there coins on those levels are a currency of sorts, I'm used to seeing them as something attainable if I'm smart and quick. A skill test, not a memory test.

The Dragon coins in Super Mario World required you to unlock new blocks (and backtrack to older levels) to reach some of them, but it was obvious what was needed as the colored outline was on the stage where the blocks would fill in. Hmmm.

garion333 wrote:
The Dragon coins in Super Mario World required you to unlock new blocks (and backtrack to older levels) to reach some of them, but it was obvious what was needed as the colored outline was on the stage where the blocks would fill in. Hmmm.

I don't remember if any of the hidden exits in Super Mario World required out of level power ups (the Blue Yoshi certainly made some of them easier) but there were a handful that you wouldn't find on the first playthrough (ie. the one where you have to fly under the main goal posts in order to reach an extra minute's worth of content after the goal post).

More recently there was New Super Mario Bros. where you could miss 2 entire worlds if you didn't complete the castle as mini mario. But, I don't remember if those castles had mini mushrooms in them.

Without going back and replaying some of the older games, I'm not totally sure I agree with Certis' assessment of the Star Coins. I feel like either they've done this in past games, or it's such a minimal departure from norm that I wouldn't notice unless I was playing close attention. I mean, they've certainly hidden things in levels where you absolutely need a specific powerup to reach a 1up, Dragon Coin, Treasure, Star Coin, etc. Requiring the player to BYOPU isn't that much of a logical leap.

I'll see how I feel tonight after our copy arrives in the mail.

Malor wrote:
Few consoles really justify themselves within the first year.

Well, that's been true since the 360 and PS3, but I'd say the PS2 and original XBox were worthwhile quite quickly.

I didn't have an original Xbox, but my original PS2 had a bum DVD drive. They definitely fixed some things that made me hesitant to dive in early for the next generation.

shoptroll wrote:
garion333 wrote:
The Dragon coins in Super Mario World required you to unlock new blocks (and backtrack to older levels) to reach some of them, but it was obvious what was needed as the colored outline was on the stage where the blocks would fill in. Hmmm.

I don't remember if any of the hidden exits in Super Mario World required out of level power ups (the Blue Yoshi certainly made some of them easier) but there were a handful that you wouldn't find on the first playthrough (ie. the one where you have to fly under the main goal posts in order to reach an extra minute's worth of content after the goal post).

More recently there was New Super Mario Bros. where you could miss 2 entire worlds if you didn't complete the castle as mini mario. But, I don't remember if those castles had mini mushrooms in them.

Without going back and replaying some of the older games, I'm not totally sure I agree with Certis' assessment of the Star Coins. I feel like either they've done this in past games, or it's such a minimal departure from norm that I wouldn't notice unless I was playing close attention. I mean, they've certainly hidden things in levels where you absolutely need a specific powerup to reach a 1up, Dragon Coin, Treasure, Star Coin, etc. Requiring the player to BYOPU isn't that much of a logical leap.

I'll see how I feel tonight after our copy arrives in the mail.

In New Super Mario Bros. and the Wii version there were levels you had to come in with the right power up in order to unlock the pathways. When Giant Mario was involved the mushroom would be in the level, but for Tiny Mario they weren't always in the level, but sometimes they were.

Regardless he's griping about it happening for the Star Coins, not to open secret paths/words/etc. I'm having a tough time disagreeing with him...but I don't have the game.