Friday, November 30, 2012

Caffeinated Thoughts on the Wii U

How many beans can you count?
Coffee Beans
So, the Saturday night before the Wii U released on the 18th, I attempted to find a Wii U at a midnight release in town, but having no such fortune I ended up just getting our reserved Wii U system on Sunday as was originally planned.

I brought the Wii U home, but didn't start setting it up until a few hours later (about 3:30PM), after making sure the Beans were down for their naps.

With almost 2 weeks with the Wii U system now, what do I think about it? Brew yourself some coffee, probably a whole pot for this post, and let's take a look!

Caffeinated Thoughts
What's a good way to go about my thoughts on the Wii U? How about the bitter, sweet, and bold!

Sad coffee face. :(
Bitter
1) Initial Patch - While getting system updates is something I'm quite used to doing on the PlayStation 3, it's not something I particularly like having to do. Hopefully Nintendo will start shipping Wii U units with the update already installed, so new Wii U owners can just plug-and-play on day one. I actually think having to patch the system as it is now, might keep the system from gaining popularity with the casual market the Wii initially grabbed. I know that my parents would have a time trying to figure out how to connect the Wii U to their wireless setting, so hopefully it is something that can be remedied quickly. My initial patch/update took about an hour, but I did use a USB Ethernet port to have my Wii U connected directly the internet.

2) Disc drive - The Wii U's disc drive is constantly reading the disc when one is in the drive, even if the game is not being played and another system function is being used like Miiverse or Netflix. I think Nintendo might have patched the original Wii to solve this issue on that system, as I don't believe the disc would be spinning when using Netflix on the Wii, so I'm hoping they solve the problem with a patch. As of now, I remove any game from our Wii U when it is not being played, but I know others don't think it's a big issue.

3) Poorly designed YouTube App - The YouTube App window, which is like the Netflix and Amazon Video Apps on the system, appears on the home page of the system. For whatever reason though, the GamePad is used in very minimal ways with the YouTube App. From my time with the app, the YouTube videos can't even be switched to streaming from the GamePad, which is very odd. You have to basically be looking at the TV to search and use the YouTube App in any decent way. Fortunately, there is a better way to use YouTube on the Wii U, which I'll get to below.

4) No NINTENDO CHANNEL DATA - Sure, I can still track Wii games on my Wii's Nintendo Channel, but the Wii U does not provide averages played on games as the Wii does. The Nintendo Channel cannot even be downloaded to the Wii menu section on the Wii U, which means we are keeping our Wii. (Please fix this Nintendo, JUST like the Wii had it.)

5) Hard reset doesn't hard reset - This is very odd and baffling to me. I have had my Wii U console freeze up on me twice now (twice too many!). Okay, not terrible I guess considering I have used it quite a bit so far, but still it's a bitter experience when it happens. Your TV will most likely sound like a police car, fire truck, and ambulance sirens have gotten stuck in a high pitched squeal. But when you think, "Easy FIX! I'll just hold the power button and get rid of that annoying sound.", you are hit with a wall of disappoint and failure upon trying. Somehow, the Wii U made it out to the masses without the typical hard reset option working. Most of the time on electronics devices, if they freeze, you can simply hold the power button down for a few seconds and get it to turn itself off. Not with the Wii U right now. Nope. I have to crawl into the dungeon behind our entertainment system that is housing a 200-300lb beast (see TV), and unplug the system from what outlet. How in the world an electronics device got out without the typical hard reset option working, is baffling. Apparently though, Nintendo is going to patch that up for us in the next few weeks, which will hopefully make it a distant, if bitter, memory. I'm not holding my breath waiting on the patch though, because there is a lack of history from Nintendo with providing decent patches even on their games.

Happy!
Sweet
1) Finding Friends - If you own a Wii U, feel free to add me to your friend list. My Nintendo Network user name is CoffeesNintendo has improved finding and adding friends greatly over the Wii's method. You can add "friends" directly from Miiverse, meaning just a random person you don't know. You can search for new friends based on people you have played with in online games as well. The system's ability to send messages to friends, and see what games they are playing (or app they are using) is a great improvement over what was offered (or not offered) on the Wii. There are some finicky things though, like my Mii not displaying the game I was playing to another friend for a while, and we're not sure if it was on my side or his side of things (or Nintendo's side), but overall adding and communicating with friends is a huge improvement over the Wii.

2) Video Chat - While only briefly trying this out one night with Brad, from WhoBurnedMyToast, it worked well when we used it and he was able to see the Beans (well, the older one at least) being super hyper right before their bed-time. He even spelled out "Coffee" on the GamePad and Bean 1 correctly identified the word. The drawing on the GamePad during video chat is something that I think could become a big hit with younger children and perhaps grandparents, and just doodling on the GamePad for fun during chatting as well. I guess if somebody figures out a way to do math tutoring with video chat on the Wii U, they can just do their math equations on the GamePad.

3) TV button on GamePad - This is an awesome little button/feature, and I have used it quite a bit in my time with the Wii U to turn the volume up and down in games. It works very well, though you do need to be pointing the Wii U GamePad at the TV when trying to use the TV controls; meaning if there is an object between you and the GamePad, or the GamePad is stored on top of an entertainment system above the TV as ours is, you will need to point it at the TV like a normal TV remote.

4) User Interface (UI) & Operating System (OS) - The Wii U's UI is an updated version of the Wii's with the tile boxes on the screen, but the OS behind it has had a good bit of overhaul to it, allowing for more features and functionality. Hitting the Home button during a game will pull up a menu, allowing you to jump to your Friend List, Miiverse, Nintendo eShop, Internet Browser, Nintendo TVii, Download Management, Controller Settings, or Manual for whatever game or app you are using. The ability to switch back and forth from displaying things on the TV to the GamePad with different apps like Netflix, Amazon Video, and YouTube within the browser is very nice. Bean 2 (the younger Bean) is now famous for finding the power button on the TV where we have it set up and last Monday night (the 19th) Bean 1 and I were sitting on the couch watching a cartoon on Netflix (probably Bob the Builder). Bean 2 found the TV power button and pressed it off, and what usually results in "Put him in jail!" from Bean 1, was instantly averted by switching Netflix to streaming on the GamePad we had on the couch with us. Bean 1 was surprised by it, but Bean 2 didn't know any difference and went about pressing the TV power button.

5) Browser - The browser on the Wii U is very functional from my time with it, especially with the GamePad's keyboard implementation. Typing with either the GamePad's stylus or my fingers has worked very well for doing quick Google searches. My favorite thing about the Wii U's browser though, is YouTube on it works incredibly well. You can choose to watch the YouTube videos on the TV, but use the GamePad to search and select more YouTube videos to play directly off of the GamePad. Or, unlike the App, you can actually choose to stream YouTube videos directly off of the GamePad. Also, this could fall under the OS and UI maybe, but if you are in a game and need help you can hit the Home button to bring up the Home menu. Then what? Well, if you select the Browser button, it will launch the browser for you and already have the game you are playing ready to be "searched" if that's what you're wanting. You can search, while the game is still paused, for guides on how to beat a boss, where to find an item in the game, or how many hours you can expect it to take you to finish the game. Or, you can even use the browser while the game is paused, go to YouTube and find a walk-through video on the game (if you do that) if you get stuck. The browser also has a little "curtain" that you can use to hide what you're searching for from the TV, and I have found this actually pretty useful with keeping Bean 1 from requesting 20 different YouTube videos. After we watch one on the TV, I can put up the curtain, find another video, and hit play without him requesting a video that might not be really relevant, but the image on it just looks shiny and interesting.

6) Wii U GamePad stand/cradle set - These are included with the Wii U Deluxe Set, or can be purchased for the Wii U Basic Set for $19.99. I do recommend them, and if you are looking for Wii U accessories for your Christmas list and only have the basic set, these can be very useful. One of the stands allows the GamePad to sit in it and be charged, and while you can't really play it like that, it's a good place to store it and keep out of the hands of little Beans that might want it. The second stand is just a GamePad stand, with no slot for the charging cable to be plugged. I use this one quite often when sitting on the couch playing ZombiU, leaving the stand on the coffee table and putting the GamePad in the stand if I get up to go grab some more coffee, snacks, or just to check on the Beans in the middle of the night.

7) Games - So far, I have played three Wii U games. Those being Nintendo Land, Trine 2, and ZombiU.
  • Nintendo Land came with the system, and we have played it a decent amount. Bean 1 really enjoys the Mario Chase, Luigi's Ghost Mansion, and Yoshi's Fruit Cart mini-games the most. When you play the different mini-games, you are awarded coins and you can spend them in a Coin Game, where you have to aim the coins to fall in certain directions. If you complete the stages in the coin drop game, you are given gifts for your Nintendo Land plaza that help make it more lively, and Bean 1 enjoys the Coin Game and finding the gifts around the plaze as well. I think Mario Chase and Luigi's Ghost Mansion are a lot of fun, and show the fun that can be had with asymmetric gameplay, and I particularly like Luigi's Ghost Mansion the most right now. Takamaru's Ninja Castle mini-game is a lot of fun from my time with it, but I haven't put nearly enough time into Metroid Blast or The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, and a few of the other mini-games to really have impressions of them yet.
  • Trine 2 is an eShop title, and the developers were kind enough to provide me with a code for it, even knowing I don't do typical reviews on games. I have said it on a few other sites, but Trine 2 is the first Wii U game that really made me realize how dated our SD TV is. Why? Trine 2 looks incredible, and it plays on the TV and/or on the GamePad, but the game looks brighter, crisper, and just more vibrant in general on the GamePad than our TV. It made me realize even more it is time for a HD TV upgrade; which we are already looking  for (recommendations welcomed)! I have made it through the first level so far, and I am really enjoying the story-telling aspect of the game. The way Trine 2's story is told, the setting for the game, and humor used so far remind me of the movie The Princess Bride; which is a very good thing.
  • ZombiU - I purchased this day one with my Wii U system, even knowing the "reviews" published by some sites were not positive. I have now completed the game, and I will say if you are wanting to play a survival horror title, even with some sense of terror thrown in, I recommend you pick this game up and give it a try. So yes, please ignore the early reviews on this game. What was my time with ZombiU? 24+ hours, I'm above average, I know! Seriously though, I am glad to see this game get developed and published, and I have had a lot of fun with it so far. Mrs. Coffee does not like zombies (in general), and would prefer to not play FPS games due to the controls. She did try and actually enjoyed ZombiU's local multiplayer modes though, as she used only the GamePad while I was using the FPS controls with our Wii Remote and Nunchuk. If you can go into ZombiU knowing it's not a perfect game with perhaps some glitches to be experienced, and you enjoy survival horror type games, you should find it well worth playing.
Trine 2, ZombiU, Nintendo Land.
Bold
1) The GamePad - While maybe not as revolutionary as perhaps the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination, I think the GamePad has a lot of potential for fun and unique gameplay elements in games. The asymmetric gameplay in Nintendo Land, and even the different gameplay mechanics added in games like Trine 2 and ZombiU make me glad to see developers already using the GamePad in very different ways. I have been very impressed with how each game I have played, uses the GamePad and its features in unique ways. I really think it will be interesting to see which developer (if any) uses every single feature on the Wii U GamePad, in some fashion in a game. The speakers on the controller are actually better than I was expecting, and the volume output has been high enough from what I have experienced so far. The two little grips I wrote about from my time with the demo haven't been an issue for me, and I have enjoyed not rushing out just yet to grab a case for it...though the Nerf GamePad cases look like they might provide the best protection from what I have seen. I really do hope that Nintendo is able to get the cost of the Wii U GamePad (and even console) down quickly, so that if Wii U owners break or experience any problems with their GamePads, they can replace them quickly and affordably.

2) Miiverse - What is Miiverse? Awesomeness. Think of Miiverse as a message board or forum, or even an ever flowing comments section for Wii U games and apps. This very feature will probably either create new jobs at some companies to help monitor Wii U owners in the game communities and help them with questions, or add a bit more of a burden to community managers at companies now that might need to start being active in the Miiverse communities. Each Wii U game and app has its own separate Miiverse community (at least of now), and I have used Miiverse in ZombiU several times; sometimes to answer questions, and a few times to get questions answered about the game. Instead of stopping the game and coming to the computer and searching, or using the Wii U's browser option, I just hit the Home button and hop into the ZombiU Miiverse community, ask my question, hop back to the game, and check back a few minutes later to see if my question has been answered. I really, really, really like this aspect of the Wii U and that Miiverse is up and running on the system already is great to see. Miiverse allows users to use a standard keyboard input with ABCs, or hand written notes and drawings for messages using the stylus or your fingers. I have actually found the hand drawing aspect to be extremely useful in ZombiU when I got stuck somewhere. I was able to hop into Miiverse and draw a rough (very rough) map of the building I was looking at, and let them know what I was looking for. After a few back and forth comments on Miiverse, I was able to figure out what I had done wrong and continue with my game.

Overall, I have enjoyed my time with the Wii U so far, and if you have any questions about the Wii U that perhaps I didn't answer or address here, feel free to ask in the comments below. I may have even forgotten a few of the "bitter", "bold", or "sweet" things I was going to include, and might be able to clarify some. If you have any questions about the games I have played so far, feel free to ask below as well.

Questions
Did any of you grab a Wii U yet, and if so what do you think about it so far? Do you agree, or disagree with any of my points?

Have you played any Wii U games you would really recommend others give a try? Are you interested in seeing any footage from the Wii U games we have right now, Nintendo Land, Trine 2, and ZombiU? If so, let me know what game you would like to see footage of in the comments below. Also, feel free to share your Wii U user name below in the comments.

13 comments:

  1. excellent overall thoughts - I obviously haven't picked one up yet and likely won't until at least later next year (maybe if I get through my stack of backlogged games, trading them in would pay for one in and of itself?).


    YOu answered a handful of questions I had had so far about the system. I knew you were curious about a 'Wii U' type channel, so I'm sorry to hear that hasn't come over yet. I also agree that running a big patch like that right out of the gates is a little odd, and could be potentially off-putting to less experienced gamers.


    Trine 2 really is a gorgeous game, isn't it? I have it on my PS3 and just like the first one, I've been in love with the visuals. I have only played the first 1/3 of it to date, but keep hoping to get back to it and write up a proper review sooner than later.


    Interesting impressions of Zombie U. I too have been reading the rather poor reviews, but this is one of the few titles right out of the gates that caught my interest. It clearly tries to make use of the new tech, while not being a re-release of something that's already been out for awhile like Batman or Mass Effect 3 (though I have read pretty good things about both ports)


    It's nice to hear that the friends list stuff is a bit easier to manage than the code swaps of the past. One thing I haven't seen addressed yet as a yes/no answer is this: is there any sort of achievements or trophy system that can be observed by your friends? I had read early on that Nintendo probably was not going to adopt something like that, but i haven't heard definitively one way or the other since.


    Thanks for the interesting read!

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  2. I don't think there will be a console that won't require an update when you get it. I won't get one. To be honest, Nintendo has lost its flavor since the N64. Oh, how I miss the SNES days though.

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  3. Trine 2 really does have an incredible art style, and the fact that it is a larger file size than NSMBU really makes me wonder what Nintendo did/didn't try with NSMBU. A $20 eShop game = larger file size than a $60 retail game? Come on, throw in a ton of stuff if you have to...throw in every single old school Mario game (not that they are that large), but an eShop game that has incredible visuals, online/offline co-op, and voice chat being added via a patch? NSBMU, now with 5 players...sometimes. :(

    As for ZombiU, I can 100% confirm that at least one early review (even though it was positive) on the game was published without the game being completed, and from what I can tell from IGN's and GameSpot's reviews of the game as well, they did not complete it either (I have contacted their reviewers a few times now trying to get clarification on some things, no responses yet). I have an entire other post in the works, from my dealings with the other site. Lots of honesty and integrity going on...like many of my experiences around video game sites.

    As of now, I don't believe Nintendo has said they are doing achievements/trophies, BUT they are allowing third party developers to get their services on the Wii U...Ubisoft has a U-Play service, and that is now on the Wii U. Supposedly it gives you different things for doing stuff in games...not really sure how it works though. I think the 3DS has accomplishments, but not really sure how those work.

    Now, I have been thinking that Nintendo MIGHT be working on an achievements program for the Wii U though, instead of achievements, accomplishments, or trophies...what about fruits? We have Iwata with bananas, Trinen with an orange...it could play into the "fruits of your labor" idea very well, and it would definitely be more "Nintendo" I guess?

    I did play Black Ops 2 last night on the Wii U, so I'll have to check to see if the game has ported over the achievements/trophies in some fashion. I know a few Wii games kept them in, just under different names...even though nobody else could really see them. ZombiU has U-Play interactivity, but one problem currently when playing the Wii U games...is my SD TV. When text pops up, I would have to try and RUN to the TV and squint to see if I can make out the font/words...which, I have yet to actually run to the TV, so I don't even know what some of it is saying in games.

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  4. "I don't think there will be a console that won't require an update when you get it."

    Yeah, I just hope that they can get the majority of the "patch/update" already installed, and perhaps make the process faster. You know what Nintendo has lost since its N64 days....RARE! BUY. THEM. BACK! I really would like a GoldenEye 007 HD update. The exact same game, levels, and multiplayer (online multiplayer would be icing on the cake). Also, a few of the developers and game series that got started on the N64, like the Turok series, aren't really around anymore.

    I do think Nintendo has potential, and lots of good franchises to work with, but I just hope they are really prepared with their own Wii U games, and don't do what NoA did with the Wii...not release already developed games for the system (where's my Pandora's Tower NoA!?).



    Did you have a favorite SNES game/series? It was probably the DKC games for me.


    Thanks for the comment/feedback!

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  5. I didn't pick up a Wii U yet, as the price is too high for my budget considering the games right now aren't console sellers (like Mario 64 was for N64). I can wait a little bit. Most stores right now are only selling Wii U bundles, as in you HAVE TO buy three games with the console if you want to pick it up. That's around $500.


    I'm still happy with my Wii right now, as I am about to play The Last Story.

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  6. "....considering the games right now aren't console sellers..."

    ZombiU. ZombiU. ZombiU.

    Seriously though, if you enjoy survival horror and are planning on getting a Wii U, I suggest making ZombiU a day one grab as well.

    As for the bundling thing and availability, I think it depends on the area. Some areas apparently have Wii Us in stock, while others are more hit/miss right now.

    Kind of interesting you mentioned The Last Story, because just last night I relocated my copy of the game...still sealed up, but I do own it.

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  7. The many good RPGs like Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, then there's Street Fighter. And, of course, the one game that I want to see remade, Actraiser(the first one, not the shitty second one).

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  8. Not sure getting Rare back at this point would amount to much ...developers are only as good as their people and many of those responsible for Rare N64 era magic are long gone.
    Nintendo development in the last couple of cycles does definitely seem to be missing that range of experiences tho, an area which Rare games so crisply filled back in the day. That, and I have an unshakeable feeling that Nintendo of America in particular is TOO risk averse these days. Not stepping up to deliver those Project Rainfall titles for a game-starved audience was an absolute sin against their customer base. Going back a bit further, No Mother 3 or even the second, and much better, Fire Emblem DS title just feels "soulless" to me as small risk, likely limited-return projects that would nevertheless be unlikely to lose money... Perhaps they are too concerned with weighing down the divisions ROI figure, a curt nod towards shareholders over customers :/

    All that said, Tom, it is probably too early to write off a brand new platform. Nintendo has been adjusting strategy and development direction continuously the last couple of cycles and judging by their coming company-wide developer reorganization plan, they are well aware their game-creation processes need to change again.
    Hopefully this means some fresh game ideas are incoming and smaller, even risky, projects can be
    encouraged. The talent feels like it is there, it's just gotta be uncaged a bit :)

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  9. "Not sure getting Rare back at this point would amount to much..."

    GoldenEye 007. HD. Remake. Update. I understand most Rare employees left and aren't there anymore, but I'm sure they could get a few of them back considering how shaky the whole developer market has become, and get Rare to be a "Retro" for them.

    On NoA and the Wii...they had The Last Story, Pandora's Tower, and Disaster: Day of Crisis as at least three Wii games 100% developed and translated, but not released in the U.S. for some odd...odd...odd reason. Why not use Disaster: Day of Crisis as the first "Nintendo Selects" title, and throw in Pandora's Tower, and The Last Story as well? Fortunately, The Last Story did get published thanks to xSeed, but why does a third party publisher have to do something that NoA should have done? Or, NoA releases a game like ExciteBots and basically shove under the rug and don't even mention it at E3...they just seemed very backwards in how they did some things.



    Thanks for the comment and feedback!

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  10. I'm really enjoying the Wii U so far. Miiverse is too addicting: it makes me forget I only have 2 games for the system!

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  11. Have you looked at grabbing any of the eShop games? I think the 2 games you have so far are Nintendo Land and Batman, right? If so, what do you think of Batman from what you have played?

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  12. Hey Coffee, I will add you tonight. My NNID is JHardin. Quick question, have you received a review code for Little Inferno? I contacted the group at TomorrowLand but haven't heard back yet. I am very interested in this game. If I don't get it for review, I'll pick it up at Christmas most likely. Anyways, perhaps I can hit you up for a Wii U Chat session. I have yet to try it out with anyone.

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  13. Alright, so we have each other added. As for Little Inferno, I didn't ask for any code for it, and actually it's a very rare occasion when/if I do ask for a code. I usually offer to provide coverage for games in different ways, and I ALWAYS let the developers know even if they offer me a game, that I don't do typical reviews with scores of any sort.


    As for the Wii U Chat, feel free to send me an email on what nights/times work the best for you.

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Keep the comments clean. Rated "E" for Everyone. :)

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