The Wii U was released in November. Many of you probably bought one. If you didn't, though, and are considering it, here's my opinion of the console after a few weeks of owning it. I bought the black deluxe version from an EB Games here in Ontario.
The deluxe black console is small compared to the PS3 or Xbox 360, but it is built solid. It has two USB ports in the front, and two in the back. Game controllers connect via USB. The USB ports are USB 2.0, though, which is disappointing considering that USB 3.0 is considered standard now.
Game discs load in the front. The system comes with a sensor bar so it can be used with a Wii U remote control. The deluxe package also comes with a stand, so you can choose to lay the console flat, or prop it up on its side. I choose to lay it flat, although you may find using the stand useful as a space saver in a television stand or cabinet.
Overall, the console seems comparable in quality to either the PS3 or Xbox 360, although the Wii U falls short in many other ways, as we'll see.
A frequent complaint with the Wii U is the massive system update that has to be done when the console is turned on for the first time. This took a couple of hours, as downloading seems to be especially slow on the Wii U compared to my other consoles and WiFi devices. This wasn't that big of a deal for me, though, since the lengthy update had to be done only once. But I can only imagine being a parent on Christmas morning with some very impatient children waiting for this thing to update itself. You could probably cook your Christmas turkey in less time.
A bigger problem for me, though, was connecting to WiFi the first time. The Wii U found my connection, but wouldn't connect. I had to search Google for a solution, which involved manually entering an IP Address, DNS Servers, and a Gateway into the Wii U in order for it to connect to the internet. I can only imagine less tech savvy people trying to fix this. It makes me wonder how many Wii Us were returned on December 26th.
Loading screens are slow. I don't just mean loading games or the internet, but moving from screen to screen within the Wii U itself. Sometimes it takes long enough that it seems the console is frozen.
Thus, despite the massive first-day update the Wii U requires, it seems that another massive firmware update is needed in order to bring the Wii U's software up to the standard of its competition. These sorts of software problems, though, are typical of new gaming devices shortly after release.
Wii Sandbox Mode
One of the most annoying features of the Wii U (which is saying something, if you list everything I dislike about this console) is the Wii Sandbox mode. You can select Wii mode in order to play Wii games, or in order to access the Virtual Console to download retro titles. There's a nasty little trick, though. You need a Wii U remote control, which is sold separately, and is quite expensive. I have no idea why you need the remote, but you cannot get into Wii Sandbox mode without it.
Once you buy the remote and get into Wii mode, you can play your Wii games and download retro titles. There are a couple more problems, though. First, the online store for downloading Virtual Console games is different than the online Nintendo eShop. That means if you want buy stuff from both stores, you have to add money twice. This means you're going to have some money sitting in one store, and some money sitting in another, which is a nuisance, especially if you get an odd dollar figure left over after purchasing a game from one of the two stores.
The second problem is that the Wii U Pro Controller, which is also sold separately, does not work in Wii mode. If you want to use a controller in Wii mode, you have to use either the remote control or the Wii Classic Controller. Annoying little issues like this make me think that the Wii U was rushed into production too quickly for the Christmas market. The joke is that the Wii U Pro Controller is only usable in Wii U mode, and the Wii Classic Controller is only usable in Wii mode. Confused? Don't worry. If you don't own a Classic controller already, the best thing to do is just buy a remote and use that as a controller in Wii mode.
Also, GameCube controllers do not work for the Wii U.
The most unique feature about the Wii U is, of course, its GamePad. As everyone is aware of by now, the GamePad is a touch screen controller that can be used to play games and browse TV. The screen is 6.2 inches, and the GamePad includes a front-facing camera and a microphone. It also comes with a stylus pen.
Unfortunately, the GamePad is poorly built. It is designed to be similar to an iPad or a high-quality Android tablet, but its quality is far below those other products. The plastic shell feels cheap, like a toy. The screen itself is resistive, unlike the capacitive touch screen of higher quality tablet computers. Resistive touch screens are lower quality and, due to the need to press down on the screen, suffer more damage. The use of a resistive touch screen was obviously a cost-cutting measure by Nintendo, a company that in the 1980s redefined quality video game hardware. Not so much anymore.
My GamePad frequently loses its connection with the console. This happens every five-to-ten minutes, making it almost unusable for certain games. I've spent a ton of time researching on the internet to try and figure out why this is. I've read explanations from bluetooth interference from other devices to the Wii U not getting enough power from an electrical outlet. None of the solutions I've read have worked. It's frustrating.
The GamePad can also be synced with your television to be used as a remote. I have a Samsung HD TV. When I attempted to sync the GamePad with the television, Nintendo gave me about two-dozen or so different frequencies that might work. I tried to sync the GamePad through each frequency one by one. None of them worked. This also seems to be a common issue.
Another nuisance is that the GamePad is necessary to operate certain features of the Wii U, such as the MiiVerse, or the Nintendo eShop. Because my GamePad works so poorly, I rarely use it, relying instead on the Wii U Pro Controller and the remote control (both of which I had to purchase separately). Thus, needing to use it to access these features is annoying when I just want to use the Pro Controller or remote.7
The GamePad, being the most unique feature of the Wii U, is also the console's biggest problem. It's poorly builty and doesn't function well. Even if I had one that functioned perfectly, it doesn't add much to most of the games, unless the games were designed specifically with the GamePad in mind. Games that are designed for multiple platforms are likely better played with the Pro Controller, as the GamePad will likely add nothing for most of those titles, since they weren't designed with the GamePad feature in mind.
Overall, the GamePad is a massive disappointment.
The Deluxe package also comes with a stand, a charging dock for the GamePad, and a copy of NintendoLand. I'm not such a big fan of NintendoLand, although it seems to have its fans. I would have preferred Super Mario U come with the deluxe edition. It probably wasn't included so that Nintendo could sell more Super Mario games separate from the Wii U console.
The charging dock is excellent. In fact, it would be difficult to imagine using the GamePad without it. The GamePad sits upright in the dock, which plugs into an electrical outlet. The GamePad sitting in the dock looks sharp on a bookcase or coffee table. The dock makes charging the GamePad quite easy, as you do not need to plug the GamePad into anything. It sits quite well in the dock's cradle. If you bought the regular white Wii U, the charging dock is probably worth the extra money.
The Wii U has a lot of problems, both in its hardware and software. It seems like a rush job by Nintendo for the Christmas season, although I can't say for certain whether that is the case. Overall, it's probably not worth buying as it will come down in price, especially as Sony and Microsoft get ready to release their next generation consoles. Also, waiting for some of the software issues, such as GamePad connectivity, slow loading times, and the clunky Wii Sandbox mode to be resolved is a good idea, as I imagine these issues will get solved over time (or, at least, I hope).
I don't think the Wii U is a next generation console. I know that it is seen that way, but it is more comparable to the PS3 or Xbox 360. It is not more advanced than those systems. You can play games like Black Ops II and Mass Effect 3, among others, on the Wii U, and these games seem comparable in quality to their cohorts on PS3 or 360. But I can't imagine anyone buying this system to play games like that, when the PS3 and Xbox 360 have been able to play higher quality games for years now, and those consoles are much more inexpensive than the Wii U.
Many people have been happy with the selection of launch titles, but I disagree. Most of the titles were already available on other platforms, or were released simultaneously on other platforms. Nintendo has a lot of exclusive intellectual property that they failed to leverage for the Wii U's release. Besides Mario, NintendoLand, and ZombiU, there aren't really any decent exclusive titles out. Rayman Legends is being demo'd in every store in the area I live, despite that it isn't being released until February. Although, with titles like Zelda, Wii U Fit, Metroid, Star Fox, Donkey Kong, Pikmin, and lots of other stuff possibly in store in the future, there is much to look forward to, if only Nintendo could solve some of the Wii U's problems.
My advice: wait for it to come down in price
Strengths + Comparable gaming power to PS3 or Xbox 360
+ Unique playing style with the GamePad
+ Access to exclusive Nintendo titles
+ Access to Wii mode and Virtual Console for retro games
Weaknesses - GamePad is poorly built and sometimes has connectivity issues
- No remote control included
- Lack of exclusive titles at launch
- Lack of USB 3.0 ports
- Slow loading screens
- Wii Sandbox mode poorly designed