I was originally going to post something about my first impressions of the Wii U back on the day it came out (30th November), but in the end I decided I’d rather spend my free time playing on it than writing about it. Then suddenly the December party season hit, I became incredibly busy at work, and I’ve barely had time to play on it since, let alone write about it. So here we are then, the other side of Christmas, and I’m finally, finally presenting my ‘first impressions’ of the Wii U.
I’m pleased to say I’ve had a generally positive experience with Nintendo’s new wonder, although with some unexpected frustrations. At the very least my console actually works, unlike that of my unlucky blogging companion Sir Gaulian. Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of my experiences over the first few days of my Wii U ownership…
Thursday 29 November
What magic is this? My console has arrived a day early! I’m out tonight though, so the grand unboxing will have to wait until tomorrow…
Friday 30th November
An unexpectedly busy day means that the Great Switch-On has to wait until evening. I’m amazed at just how many bits and bobs come in the box – I’ve gone for the ZombiU Premium pack, and it seems to contain a never-ending stream of cables, stands, controllers and paperwork. Setting up takes the best part of an hour, and I haven’t even turned on the console yet! When I eventually do switch the power on, the initial set up of the gamepad is quick enough, but this is just the opener for the hours of admin to come. My Mii provides the first hurdle – I decide to use the gamepad camera to create a Mii by taking a picture of my face, which hilariously results in my Mii looking more like a tiny boxer than the tall, suave Victorian gentleman I am in real life. For the sake of speed though, I decide to just go with tiny boxerman for now and vow to adjust him later. However, a few admin screens later, I realise that Mr Boxerman is going to be the ‘face’ of my console, and his ugly visage is staring out at me from every menu screen. He has to go.
At this point I realise I can just import my Mii from my 3DS, so I spend the next few minutes setting this up, only to realise afterwards that I’ve blocked the 3DS Mii from having any changes made to it. This means I have to change the settings on the 3DS Mii and then import him all over again, which involves a good 4 to 5 screens of clicking and a few more minutes of my rapidly diminishing time. Already this admin business is starting to annoy me. After I’ve eventually got my good-looking Mii onto the Wii U I’m faced with the next big hurdle – the 1 GB system update. At the moment the menu screens are looking very sparse, with a link to YouTube and Netflix and not much else. There really is very little functionality on the console without performing the update – no eShop, no Miiverse, nothing really of note. So I initiate the update.
And it doesn’t work.
All I get is an error message, so I check the internet settings to make sure they’re OK. The connection test initially fails, but when I run it again it works, so it’s probably just heavy traffic on my ISP. I try the update again and it begins working, then crashes. It’s going to be a long night…
At this point my friend Mark pops over to have a go on the Wii U, so I abandon the update for now and throw on ZombiU. Immediately the game says it needs to download an update – another bloody update! – so I click OK, but again I just get an error message after a few moments. I decide to press on without performing the update, as by now I’ve been fiddling around with the console for about 2 hours and haven’t even played any games.
ZombiU turns out to be a lot of fun, although devastatingly hard. I initially approach the game with the usual gung-ho attitude I reserve for first-person shooters, gleefully flinging myself into the fray and spraying bullets around liberally. Umpteen grisly deaths later though I realise that ZombiU is much more of a survival horror game than an FPS, and the scarce ammo forces you to take a much more cautious approach to fighting the zombie horde. And bloody hell is it scary – even one zombie can easily make short work of you, so coming across a whole room of them induces nothing short of panic. After a couple of hours of this we decide to rest our frayed nerves by watching The Trip on DVD. The gentle comedy of Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan is just the ticket to alleviate zombie panic.
Later, after Mark has left, I decide to try to get the console update working again. The progress bar starts creeping along, but again I receive an error message after a few minutes. I try again and the same thing happens. Either there’s a problem with my internet connection or there are some problems at Nintendo’s end, probably because of everyone trying to update their consoles at once. In all likelihood it’s a combination of both, but I’m determined to get the update working, so I keep restarting it every time I get the error. It takes a long time – probably about 2 hours in all – and my console is finally fully updated at around 1.30am. I decide to have a look at what’s in the eShop. It crashes. I decide to go to bed.
Saturday 1st December
My sisters and my youngest sister’s boyfriend Jack are heading over today to have a go on the Wii U, but before they arrive I decide to have another go on ZombiU, skipping the game update again after I receive yet another error message. Last night, Mark and I got to a bit in a supermarket, but it wasn’t very obvious where we had to go next, and this morning I’m equally confused. The objective marker says I have to go inside the supermarket, but I’ve already done this and it hasn’t changed. I wander around for a while, trying to work out what I need to do, but eventually I give up and run off to the internet for help.
Guess what? It turns out it’s a game-breaking bug. Nice one Ubisoft.
Yep, apparently that game update I couldn’t download would have fixed the bug, so now I have no choice but to start all over again. Grr. On the plus side though I was doing terribly, and I was only about an hour in anyway, so it could have been a lot worse. After a few attempts I eventually manage to get the game update to work properly, then I abandon ZombiU for a bit to check out what’s going on in the eShop.
Quite a lot as it turns out. Nintendo seem to have done an excellent job of getting a huge range of content together for launch, which somewhat alleviates the otherwise painful troubles of the update saga. I spot Trine 2: Director’s Cut is on sale – I’ve never heard of the game before, but the video looks great, so I decide to take a punt on it. After a couple of unexplained error screens, I eventually manage to download the game – these error screens are really starting to get on my nerves.
My sisters like ZombiU, but they can’t get enough of New Super Mario Bros. U. I’m still not that excited about the new Mario game – it’s good, very good, but really I wanted something new in the Galaxy series, or a Mario game that takes full advantage of the Wii U’s capabilities. Having said that, Mario does look absolutely fantastic in HD, and I really like the way that the player with the gamepad can place place platforms to help/hinder the other players.
However, the surprise hit of the sibling gaming session was Trine 2, which turns out to be the perfect game to play with a bunch of people in the room. The game is a stunning-looking 2D puzzle game in the vein of the much-loved but long forgotten Lost Vikings on the SNES, and it quickly got the whole room involved. “Try putting a block on that platform over there and jumping on it.” “How about moving that pipe so the air flows upwards?” “Can you grapple onto that ledge?” It turned out to be one of those few games that are actually as much fun to watch as to play, and we probably spent more time playing on it than on anything else.
So all in all then, my first couple of days with the Wii U ended up being lot more frustrating than I planned, but I still think it’s a brilliant console, and I particularly love the Miiverse take on online communities. Nintendo clearly made a balls up with the enormo-update that’s required at the beginning, but once I (eventually) got that out of the way I really loved playing the three games I have. Another big update (625 Mb) followed the week after launch, and that seemed to fix most of the error screens I was getting, but it’s a real shame that these things couldn’t have been dealt with before launch: I can imagine that less tech-savvy/patient people than I might be turned off the console completely by the tiring admin involved at the start.
There are other minor niggles too, such as the long wait for pages on the home menu to load, but overall I’m very impressed with the design of the console, and the gamepad in particular. It really does feel like something entirely new, and I’m excited to see how game developers are going to take advantage of the Wii U’s unique capabilities in the future.
[As penned by a frustrated and delighted Lucius Merriweather.]