The Wii U GamePad has a 6.2-inch touchscreen.
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Nintendo's newest console has only been available for one day, but that's still enough time for early-bird consumers to get their hands on the Wii U, and test out its features and games.
We spent the last 24 hours playing with the Wii U, and have organized our early thoughts on the system. Read on if you're on the fence about buying one.
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Out of the Box
Setting up the Wii U is easy, but installing the software is more of a process. Nintendo issued a day-one patch to activate features such as MiiVerse, the company's social features; this means users will spend between one to three hours (depending on connection speed) downloading and installing a patch that bricks their system. Not a great way to greet consumers excited to play your games. But there's a chance that servers won't be as busy in the coming weeks, so download times may improve. Each game I inserted had its own patch too, which users have to install on the second playthrough.
After getting through the patch, user still face an involved setup. They have to create their Mii avatar before they start playing, and create a Nintendo Network ID for network play. Users must also set up the GamePad's universal remote functionality, which is thankfully the easiest part of the process. They only have to pick their TV manufacturer (the Wii U knows what to do next). The GamePad controls volume, input source and channels.
Look and Feel
The GamePad is the Wii U's main portal, so users need it to access all the relevant menus (the console shows a different menu from the television); here, users can launch applications by touch. The default view includes apps such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video Services and YouTube; but only Netflix is available now, which seems a bit like false advertising. Loading other options, such as the Nintendo eShop, requires pressing the Home button on the controller, which is unintuitive at first. But soon, the button quickly becomes a handy way to navigate to other parts of the Wii U, like the upcoming Nintendo TVii.
The most troublesome thing about the console is that everything moved slowly; launching games and apps took a long time. I felt like I spent awhile looking at a spinning blue circle.
Wii U games definitely take advantage of the console's ability to support high-definition graphics. Cartoony games, such as Scribblenauts Unlimited or Nintendo Land look beautiful. For games such as ZombiU, which are supposed to appear more realistic, users might be disappointed. This system is supposed to be the next-generation of gaming consoles -- meant to outshine the Xbox 360 -- but I can't say it achieves that.
Pre-launch, Nintendo has spent much of its time crowing about the features of the GamePad, a hybrid touch screen and controller that's central to the Wii U. The first thing I noticed is its large size; but after spending a few hours with the GamePad, I've concluded that it won't weigh you down like an iPad, yet is substantial enough that it doesn't feel like a toy (though the glossy finish makes it look like one.)
Unfortunately, the GamePad takes some getting used to as an actual controller, especially for games that require more than simple controls or the gyroscope. My biggest complaint is that Nintendo bucked all gaming-controller tradition by swapping the position of the right analog stick and the four letter buttons. Anyone who has played any other modern console (including Nintendo's own GameCube) knows instinctively that the analog stick goes below the buttons; but Nintendo flipped them on both the GamePad and the Pro Controller. If the company is only targeting non-gamers, they won't notice; but this will be a difficult change for many others. Despite this drawback, the buttons, and especially triggers, feel good.
The GamePad is mostly dominated by the 6.2-inch touch screen with a passable resolution: 854 x 480. The most appealing feature of the Wii U -- that users can play games or watch movies entirely on the GamePad -- may be spoiled for some looking for HD crispness. Still, I watched a whole episode of Portlandia from Netflix on the GamePad, and also spent time playing New Super Mario Bros. U with the television off. Being able to isolate your gameplay to a smaller screen is very novel, and one of my favorite parts of the system.
Nintendo's Wii U has a better launch lineup coming out, compared to other consoles -- but only a few titles stick out. Almost everyone I talked to in line at the Nintendo World store during the Wii U launch wanted New Super Mario Bros. U or ZombiU, both of which are fun titles. Nintendo Land, which is a pack-in if users purchase the Deluxe model, is going to be a huge hit at parties; from what I've seen so far, it has some engrossing minigames. I haven't cracked open Scribblenauts Unlimited yet, but in demos it looks like a very promising title that would go well with a touch screen.
Some non-exclusive titles on other consoles are also appealing. I'm looking forward to digging in to Epic Mickey 2 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2. While the system had 24 launch titles, many more are expected to debut in the coming months.
I plan to spend Thanksgiving week exploring the Wii U, and will write a more detailed report on whether it's the right console for gamers, families or casual users.
This story originally published on Mashable here.
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