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Wii U hardware test: UK & Europe launch guide

Friday, 30th November 2012 08:13 GMT By Dave Cook

Wii U has launched across UK and Europe . VG247′s Dave Cook runs down everything you need to know about Nintendo’s latest console and its launch.

Nintendo has long polarised gamers since it ushered in a motion-controlled sea change within the gaming industry. The original Wii still splits opinion to this day, but in Wii U, the Japanese company has worked hard to remedy many complaints directed at its predecessor.

It’s been a long time coming, but the console finally launches across Europe and in the UK from today. I thought I’d chart the console’s progress from its first shaky reveal at E3 2011, right up to its launch, and give you everything you need to know about what Wii U involves.

There’s much to cover, from launch day games, GamePad features, game impressions and more. I’ve also included a price guide to the Wii U console itself. So if you want a hefty dose of Nintendo goodness, then you’ve definitely come to the right place.

Damp squibb

I was there last year, right there in the crowd when Reggie Fils-Aime first uttered the name ‘Wii U’. Then we saw a flashy highlight reel of GamePad mechanics – but no shots of the actual console itself – and a string of tech demos.

After the spectacle had ended, the crowd went ballistic as is expected by the laws of common courtesy, but afterwards once we got back into the Los Angeles sun, the press started to talk about what they had just witnessed.

“What does it actually do?” I asked my then-colleagues. My question was met with plenty of theoretical uses for the GamePad, but we didn’t know if it was an add-on for the original Wii, a new console altogether, or something we hadn’t yet considered.

Still, we all thought the bit where the man threw a YouTube video from the GamePad on to his telly looked pretty mint.

One year later and the Wii U got a proper showing at E3 2012, and then it all started to make sense. It was Nintendo’s way of embracing the Smartphone and tablet mentality that has become so popular in recent years.

‘Asynchronous play’, the promise of Pikmin 3 touch screen mechanics and motion control up the warp pipe. How could such a cacophony of features roll together as a coherent whole? I’ve been playing around with my console for a week now, so I’ll try to explain how it all works.

Stress test

The first really cool thing I noticed about Wii U is the level that it communicates with other devices. For example, you don’t have to make a new Mii avatar if you have a 3DS. You can simple sync both devices in seconds and send your little avatar bugger across to your TV.

The GamePad itself might look toy-like, but it’s incredibly sophisticated. During the console’s initial set-up you can configure Nintendo’s device to act as your TV remote. All I had to do was search for my TV manufacturer on a list and bang, I could control my Sony TV from anywhere in the house.

Wii U retail launch titles (UK & Europe)

Disney Epic Mickey 2. The Power Of Two
Mass Effect 3: Special Edition
Assassin’s Creed 3
Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition
Ben 10: Omniverse
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Darksiders 2
Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade
FIFA 13
Funky Barn
Game Party Champions
Just Dance 4
New Super Mario Bros. U
Nintendo Land
Rabbids Land
Skylanders Giants
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Sports Connection
Tank! Tank! Tank!
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Transformers Prime
Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013
ZombiU

This might not sound so impressive, but it does mean I can keep playing New Super Mario Bros. U whenever my partner wants to watch TV. I can then sulk off to the bedroom and keep playing if I want, all in a flash. It’s incredibly simple.

Also bundled with the Wii U hardware is on on board web browser and MiiVerse, Nintendo’s social bespoke social network. Here you can participate in forums, ask other gamers for tips, post sketches on game threads, send private messages, follow particular users and send out friend requests.

It does away with Nintendo’s horribly archaic ‘Friend Code’ format from the original Wii, instead allowing gamers to add each other via their Nintendo Network ID in an instant. If you already have one you can link it to your Wii U in a snap.

The patch also adds in the Wii U eShop, a digital store front similar to Xbox Live and PSN. Nintendo and its respective third-party publishers – such as Namco Bandai and Tecmo Koei – will be offering full retail game downloads from day-one, while other studios will release smaller download games further down the line.

Hard drive space is always an issue whenever consoles allow you to download games, and the Wii U is no exception. The day-one patch alone comes in a reported 5GB, so it doesn’t leave you much space if you have an 8GB standard edition console.

However, gamers have discovered that you can play games direct from a portable SD card as long as you plug a USB reader into your Wii U, meaning you can spread your files around if need be.

The Wii U also comes with YouTube, Netflix and Love Film apps preloaded, although you need to perform the day-one patch to access them. Also coming further down the line is Nintendo’s TVii app, which serves as a companion app when watching sports – displays scores and stats – and other features. It’s coming to Europe in 2013, check it out here.

Buyer’s guide

I’ve compiled a handy little shopping guide to UK retailers selling Wii U. There are two models, a premium black edition that features a 32GB internal hard drive, and comes with a GamePad and Nintendo Land game bundled, and a basic edition that comes with an 8GB hard drive and no games.

Both versions are backwards compatible with old Wii games after the day-one update is installed, and reportedly, the Wii U will upscale them on HD televisions. Speaking of HD, the Wii U console supports 720p, 1080p and 1080i resolution settings. It makes New Super Mario Bros. U look especially shiny.

Here’s the price breakdown:

Games a-plenty

Wii U eShop games

Chasing Aurora (£10.79 / €11.99)
Little Inferno (£12.99 / €14.99)
Nano Assault Neo (£8.99 / €9.99)
Puddle (£7.19 / €7.99)
Trine 2: Director’s Cut (£10.99 / €13.49)

Free demo downloads

FIFA 13

Full retail downloads

Ben 10: Omniverse (£35.99)
Darksiders II (£49.99)
Family Party (£27.99)
FIFA 13 (£49.99)
Just Dance 4 (£39.99)
New Super Mario Bros. U (£49.99)
Nintendo Land (£49.99)
Sonic Racing Transformed (£39.99)
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (£37.49)
Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper (£49.99)
ZombiU

So let’s say you’ve bought your Wii U, you’ve spent ages making your Mii avatar and gawking at how damned cute it is. You naturally want to play some games. Well, luckily for you I played the whole of the core launch line-up recently in Frankfurt.

I think once you sit down and actually start playing some Wii U games, you really start to see how neat the GamePad is. ZombiU is the best launch day showcase of what the GamePad can do, as it has been incorporated in many neat ways. You can read all about how the pad works in my ZombiU impressions piece here:

It’s a great game if you’re a horror fan, taking a slow, survival angle on the genre like old-school Resident Evil or Silent Hill. But if horror isn’t your thing you can always check out New Super Mario Bros. U, which is a superb HD platformer that riff on 1992 SNES classic Super Mario World. I also appraised this game, and you can read all about it here:

Elsewhere you’ve got Nintendo Land, the incredibly fun party game for up to five people, and a host of third-party games that all play well, but come with bespoke Wii U features. For example, Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition comes with a mad Nintendo-themed bonus game.

It sees fighters dressing up as classic Nintendo characters fighting in an arena full of mushrooms. It’s mad. Also, Mass Effect 3 comes with bonus weapons, Assassin’s Creed 3 has touch and GamePad mapping features, and more.

Wii U won’t just be home to full retail games on disc however. I already touched on how the online eShop will sell full-priced releases from day-one, but there will also be a continuous stream of smaller indie games on there too.

From launch you can buy Toki Tori 2, Nano Assault Neo, Trine 2 and Little Inferno, showing that Nintendo is taking a grassroots approach to indie games. What’s more, the format will support Unity, the game engine geared towards indie development.

I recently interviewed Unity CEO David Helgason about how the company struck a deal with Nintendo, and how all of its first and third-party studios will be using it when exploring Wii U games going forward. If anything it should mean lots of neat, affordable indie titles on the Wii U eShop in future. Check out what he had to say here:

We’ve also got a new addition to The Legend of Zelda series to look forward to, a new fully-3D Mario game, the Wii U-exclusive Bayonetta 2, a new version of Aliens: Colonial Marines and many more games to look forward to.

It’s going to be a busy holiday period for Nintendo, and indeed going in to next year. It will be interesting to see how long third-party studios keep up their support of Wii U, and how the catalogue of games expands over time.

Now you know the essentials, let us know what you think of the Wii U below, and be sure to check out these images from the HMV Oxford Street launch this morning.

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22 Comments

  1. DeyDoDoughDontDeyDough

    Here’s something you should know:

    It’s an incredibly cheap-feeling piece of plastic based around one terrible gimmick that Nintendo itself has failed to come up with any good ideas for and is stuffed with technology from way back in 2001.

    For £300.

    And that is all there IS to say.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 Nah. That’s not true, sorry :)

    #2 2 years ago
  3. monkeygourmet

    Can’t wait to pick mine up after work! :D

    I made a roast last night, so this evening i’m going to make Bubble & Squeak with the leftovers and smash some Zombies faces in with a Cricket Bat!

    How thoroughly british,

    Take that you slaaaaags! :)

    #3 2 years ago
  4. friendlydave

    Well now I want Bubble & Squeak for dinner…

    Hope you lot all enjoy your WiiU’s >_< Not till the new year.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Digital Bamboo

    Considering past console launches, I think the Wii U is off to a very good start & holds a great deal of potential going forward. I’m eager to see how it develops over the next few years, and feel it may even surprise some naysayers once at full steam.

    Off topic: Bubble & Squeak? Sounds like a darling adventure puzzle game for the NES.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. absolutezero

    Fuck me that patch was painful as all hell. Just make sure you sit next to the stupid thing while its patching itself because it will constantly drop connection and just sit there doing nothing.

    It is nice though, I mean its just a really slick nice looking piece of kit. The Pro Controller is alot better than I thought it was going to be aswell, I hope some enterprising sort releases some PC drivers for it so I can use it instead of my Xbox pad.

    When idle its the most quiet of the current generation including the Wii. Slightly worried about just how fast the battery drains on the Gamepad.

    The only other negative thing thus far has been the sheer amount of IDs and sign ins and linking and connecting and transfaring and syncing and charging.

    Gonna head up town in a little while to see what the other launch games cost, just got the ZombieU Premium Pack at the moment, might get Tekken Tag or Mario I guess.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. monkeygourmet

    @5

    lol! :)

    It’s a traditional British delicacy, i.e. Loads of left over shit mashed up and fried in a Skillet. You then chuck a couple of fried eggs on top and your away! ;)

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

    #7 2 years ago
  8. DeyDoDoughDontDeyDough

    @2

    I have one in my hands. Right now. And it is true. Some of it subjectively so, but much of what I said objectively so.

    Sorry.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. absolutezero

    I’m poking mine with a stick right now and what you said was actually complete bullshit.

    Soz mate lel.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. DeyDoDoughDontDeyDough

    I wouldn’t expect anybody who just bought one to be objective about it. So let me get this straight? It’s NOT cheap-feeling?

    Erm… okay. Pick up an iPad or an Xbox 360 one of these days and have a little side-by-side.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Dave Cook

    @10 nope, doesn’t feel cheap to me. Looks it, but doesn’t feel it.

    Did you buy one?

    #11 2 years ago
  12. DeyDoDoughDontDeyDough

    The controller rattles for heaven’s sake!

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Dave Cook

    @12 sounds like it’s faulty. No rattle here.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. DeyDoDoughDontDeyDough

    Are you testing it with hammers? ;)

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Dave Cook

    @14 haha :P

    #15 2 years ago
  16. absolutezero

    No rattle here either. Also owning everything else ever and a full gaming PC I can justly compare it to everything else.

    The Gamepad feels more solid than my Vita, and the pro controller feels better in the hand than the Dualshock 3.

    I think the rattling that you might hear is actually the slightly slack face buttons, which are nicely clicky. The console itself looks far slicker and well made than the Wii and my PS3 slim which is the epitome of cheapo crap construction.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. monkeygourmet

    Speaking of ‘rattle’,

    How about a Snake Rattle & Roll HD remake or virtual console release?!

    Now THAT was a great game, especially in co-op! Those damn nibble pibbleys! :)

    #17 2 years ago
  18. OlderGamer

    Enjoy your new systems fellas. If you are like me you are going to game with a smile and wonder what the hell all of the negitive fuss was about. The system isn’t perfect, I would love it to have more power, the patching was indeed a pain, and I can find a handfull of minor complaints. But when I am literaly a half step behind a friend in Mario Chase, and are weaving in and out of the maze…and the screaming ensues…nothing else matters.

    The system has brought so many amazing and cool bits of fun to my house that the patch and lack of horse power are quickly forgotten.

    Oh for goodness sake play some Nintendo Land four and five players, esp Mario Chase.

    My Nintendo ID is oldergamer(imagine that) feel free to add me, if ya can let me know who ya are.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Dave Cook

    @18 I’ll add you :)

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Bomba Luigi

    I too like the WiiU. I was a bit worried about the Controller, but it really feels nice.
    Hardware was never really Important for me when it comes to Consoles. I live my Hardware-Fetish on the PC, where I actually can build it all together myself and customize it over the Years. Thats the Fun part about Hardware and I can’t do that on a Console.

    I Hope Nintendo will do fine with the WiiU, can’t imagine a Gaming-World without Nintendo.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. gomersoul

    This is all well and good but I think anyone who buys this console now is taking a bit of a risk money-wise. This console could be obsolete within 2 years… It’s not a guarantee but it’s a worry that has put me completely off buying one. Could possibly be tempted if the real next gen consoles turn out to be a let down

    #21 2 years ago
  22. CPC_RedDawn

    @DeyDoDoughDontDeyDough

    You sir are an idiot.

    The console yea sure has its faults and failing but its definitely not tech from 2001. Not even the 360 and PS3 are tech from 2001. The Wii U is more powerful in terms of graphics performance having been taken apart by experts the GPU is based on a desktop AMD HD4000 series card which is roughly 2-3x the power (if not more) of the 360′s X1800 and PS3′s 7800GTX equals. The CPU is a 3 cores based on the Watson IBM design @ 45nm which can handle 4 threads per core clocked @ 1.24GHz thats 12 threads in total and have the ability to shut down each core and dynamically overclock the other cores for faster processing on the fly. The GPU also has reportedly “a lot” of eDRAM which is some of the fastest memory around at the moment and can push a lot of data through almost five times what the 360 can handle with their very small amount, and slower eDRAM from 2005. The console also has 2GB DDR3-1600 1GB for system and 1GB for OS. Thats twice as much as 360′s 512MB total memory and four times as much as the PS3 abysmal 256MB memory. Having the 2GB shared between the OS and games means it will be able to multitask pretty damn well.

    If that Zelda demo from E3 2011 is anything to go by and that was reportedly in game I am quite frankly sold on its performance. Give it another year and we will see developers showing us what it can really do. Yea sure PS4 and 720 will be A LOT more powerful but at the time will cost far more than the Wii U will as Nintendo will more than likely give the console a price cut by then. Meaning more people will buy their console over the others and therefore meaning a larger install base. Making the console more attractive to third party dev’s.

    Its called a good business model and strategy. Also, Nintendo has come up with enough stuff over the past 30 years if you ask me. D-Pad, Analogue stick, rumble pack, motion controls, not to mention more or less single handily saving the video games industry in the 80′s. Making touch controls popular with the first DS (now almost all phones and tablets have them). They consistently have their ideas and inventions ripped off by others, give them a break if not for them the industry probably would not be where it is today.

    #22 2 years ago

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