Wii U hardware test: UK & Europe launch guide

Friday, 30 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
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

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


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)

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.