The Wii U is simultaneously exciting and puzzling.
The new Nintendo console’s primary innovation is its controller, which has a touch screen in its middle. Though it looks unwieldy, it actually sits well in the hands, and doesn’t strain after an hour or so of use.
Button placement is somewhat odd, however, as the face buttons (A, B, X, and Y) buck convention by being placed below the right analog stick, instead of above. The shoulder buttons feel comfortable, but are digital, which presents a problem for driving games.
The touch screen is passable, but unlike most modern smart phones, doesn’t include multi-touch or gestures.
The console’s user interface is problematic, and load times are troublingly long. Video and audio cannot be split from different signals, so those who want to hook their console up to their computer monitor will be disappointed.
Furthermore, that Nintendo chose to release Wii U right now is nothing short of bizarre.
Before its release, Nintendo marketed the Wii U as having comparable hardware specifications to the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. Ostensibly, this was done curry favor with third-party game developers, but there’s a problem that even a layman observer can point out.
It’s the worst kept secret in the gaming industry: This console generation is over, and the Xbox 720 and the PS4 (or whatever Microsoft and Sony decide to call them) will be released next year. Third party developers, already feeling the constraints of current generation hardware, will develop their games for these new consoles, and the Wii U – in less than a year’s time – will be considered obsolete.
More than anything, the Wii U has been atrociously marketed to the uninformed public. Is it a new console? An add-on peripheral like the balance board? A new controller? What is it? It was the job of the Nintendo marketing team to tell buyer hopefuls exactly what they’re getting for their $300, and why they needed it, and they failed spectacularly.
The Wii U has to convince consumers that despite its hardware deficiencies, it’s still a worthy alternative to Microsoft and Sony’s offerings. It needs to alleviate UI problems and load times as quickly as possible.
As a party or family console, the Wii U is as worthy as any Nintendo has ever been. However, as a competitive hardcore gaming peripheral, it has a long, hard road ahead.