The Nintendo WiiUnderated

For Christmas this year we bought Santa brought the kids a Nintendo WiiU for Christmas. I’ve been holding back this post until I played a few different game types on the system. As usual, Nintendo has done a great job of designing and prompting really fun gameplay. As has been the case with their last few consoles releases, the gaming press seems to be mostly ignoring the WiiU. As they’ve done over their entire history, Nintendo has continued to serve their target market – families – really well. They’ve gotten a lot of things right this time around. The WiiU is in full 1080p – infact, it’s our household’s only 1080p Netflix machine. Backwards compatibility with original Wii games and controllers is amazingly important to families, who’re often budget constrained and tied to old games the kids grew up with.

Above everything else though, Nintendo continues to innovate in ways that Sony and Microsoft doesn’t seem to “get” (see: Playstation Move). The WiiU GamePad is highly, highly underrated. The ability to play games on the GamePad while the TV does something else is brilliant! Not only is it brilliant, it actually works! I was able to use the GamePad in bed, a good 10m and several walls away from the console. The GamePad’s universal remote feature makes switching from WiiU to Housewives of Lamecounty totally seamless.

Also, the GamePad unlocks completely new gameplay. Having a game’s mini-map and inventory system available on a touch screen is such a natural user interface. The gamepad is also position aware, which means you can use it to control ingame cameras: ZombieU uses it as a zombiescanner/camera, Wonderful 101 uses it as a camera for building interiors – so you can look around inside a building – while the main gameplay is going outside the building on your TV. I’m sure there are all kinds of interesting gameplay ideas that could make good use of this system.

Sure the system is underpowered and the graphics in Assassin’s creed look a little uncanny valley. But at the end of the day that doesn’t really matter.