Wii U review

Published Friday, 07 December 2012
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After the success of the Wii, Nintendo has gone back to the drawing board and come up with another new way to play for its latest console.

It's dubbed the Wii U and its main feature is the touch screen equipped Gamepad, an elongated controller which looks like a tablet computer with added analogue sticks.

The device takes on a host of functions depending on the game, from giving players an alternative view of the action, to providing quick access to maps and items, and even for playing a different role in multiplayer alongside Wiimote-using friends.

A gentle introduction to the virtues of the Gamepad is provided through the setup process of the Wii U console, first and foremost in getting the player used to switching their focus between TV and handset, which is initially jarring.

But by the time you've thumbed through the necessary details and keyed in your passwords the device suddenly starts to make a lot of sense.

You can also set it up to operate as your new TV controller, which is pretty pointless but kind of cool.

Installing the Wii U involves a fairly lengthy sequence of steps, not least because of a now notorious update which took me around a hour to download and which is required in order to access online features, such as the social hub 'Miiverse'.

Turning off the console off during this process has been known to cause a hardware failure similar to the Xbox 360's 'red ring of death', so don't do that.

Once everything has been safely installed, you can start to investigate various applications including the web browser and message boards - and of course get stuck into playing some games, which we'll be getting to shortly.

Two versions of the Wii U came out when the console launched on 30 November.

Wii U launches in Europe.

There's the recommended 'Premium Pack', which features 32GB memory, the console in fingerprinty black, and a copy of the game Nintendo Land. The white console 'Basic Pack' is less expensive but also features less memory and has no game.

Both come with the Gamepad, of course.

Whichever version you go for, you'll definitely want to try out Nintendo Land as it's the key launch title, and Nintendo's bid to do for Wii U what Wii Sports did for Wii.

While it doesn't quite have the same sense of dawning revolution, it does give a great intro to the new system's features in the form of a series of mini-games themed around some of the Japanese company's most famous characters.

A team adventure in the Legend of Zelda universe casts one Gamepad player as an archer alongside up to three motion controller wielding swordsmen, while Donkey Kong stars in a devious puzzle game that makes use of the controller's tilt functions.

Metroid, Pikmin and F Zero all get their turn, as well as the lesser-known ninja Takamaru in a shooter gallery which uses the touchpad to flick death stars.

Mini-games may be selling them short as the 12 are all quite substantial.

The other sought after launch release is New Super Mario Bros. U, the latest in the series' 2D revival and our first foray into the Mushroom Kingdom in HD.

Its most tantalising feature is a bustling overworld map filled with multiple pathways to explore and new areas to find - sure to tickle the fancy of those of us who grew up with Super Mario World on Super Nintendo, which was itself a launch game in 1992.

The action can be displayed on either the Gamepad screen or TV, while the touch features are used for multiplayer modes.

A few other games will be released between now and the end of the year, including retooled versions of Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Arkham City - which are worthwhile if you haven't already played them - while early 2013 brings Rayman Legends.

It's a decent lineup altogether, in the normally underwhelming context of console launches anyway.

Six years on from the arrival of the Wii and subsequent motion control surge, it remains to be seen whether the follow up will have the same kind of impact.

But with a great control scheme aimed at appealing to both new and seasoned players, Wii U is a bold system to kick off the new era of console gaming and delivers family fun - once you get over those Christmas morning install time frowns.

© UTV News
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Chris Chambers
Chris Chambers

Chris is an online journalist with UTV, where he writes about everything from news and current affairs to local sport.

In his spare time he's a keen gamer, with his all-time favourites including classics such as Shinobi and Strider, and modern titles like Gears of War and Super Mario Galaxy.

He will be blogging about gaming news and events in Northern Ireland and giving his thoughts on some of the latest console releases.

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