The Video Game Critic presents the

Nintendo Wii U


Wii U system
Launch Date: November 18, 2012
Manufacturer: Nintendo
Format: optical disc
Controller ports: 0 (wireless)
USB ports: 2
Save capability: Internal memory
Video output: HDMI
Initial price: $349

The original Wii helped expand Nintendo's base in 2006, appealing to everyone from young kids to senior citizens. After this runaway success Nintendo seemed content to coast on the Wii brand, but they misjudged the market. While the original Wii enjoyed a quick rise, it sustained a steady fall, and by 2012 was considered old news.

The Wii U is basically a high-definition Wii with an oversized touch screen controller. The system was backward-compatible with the Wii, and owners were expected to use their old Wii controllers for multiplayer titles.

There were so many flaws with Nintendo's marketing strategy, beginning with the ill-conceived name. "Wii U" sounds more like an add-on than a brand new console, and Nintendo never really made an attempt to clear up this misconception.

The control pad is a really cool piece of hardware but only one player can use it, alienating other players in multiplayer game. There seemed to be an expectation the system would eventually support multiple control pads but this never came to pass.

Nintendo hoped third-party developers would come up with new and innovative uses for the control pad, but that never came to fruition. In fact, for most games the second screen proved more distracting than useful.

One excellent feature Nintendo didn't advertise enough was how certain games could be played entirely from the control pad, leaving the TV free for viewing other things. But since not all games supported this feature, Nintendo couldn't really run with the concept. It would however give them ideas for their follow up system however...

The Wii U received miserable third-party support but its first-party lineup was outstanding. Finally able to present its flagship franchises in gorgeous high-definition, Nintendo delivered superb renditions of Mario Kart, Mario Party, Super Smash Bros., Pikmin, and Donkey Kong Country. New Super Mario Bros. was a 2D throwback that won over the old school crowd, and it was followed up by the superb Super Mario 3D World. One glaring omission was the lack of a new Zelda title, which seemed to languish in development hell for the entire Wii U lifespan.

Slow sales led to a short life for the Wii U, and by mid-2016 Nintendo announced its successor, the Nintendo Switch. While it's sad the Wii U never lived up to its potential, in many ways it laid the groundwork that led to the Nintendo Switch.

Wii U
Wii U sexy pose

Aesthetics: C. Though compact and sleek, the console looks boring with no distinguishing characteristics.

Functionality: A. I like the simple power button and handy "disc in" indicator. The ability to control your television via the control pad is also a useful feature. Two USB ports are located under a small lid on the front of the unit, but I don't think I've ever used them.

Noise/Reliability: A. Very quiet.

Super Mario 3D World
Super Mario 3D World (2013)

Graphics: C. Although the system does support 1080p resolution, the system never really pushed the boundaries of graphic capabilities. In addition, Wii U titles tend to be cartoonish and modest by their nature.

Wii U controller
Wii U Control Pad

Controller: C-. Despite being the marquee feature of the system, the touchscreen-equipped control pad is as much a liability as it is a benefit. The controller feels great for the player holding it, but other players find themselves stuck holding ancient Wii-motes instead. The control pad sits on a charging cradle to charge when not in use. Nintendo did release a more conventional Pro controller which I highly recommend.

Nintendo Land
Nintendo Land (2012)

Pack-in Game: D. Nintendo Land tried to demonstrate the uniqueness of the system (including 3-on-1 action) but ended up feeling more like a tech demo you played once. It lacked the fun factor of Wii Sports.

Launch titles: C: Although 34 games were available at launch, not very many made a compelling case for the system. Many like Call of Duty: Black Ops, Batman Arkham City, and Assassin's Creed III were just ports from other systems. There was also a lot of fluff like Just Dance 4, Sing Party, and Ben Ten. Still, there were a few gold nuggets like Scribblenaults Unlimited, New Super Mario Bros. U, and Zombie U.

Library: B. The Wii U library is limited in size and scope. If you're looking for big-name sports, cutting-edge first-person shooters, or sprawling RPGs, this system is not for you. If you prefer family-oriented fare the Wii U is ideal.

First-party titles like Mario Kart and Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze are great fun, and in the tradition of the Wii support local multiplayer. For those who crave online action the critically-acclaimed Splatoon offers good-natured paint-shooting mayhem.

Some of the more notable third-party titles include Zombi U, Bayonetta 2, Rayman Legends, and Sonic and the All-Stars Racing. The system is also backward compatible with the entire Wii library.

Wii U box
Wii U Game Packaging

Media/Packaging: B. The system employs optical discs with a capacity of 25GB. These discs are packaged in containers similar to Wii games, but molded in attractive light blue plastic. Most games do not come with instructions. *sad face*

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (2014)

Collectability: A-. In a world careening toward digital distribution the Wii U may be one of the last truly collectable consoles. Since its library is small it's possible to collect all of its games, or at least its best titles. Unlike other systems of its era, Wii U games tend to behave fine without online strings attached.

Innovations: Touchscreen-equipped controller, ability to play games via control pad, ability to control television via control pad.

Pros and Cons:
+ Classic Nintendo franchises
+ Kid and family-friendly
+ Local multiplayer
+ Runs fine offline
+ Can play many games via control pad alone, leaving TV for viewing
- Only one player can use the control pad at a time
- Game selection limited
- Modest online capabilities

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