Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-07-20 06:40:15
Wii U - The Miiverse and the Gamepad
Having finally found the time to sit down with the Wii U (yes, I'm several months late) I've now had the chance to identify some of the strengths and weaknesses of the system first-hand. Most of the issues I have run into so far have been in relation to lengthy installations, from the Day 1 update to installing apps such as Netflix. However, while these are irritating, they are minor annoyances at best, and, naturally, after installing each app once you never have to do it again, making the issue more forgivable as one-time offenses. Otherwise, my experience with the Wii U has, so far, been largely positive. The following are just a few of the cool aspects of the Miiverse service and the Gamepad the system offers that I am particularly pleased with:
Miiverse: The Miiverse is a really cool feature, and one that I have been using a lot over the last few days. Every game released on the system, whether Virtual Console or Wii U software, has a community affiliated with it on Miiverse. You can join these communities and talk to other players from around the world about the games. While this sounds like a typical chat feature on any old website, Miiverse has a few cool features that makes it better than your average forum.
Firstly, Nintendo moderators are hard at work to ensure that the Miiverse is a constructive and helpful environment. They delete comments that are offensive or could be considered spam. If you go into the New Super Mario Bros. U community and post 'this game is fucking shit', your comment will be removed. If you go into that same community and type 'I feel that this game is overrated; it's basically the same as most other Mario games and I feel Nintendo could be doing more with the franchise. Opinions?' your comment will not be removed and you can almost guarantee that some other players will reply with some feedback. This creates a community of people who are actually respectful to each other. In three days, I haven't encountered a single racist, homophobic or otherwise offensive comment, which is amazing considering that gamers can be immature little scallywags. Naturally, some people may find this system too restricting, but I personally appreciate having a community of nice people where the troublemakers are filtered out.
In addition, Miiverse allows you to take photos from either the Gamepad or the TV screen and post them into the game's designated community, all while the game in question is still running. This is a great feature - if you get stuck on a particular point in a game, you need only take a snapshot, stick it up on Miiverse and ask for help. If, like me, you enjoy helping people in need, it's a really cool way to aid players that are new to a game. I helped one kid out with the NES Metroid and he was really appreciative, giving me a 'follow' which allows him to see other comments I make and communicate with me in the future in an easier manner. It's all very quick and easy, and you can jump right back into the game without any latency issues. The Miiverse also allows players to write comments to each other that will appear in-game (as can be seen in the title image for this article in New Super Mario Bros. U). Finished a particularly challenging level? Certain games support using the Miiverse to post up comments reflecting on your experience or offering advice to other players who may be struggling.
Another cool little feature about Miiverse is that when you join a community, your character card will show if you have played the game in question on your system. Thus, random trolls who feel the need to go into a particular community and insult the game in various ways lose credibility almost instantly, as it is incredibly easy to see if they have actually played the game or if they are simply trying to get a rise out of people. It is small little features like this that make the Miiverse a thoroughly enjoyable place to hang out for short bursts at a time. Comments can be upvoted; you can add up to 100 friends at a time; and friend-codes have finally been axed, resulting in a pretty cool online gaming community at your fingertips, and one that has, so far, proven to be helpful and respectful in equal measures.
The Gamepad: I had my first Wii U hands-on experience months ago at a Toys R Us store. The pad had been made grubby by eager fingertips and I couldn't really see how it would be fun to hold and play with. I then held another Gamepad in HMV and had a marginally better experience, although, again, the analogue sticks had been slightly defaced and I didn't want to hold onto it for too long. After actually getting my hands on my own Gamepad, though, I have to say that the peripheral is not only comfortable to hold and play with, but it's also a versatile piece of kit. Nintendo Land shows off some of its many uses, and whether you're using it as a touch screen (the Pikmin game), a motion controller (F-Zero) or a first-person lens to look through (Zelda), it handles a variety of game-inputs remarkably well.
Another thing I like about the Gamepad is the ability to play games off-screen. While I'm never personally going to be forced to use its off-screen mode because someone else is using the TV, I will be playing off-screen purely because of the quality of the screen's resolution and because I love handheld gaming. As I have gotten older, I have found myself booting up home consoles less and playing around on handhelds more. I guess, having less time to sink into games, I find it easier to turn on a handheld game for a few minutes at a time than booting up a console and turning on my TV. It somehow feels like more of a commitment and time-sink to do so.
With the Wii U having its off-screen mode, you will finally be able to play games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker on what is essentially a handheld. There is no lag whatsoever between the Wii U and the Gamepad, as far as I have seen, which is the icing on the cake. I cannot wait to play some of the big-budget titles for the console on the small screen whilst lying back and relaxing. The Gamepad gets a big thumbs-up from me for offering an additional handheld experience to complement the 3DS, whilst maintaining its HD big-screen counterpart. When you factor in that you can also stream apps such as Netflix on the Gamepad, you realise how nifty the kit is. Doing this allows you to continue watching Netflix while the TV is turned off or being used for some other purpose. Stick some headphones into the Gamepad and I can definitely imagine watching Netflix late at night away from the buzz of big screens. It also means that if I need to move away from the console in order to make dinner, I can put the game onto the Gamepad and continue playing away from the big screen.
I see a lot of advantages to what the Wii U offers. Once the games start rolling in, I'm looking forward to joining more Miiverse communities, helping out more players and seeing what clever ways the Wii U Gamepad can be utilized by developers.