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The Wii U: Software and Games

By Stuart Andrews


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Review Price £250.00

First reviewed 30th November 2012


We've seen Nintendo pull off stranger things before. Remember the confusion that confronted the Nintendo DS at launch? The scorn poured on the nascent Wii just before it became the biggest selling console of its generation? By focusing on innovation rather than performance, graphics fidelity, services and all the other things Microsoft and Sony have traditionally sold consoles on, Nintendo has always played a risky game. So far it's paid off, but the Wii U feels like Nintendo's biggest gamble yet.

We needn't go overboard on the reasons why. Just as Sony and Microsoft prepare to launch new, more powerful hardware, Nintendo has chosen to launch a console that's – optimistically speaking – only marginally more potent than the existing 360 or PS3. It has a faster and more modern GPU, believed to be a variation on AMD’s Radeon 6760, and 1GB of RAM against the 512MB available in the 360. However, we're already hearing grumbles about the performance of the IBM PowerPC-based tri-core CPU, and early games do little to convince you that Wii U is even half a generation beyond the existing formats; we’ve yet to see anything that convinces us that it’s technically superior in any tangible sense. Yet nobody expects Wii U to sell based on its graphics muscle. Instead, like the Wii and 3DS, it will sell or not sell based on the unique experience it delivers.

Wii U - Video Review

Wii U - The Bundles

The Wii U is selling in three bundles in the UK, with the key differentiators being the amount of onboard Flash RAM (vital for downloadable content as well as saved games) and software. The cheapest, at roughly £250, gets you an 8GB console, the Wii U GamePad, power adaptors and an HDMI cable. The £300 Premium pack takes the storage up to 32GB and adds a stand and a charging cradle. A final limited-edition Zombi U pack has mostly the same stuff at the same price, but swaps Nintendo Land for Zombi U and throws in the new Pro Controller. The Premium and Zombi U Packs would get our recommendation as although it appears like you can add storage to the 8GB version via its SD slot, this can't be used for Wii U content but rather is there for backwards compatibilty with Wii games and for extra features like downloaded content. Plus, that 8GB storage, once formatted and with the Wii U software installed only actually gives the end user about 3GB of space, which is a tiny amount.

Wii U - The Hardware

Say what else you like about it, but the Wii U is a seriously impressive bit of console engineering. It's a few inches deeper and slightly taller and wider than the Wii, but still very compact and extremely quiet – even more so than the thin and light PS3. The front hosts the slot-loading optical drive, Power, Eject and Controller pairing buttons and – beneath a flap – two USB 2.0 ports and an SD Memory Card slot. At the back you’ll find an HDMI output, an AV Multi Out port, a connector for the new, slightly smaller Sensor Bar and two more USB 2.0 ports. The latter will support external USB hard disks of up to 2TB in size, though they’ll need their own power supply.

It's an unobtrusive unit, but then Wii U"s selling point isn't so much the console as the bundled Wii U GamePad controller. You might be expecting this to be a slim tablet-like device, but in fact it's closer to an oversized handheld games machine, with comfortable, moulded grips, twin analogue pads, digital trigger and bumper buttons and a large 6.2in LCD touchscreen.

As well as four face buttons, plus and minus buttons and an old-school D Pad, there's also a Home button, a power button that switches both the pad and console off' and another button marked TV. This, rather handily, switches the pad to a mode where it offers basic remote control functions for your TV. Having chosen your manufacturer and tested functionality in the initial setup routine, you can power on your TV, change inputs and adjust the volume using the Wii U pad instead of your TV remote. What’s more, if you use your TV’s built-in tuner you can access the guide and search for programmes. This won’t replace your TV’s remote or a proper universal control, but it might save you juggling remotes or searching for one when you want to get gaming with your Wii.

There's no question that the Wii U GamePad has been built to a budget. In terms of its plasticky materials and construction it's no match for a Google Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD, let alone a PS Vita or iPad Mini. The screen resolution is a standard definition 854 x 480 pixels. Yet within those constraints it's a really nice, comfortable and usable unit. The display might not be pin-sharp or super-vivid, but it's bright, punchy and clear enough to make games look good. The on-board sound is a little muffled, but also surprisingly usable, and you can always use the headphone output on the top.

Wii U - Using the GamePad

This is important because the Wii U GamePad has two party pieces. Obviously it functions as a touchscreen controller, allowing you to play some games using touch controls, or access in-game functions like inventories and tactical maps. With built-in tilt accelerometer and gyroscope controls, NFC support and a front-facing camera, it’s a seriously versatile pad.

However, it can also be used as a mirror display, allowing you to play games on the Wii U even when the TV is switched off or tuned to another input. The processing isn't done on the GamePad - thus why it's not actually a portable games console - but rather your inputs and the resultant pictures are sent back and forth from the console.

It's quite a technical achievement as there's no discernible lag and it works at a distance of up to 10 metres – we’ve had it running in the next room and even the room directly upstairs - and it's rapidly become one of our favourite things about Wii U. No longer does the game have to end just because your housemate wants to watch the footie or your partner wants to watch Kirstie and Phil. You can play as long as you feel like it – though you might want to think about the sound.

Well, OK, there is one limitation. Battery life on the Wii U GamePad is close to awful, with around three to four hours from a charge in our experience. The two answers to this are to keep it plugged in to its charger, or play in bursts and remember to recharge between sessions – something that's much easier with the charging cradle bundled with the premium pack. Neither is entirely satisfactory, and when you consider how long budget tablets with more on-board processing now last for, it's a fairly irritating flaw.

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Matt GB

October 1, 2012, 1:26 am

I'm just not convinced by this new Nintendo console. The tech is dated even before it is released.

I bought the Wii and unlike my Game Cube it spent most of its time gathering dust in my loft. Other than the Nintendo exclusives there seems very little to attract gamers to Nintendo's consoles nowadays.


December 2, 2012, 7:44 pm

Hey guys, could you please correct your misleading info about adding memory with SD cards? The fact is, you cannot use the extra space for Wii U content, only content meant for the original Wii software, Virtual Console, etc.

Also, the review says next to nothing about the infrared TV remote capabilities. You might want to update the review with that. It might be interesting to note how the web browser handles online content, videos on youtube, facebook...

Last but not least, you forgot to mention that the HD era Nintento is bringing is not always full HD. Many games run natively only at 720p and are upscaled in a similar fashion XBOX360 games are to 1080p.


December 20, 2012, 2:36 pm

Zomibi u?


December 25, 2012, 1:09 am

Was not convinced by reviews to buy one, but as always I couldnt go without, let me put it this way the console isn't bad, I like the handheld game pad and the game are as the Wii should have been, I think the console has a lot to offer in the future, the verdicts still out as we need to see whats coming next from Sony and Microsoft, as it stands the Wii U isnt a bad machine, but maybe more expensive than what were used to from Nintendo, but I think the next gen from Sony and Microsoft are going to be £100 more.

So if you are looking for to replace your Wii and you want more but better then the Wii U has got what you are looking for.



December 31, 2012, 8:14 pm

I bought the deluxe set on 12-2-12. I've had no end of weird little issues with it, along with the several hours of updates just to get going out of the box. I am not impressed; it appears to me that the system was rushed out the door before it was completely stable. 1/10


January 1, 2013, 1:56 am

I kinda like this console the only reason I would not buy one is because of the CPU but the gamepad games and mobility makes me like it.


January 1, 2013, 5:18 pm

You may be right, but you obviously didn't think much of the original Wii either and that ended up becoming the most successful console of its generation.

Jerome M Hobart

January 11, 2013, 9:29 pm

I have had the same results. It takes 9 minutes to load Mario every time I want to play it. I have an 8 year old, nothing says grumpy like a kid that has to wait to play! Who tested this in the factory an eighty year old in no hurry?


February 1, 2013, 3:27 am

the wii was succesful only because everyone wanted one...once they all had one they ALL collected dust


March 30, 2013, 11:33 pm

We like our Wii. The only reason it sometimes collects dust is because there aren't enough great games for it and we get sick of the ones we've had for years.


November 15, 2013, 3:15 am

Sorry I wasted 350.00 on this. regular Wii much more fun. Not enough games at all

Matthew Bunton

November 21, 2013, 7:47 pm

I really liked the Hardware especially the controller but mine suffered from multiple game freezes and system crashes even after all the patches and updates. Sadly I had to return 3 of them all with this issue. Maybe I will pick up one again in the future.

Another major issue with this console was the HDMI's colour the gamma is way too high and often games had a blue hue and blacks looked washed out.

No name

November 30, 2013, 9:30 am

No you sould have given it 9.8/10. PS4 and xboxone are rubbish compared to it. it is the best console to date and can people just stop giving it a bad time cause its nintendo.


December 3, 2013, 2:39 pm

I just got WiiU yesterday, first Nintendo system in decades. i have to say i am very impressed, especially with the controller and its features. Bravo Nintendo, cannot wait for the big hits in 2014


December 11, 2013, 8:31 pm

I just got a Wii U two days ago, as an early xmas present from my girlfriend, for me and my 4 year old daughter. My daughter is just starting to really be able to grasp some of the simpler video games i own, and she has taking a real liking to Super Mario Galaxy 2 the past few weeks, she loves playing as player 2 and helping me collect stuff and kill the baddies. i am extremely impressed by the Wii U so far.. This review talks about lag in the interface and stuff, but i have not experienced any of that.. i think they may have patched it since release. It runs smooth as butter, and the graphics on Super Mario 3d world are absolutely beautiful.. I am really looking forward to all the nintendo staples on this new console, HD Zelda? Yes please.


December 15, 2013, 9:02 pm

Just wait until Smash comes out. I'll buy a $300 console just to play it and I bet a lot of other people will to.

David John Leach

January 1, 2014, 4:11 pm

I just ordered the Wii U 32GB Deluxe. Waiting for it in the mail. This will be my first console since the Sega Genesis! From what I read it looks good but we will see. I have a 46 inch LED 1080P TV and so I hope it looks good...


January 11, 2014, 9:28 am

Tell it to Nintendo. Mine was corrupted a bit and they returned it with Earthbound pre-installed ^.^


January 31, 2014, 4:03 pm

Video games is something I've grown up with and have no problems letting my kids enjoy. Unfortunately it seems as though all the other consoles offer is adult titles. I can't in good conscious (I think I'm in the minority in this one) just let my kids play Assassins Creed or COD or Grand Theft Auto. Nintendo has always done a great job offering a variety of kid friendly titles in addition to the adult titles. The parental features are great, still allows me to enjoy the titles meant for older crowds without worrying about the kids getting into them. Even the Nintendo store can be locked down so that only kid friendly content can be seen. I'm sure the other consoles have these capabilities and I know they are superior pieces of hardware. I just feel like Nintendo always goes out of there way to accommodate a wider audience. We've had the Wii U now for over a year and I'm really impressed with all the features it offers. Great system, solid as a rock, quiet a great addition to any home entertainment system, I encourage any family who is looking for a gaming system to seriously consider the Wii U.

Juss Sheena

May 29, 2014, 12:52 pm

The wii u sucks. Have had mine for 3 months exactly and the game pad dies while my kids aren't even touching it while watching netflix. The gamepad alone costs 189 bucks. Thankfully I have a warranty. PS the xbox 360 is great and a great buy. Dont waste your money on a wii u.

Juss Sheena

May 29, 2014, 12:54 pm

Hope you bought a warranty. You will get to enjoy 3 months of game play before the game pad dies. PS dont invest in a lot of games


June 8, 2014, 6:31 am

I've had my gamepad for a year and it works fine and I get roughly 3 hours out of it. You cannot purchase another gamepad at retail for $189 so I'm not sure what you're talking about. Also, no game requires the use of a second game pad, and the cost of the gamepad is factored into the console package. If your gamepad died, then it should be under warranty and get them to replace it. The Wii U is the best console out at the moment compared to the PS4 & XBOX1 which both have few exclusive titles and not many quality games to choose from. If you want an entertainment hub, get an xbox or PS4. If you want a games console, get a Wii U (especially if you have kids).

Zakk Kaye

July 21, 2014, 10:43 am

Don't be so narrow minded! Just because your unit broke quickly does not mean every single wii u in existence will. In fact the vast majority of them won't! David can do whatever without some woman he probably doesn't know dictating what he does.

Miyako O'Conner

October 23, 2014, 12:48 pm

Thanks for the article Stuart. Just want to inform all folks who live outside US that Nintendo Wii is a great media Player. If you want to access Netflix and other streaming stations on your Nintendo Wii you can use UnoTelly as I do to get around the geo block.


January 29, 2015, 5:56 pm

I totally agree actually; I'm only in my 20s myself and even I think that a lot of games these days are being far too serious and realistic for their own good. I'm so sick of the number of FPSs, zombie post-apocalyptic setting games and such that have been released lately, cos they're all pretty much the same as each other anyway. It made me ask the question: what do we play games for? For fun? Or to be so serious? It's why I went for the Wii and will go for the Wii U soon, cos the games on there, while colourful, look so much fun while still deceptively challenging.

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