Surprise! The Wii U is fantastic


Ten reasons why this generation’s underdog is an incredible console

The Wii U is this generation’s best-kept secret. I don’t mean that it’s just better than people say, or that it’s criminally underrated, though it’s both those things. What I mean is that the Wii U is a legitimately fantastic videogame console, and one that ushered Nintendo into this gen with style.

I know you’re probably screwing up your face right now, doing some mental gymnastics to try and reconcile what I’m saying with what you’ve already heard. The Wii U doesn’t really sell itself — it invites comparisons with its maligned predecessor, and Nintendo’s confused marketing hasn’t helped matters. Few people are buying the console.

But hear me out before you get all worked up, because those people who own a Wii U love the thing. Here’s why.

Actual, honest-to-god great games


I subscribe to the school of console gaming thought wherein a great library of games goes farther than anything else. The Wii U launched strong, system-selling stalwart Mario standing alongside the infectiously fun Nintendoland and a slew of third-party hits. There were a lot of good launch games plus a few great ones, and in total the Wii U launched with more software than the Xbox One or Playstation 4.

The Wii U’s library has had time to grow since then, with Super Mario 3D World, Wind Waker HD, and Pikmin 3 sitting alongside strong second and third-party titles like Rayman Legends, Wonderful 101, Monster Hunter 3U, and Assassin’s Creed 4. There’s a selection of great games throughout genres, including some of the best games of last year.

But it’s 2014 that really excites me, promising releases in Nintendo’s two best franchises: Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. Both games are infinitely replayable and infinitely fun, racking up hundreds of hours of my time with each new release. Throw in Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze, Bayonetta 2, and (gods willing) Monolithsoft’s X, and you’ve got a hell of a year for the Wii U.

The gamepad is a cool thing that works well


I get people’s uncertainty about the gamepad. Honestly. When images first came out, I thought it looked extremely awkward and uncomfortable. But journalists reported that no, the Wii U’s gamepad is actually really well designed. I decided to trust them, because they’d actually played games on the thing.

They were right; the gamepad is sleek and comfortable as hell. The controller’s contours form a handgrip on the reverse side, with a ridge above players’ fingers for stability and support. The button, stick, and trigger placements all feel natural. The gamepad is weighty without being heavy; it has its own headphone jack and volume slider; it rests nicely in its charging dock when not being used. It feels solid.

And the gamepad’s screen really impressed me with its functionality. This is a piece of hardware that works equally well for traditional gaming as for offbeat experiences, the extra screen working much the same was as it does on Nintendo’s own 3DS. Developers can take HUD, map, and inventory data off of the main screen and put it onto the gamepad. I love not having to pause to check maps or fuss with my inventory, and I’d happily never do it again. The gamepad is great. I love the damned thing.

Offscreen play: for the greater good


The Wii U has the ability to display games on the gamepad screen, allowing you to shut off the TV and play the Wii U like a handheld. There’s something occasionally comfortable and natural about playing on the small screen, and even though I don’t usually play on handheld systems, I appreciate having the option.

That’s nothing compared to the times when Steph’s reviewing a game, hogging up all my precious TV time. Offscreen play lets us both enjoy our games instead of working around each other. And (prepare to groan) it actually results in us spending a little bit more time together.

But wait, there’s more! If you hate everyone and love hogging the TV, you can always throw on a show and play your games at the same time. Imagine how much time you’ll save by marathoning Buffy and playing Wonderful 101 at the same time! Probably none honestly, but you’ll have a good cry at least.

Miiverse is really pretty awesome, guys


Miiverse should be the dumbest thing of all time. I scoffed when I heard about it even: Nintendo’s own forums, where users can post about the games they’re playing. It sounds terrible. It should be terrible. I like it a lot.

The joy starts when you turn on the console, Miis flocking together in the center of a large plaza, talking about the games they’re playing. It’s inane stuff usually, chirpy statements like “World 2 is so good wow guys good job on this one.” But that’s maybe why I like it so much. It’s the only positive online community I think I’ve ever seen.

You can post screenshots from whatever game you’re playing, too. Just press the home button and the game will pause, taking a snapshot of whatever was onscreen. Write a scrappy message about it, throw it on Miiverse, and bask in the gratification as other users give your post a thumbs up. And you can keep tabs on what your friends are posting, too — just add them on Miiverse, and their posts will show up in your feed.

User-generated art is the best art


But my favorite thing about Miiverse is definitely its user-generated art community. Nintendo programmed a simple art program into Miiverse’s chat system, allowing players to draw black and white images directly onscreen with the stylus. When you turn on the system, your Mii plaza is flooded with comic book-style Marios, Links, and Olimars.

Games like Super Mario 3D World give players stamps they can edit into their posts. These stamps are like instant memes, familiar editable images that can be reworked into any number of ridiculous ideas, and I have as much fun posting as playing the game itself. Posts show up between levels and on the world map, adding community commentary even to single-player experiences.

Look, I’m an artist at heart, and I love to draw. But the simplicity of the program makes it accessible to anyone. And the lo-fi appeal of Wii U’s art posts is undeniable. They’re works of love from creator to community: quick, dirty, beautiful, wonderful.

The Wii U is reasonably priced


The Wii U’s $300 price point is seen as a large point of contention among potential buyers, who claim Nintendo would have been better off releasing the console sans gamepad at a budget price.

Except the Wii U is already inexpensive compared to its competition. The Playstation 4 retails at $400, the Xbox One at $500. And each Wii U comes bundled with NintendoLand, Wind Waker HD and Hyrule Historia, or New Super Mario Bros and New Super Luigi U.

That comes out to about $80 in added value, meaning the Wii U itself retails for $220, about half the price of its competition. Not a bad deal at all.

No more friend codes (!)


In an ideal world, friend codes would never have been a thing, and I wouldn’t have to explain that they’re gone now. But they were a thing. They were a terrible, terrible thing. Happily, Nintendo has replaced them with Nintendo Network IDs, which work exactly how you’d want them to. Players give themselves a unique username, and other players can search and add them without any fuss.

I’ll say it once more, since I still see it come up: friend codes are dead. Now you can stop complaining about them and start playing with your friends online.

Free online still beats paid online


Speaking of, the Wii U is the only current-gen console that lets you play online without a subscription. Yes, I do think Xbox Live and (especially) Playstation Plus provide a valuable service, but it honestly gets a bit draining to fork over $50-$100 a year in addition to standard internet fees.

I love playing games online, but I often let my membership lapse because I just don’t want to pay for another year’s subscription. There’s my copy of Halo 4 in the corner, sitting unplayed for months. Subscription-based online is expensive — fifty dollars expensive. That’s an extra game you can play every year, all because Nintendo’s online service is free.

Backwards compatibility is objectively fantastic


I love being able to play my old Wii games on the Wii U. We have too many videogame consoles at my house, you see. They’re cluttering up the place, and it’s always nice to be able to put one in storage and be done with it entirely.

What’s even better is being able to play games you missed out on the first time around. If you never owned a Wii, you’ll have a lot to catch up on. I’d be lying if I said I really loved the original Wii, but I’d also be doing it an extreme disservice if I didn’t acknowledge that it had some of the best games of last generation.

Mario Galaxy, Rhythm Heaven Fever, Mario Kart Wii, Skyward Sword, Super Smash Bros Brawl — the list goes on. It also has a bunch of cult hits like Xenoblade, Sin and Punishment 2, Little King’s Story, and Trauma Team. And that’s not even counting the Wii U’s ability to play Wii Virtual Console and Wiiware games, letting players revisit countless classics. With so many options available, the Wii U is downright multigenerational.

A simple, functional user interface


As our videogame consoles evolve into multimedia experienceboxes, the need for functional user interfaces becomes an issue of increasing importance. And, barring perhaps the Xbox One (which I haven’t played), the Wii U’s sleek tile-based interface blows everything else away.

It’s everything I want out of a user interface: simple, stylish, and functional. The tiles appear on the gamepad screen, activated with a finger or button press. If you’d like certain icons to be more readily available, all you have to do is drag and drop them into place. And flipping pages is as quick as pressing ZL or ZR.

It’s leagues ahead of Playstation 4’s blandly functional cross media bar and Xbox 360’s mess of ads and different menus. Combined with the Mii plaza and Miiverse posts, the Wii U is the only console I actually look forward to turning on.

And there you have it: the ten things I like most about the Wii U. Why do you love your Wii U? Or, if you don’t have one, what’s stopping you from picking one up?


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9 Responses to “Surprise! The Wii U is fantastic”

  1. Strawberry Says:

    I absolutely love my Wii U. One of the things I love about it is that I can use it to turn on my T.V. That may not sound too impressive, but I feel really cool just picking up the Wii U gamepad and turning on both the console and the T.V. Right now, the only Wii U games I have is New Super Mario Bros. U and Super Luigi Bros. U. I plan on getting the new Super Smash Bros. game when it comes out, too. It looks like it’s going to be awesome. 🙂

    • catstronaut Says:

      Strawberry, I know you probably feel like you have all the Mario games you need but… you gotta get Super Mario 3D World. I love New Super Mario Bros U, but 3D World is on a whole nother level. And this is coming from somebody who has traditionally hated the 3D series. It’s a console-defining game, imo.

      Also, I’m happy to hear that your Wii U makes you feel cool. Feeling cool is the best.

      • Strawberry Says:

        I also plan on getting 3D World sometime. Especially now, since two people have recommended it to me. However, the next game I’m gonna work on getting after Smash Bros. will probably be the Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD. And I’ll actually finish this Wind Waker. I played the original, and I had managed to get to right before you fight Puppet Ganon. Then, one day, when I started up the game, it said that my memory card needed reformatting, and that reformatting it would delete all of my saved data. So, I lost the data for Wind Waker, and Star Fox Adventures. Needless to say, it’s been a while since I played either of those games.

        Yeah, especially when someone is as bad at playing Mario as I am. Seriously, I suck at it. In fact, I died in the first level of Super Mario Bros. U.

      • catstronaut Says:

        That sucks about your memory card. Wind Waker is awesome, and the Wii U version is a lot less tedious. Plus it’s gorgeous :O

        And don’t worry — I’m not bad at Mario, but the first enemies get me more often than I’d like to admit. They’re a special sort of nefarious.

  2. Tech nobody Says:

    Good to read something positive about the Wiiu for a change! It’s a well written article and you point out the unique things a Wiiu can do that the other consoles do not i.e. Off TV play, free online play, backward compatibility, and a respectful forum community with great art work. Thanks for easing my spirits.

    • catstronaut Says:

      No problem, Tech ;D

      I think the Wii U will be seeing more love once Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros come out, honestly. There’s a lot of negative sentiment surrounding the console, but I think it’s becoming harder and harder to snub the Wii U as great games continue to come out.

  3. jeffmenter Says:

    I love being able to play games for Wii U, Wii, GameCube, N64, SNES, and NES all on the same console (using Devolution and various emulators.)

    I love my Wii U but I just hate the gamepad. The screen sucks to look at and touch, the battery life sucks, it’s awkward and uncomfortable to use, and I’ve not seen any use for it that was non-gimicky. I feel it really does mar an otherwise excellent console.

    • catstronaut Says:

      I can’t really disagree on the points you’ve made — the screen isn’t as good as an HD screen, the battery life is weak, and it’s not put to particularly innoovative use in games.

      But that also doesn’t really touch on the reasons I like it. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking when what it does so purely adds to the game experience. I love the maps, the quick item switching, the offscreen play, the easy text input, how easy it is to post art to Miiverse.

      I also think it’s super duper comfortable, even if it is a bit bulky 😀

  4. sezduck Says:

    Great post. I couldn’t agree more!

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