Updated November 21
What it is
Nintendo's successor to the Wii is the first new console launched in six years and represents the first entry in the eighth generation of videogame consoles (with new Xbox and PlayStation devices expected to follow in 2013-14). Unlike its predecessor, the Wii U boasts high-definition (1080p) graphics, and is notable for its unique GamePad motion controller, which incorporates a large touchscreen, stylus, speakers, camera, and microphone, though you can also opt for a more familiar Wii U Pro controller (similar to the current Xbox controller) instead. In addition, older peripherals like the Wiimote and Nunchuk will be supported, and you can continue to play your old Wii games on the new unit.
You'll need to download a firmware patch (available on the first day of release) to enable the console's online features, including Nintendo's eShop and the "Miiverse" social network. (Note that the need to obtain the day-one patch means that Wii U reviews are being published later than expected.) Additionally, the Nintendo TVii feature—which allows you to watch videos on services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and YouTube and use your GamePad to control most DVRs in addition to providing "second screen" content for shows you are watching on your TV—will not be fully implemented until December.
While many stores are reportedly sold out—forcing fans to shell out higher prices on the secondary market if they cannot wait to get the new console—the original retail price of the basic unit (white, 8GB memory) is $300, while a deluxe set (black, 32GB, includes GamePad charging cradle and NintendoLand game) retails for $350.
Listed below are the games available at launch (in North America) for the Wii U. Note that publications have only just begun reviewing them, so many of the titles do not yet have Metascores.
Additional Wii U exclusives are expected to arrive within the next few months, including Rayman Legends, strategy game Pikmin 3, and promising GTA-style open world adventure Lego City Undercover. Visit Metacritic's new Wii U section for reviews and release dates for all new and upcoming Wii U titles.
How good is it?
The new Wii U seems to be a curious beast. Reviewers are both blown away and frustrated by the GamePad controller, depending on how it is implemented in any particular game, and are also somewhat pessimistic about the console's chances for widespread success—and the ability of Nintendo to attract third-party developers—despite the nifty new features. Some critics also feel that the console doesn't take enough of a step forward to really feel like next-generation tech. That said, the Wii U is also receiving plenty of praise, with some suggesting that, in time, the GamePad could indeed be a game changer. But, given the relatively lackluster launch lineup, many reviewers recommend a wait and see approach.
The basic hardware
While the design of the console is fairly stripped down and simple—and, save for rounded edges, very similar to the original Wii—Destructoid writes, "This is a sleek, sexy little machine that conforms to modern design sensibilities more than Nintendo fans will be used to." Polygon has mixed feelings about the "long" console, noting, "Laying flat, the system looks kind of silly. But vertically, it cuts a sleek, friendly, and modern silhouette." Kotaku lauds the Wii U as the finest piece of hardware ever made by Nintendo, adding, "For once, we have a Nintendo console that doesn't feel like it is pocked with omissions." That publication, however, does fault both the 8GB and 32GB memory configurations as being far too small.
Reviewers as a group find the HD graphics equal to those of the PS3 and Xbox 360, but don't expect visuals superior to those competitors; as Ars Technica writes, "If the Wii U is capable of generating graphics more detailed than those of other current systems, the launch games I've seen so far don't do a great job showing that off."
If you are trying to decide between the basic console and the deluxe set, the latter seems to be the way to go, with virtually all critics strongly suggesting that the added game, cradles, and memory more than justify the extra $50.
Critics aren't exactly raving about the on-screen user interface—which isn't much of an upgrade over that of the original Wii—though it gets the job done. But Gizmodo writes, "The home interface is a little frumpier than the Xbox's (formerly) Metro facade, but it's just flat-out more functional, especially with the [GamePad]." However, the menus, game loads, and switching between system applications are all noticeably sluggish, and often painfully slow. The Verge wonders how this could be the case when the UI is so low-res to begin with, and concludes, "Patience is a virtue, but so is processing power. I don't have the first, and the Wii U doesn't have the second." Other reviewers are also having problems with Nintendo's online store, the eShop; Shacknews calls it "a total disaster" as a result of poor navigation and lack of information. Don't expect much from the built-in web browser, though it compares favorably to those in other gaming consoles.
The new GamePad controller
"This sure is a Nintendo device, eh? Or is it every Nintendo device, all at once?"
Unsurprisingly, the GamePad is attracting the most attention in reviews, and critics seem to like it. Joystiq is intrigued by the controller's potential for new types of games and adds that "it feels at once futuristic and comfortable, less like an ersatz tablet and more like a really comfortable (but big) game controller with a helpful screen." Other critics also are finding the controller to be lightweight, extremely versatile and functional, and mostly well designed, though the placement of a few of the buttons may take some getting used to. Reviewers are also impressed that the action on the TV and the GamePad's screen appear to be completely in sync, with absolutely no lag time. Another plus for many critics is the fact that the GamePad can be used to play (some, but not all) games and watch video even when your TV is off (as long as you are within range of the Wii U console, that is, though Eurogamer notes that, "unless you're gaming in Wayne Manor," range shouldn't be an issue).
However, there are some complaints about the responsiveness of the touchscreen and its lack of multi-touch gestures, while a few critics dinged the screen's less-than-HD graphics (though several reviewers nevertheless defended the screen's graphics as vibrant and pleasing anyway, with graphics comparable to or better than those of the original Wii). Battery life could also be a major issue; many complained that Nintendo's suggestion that the controller should stay charged for 3-5 hours of gameplay is wildly optimistic, with actual usage routinely falling at the low end of that estimate (or, for more than one reviewer, well below the 3-hour mark). Polygon notes that the limited battery life could also impair the controller's alternate use as a universal TV remote. (Note, however, that you can use the GamePad while charging it via an included 8-foot cable.) While complaints about the look and feel of the device are few, detractors include Engadget, which feels that the "controller gives off a relatively low-grade impression; it looks and feels like a toy." Ars Technica agrees that it might be toy-like in appearance, but adds, "physically it feels more substantial than that." And, while most reviewers find that the unit isn't as bulky as it looks, CNET concludes, "After a few weeks with the system, it's tough to get around just how cumbersome the GamePad really is. It's not the type of controller that you can just set down. It takes up a lot of room."
The biggest question mark about the GamePad, however, concerns its integration into the gaming experience. Notes The Verge, "When it's used right, the GamePad is an awesome complement to the TV interface — I loved having it as my pocket PDA of sorts during Ninja Gaiden, or using it to draw routes for Yoshi in Nintendo Land. But every game implements the GamePad differently, and most don't do it very well."
Reviewers are finding no compelling reason to purchase the Xbox-style "Pro" controller at the moment, especially given that controller's lack of motion controls and incompatibility with many games.
Comparison to the original Wii
"Nintendo's Wii felt like a gaming revolution. ... In contrast, Nintendo's high-definition Wii U console feels less otherworldly and more bound to existing technology."
While the Wii U has no launch title with the instant appeal of Wii Sports, reviewers find the step up to HD a welcome change, and think that the GamePad could theoretically do an even better job of attracting a varied group of gamers to the console than the original Wii. But it might be harder for Nintendo to get that concept across to non-gamers; writes Canada's Financial Post, "The beauty of the original Wii was its simplicity — its innate power to enable anyone from young children to grandparents to pick up a wand and jump into a game. ... It isn't easily apparent exactly why the concept of having a second touchpad screen would enhance the enjoyment of the experience of using a video-game system. Unlike the Wii Remote, which people could instantly understand, the reasoning behind the Wii U GamePad is murkier." CNET agrees that the new console's innovations aren't immediately obvious, and adds, "I'm not sure the Wii U emanates the same wow factor that the original Wii did. For me, using the GamePad didn't feel all that revolutionary simply because it feels like a souped-up 3DS. Instead, my wow moment was playing Mario in HD for the first time ever."
Below is a publication-by-publication sampling of the critical response to Nintendo's new console, listed in alphabetical order by publication name. If a publication assigned a score to the review, it is listed below (converted to a 100-point scale if necessary for purposes of comparison); otherwise, we did not attempt to assign scores to reviews that did not have them. Click on any publication name to read the full review.
|If you haven't bought a Wii U yet, relax and take a breath: You're not missing out... yet. I should point out that the hardware has its perks and the tablet controller is definitely cool, but a lot of the big features behind Nintendo's new system currently need a little more prep time.|
|On paper, the Wii U sounds like a simple win. Take Nintendo's best-selling handheld, their best-selling system (Wii), the graphics of their competitors and mash that up with latest developments in tablet technology. And in many ways it is, combining the best of the last five years in an incredibly unique and well-designed package. That said, there's a ways to go in terms of games that take advantage of the touchscreen, the GamePad's battery life, and we really do wish another controller was included in the box.|
|While the new controller is unlikely to cause the stir that the original Wii Remote did, it's still a well-made product that brings a lot to the table.|
|The Wii U's success will depend on what Nintendo and other developers do with that second screen. The early results are very promising.|
|After spending time with the console, it's obvious that its graphical capabilities aren't that much better than the PS3's or Xbox 360's. So in some ways, after releasing the under-powered Wii, the Wii U is just Nintendo catching up with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.|
|Focusing solely on gaming, it's going to be tough to recommend the Wii U to anyone who already owns a PS3 or Xbox 360. A sizable chunk of the system's launch games are already or soon to be available on the aforementioned systems. Just like with the original Wii, first-party and exclusive titles are really where the Wii U needs to knock it out of the park in order to incentivize a console purchase. In almost every other department, save for what Nintendo TVii is supposed to provide, the other consoles on the market have the Wii U beat: network and offline media playback, diversity of streaming services, exclusive games, and speedy operating systems. Despite its unique dual-screen presentation, innovative GamePad controller, and ambitious Nintendo TVii service, the Wii U still has a lot to prove. [Score pending launch of TVii functionality in December.]|
|Dallas Morning News|
|I really like playing games on the Wii U. The hardware itself feels great, and I've enjoyed the experience. The ports of games from other systems aren't the most exciting things (even though in some cases, like Ninja Gaiden 3, the Wii U version is superior to the original), but much of the original content has impressed me in at least some small way.|
|The Wii U has a few faults, with a less colorful, simplistic touchscreen, and a dire battery life, but ultimately I have been impressed by its flexibility, as well as the welcome chance to see Nintendo's colorful library of games designed with HDTVs in mind. ... The GamePad's motion controllers are inherently superior to the Wii's, and the ability to play any type of game with one controller, regardless of genre, is something I find quite exciting.|
|Games look gorgeous (HD Mario!), the risky controller is another successful control innovation and there's a ton of promise on the horizon.|
|If you're someone who values innovation and evolution in videogames — who found yourself waiting in vain for Nintendo to use the Wii's motion-control scheme to push the boundaries of the medium forward — then the initial launch of the Wii U feels like a gimmicky missed chance. It's like one of those countertop touchscreen videogame systems you find in bars. The Wii U is Megatouch writ large: Fun enough to amuse you, too cheap to complain about, and nothing you'll ever remember in the morning. [Grade: B]|
|From what we've experienced of the hardware and games thus far, the new console definitely feels a bit pricey, bearing in mind the gaming proposition on offer.|
|It may not be perfect yet, but the system feels refreshing and new, and I'm excited to see what games will come out for it as designers get to explore the GamePad and what it can do.|
|I worried the controller would be a gimmick. The Wii motion control system certainly was too gimmicky for me to ever enjoy. But so far at least the new tablet gamepad for the Wii U is pretty great.|
|I'd gladly trade off more battery life for a heavier controller. [Score: 4.2/5]|
|The Gameological Society [formerly A.V. Club]|
|Before you even start playing a Wii U game, you practically need a flowchart to figure out what you're supposed to have in your hands, and how you're supposed to be holding it. That state of affairs is perplexing when you remember that not so many years ago, in the heyday of the Wii, Nintendo was stridently insisting on design simplicity. ... The upside to this less directed design, of course, is versatility.|
|Implementation in games is a bit of a mixed bag, but when it's used correctly, the two-screen console experience is a firm step forward in Nintendo's modern identity: Original, creative, fun games that get more fun with more people.|
|The Globe and Mail|
|While the new console is likely to initially appeal to non-core gamers with its novel functions and capabilities, its future with the regular market – and therefore with game makers – remains questionable since it doesn't offer many advantages over competitors.|
|I'm not convinced Wii U is going to age as well as the next round of consoles - but I am convinced that it's going to offer a completely unique experience with a large handful of irreplaceable games. Unfortunately, those irreplaceable games really don't seem to exist just yet.|
|The Wii U doesn't feel exactly like the "next generation." The menu interface feels like the Wii, and the graphics output by games are nothing that can't be done on the current generation of HD consoles. Furthermore, the troubles already apparent in the Wii U's online services point to Nintendo as usual, behind not just on networking in a conceptual way, but literally behind on its implementation of its own network. However, the GamePad, even if it doesn't feel like the linear progression of game console technology we'd expect, does feel like a futuristic leap.|
|Having played a batches of games on the Wii U and having had the system in my home for nearly a week, I can confirm that it is a good machine that makes one's console gaming life surprisingly more convenient and luxurious. I just can't tell you that you have to have one now.|
|Los Angeles Times|
|Whereas the Wii arrived like a gift from the future, Wii U at first seems to be playing catch-up with a world where the screens that dominate our lives are not the ones found on a home television but the kind that can be carried with us. ... Yet Nintendo is on the forefront of multi-screen gaming, and one doesn't need to have the Wii U turned on long to see that the system is full of pleasantly unexpected surprises.|
|It's the console that will singlehandedly change the way people play games for years to come.|
|New York Daily News|
|If you don't own a console, then this is an easy purchase. ... If you already have an Xbox 360 or a PS3, add this to your Christmas list, but feel free to put a few things above it. You can afford to sit tight for a few months, avoid the holiday rush, and wait out the Wii U's early hiccups. One day, you'll certainly want a Wii U, because this console's potential is impressive, far better than its predecessor. So unless you need to play New Super Mario Bros. U right now, you don't need a Wii U. But it's hardly the worst thing to find under your Christmas tree.|
|The New York Times|
|The Wii U does not deliver the sensation that its predecessor unleashed, the sense that something new had been wrought upon this earth. ... Instead, the Wii U feels like an accommodation to the new mode of living that Apple's iPhone and iPad have introduced.|
|The Nintendo Wii U is an impressive system with a lot of potential, but with so many features still not implemented and only a handful of launch titles currently available, we've yet to see if it can live up to that potential. [Grade: 3.5/5]|
|It's difficult to figure out exactly what Nintendo is trying to do with the the Wii U. Granted, the enthusiast press has demonstrated an inability to grasp ideas from the company that later turn out to be brilliant in retrospect, such as the Nintendo DS's dual screens or the Wii's motion control. But that doesn't change the fact that few games on the system use the GamePad to do something new with console gaming. Some users are sure to appreciate the ability to play some games on the couch without using the television. But the Wii U is a poor substitute for a tablet and the games that both the gaming audience and the wider public at large has come to expect since the launch of the iPad in 2010. More damningly, the need for the Wii U GamePad to be wirelessly tethered to the main hardware makes for an experience that negates much of the convenience of tablet gaming. [Score: 6.5/10]|
|The Wii U is really fun, even though there's just the slightest twinge of disappointment in some of the exclusive launch games. I'm going to buy the system, don't get me wrong--it's a neat step forward and nicely, surprisingly, never felt gimmicky--but it just feels like I'm doing it as an investment right now, covering my bases for when the Great Wii U Game--maybe Pikmin 3?--comes out.|
|It's clear the tech works. The seamless integration of TV and second screen must be commended. Nintendo Network, specifically Miiverse, must be applauded. And Wii U's multitasking capabilities put other consoles to shame. However, many should be (rightfully) worried about the system's graphical prowess.|
|It's a fun console for families, folks with big groups of friends, and nostalgists who can't miss the latest Metroid installment. In short, like the Wii before it, the Wii U aims at multiple demographics, misses many, but hits just enough to matter.|
|I haven't been this impressed with a new interface since Nintendo put a joystick on a gamepad in 1996. [Second review of online functionality here.]|
|Until we see Nintendo Network fully functioning with the TVii service and additional games that take advantage of the GamePad, it's hard to say whether Wii U recaptures the console magic. [Score: 3/4]|
|There are things it can do, things enabled by the GamePad / console twosome, that are both awesome and unique. ... But these moments of brilliance are for the moment overshadowed by the clumsiness of the system. ... In all, the Wii U is still as much a tech demo as anything else. [Score: 7.0/10]|
|Wall Street Journal / All Things D|
|Despite the Wii U's refreshing features, its sluggish behavior makes it a product I can't fully recommend.|
|It has potential. But it's not living up to it quite yet.|
|Unfortunately, Nintendo is still lagging behind when it comes to creating what consumers are increasingly expecting out of their devices: a feature-rich, multimedia online experience. Wii U, available in $300 and $350 configurations, has a bunch of these features — Netflix, a social network feed called Miiverse, a digital game shop — but all of them have distinct problems that make the user experience less fun than it should be.|
|Wired / Geekdad|
|For every nuisance, for every menu misstep and absent app, the Wii U packs a pleasant surprise. ... The Wii U hardware and its launch have both proven far from perfect, but the fun that my family has had over the past two weeks of playing with Nintendo's latest console serves to remind me of one undeniable fact; even flaws can't ruin a truly good time.|
What do you think?
Are you excited about the Wii U? Are you planning on getting one? What do you think of the idea of a touchscreen controller? Let us know in the comments section below.