Check out the first part of Ryuki's Wii U Review

At launch the Wii U featured many software titles (over 20+ available via physical and digital download) as well as many key software “apps” already present on the console's main menu start up screen.

Photobucket

Pros:

Without a doubt, the biggest winner app-wise is Miiverse. This is Nintendo’s first foray into online social networking. Using their Mii avatars people around the globe can post or draw comments in game specific community groups setup by Nintendo.

The level of freedom Nintendo has given the community is fantastic, but there is of course active moderation to keep the comment stream clean.

The stream is styled much like a Twitter post. Alternatively you can draw or write your message using the stylus pen, a bit like the 3DS’s Swapnote feature. Many of the art posted ranges from stunning to absolutely hilarious.

PhotobucketYou can turn on your Wii U one day and be welcomed with some fantastic comic book like styled artwork done by a user in homage to Batman: Arkham City, or enter Rabbids Land’s Miiverse community and find a hilarious and decadent shrine of Willem Dafoe pictures that have nothing to do with the game at all.

You can give posts a “Yeah” (the equivalent of a Facebook “Like” or YouTube “Thumbs Up”) as well as add or subscribe to other Mii’s with complete ease and without having to punch in a ludicrously long “Friend Code”. Posts can also contain spoilers that hide the entire message; I loved how during gameplay, you can pause the game and enter the Miiverse to post a screenshot of the game you're currently playing with a custom message added to it.

This was Nintendo’s moment to capitalize on years of failing to harness an online community, and I can safely they've hit the bullseye.

The console's YouTube application is styled similarly to the Windows 8 interface, with many videos displayed as large square previews with their title clearly displayed. Although navigation may be slow compared to PC/MAC navigation of YouTube, the interface is quite satisfying in the sense that you can run playback on a video whilst searching for other videos.

Other software apps include the all-new Wii U e-Shop that has an upbeat charm to its audio and visual presentation. It’s relatively easy to navigate and displays all the key titles you need to know about. Finally the Wii U’s Internet browser is quite satisfying to navigate through, although it suffers from the same speed problems as the YouTube app.

Visually the games look very good on the Wii U, tech-wise the console isn’t astounding compared to what your top tiered PC can achieve, but for the most part it works and the gams look great in HD.

PhotobucketI found games like Zombi U to be a testament to what this system can achieve when everything works – the game showed a good use of gameplay dynamics utilizing the new GamePad’s touchscreen, and I also felt the move to release more games focused on so-called "hardcore gamers" is a step in the right direction for Nintendo.

Along with Zombi U, Super Mario Bros. U shows that first party titles look and run great on the Wii U. Anything developed exclusively for this console is going to be a great enjoyment to play if the games keep getting developed coherently with the hardware.

3rd party titles such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Trine 2 offer an interesting picture as, despite being ports, they look and play fantastically if they were developed exclusively for the Wii U. They're either incredibly good porting jobs, or the console must be really easy port for. In either case it's a resounding success in terms of how they look and play.

The most enjoyable moment for me was playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 2’s zombie mode two player via split screen. The first player had all their action on the TV screen whilst the second player (me) had all the gameplay displayed on the Wii U’s GamePad touch screen. I thought this was a very clever implementation to get around what can usually be an ugly looking archaic split-screen used in other modern games.

Cons:

While 3rd party games look and play well, their performance can be a bit iffy at times, with many frame rate drops (particularly Darksiders 2). I didn’t include this game in the “Pros” section as there are a few glaring issues with the game.

Firstly, aforementioned frame rate issue can be pretty bad at times. It could be a weak CPU unable to handle the open world nature of the game. This is also evident in the fact the game is littered with many “Loading” points that crop up when opening doors to dungeons or new parts of the main map.

Secondly the utilization of the GamePad’s touch screen for Darksiders 2 is pretty uninspired, as it'ss basically used as an inventory screen or asecond screen for cutscenes. Both the inventory screen and cutscenes suffer from low resolution, so much so that reading the subtitles on screen or general text in menus can be difficult.

PhotobucketGraphically, while the games look very fluid and gorgeous for the most part, Darksiders 2 suffered from a lack-of anti-aliasing causing jaggedness around structures, NPCs and environments. It may be a niggling detail in the grand scheme of things, but it does somewhat confirm the console’s power is lacking when rendering a higher quality of detail for such a graphically heavy game (although, it could be just a poor port job on part of the developers).

As mentioned before, there is an all-new e-Shop for the Wii U. Now, you’re probably wondering why this has landed in the "cons" section, and the answer is simple: digital games are priced at £49.99 or £54.99. I find it difficult to incentivise to download a game for that price when I could buy it for £10 less for a physical copy.

However the most tragic negative is the user restricted content in Europe. Games that are 18+ rated such as Assassins Creed 3, Darksiders 2 etc., are completely un-viewable to ALL users of all ages outside the hours of 11pm-3am, a 4 hour window. This is due in part to Nintendo’s European firm's adherance to German Television law standards. It’s almost jarring to see on one hand a Miiverse that is somewhat of a free-for-all in some respects and then a massive restriction of consumer content on the other hand.

The Conclusion – Is it worth it?

Fraught between elation and disappointment, I would say that, if anything, my experience with the Wii U has been an incredibly interesting one.

PhotobucketOn one hand I want to dismiss the console as nothing more than an extension of the Nintendo Wii, which is unfair as the console pitches itself wider, to appeal to “hardcore gamers” and the “casual market". However, it doesn't really give the “casual market” much of a physical incentive to buy the machine other than the odd party game and the fact the GamePad is in fact a motion controller. Although, it's a feature that isn't too prevalent at the moment.

I'm also worried that while the launch line-up for the Wii U was relatively strong, with companies outright dismissing development for the console on upcoming titles such as Bioshock: Infinite and Metro: Last Light, I wonder if the console is strong enough to last past the next 18 months of tech-development.

Its no secret that graphics card companies are working hard to make consumer-friendly priced options for PC gamers and from that we have the inevitable developments (and rumors) of Microsoft and SONY producing new flagship Xbox and PlayStation hardware to utilize new tech. Will the Wii U get left behind to port over sloppy seconds as like the Wii before it, or be left so far behind the console tech race, it ends up producing nothing new game wise?

The answer for now is uncertain, but I can’t help but weigh my experience down to a love for the console. I can't deny I enjoyed playing it nor can I deny that at many points when I booted up a game on the console, the words “This works fantastically” kept popping up in my head during gameplay.

Games like Zombi U and Nintendo’s ballsy decision to release it as a launch title struck a chord for me, showing signs of the old Nintendo. A Nintendo more concerned with the innovation of tech in terms of gameplay rather than solely driving the visual experience – and we all know by now that a graphically superior experience does not equal good gameplay.

The Wii U's survival depends on Nintendo’s ability to innovate interesting 1st party titles that don’t just shoehorn in the GamePad’s touch screen tech, but also contain a game that you can’t play or see on any other console. I know this is a mantra that can be applied to any other console, but if the Wii U wants to succeed in a growing age of technopolis, it must hold its own ground and innovate gameplay rather than tech, something it failed to do with the Wii.

PhotobucketWith games like Aliens: Colonial Marines, Bayonetta 2, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes Online and Rayman Legends, one could say the future of the Wii U is indeed looking bright. For now, I really love turning this console on and it's fast becoming my main source for entertainment.