As you all know, the Wii U came out recently. The successor to the casual gaming hit Wii, a lot of questions linger in the gamers' minds... Is the GamePad useful in the games? Will third parties support it? Will lightning strike twice?
...I don't really have the answers to those questions, but I can tell you one thing: The hardware sure is fun to play with.
Getting the system set up is pretty easily. All of the wires and pieces are either clearly labeled or clearly explained in the instructions. In fact, all of the instructions are easy to follow, making it easy for those that don't have much experience setting consoles up to be able to put together.
All the accessories that come with the Wii U are nice, too. The holder/charger is my favorite piece: If you want to set it up, you can charge the GamePad and keep it upright at the same time. You don't need to use it, either, and can just use the regular stand and plug the wire at the top for the GamePad to charge.
Speaking of the GamePad, it's remarkably light. I have small hands, and I find it easy to hold and control the action on the pad's screen, although sometimes I lose my grip a little and I can't hold it straight. Also of note is that the GamePad needs to be charged via AC; unlike the 360 and PS3, you can't plug it into the system. This can be either great or terrible, depending on if you have outlets available, but it didn't affect me in any way.
After getting it set up, I finally get to turn on the system. The console slowly takes you through the steps of setting up the system, setting the GamePad to be used as an alternate remote control, and after the infamously long update, make a Nintendo Network ID. The process is simple: You create a Mii (or import one from the 3DS or a QR Code), input some information, and NIntendo sends you a confirmation code via e-mail that you input later. You can create multiple accounts, which helps to keep settings and save files separate. Although I can't test it myself yet, it's assumed that all accounts can access any downloadable game on the console.
Okay, now to the real fun. We have the console updated, and an ID created, and now we can actually play on the Wii U. The first thing you'll notice is the Miis swarming your screen. The Miis say things, or show off pictures... and this is the Miiverse at work, which I'll get to in a bit.
On the GamePad screen are the various functions, apps, and downloadable games, styled similar to the 3DS. You can click on the icon to start the application, or hold on it for a second or two to be able to organize them. It's simple enough. At the very bottom, outside of the boxes are the functions that Nintendo deemed most important for the system, including Notifications, TVii, and more... and this includes Miiverse.
Miiverse is a truly wondrous thing. People can post short comments, screenshots, or hand-drawn pictures on various little 'communities' (there's a community for each game and app). These Twitter-like posts can be seen by the world, and you can 'Yeah!' them (Miiverse's equivalent to liking). You can follow people whose posts you like, as well as easily see your friends' posts. It's remarkably easy to waste a lot of time in Miiverse, looking at peoples masterpieces and comments, checking in on what your friends think of the games they're playing, and posting your own comments. A lot of people are constantly posting, too, so Miiverse isn't likely to become stagnant in a while.
The best thing about Miiverse is that you can post things while you're actually in a game. Unlike the 3DS, which can't multitask, you can stop in the middle of a Wii U game and post about it in the Miiverse right then and there. This usually gets it tagged with the area/level you're in, and you can even post a screenshot with your comment. Making the application so accessible makes it worthwhile to actually use for your little gaming quips.
Another application that was important to me was the Wii Channel. You can't simply put in a Wii game and start playing from there; you have to launch the Wii Channel first. The Wii Channel is basically a Wii emulator. When you launch it, you're taken to a Wii menu, complete with some basic channels and the data transfer channel, so you can transfer all your Wii data up. From here, you can launch any Wii games, in addition to any Virtual Console and WiiWare games. It's important to note that the Wii Shop is not integrated into the Wii U's eShop, so if you want a VC or WiiWare game on the system (that you're not transferring), not only will you have to go into the Wii Channel to get it, but you'll need Wii Points to buy it. This is a little annoying, considering that the eShop simply uses money for their transactions. You also can't make it so that the WiiWare and VC games able to launch from the Wii U menu, so that's an added annoyance. However, it could be far worse, and there could always be updates in the future to make the Wii Channel more streamlined.
As for the eShop itself, it's really easy to navigate. Anyone that has tried to find stuff in any of Nintendo's past stores will know that it's a massive pain to navigate, but this one is different. The eShop separates full and indie games clearly, as well as easily providing information about the games at hand. I haven't quite figured out how to add a game to my wishlist, though...
So, to put it bluntly, the Wii U's pretty awesome. I wasn't able to check out all the functions (I don't have any TV/movie watching services at the moment, and I've yet to play an actual game), but it seems Nintendo really stepped up their game. The interface is easy and fun to use, there's no more tedious Friend Codes to remember, and it's easy to hold the seemingly over-sized GamePad in your hand. Of course, great hardware has to be backed up by great software in order to really succeed, and that's something Nintendo will have to show in the coming months in order for the Wii U to flourish. The Wii U does have a solid grounding in its hardware, however, so here's to hoping that the system has the chance to succeed.
What do you think of the Wii U thus far, from your own experiences or others' opinions? Awesome? A failure to be? Only caring about how the games themselves play? Let me know in the comments!