The Wii U is a difficult piece of hardware to review for two reasons. First, it is unavoidably competing with hardware that exists in a different space, and second, the entire system is betting on a future that isn’t entirely clear yet.
If you compare the Wii U directly with the PS3, Xbox 360, or even against the rumors of what Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen consoles will be, it certainly comes up lacking on several fronts. But that isn’t really a fair comparison. Those consoles have become entertainment devices, while the Wii U is geared specifically to entertain gamers in a new way, and no one else. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things Nintendo should have learned from its competitors. Not including perks like achievements and trophies is fine, but limiting the hard-drive space is just a short-sighted decision. Issues like the lack of a video player or the inclusion of DVD playback are a shame, but justifiable from a cost-versus-features standpoint. Backwards compatibility with the Wii makes it a wash.
Despite all the criticisms levied in this review, the Wii U’s saving grace lies in its unique potential. Launch titles are a decent indicator of what we can expect for the short term, but months and years of development with the Wii U will almost certainly yield games that we’ve never even considered before. The GamePad offers an entirely new way to play, and the importance of that simply cannot be understated, nor should it be undervalued just because the system can’t play a store-bought movie. Streaming video to the GamePad and the voice chat are also notable achievements.
Add in the online ecosystem that will continue to grow in the Miiverse, and the future of the Wii U could a bright one.
The Wii U is an intriguing piece of hardware with a limited audience and hardware that is respectable, but not impressive. Yet it bursts at the seams with potential.