Monday 20 July 2020

Nintendo Wii U… The Forgotten Console

Nintendo may not produce top end consoles, but they always bring a unique style to their games machines which gives them an edge, almost excusing their lack of power compared to competitors in that generation of console.

The original GameBoy might have had a rubbish mono screen, but it gave it an 8 hour battery life, something unheard of in its competitors. The Nintendo DS might not have been the most powerful, but the dual screen and touch capabilities as well as amazing battery life made it different.

The Nintendo Wii, was really just a repackaged GameCube and nowhere near as powerful as the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360, but its motion control made it an excellent family console, aimed at even those who didn’t like gaming.

However, after the mass success of the Wii released in 2006, Nintendo released the Wii U in 2012 – a console often forgotten, sandwiched between the Wii and the Switch – both very popular consoles.

While the Wii sold a whopping 101 million units worldwide, the Wii U sold a measly 13 million units.

But from a console point of view it is a great bit of kit. Rumoured as the Wii HD before its release, the Wii U takes the Wii and adds features it was lacking.

Packing a 1.24Ghz Tri-Core PowerPC processor and 2GB RAM (up from the 729Mhz PowerPC processor and 64MB of RAM of the Wii) and the ability to store its games on Blu-Ray discs, the Wii U was a fairly powerful machine.

Two versions were released. A white 'basic' version with 8GB internal memory and a black 'premium' version with 32GB internal memory. This might not sound a lot compared to the 100GB+ of its competitors but games run entirely from disc rather than being installed so the internal memory was for save games and downloads only.

The key selling point was the GamePad controller. This oversized controller featured a 6.2” LCD touchscreen as well as the buttons you would find on a regular controller. It meant you could play a lot of games without having your TV on, but it did mean the controller had to be within a close vicinity of your console.

The name suggested a backtrack on the Wii philosophy of being a family console. It was no longer 'we' as in everyone, but 'you' as in a personal console once again.

A massive bonus – and something many still don’t know – is the Wii U is fully backward compatible with the Wii games and all accessories. The Wii U system interface contains a section for the Wii and this then reboots the Wii U into Wii mode.

With the Wii U supporting HDMI (and the Wii not) this means Wii games can still be played on modern TVs.

Wii U games look stunning, aimed at taking advantage of the extra processing power and HD graphics with some main stream games like Call Of Duty Black Ops 2 looking damn near identical to the Playstation 3 version.

As with all Nintendo consoles it is the first party Mario titles only available on Nintendo hardware that keeps them afloat and why most people buy Nintendo consoles. New Super Mario Bros Wii U, Super Smash Bros U, Mario Kart 8, Super Mario World 3D, The Legend Of Zelda Wind Waker HD, The Legend Of Zelda Breath Of The Wild, Mario Party 10 and Yoshi's Woolly World all make up the best selling titles on the Wii U.

However, the Wii U never really took off. The GamePad was a good idea but the battery life was poor and gamers just didn’t see enough reason to splash a lot of money on an enhanced Wii, when you could pick up Wii consoles for next to nothing.

The lack of sales made a number of companies cut support either entirely or slimmed down such as Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Bethesda – which obviously impacted sales further, making it one of the lowest selling mainstream consoles ever.

In 2015 the basic version was discontinued and early 2017 saw Nintendo stop production altogether.

I own one. It is for my son and he loves it, and I love the fact I can watch TV or play on my console while he is sitting next to me playing on his Wii U via the GamePad. It also means I can have a cheeky bash on Super Mario Bros Wii U while my wife is watching her stuff on TV.

The Switch owes a lot to the Wii and the Wii U. While the GamePad was tied to the Wii U, it was a forerunner to a portable powerful console such as the Switch and the joy-cons from the Switch are redesigned Wii motion controllers.

So, don’t overlook the Wii U. It is a great console. It is really two consoles in one, with the GamePad being an amazing feature.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

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