In the annals of Nintendo history, nothing shall ever quite match the bizarre and tragic story of the Wii U. Designed as the successor to the wildly successful and much beloved Wii. The system has failed to make even close to the same kind of splash and has become Nintendo’s lowest selling home console of all time.Selling just under 13 million units despite having released, and with the NX on everyone’s mind, it’s safe to say this poor little box has lost it’s chance at stardom. It hasn’t been all bad mind you, the system actually helped Nintendo turn a profit for the first time in quite awhile, and featured a library of impressive exclusive titles, housing some of the best games this generation.
All the same people seem to be wary of the system, one of the largest reasons being the systems oddball controller/ main gimmick, the Wii U gamepad. But is this polarized reaction warranted? This author / Nintendo addict looks to find out.
The Wii U gamepad has a fairly interesting look for a controller for pretty obvious reasons. Naturally with the whole second screen gimmick going on they couldn’t exactly make it look like the more traditionally designed controllers found on the competing systems, or even the Wii U’s own pro controller, a more traditionally designed controller for the system.
This is a very nice looking controller, from a distance it’s nice and sleek, matching the console quite nicely, in fact it looks really nice set up against the game system. It has a nice slightly rounded look so it isn’t too boxy looking which thankfully also makes it more comfortable to hold.
However, I do have one major gripe with the overall look of the controller and that’s the piano gloss finish, now funnily enough this helps give it that “sleek” look that I complemented it for, but keep in mind I said “from a distance”, and there’s a reason for that… smudge marks. When up close with the controller they’re pretty noticeable given the glossy finish and it looks pretty gross. It’s made even worse because of the screen which naturally also will get pretty smudgy and dirty. Especially if you use the Wii U as much as I do. (so smudgeeeeey)
Now to be fair if you clean it regularly it shouldn’t be too much of an issue, and it’s not too hard to clean although getting into all the corners and what not on the screen and camera can be a bit of a chore.
Overall it does look nice, sleek, and uniform, but be prepared to clean it quite a bit.
As previously stated the gamepad has a peculiar design in contrast to the competition and even it’s ilk, obviously to support the second screen. Looking at it from a distance you might think this thing is big, clunky and awkward to hold and surprisingly you’d be wrong. not only is the Wii U gamepad comfortable to hold, but it’s also fairly light,It’s still a touch heavier than the average controller, but not by much. So you’re not gonna have to worry about your arms getting tired or whatever while using it.
The gamepad has two large grips built into the back of the controller so thankfully you won’t be awkwardly holding onto the sides or anything. Additionally there’s this nice groove on the back, closer to the top of the controller where you can rest your pointer finger on while you play.
The button and control input layout is designed very well around the size of this large controller, the buttons, sticks and d-pad are all positioned in such a way that you’ll never have any issue getting your fingers to any of them. One of the best decisions they made was the positioning of the second stick, though it’s a bit weird on the pro controller, it works great for the gamepad,by making it symmetrical to the left stick, any awkwardness from trying to position it lower on the controller like you would see on an Xbox controller is averted. The fact they were able to make a controller this big feel this graceful is impressive honestly.
The buttons all feel nice,pressing them in feels satisfying, there’s no real delay or stickyness, standard stuff. The D-pad is great, its nice and responsive and isn’t too squishy or too stiff, great for 2-d games.
The dual control sticks are fine, fairly standard feeling, the top is not textured or grooved but it does have this kind of rim in the center to help keep your thumbs in place so there’s no worry of slipping while playing a game.
In terms of durability, while I thankfully haven’t really had any opportunities to test it and I hope I never will, it generally feels solid, as Nintendo controllers tend to. The only thing I’d worry about is the screen, I’d imagine it’s generally more durable than your average tablet, but it IS still an LCD screen.So be wary of that.
This is a surprisingly sturdy and well designed controller, befitting the continuing legacy of awesome Nintendo controllers.. Just watch out for that screen…
Ah yes, easily the most polarizing feature of this entire console, the very basis of this controller. How does it fair?
Honestly I love the second screen, though maybe not for the reasons Nintendo initially intended. (intendo?)
Okay so this screen is used in several different ways it’s used to interact with the gaming environment via features like touch screen and microphone, some times it’s used to aim with, in combination with the gamepad’s motion control gyroscope feature. Sometimes it’s used for menu management, and sometimes it’s used for my favorite feature, off screen play.
There really isn’t too much to say on functionality aside from that it works pretty well, the touch screen is perfectly responsive, the mic picks up sound okay and the gyroscope is about as responsive as the Wii motion plus , which is good.
Really the big question comes down to utility, how useful is this second screen? Well obviously it depends on the game, but it seems most of the best Wii U games don’t really require the use of the second screen. This is a good thing for people who don’t like the gimmick, but it kind of makes the gimmick seem pointless. Not too many games on the Wii U these days really use the touch screen outside of sub menus, or the gyroscope. So things are looking bad for utility right? Well not exactly, because off screen play is still a feature that many Wii U games support, and for good reason, it;s damn useful.
Okay say you’re playing a game, or streaming media or something on the Wi U, but someone wants to watch Netflix on their ps4 or something. No problem! Thanks to off screen play you can keep the game going with basically no interruptions or anything, and if you’re not a fan of using the gamepad for playing games much or if you’re playing a game like Freedom Planet which is honestly much better with the Pro controller. Or you’re playing Super Smash Brothers and want to use the oh so amazing GameCube controller, FEAR NOT! You can use the little stand, sit up the controller, and just continue to use your controller of choice. Yup, off screen doesn’t force you to play with the gamepad. How cool is that?
Just for off screen play alone I’d say that the second screen is worth it, and I wish more people would talk about how useful it is. In fact I hope this somehow comes into play with the NX because it really is a cool feature. However I’m aware some people will want a bit more than just that and they may be disappointed by how under utilized the other functions of this controller are.
One last thing to discuss super quick is the battery life of the system which frankly.. Is horrible.
It’s literally the exact opposite of the Wii U pro controller’s 80 hour battery life, the gamepad’s clock’s in at around 4 hours, maybe 5 if you’re lucky. In the interest of fairness I will say it does make sense that it’s battery dies so quickly, it does have a screen and a gyroscope in it, as well as functioning as the controller for the system. But it’s honestly a bit of a bummer when you’re really into a game but then you have to let it sit and charge for awhile, it kind of pulls you out of the experience, now in fairness you can take the cord out of the little charging stand the gamepad has, and plug it straight into the gamepad, but it’s kind of a pain considering that the the cord has to be plugged into the wall, unlike the pro controller which can be plugged into your system, or computer.
Honestly, the battery life is kind of a problem, I understand it’s ultimately just collateral damage because of the functions of the controller, and it’s not really a deal breaker. But it is a shame.
The Wii U gamepad, is a slick decent looking controller. It feels great to hold and to use,it feels fairly durable, and off screen play is a wonderful feature.
Smudge marks are a minor issue, the second screen may not have enough utility for some, and the battery life is kind of depressing,not helped by limited options when it comes to charging it.
Personally I think it’s a shame people didn’t take to the controller as I find it to be a really damn good controller, that helped make the Wii U cool and unique. In fact I kind of prefer it to the Wii’s motion control wiimotes. but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get why some people just don’t take to it.
May the Wii U be remembered fondly and more so, may the future be bright, for the NX.
Hardware and Software Sales Units,www.Nintendo,com/jp ,March 31st 2016: https://www.nintendo.co.jp/ir/en/sales/hard_soft/
Sam Byford,”Nintendo turns its first annual profit since 2011″www.theverge.com, may 7,2015: http://www.theverge.com/2015/5/7/8564303/nintendo-fy-2014-earnings