The first major update for Wii U has finally arrived and it brings some big changes.
Now is it a console worth investing in?
Version Tested: 3.0.0
Model used: Nintendo Wii U Premium Model.
The update brings a lot of changes with it; revisions and new features. Let’s break it down a little bit.
You can now download a title when the Wii U is powered down, placing the system in stand-by mode. The Wii U flashes with an orange light to indicate that it’s still working as long as the power supply is still on. This was a pretty big omission from launch considering both 360 and PS3 were already capable of doing such things. Thankfully it’s here now and works as well as expected.
I have noticed, however, if the system is turned off for any reason during the stand-by period, the data will corrupt. So when the console is rebooted, you will be forced to delete the corrupted data and download the title from the beginning again. That doesn’t happen on either PS3 and 360 and is certainly something Nintendo should look into, even if the issue is easily avoided.
Another new feature is background installations. Normally you’re forced to go to the Download Management screen, select a downloaded title and install yourself. Not anymore. Titles will now automatically install themselves to the hard drive (or external drive) once the download is completed, meaning there are no interruptions in game-time. This effectively means that you never have to visit the Download Management screen again. Download priority can also be set and works exactly the same way as PS3 and Xbox 360.
The most unexpected change revolves around the Wii Menu.If you hold down the B button when the Wii U logo appears on start-up, you can automatically jump to the Wii menu once you’ve selected a profile. This is a pretty convenient inclusion and does mean you can start your Wii U for the purposes of playing older games without having to dive into the Wara-Wara Plaza. The Gamepad will automatically turn off, however, so you will need to turn the system off either by using the Wii Remote or jumping back to the Wii U menu.
Overall, important, relevant and necessary functionality has been added to the system making navigation a lot more seamless.
System Setting Changes
Another big feature of the patch lets you connect two USB storage devices to one Wii U console, meaning you can now transfer/copy between two USB storage devices as well as the Wii U system itself. This is a huge advantage Wii U has on its competitors and if you have external devices laying around, more than makes up for the exceptionally poor base-drive space on the system. On the whole, transfer times are pretty quick, even on large titles, and you can even select multiple items and have them all move in bulk, something the 360 certainly cannot attest to. One issue I do have is, unlike downloads, this cannot be done in the background and you’re forced to sit through the progress bar screen until it finishes. Perhaps something for the Summer?
Miiverse benefits from regular updates and has done since launch, but the Spring Update allows for the biggest adjustment yet; Wii Remote, Wii U Pro Controller and Classic Controller support. Wii Remote support, specifically, is extremely welcome and will surely allow people to create all manner of new artwork and expression.
Another neat feature shows people handwritten posts while they’re being created on TV as well as the gamepad. Many times I’ve been writing a post on the pad and my partner has asked me what I’m typing. Now she can see as it happens.
Miiverse continues to go from strength to strength and the update has definitely helped to reinforce that.
Virtual Console and eShop
Another surprising omission at launch meant that titles downloaded on the eShop wouldn’t automatically be patched to the latest version. You’d need to install the game first, then boot up from the menu and sit through the update before playing.
Now, whenever you download a game, it will be the most up-to-date version.
Unfortunately it appears that whenever a game receives a new patch, the Wii U won’t automatically detect you have the game installed on your system and start downloading it for you, a feature currently available for Playstation Plus subscribers. I’d definitely like to see Nintendo come up with the goods on that before the release of next-gen. It seems future systems will be all about convenience and while Nintendo may not be able to match power, they are definitely in a position to make life easier for their consumers.
There’s also the massive issue of losing all of your purchased games. To date, there is no fixed account assigned to your profile, meaning that any purchases will be unrecognized and untraceable by Nintendo if the Wii U bricks (a feature known to occur if a system update goes badly) – Nintendo urgently need to rectify that.
On a positive note, one of the major additions accompanying this update is the long awaited Virtual Console. At present, the console only has a limited library of NES and SNES titles available, but it is hoped there will be regular weekly updates as we’ve seen on 3DS and Wii previously. The titles cost £3.49 for a NES title and £5.49 for SNES, however Nintendo have said if you own any of the titles already and transfer them from the Wii, you will only pay a slight additional charge for the perks of playing the games on the gamepad.
The prices did surprise me. Many of these titles have already been a big part of previous Virtual Consoles’ and in some cases are over 6 generations old. It does set a very intimidating precedent for forthcoming N64 titles, and potentially Gamecube titles and I would strongly advise a price restructuring down the road.
Still, the ability to play titles such as Super Mario World and PunchOut on the gamepad is a genuine pleasure and many are sure to make great use of the Off-TV functionality, as well as the Miiverse communities attached to each title. Being able to post screenshots and trade decades-old strategies with other veteran Nintendo gamers creates some genuinely exciting possibilities. Also, slight tip, if you want to play VC games in full-screen, set the TV to 480p standard resolution and adjust the aspect ratio to 4:3.
Wii Remote and Wii U Pro Controller support is now available on the Internet Browser which will make navigation a lot more comfortable and familiar for many gamers. Yahoo Search Engine support has also been enabled, meaning you can now search for keywords there as well. Between Yahoo and Google, you’re pretty much covered for everything internet.
It’s nice to see Nintendo continue to support the Wii Remotes with Wii U and I know this will be a preferred method of navigation for many.
The Wii U launched as a sluggish, arduous system that preferred you to look at menus rather than play games. I’m happy to say that the Spring Update has slashed most loading times by close-to 50%. The Wii U is a lot more responsive, it doesn’t become bogged down by multi-tasking, it moves between its app-based menus much more efficiently and it finally feels more like a current-day system.
Could it better? Absolutely, and I would like to see Nintendo continue to improve the Wii U’s responsiveness. Games still have a mini-loading screen ahead of boot-up, loading from an external drive produces noticeable delays and firing up Miiverse and the eShop is still not as fluid as I’d like. The improvements, however, are clear to see and in the grand scheme of things, quite massive.
For those that haven’t seen it, take a look at this short video for a bit of perspective. Here’s the speed comparison before the patch and after.
This was always going to be the main focus of this update and it definitely is a positive step in the right direction for Nintendo.
...Before the Update…
Slow, noisy, clunky and dated on arrival, the Wii U barely felt faster than the Wii before it and despite HD quality graphics and major third party releases, failed to prove it was at least equal with systems that have been on the market for the last seven years. With only possibilities unique to the gamepad keeping it alive, the Wii U launched an unfinished system and was in desperate need of shaping up
…After the Update…
Huge progress has been made. The Wii U is a lot more user-friendly, loading times have been ruthlessly slashed, background downloading adds convenience, multiple external hard-drives and the Virtual Console. We’re in a much better state now than we were in November. That said, there are still many areas that need a lot of work.
All eyes are on the Summer Update. EU are still waiting for TVii implementation which is already way overdue. Users also need assurance that their data won’t be lost should their Wii U breakdown, and it would also be nice to reduce the intensity in which Wii U reads a disc. The Wii U continues to build a decent library of games, and the system moves between apps almost gracefully. From a hardware perspective, the system is definitely a much more attractive investment than it was at launch.