So with all of the attention that surrounded the Nintendo Direct on Tuesday, a system update for the Wii U stealthily downloaded to many consoles on Monday to surprise many gamers. I should add, it will only update automatically (or stealthily if you prefer) if the user gives the system permission to do so. After the installation is complete, there are a few new features that are easily visible. Other changes were not so apparent, but could be discovered with a little reading. Here is a quick overview of what this update had in store for Wii U owners:
-Very noticeably, a sixth icon has been added to the bottom row of the Game Pad screen after signing in. It is the friend list icon, allowing for slightly quicker access to one’s friend list.
-Equally as noticeable is a change to Miiverse. Upon entering Miiverse, an image of a globe and Mii characters will help illustrate what time it is currently in various countries throughout the world.
-This update also allows support for USB keyboards. This will make surfing the Internet Browser more manageable, provided you actually have / want to use a keyboard in such a situation.
-Speaking of the Internet Browser, the update is supposed to improve this application as well.
-As usual, there are “overall system stability improvements”.
-Wii U Chat will support chatting via a headset plugged into the Game Pad.
-There is now an option to disable Nintendo ID use when accessing Miiverse from a smartphone or the web.
-The update prompts the user to accept or decline the ability to automatically receive recommended software and demos through Spot Pass.
-The update allows Dolby Pro Logic II Surround Sound to be supported when playing Wii software.
-This brings me to my final point, which also concerns Wii software. This is a very easily noticed feature, provided that the user is actually accessing the Wii mode via the Wii U. Upon entering Wii mode, the player will be prompted to select whether they want the display to be output to the tv alone, or to the tv and the Game Pad simultaneously. This feature does NOT allow the user to play the games using the Game Pad as a controller. As a matter of fact, if they press any button on the Game Pad during this time, a prompt on the screen will remind them of that specific fact. The games need to be controlled with a Wiimote, nunchuck, classic controller, etc. This feature simply allows the player to view the game on the Game Pad if they should wish.
I tried out some of these features already, including the use of the Game Pad to play Wii games. I have a few Virtual Console titles that I transferred over to the Wii U, so I fired up Final Fantasy III for the SNES as a test. I turned my tv off so that I could use the Game Pad as my only screen. Even though I was holding a classic controller in my hands, it was a bit unusual at first that I was not pressing buttons on the Game Pad. Overall, it does not affect the gameplay. It simply offers an option to play more games without the need for the tv. I would prefer simply being able to use the Game Pad for controls on games that do not require motion controls, but that is likely a huge undertaking in terms of programming. Perhaps they could separate Wii software titles and possibly even Wii Ware from the Wii Virtual Console. There would not be any Virtual Console games that allow for motion controls, but it is still likely a pipe dream on my end that they would create Game Pad support.
Either way, Nintendo continues to incrementally improve on the Wii U with every update. The system has definitely come a long way from the sluggish, bare – bones console that released nearly a year ago. While it still has a ways to go, Nintendo is at least making improvements over time. I love playing games on the Wii U, and it has drawn nearly all of my gaming time recently. My 3DS has a huge backlog, but I keep spending more and more time on the Wii U. The Wii U is not a perfect system by any means, but I think it gets a lot of hate (some deserved, some not), but a number of times it is coming from people that have barely played it, if at all. I will admit that I was not a fan of the Game Pad initially. After giving it a chance by using it to play games like Arkham City and Mass Effect 3, I grew to prefer it over the Pro Controllers that I also own. I think that the new footage from Mario 3D World will start to convince some of the naysayers to give the Wii U a chance. There are at least a few third party games coming over the next few months, but the picture gets cloudy looking into 2014. There are a few titles like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. that are slated, as well as Donkey Kong now, but very few other titles are known to be in the next wave of games for the system.
Let’s hope Nintendo has even better changes planned, as well as some software to fill the pipeline. Now if they would just give me that unified account system so I could share my 3DS and Wii U purchases back and forth…