So you finally got yourself a Wii U, huh?

The World Cup is over and my sleep patterns are more or less back to normal – let’s get back into this!

Yes, it’s another post about the Wii U. It’s fun to write about, alright?

So, you did it. You finally plonked down some hard-earned cash on Nintendo’s newest home console, thanks to the much-too-long-awaited second wave of hype that currently envelops it. Maybe it was the look and feel of Mario Kart 8 that made you do it, or maybe it was Nintendo’s strong showing at E3 this year. Perhaps you’re just sick of waiting through the appalling current drought of Triple-A releases on your PS4 or Xbox One and want something a little different to fill the gap. Maybe you are just too excited about the prospect of a new Smash Bros game this year, like how Hyrule Warriors is shaping up, or are a part of the Bayonetta series’ passionate following. It’s probably a combination of the above. Whatever your motivation, relax. Ignore the vocal haters on the internet – you’ve made a good call. Allow me to step in and help you get the most out of your new console. You may just find yourself surprised by how much enjoyment you can get out of it if you know where to look.

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1. Set up the console with two different power points

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First things first – the physical console set-up. With your average home console this means finding a single wall socket and a spare HDMI port, but with the Wii U there’s the additional concern of finding another power point for the gamepad’s own charger (plus the sensor bar setup if you’ll be playing Wii Remote-compatible titles). Though this may initially seem like an annoyance that could have been avoided in design, you may actually find that it improves the usability of the Wii U as long as you’re willing to put a bit of effort into initial setup. If you can find a way to plug the charger in next to your lounge/couch/chair/bed rather than near the TV, you’ll rarely ever need to get up and turn on your console/television.

The Best Thing.

This is because during your first boot-up, the Wii U will prompt you to set the gamepad up as a TV remote. Don’t skip this part – it’s actually really fast and it will mean that anytime you want to use your Wii U in the future, all you’ll need to do is take a seat, pick up the gamepad next to you, turn on your TV from the menu there, adjust the input and volume if necessary, then turn on your actual console and get started. When combined with the recent streamlining of the console’s operating system and the new gamepad-based “quick start” menu, you may just find that the Wii U gets you playing the games you want faster and easier than any other dedicated games device you own. And of course, you don’t even need a TV to play most Wii U games, because the vast majority of them support off-TV, gamepad-only play. Just make sure to remember to plug the gamepad into the charger after every use – it’s battery life is quite bad (see the 9th point on this article for more on that).

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2. Download that initial update

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This may seem obvious to some, but it really is worth stressing. If you’re planning to go out somewhere after you pick up your Wii U, at least do the setup first, because there’s a big day one update coming. While I’m not entirely sure how large the update is on the newest batch of Wii Us, I know it took a couple of hours to download on my launch console, so keep that in mind. While this update is not mandatory, it does enable many of the features I’m about to talk about. Don’t get blindsided by it.

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3. Turn off “Auto Power Down” and tweak your settings

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It’s really stupid that this feature is turned on by default when you first set up the console, even 18 months into its life, but it is, so it needs to be turned off unless you’re a fan of losing progress if you leave your console on for too long. Go to the system settings on your Wii U (it’s the spanner tile) and find the brown-ish icon within. That’s where you’ll find the auto power-down setting, which you can toggle off easily enough. Bam – instant better experience.

This is the section you're after.

This is the section you’re after.

While you’re in the settings menu, of course, you can fine-tune other aspects of your Wii U to suit your preferences.

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4. Get your free game

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I’ve already talked about this in my Mario Kart hype post from a couple months ago, so I’ll just copy and paste from there:

Somewhat unbelievably, Nintendo is currently offering a free full game download from a choice of ten big titles to anyone who buys Mario Kart 8, whether via physical copy, eShop download (just shy of 5GBs required) or as part of the MK8 Wii U hardware bundle, then registers it with Club Nintendo by July 31st. The games (along with their current download sizes) are:

    • Nintendo Land (3.6GB)
    • New Super Mario Bros U (2.3GB)
    • Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (7GB)
    • Game & Wario (4GB)
    • Pikmin 3 (4.5GB)
    • The Wonderful 101 (12.9GB)
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (2.5GB)
    • Sonic Lost World (8.5GB)
    • Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games (9.8GB)
    • Wii Party U (6.5GB)

If you have Mario Kart 8, there is just no excuse not to redeem this offer. To do so, follow these instructions. If you want my personal recommendation on what freebie to choose, I say it depends on what you plan to use your Wii U for. If you see it as mainly a local multiplayer console, grab Game & Wario or Wii Party U to complement your next Mario Kart night nicely. Don’t grab Nintendo Land – it’s about $30 cheaper than the other nine choices to actually buy, so you won’t be saving as much by getting it free. If you want to do some single player adventuring, snag The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, because it’s an excellent update to one of the greatest videogames of all time. If you’ve already played it back on the GameCube, however, I strongly recommend Pikmin 3, not only because its zany, unfamiliar nature might make it seem hard to justify paying for it, but because it’s quite simply one of the best games available on the Wii U. It was in my overall top ten last year and it has been patched and upgraded several times by Nintendo since then. On the other hand, if you prefer your games super-Japanese and super-challenging, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate or The Wonderful 101 will be right up your alley.

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5. Download the NES Remix twins

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Whatever you may think the best games on the Wii U are, if you aren’t at least considering NES Remix and NES Remix 2 then I’m sorry, you’re doing it wrong. These two gems don’t get a huge amount of credit or attention because they’re cheap, download-only, and were released without much fanfare. But they are first-party Nintendo titles through-and-through, with all the quality design you might expect from the company’s other offerings. Essentially they have you playing through tiny bite-sized chunks of 16 classic Nintendo Entertainment System games, from Ice Climber and Mario Bros all the way to Punch-Out! and Kirby’s Adventure. 

A typical challenge.

You’re ranked with a three-star system for each challenge and the stars you collect unlock additional stages, some of which “remix” gameplay by, say, having you use Link to beat a Donkey Kong level or negotiating a Super Mario Bros level without visible platforms. It’s a great single player experience, especially if you only have a half-hour or so to kill, but it takes on another life with a group of friends in the same room passing the gamepad around. I haven’t laughed so much playing a game in a long, long time, because the opportunity for smack-talk and bragging rights is tremendous.

As you do.

Each game costs $13 to download individually, but at the time of writing, until July 24th you can get 30% off the second game on the Australian eShop if you buy the first one (or vice versa). That means you can pick up a $30 eShop voucher, get both Remix games and still have enough to buy a Game Boy Virtual Console game on your 3DS. Like Pokemon Trading Card Game, for instance, which came out last week. I’ve lost almost twenty hours to that sucker already. Just saying.

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6. Explore the games you may have missed

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Despite what you may have read about Wii U software droughts, which in fairness is mostly true, the Wii U is now over 18 months old. That means if you’re just picking one up, there is a rather tasty backlog of exclusive games available for you to dive into. Most of the ten free game options above are well worth buying on their own, as is LEGO City Undercover, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (that one’s crazy difficult though, particularly if you’re a completionist), ZombiU and ESPECIALLY Super Mario 3D World. The eShop holds other exclusive highlights aside from the Remix games, with Pullblox World, Nano Assault Neo, Mighty Switch Force HD, Pokemon Rumble U and Dr Luigi standing out among the best. There are plenty of other excellent indie games available there as well, such as Child of Light and Guacamelee, but they’re also available on other gaming platforms.

Super Mario 3D World simply must be played.

Then of course there’s Nintendo’s enviable array of Wii U Virtual Console titles, so far encompassing selections from the NES, the Super NES and the Game Boy Advance. I’d argue this is the best place to play the likes of Super Mario World, Super Metroid, Golden Sun, Advance Wars, Metroid Fusion and four of the Zelda games (the first one, The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past and The Minish Cap) because of re-mappable buttons, restore point functionality, Miiverse integration and off-TV play. It’s certainly the only legal way to play the all-time classic Earthbound (40% off at the time of writing!) in Australia outside of second-hand markets, and there are many more titles on the way.
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7. Check out the console’s unique/underrated features

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If I told you the Wii U had the best web browser ever available on a videogame console, would you believe me? Yeah, sure, that isn’t saying much, but I’ve genuinely used it to browse in certain situations when I’ve had my iPad and my phone right next to me. It functions not unlike an Apple TV in the sense that you can use the Wii U’s touch screen to find a video and then play it for everyone on the room on your TV. Video playback is excellent (I used the Wii U to stream all of this year’s E3 press conferences with no problems) and don’t let the lack of a multi-touch screen deter you – dual analogue zooming and stylus precision selection is a more than adequate way to get around the internet.

Miiverse is the flippin’ bomb, man.

Miiverse deserves a hearty mention, and I’m surprised at how many Wii U owners I know that have yet to use it. Miiverse is by far the most positive online community I’ve ever seen or been involved in, and while that may be the result of a massive, ninja-like moderating team, it’s still a breath of fresh air. If you’re stuck in a game, whether old or new, or just want to share things you’ve picked up on inside a game, it’s ridiculously easy to post a screenshot or comment. Miiverse is also the easiest and quickest way to keep up to date with official tidbits of news straight from Nintendo developers, and it’s the first place Masahiro Sakurai posts his daily Smash Bros screens. Miiverse seems to get a usability update nearly every week, it’s integrated with your 3DS and smartphone, and it showcases some of the most unbelievable black and white drawing talent on the internet. But even if none of this appeals to you, using Miiverse even once makes it much, much easier for other people to find you and add you as a friend online, because they can search you by ID or Mii nickname and don’t have to use the Wii U’s odd Friends app to do so.

EDIT: Here’s a description of a handy Wii U feature I didn’t even know about, thanks to Evan of RetroRetracked: “Taking a screenshot and uploading to either Facebook, Twitter and or Tumblr – Simply press the Home button at the moment that you wish to capture a photo, then press the browser button that will appear on the gamepad after pressing Home. On the browser there will be a bookmarked link to ‘Wii U – Image Share’ alternatively type in ‘https://i.nintendo.net‘. You can always keep this page open on a tab that you never close (I do). When you ‘browse’ for your image it will give you a screenshot for either the gamepad or the TV resolution… your decision. Add an 80 character caption and it will be posted very shortly. Then simply press Home, ‘Close Home Menu’ and you will return to playing your game.”

There are other, smaller features to explore and apps to download, though most of them seem a little gimmicky and pointless to me. But they might not to you, so feel free to explore!
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8. Add me!

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Once you’ve used Miiverse at least once, why not throw me a friend request? My Nintendo Network ID is “Vagrantesque” and my somewhat creepy Mii is “Mr Fun” (A bad joke that unfortunately stuck). You should be able to find me under either name. I’m not online as often as I would like, but I do occasionally dabble in some online Mario Kart or post confused game observations on Miiverse.

That's him.

The Mii second from the left is Earthmoot, created by @eraofshamus. We do not speak of it.

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9. Accessorize

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This part is obviously optional, but you may find, as I have, that one or two accessory purchases may greatly amplify the experience of using the Wii U. The most obvious need for an accessory is arguably an external USB hard drive, particularly if you’ve picked up the cheap Basic Pack as opposed to the Premium. The Basic essentially only has 3GB of usable flash memory space while the Premium has 25GB, so if you’re planning to download a few full retail games you will need to expand. Nintendo has a page (link here) listing officially tested compatible drives, all of them 2 terabytes in size and nearly all of them around $100 AUD or less. However, additional models may still work and you may even already have one lying around. Having said this, I’ve had a Premium pack since launch and I am yet to get even close to filling its flash memory, so this all ultimately depends on your tastes.

The three accessories I have bought to date are a basic screen protector, a hard gamepad cover and an expanded internal gamepad battery. I thoroughly recommend all three to anyone with the means. If you’ve had experience with a tablet of any kind you will likely see the benefit of the first two, and you can pick up both for under $15 total if you look in the right place, but the third item is a harder initial sell. However, after you’ve spent a few weeks, nay even days, with the atrocious battery life of the Wii U gamepad, you may be crying out for it. 3 hours is just not great, especially if you’re planning on using the console’s off-TV play feature a lot. But the good news is that Nintendo makes its own easy-install solution, which you can import for under $40 from Play-Asia or a similar source. I bought one when I was in Japan and it has made reaching for the gamepad a far, far more enticing option when I find I just want to play something. I’ve lost 5 and a half hours to Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga in one sitting because of it. The TV wasn’t even on. It just happened. Well, well worth a buy, even if you wait a bit to buy one.

Don’t be alarmed by the Japanese text – it works in any international gamepad.

As for additional controllers, you may already be covered if you have some Wii Remotes lying around at home. They’re usable for most of the Wii U’s library, and even essential for a few multiplayer titles, though you might prefer the lure of the so-called Wii U Pro Controllers. These babies are my go-to solution for Mario Kart sessions and co-op gameplay, as they don’t require batteries, can last ridiculously long off one charge and boast a layout that will be familiar to most of your gaming friends when they drop by for some splitscreen shenanigans. They aren’t cheap though, so if you want to read more about them consult the wider internet, or just read my initial review of the controller within my Wii U launch article from the end of 2012.

For pros.

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10. Accept the console for what it is

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This kind of sucks to have to write, but I feel it’s a legitimate point. The Wii U is not selling all that well, even with its recent Mario Kart-inspired sales boost. Third party developers are therefore not interested in developing games for it. Even if the expected third hype wave at the end of this year (thanks to the new Smash Bros game and Nintendo’s new figurine initiative Amiibo) brings sales up to a semi-respectable level, Nintendo still has a poor history with third party communication and the processing power gap between the Wii U and the Xbox One/PS4 will certainly not help that. This essentially means that all you’re left with is indie games and first-party Nintendo exclusives.

My point is not that buying a Wii U is a bad decision (Why would I write this post otherwise?), but simply that understanding the Wii U’s place in the current videogame industry will go a long way towards helping you enjoy the console. People buy Nintendo consoles for Nintendo exclusives, because they are still the best developers in the business, at least if you ask me. You may only have one big game every other month to play on your Wii U going forward, but chances are that game will be top shelf stuff, and you won’t be able to play it anywhere else.

Oh yeah, this is coming too. Yes indeedy it is. Mm-hmm…

Of course the likes of Kart and Smash are built to last a long, long time to boot. The old “quality over quantity” cliche certainly applies here. Basically if you don’t have a whole lot of time to play games and usually enjoy Nintendo’s stuff, a Wii U may be all you need, but if you’re a more regular gamer (particularly if you belong to the PC Master Race, which arguably renders both a PS4 and an Xbox One partially redundant) a Wii U may have to suffice as a “second console”, as it’s the most unique offering currently on the market both in volume of exclusive titles and in style of play.

And that is all. Enjoy your console!

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One response to this post.

  1. Many thanks ffor an excellent piece of game insider info.

    Reply

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