10 things you don’t know about the Nintendo Wii U

New Super Mario Bros. U

Don’t ditch your Wiimotes

Did you go in for some Wii trade-in deal at your local retailer? You might regret it. Neither Wii U package, not even the 32GB “Deluxe Set,” comes with Wii Remote motion controllers. The only word we’ve heard on the subject claims Nintendo believes everybody who needs one already has one from their Wii days.

That might be a problem. While the WiiPad stands as the console’s primary controller, some games require Wiimotes to play — and sometimes not just Wiimotes but Wii Remotes fitted with the MotionPlus dongle. That includes several offerings in Nintendo Land, the game that comes with the Deluxe Set. If you don’t have (or never had) those things, firing up the software will eventually lead to some disappointment.

Creating a Mii is awkward

Before you can get into the Miiverse, you’ve got to Mii up. The Wii U interface for creating one doesn’t differ much from the Wii’s, though the options are just different enough that I couldn’t make as good a likeness of myself. Ah, but here’s where the WiiPad comes to the rescue! You can use its built-in camera to take a picture of yourself, which the Wii U then automatically translates into a Mii.

But it doesn’t actually work. I could gripe about how it didn’t capture my manly features, strong nose, and piercing gaze — it didn’t — but I do honestly wonder how it completely missed my moustache and beard. The Wii U seemed fairly convinced I’m clean-shaven. Maybe it took a picture of me from junior high.

Nintendo Land

It’s SpotPass compatable

On some first-party game at least — such as New Super Mario Bros. U — you have the option to turn on SpotPass. According to the Wii U, “SpotPass will be used to deliver news from Nintendo about New Super Mario Bros. U [including Mario-related promotions].” A quick email to Nintendo reps only netted us a slight elaboration. SpotPass will “provide automatic news updates about the game so long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi.”

We like the sound of that second explanation better, specifically the “updates” bit. Nintendo DS owners have used SpotPass for years to download new content for their games: exclusive videos, unlockable characters, even new levels. It seems impossible that Nintendo finally wants to seriously move into the DLC business, but not much else falls into both the “news” and “updates” categories. Consider our fingers crossed on this one.

The augmented reality stuff works

The WiiPad’s accelerometer responds very nicely, so augmented reality games have a real chance to work on the platform. Nintendo Land uses this feature in its hub world, giving you a full 360-degree orbital view with little-to-no lag. It’s currently unclear how well (or if) the controller detects distance from the console, but if that holds up as well, the possibilities really open up for AR games to do some seriously cool work.

 It also draws attention to one big flaw in the Wii U’s design to date.

You won’t always know which screen to look at

Right during the setup phase, I started seeing potential problem with the two-screen system. For starters, the instructions kept bouncing from the big screen to the hand-held device without warning or any kind of natural flow. I always seemed to be looking at the wrong one. And because of the way you naturally hold the WiiPad, you generally won’t even be able to split out your concentration between the two. You either focus on your TV or zero in on the WiiPad screen, and you don’t always make the right choice.

This happens in a few games, too. Occasionally, the Wii U must baldly tell you which screen to look at, and this might not always be the screen you want to use. Either way, this comes across as a problem based on inexperience; nobody’s really had to solve moving between two radically different game screens before. Hopefully, they will. Soon.

Nintendo supplied GamesBeat with a 32GB Wii U Deluxe Set for coverage purposes.

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