What Parents Should Know About Nintendo’s Wii U

by Lon Seidman | Dec 6, 2012 12:55am
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Posted to: Gaming, Review

Nintendo

Nintendo’s Wii U system

If your child wants the Wii U for the holidays, there are a few things you should know to avoid ruining Christmas.

In a rush to get Wii U consoles out the door and into holiday shoppers’ hands, Nintendo shipped the product without an important software update that requires you, the purchaser, to update the console with its latest version of the Wii U system software.

The problem? That update is enormous and can take several hours to download depending upon connection speed and Nintendo’s server loads.

On our Wii U, which we connected to a super fast Comcast 50 megabit per second connection, the update took more than an hour and was interrupted three times by connection errors. Thankfully the update picked up where it left off when the download was resumed, but it halted the process until we acknowledged the connection error on the game system’s tablet controller.

The console cannot be used during the update and Nintendo recommends not interrupting the process while the download is taking place. Nintendo says consoles that will be manufactured after the holidays will have the large update built in.

Transferring Old Wii to New Wii

Lengthy software updates aren’t the only things parents will need to focus on when getting the system ready. Transferring data from older Wii consoles also requires a bit of digital elbow grease.

The Wii U is fully backward compatible with the original Wii, but in order to run those original Wii games, the original system’s software needs to be summoned from the Wii U’s tablet-like controller.

Once in that mode, the tablet controller shuts down and requires an original Wii Controller to play the old games. But what about the saved games, Mii avatars, and downloaded software from an older system? Roll up those sleeves because there’s more fun to be had.

Transferring from the old Wii requires permanently moving everything that was ever saved to that console onto an SD card (not included), which you then need to insert into the new game system to move the data over yourself. The process is a bit arduous and comes with the slight risk of losing your child’s previous work helping Mario and Link save their respective princesses from the clutches of evil.

The process begins by entering Wii mode on the Wii U. A “channel” (Nintendo’s word for “app”) appears in the center of the screen offering to transfer data. That app is a bit of a misnomer as it does nothing other than load up the Wii Shop and downloads a second application that looks exactly like the one that you just launched.

Once the other transfer app is loaded the system asks for an SD card with a minimum of 512 megabytes of capacity (not included of course) and writes some data to it. With the Wii U on and connected, you then must go to your old Wii, boot it up, and download the Wii U transfer application from the Nintendo store on that console.

One detour might be thrown your way: more than likely you’ve never updated that original Wii console, so you’ll probably need to do that first. 

Next, you must load up the transfer app on the original Wii. Hopefully, you have two original Wii controllers. Otherwise you’ll need to “pair” the controller you just used on the new console with the old one.

The transfer app will then proceed to give you a number of warnings about how permanent this move will be and that all of the data stored on the original Wii will be deleted once it moves things to the card.

Once agreeing to those conditions a number of “Pikmin” from Nintendo’s game of the same name proceed to move your data into a rocket ship and launch it to the other console. It’s a fun process to watch which is good since it takes a surprisingly long time to move data over to the card. Our console paused twice because of Internet connection errors during the transfer. Acknowledging the error continued the process.

Watch the Pikmin move data:

When the Pikmin are done the next step is to take the card out of the original Wii, bring it over to the Wii U, and watch the Pikmin proceed to move the data out of their rocket and into the new system.

Moving a minimal amount of data and previously purchased virtual console games took close to an hour, not including the time spent figuring out the confusing process of setting up the move.

All of that data lives only in the original Wii mode on the new console, meaning that prior purchases, Miis, and anything else used on the original console won’t be usable in the new games. That also includes any existing credits you might have in the original Wii’s store. You can still spend those points but just not in the Wii U store - just the original Wii store.

Unlike the Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3, which made games from earlier consoles look better on current HD hardware, original Wii games do not take advantage of the Wii U’s high definition graphics — they run in their original non-HD resolution.

Don’t Forget the Memory

Nintendo offers two flavors of Wii U — a “basic” and a “deluxe” version. The difference between the two systems is both cosmetic (the basic system is white, the deluxe black) and functional: the basic system has 8 gigabytes of onboard memory while the deluxe has 32. The deluxe version also comes with stands to hold the console and the large tablet controller.

The Wii U system software consumes most of the basic system’s memory, so in order to download full games from the online store you’ll need to purchase an external USB hard drive or large capacity USB thumb drive. Oddly the SD card slot is not usable. The Deluxe’s 32 gigabytes of space can store a few games, but a hard drive might be needed as your library grows. Game discs purchased in the store don’t have the same storage requirements.

Some Digital Assembly Required

Like many holiday toys this one will require a bit of prep work ahead of the holidays. I fully expect Nintendo’s servers to be inundated Christmas morning with hundreds of thousands of systems phoning home for their multi-gigabyte updates. It’s best to get the system configured ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

We’ll be back with a full review of the system next week once our game downloads complete.


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