It's that time in the video game console cycle when people get to the use the the phrase 'next-gen' again and have it actually mean something. Yes, the Wii U is finally on sale... in other countries, but that doesn't mean we can't be excited about it. Granted, we will have to stare across the ocean with envious eyes while the Yanks get to enjoy their asynchronous multiplayer and touchy-wipey-waggley controls, but still, the Wii U is actually a thing that can be bought now.
On the bright side, if the Wii U turns out to be total crap, we'll get a heads up and won't end up wasting our money. Personally I'm hoping that won't be the case, since I'm am leaning toward getting a Wii U, especially now that Zombi U has gotten a few positive reviews
I'm sure that their are still a lot of people on the fence about whether they're going to get a Wii U or not, but now that it's finally out, we can at least get some answers to some questions that only a hands-on can provide. I've compiled a list of questions I wanted answers to and used some google-fu to crack them. Hopefully it will be helpful to you as well. Note: Just to be clear, I haven't actually used the Wii U yet and the answers here are what I gathered from various websites across the net.
So how responsive is the GamePad?
It depends on who you ask. Some sites have said the GamePad is very responsive, while other have had the opposite opinion. What I can tell you is the GamePad uses resistive touchscreen technology instead of capacitive, which is traditionally less precise.
From what I can gather, it seem the GamePad is pretty responsive, but it lacks precision. So if you have a lot of very small icons, it can be difficult to isolate the icon you want. I think that any issues as far as gameplay is concerned will have more to do with how developers create the layouts on the GamePad's screen than with the device itself .
Is it backwards compatible with the Wii?
Yes it is, but not with the GameCube, though I don't think many people will consider that a big loss. The downside, however, is that the backwards compatibility isn't run via the Wii U's interface. By that I mean, when you decide to play a Wii game, your Wii U actually turns into a Wii, so onscreen menus and so on mimic the Wii and any Wii U features cease to function. On the plus side, all your old Wiimotes and other peripherals work with the Wii U, for both Wii U games and Wii games.
Does the Wii U support online play out of the box?
Kinda. The Wii U you'll take off the shelf at Musica or CNA doesn't support online play out of the box. For that you'll need to download a day-one update which will activate the consoles online functions. Why this wasn't a part of the device's base firmware from manufacturing is anyone's guess. From what I can gather, since so many people bought Wii U's on launch day, downloading this update is taking a long time, likely due to network congestion. My guess is that my the time the console lands here, getting this update will go a lot smoother.
Speaking about online play, do we still have to deal with Friend Codes?
No, no and no! Nintendo have abandoned Friend Codes, now that they've realised that gamers are adults. Similar to Xbox Live, you'll create a Nintendo Network ID and link it to a Mii. Then its just a matter of sending a friend request. See how easy that was Nintendo?
Will the Wii U have Achievements/Trophies?
It's not a part of the systems overall design, so the short answer is, no. But that doesn't mean that individual developers can't include a system like that into their games.
What is the Miiverse?
From what I've read about it, Miiverse is sort of like a Wii U intranet. It is basically a dedicated hub for Wii U owners to communicate with each other about the games they're playing. It's sort of like an amalgam of Facebook and Twitter, so it's possible to follow someone without friending them.
What I consider the the highlight of this system, is that because it is fully integrated into the Wii U, it's possible to access it without interrupting your game and in that way get info about a game as you play it. I won't lie, if a game is giving me a hard time, I'm not averse to making a visit to GameFAQs and with Miiverse, it looks like I can gather that same info, without having to grab my laptop.
Does the Wii U have digital downloads?
Yes it does. What's interesting is that, so far, all the games that are available at retail, are also available in the eShop. So you can get download the full compliment of launch titles direct to you Wii U, which are conveniently priced in real world currency. Unfortunately, they're inconveniently priced the same as the boxed retail versions.
Another problem with the downloadable content is, where are you going to store all these games? The Wii U comes in two models: the Basic white version with 8gb of internal storage and the Deluxe black version with 32gb. Neither one of those is sufficient to hold even a modest collection of games, not to mention firmware updates, additional DLC and save files. Fortunately, the Wii U does allow for the use of SD cards and external hard drives, so it's possible to plug a terrabyte in there.
If you've got any more questions, drop them in the comments and I'll see if I track an answer for you.