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Wii U is Literally Two Systems in One

Countdown to Wii U:
- 5 Days Remain -

One thing I don’t think Nintendo’s making clear enough is that Wii U is 100% backward compatible with Wii. I mean, sure, they’ve said a few times that you’ll be able to play Wii games on Wii U or use all your Wii Remotes, Nunchuks, and Classic Controllers – but what they’ve been leaving out is that for Wii U, backward compatibility means that Wii U literally comes with a Wii inside it.

The system’s “Wii Mode,” which you’ll need to boot up to play all your old Wii, WiiWare, and Virtual Console games, actually runs an emulated version of the Wii Home Menu operating system, complete with the original channel-style setup, Mii Maker, Wii Shop Channel, and so on. This puts it a step ahead of Nintendo’s other emulation modes, which don’t actually do anything except run games – not that there would have been much else to do anyway.

What does this mean? It means that if there’s anything you liked about Wii’s built-in software or functionality, you won’t have to worry about those applications not being available on Wii U. It seems that Nintendo has gone the extra mile to ensure that former Wii owners will get to carry over virtually everything the system had to offer when they upgrade, and that’s a pretty remarkable thing.

The trade-off, of course, is that everything you already used on Wii only works as if you’re using it on Wii. No HD-enhanced games or applications, no GamePad compatibility for Wii or Virtual Console games, and all the limitations of the old Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection online services.

While the lack of GamePad support for Virtual Console stings a bit, the rest of it just seems reasonable. Wii games aren’t designed for HD, nor for Wii U’s upgraded online services. Nintendo seems to think the authenticity of the Wii emulation experience is more important than trying to rebuild Wii to match Wii U’s capabilities… and frankly, I think I agree.

This probably doesn’t go for most of you, but the faithful replication of Wii’s operating system on Wii U is particularly important for me because I’m partly buying Wii U as a fully-functional replacement for my Wii, which lost the use of its disc drive a few months ago. I never got to give it its proper send-off… but at least I can know that thanks to Wii U’s Wii Mode, it will live on!

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