Why Wii U should steal your Christmas | Features | Edge Online
With news of the Watch Dogs and Drive Club delays, I somehow found myself shelling out for a next-gen console ahead of time. Last week, in fact. It has second screen functionality that means I can play in the palm of my hand if Coronation Street is on. It’s HD. And it’s a shiny black box that looks showroom-sleek under my TV. It’s a Wii U.
It’s had a sluggish start that’d make even the 3DS blush, but Nintendo’s latest home console has found its way into my heart, and living room, in a big way.
Wandering through high street videogame retail has been a bleak experience for the Wii U owner these past 12 months, and I sympathise. The space apportioned the Wii U chart is generally three boxes wide and five games strong. The thing is, those five games, as was often the case with the Nintendo 64 and GameCube, are – in my honest opinion – each worth much more than many of the games battling for space in the top 20 on other platforms. And, dare I speak too prematurely, they’re creatively far more adventurous and engaging than many of the coming wave of early next-gen titles appear to be.
While cutting edge in their own way, a key reason Wii U attracted me and my parched purse this month is that its library of games, performance in the charts and current public perception – as a sort of platform curio at odds with the path and preferences of the other platform-holders – is an echo of the past. Just as Sony has been getting its groove back (and wonderfully so) with its PS4 strategy, it seems Nintendo is harkening back to its own pre-Wii status as the outsider with the best software and most unique (and divisive) input method.
How appropriate, then, that Wind Waker – the pinnacle of GameCube-era quality – should be the game to get the HD treatment on Wii U. In this context, Wind Waker HD isn’t something I now perceive as fan service, rather, it’s a symbolic echoing of the past. Like the Wii U itself, Wind Waker was greeted with some furrowed brows when it was first unveiled, and like Wind Waker I believe – I hope – Wii U will slowly but surely be welcomed into the hearts of players with equal passion. And how can you forget Pikmin 3, flying the flag for a series that was birthed and blossomed on GameCube. The echoes become louder the more you entertain the notion of Wii U as spiritual successor to pre-Wii Nintendo platforms. There’s generally been poor thirdparty support, with developers either unwilling or incapable of taking risks on the platform. There’s been subpar ports of key franchise titles.
But then, as with the N64 and GameCube years, the lack of thirdparty power on the platform has served to make the exceptions to the general lull of quality shine brighter. Rayman Legends and ZombiU might be two of the finest tailor-made experiences on a Nintendo console I’ve ever played. Ubisoft’s risks with these titles may not have paid the dividends in commercial terms that they deserve, but I think this one-two punch of quality defines Ubisoft’s legacy of balancing out-and-out risk and creativity with safer bets that are as polished and perfectly crafted as a punter could hope for. If ZombiU is Ubisoft’s Damien Hirst, Rayman Legends is it’s Royal Doulton, and few other developers in the world would bankroll such diverse projects on such an untested and unproven platform or have the talent under its umbrella to do so.
On another positive note, Wii U revives the golden age of stellar Nintendo retail boxart. As the industry shifts towards digital dominance, it’s a joy to see Wii U cover art alive and kicking – unafraid to pump rainbows of colour onto its wraparounds – when so many games seem to be half-asleep, or half in shadow, on store shelves. Where most games brood in the charts, Wii U’s stable brims and bursts with life, making promises to consumers that there’s life, laughter and a labour of love awaiting on each disc. Wonderful 101′s dense, dynamic cover is the artistic equivalent of a pick n’ mix, promising a candy store of action and adventure. Super Luigi Bros. U reminds us all with its cheeky graffiti that it’s the year of the lanky one. Wind Waker’s new cover is framed like a Drew Struzan composition that’s been coloured in by an anime professional; a reminder that you’ve got a classic adventure in your hands that’s already proved its timeless worth.
In Neil’s recent opinion piece he argued, strongly and commendably, that iOS was the antidote to next-gen fever; that iOS was the superior alternative to the big black boxes battling for space in our living rooms. That the itch of old-fashioned gaming could be scratched by the friction-free experiences of Apple’s tiny tactile titans, the iPad and iPhone.
I’d hereby like to extend the Wii U as an invitation to anyone who read that piece and thought: I miss the old days. Wii U is the console for anyone who wants pure, old-fashioned gaming with a slight contemporary twist. It’s a beautiful paradox, if you think about it: Nintendo has taken the cutting edge technology and terms of engagement – the second screen play, motion control and connected world – and built it around its own wonderful world of colour and invention. In opposition to the Wii’s manifesto of shared experiences, and despite the presence of titles like Nintendo Land and Super Mario Bros. U, I’ve found the Wii U’s trick to be all in that new suffix: it’s about you. It’s a selfish console, one that encourages a single player to be king of the castle, to revel in the role of sole owner and overlord. Pikmin 3′s plot may outwardly appear to pivot on teamwork but there’s another reading to made here: it’s about one big cheese and a litter of minions. The chunky Gamepad is something to cherish and cradle; adults feel like big kids, kids feel like they should: like kids.
And so what if Wii U proves a harsh hurdle for thirdparties and a tough first-run sell to consumers: Nintendo isn’t in a rush, it never has been, even if it did usher in the next-gen first this time around.
The strongest next-gen line-up from the unlikeliest source • Opinions • Eurogamer.net
Earlier this week, Nintendo confirmed that it was ceasing production of the Wii. You probably don't need reminding of its successes, just as Nintendo likely doesn't need reminding of the shadow it has been operating under with its successor. The Wii U, according to every sales report since its release late last year, has been a disappointment and, if you've an inkling for melodrama, something of a disaster. The common consensus is that Nintendo blew its 12-month head start.
Yet in spite of weak messaging and third-party support that has already been dramatically reduced, something amazing is happening: heading into the first Christmas where it will be toe to toe with the Xbox One and PS4, the Wii U isn't just sizing up to the opposition - it's fast becoming, I reckon, the best next-gen proposition over the coming months. Maybe Nintendo didn't blow its lead after all - maybe it's been using the time wisely.
It's not exactly a turnaround, but rather a small congress of circumstances. Firstly - and most importantly - there's the software. The removal of Watch Dogs from the Xbox One and PS4's launch line-ups revealed one of the underlying problems with the new round of next-gen launches: that mantra of games, games, games rings hollower by the day when there's only a handful of titles worth playing, and not much at all to get really excited about even within that.
The Wii U's slate may be slim for Q4, but it's got what's sure to be the jewel of the festive season: a new Mario, and a new Tokyo EAD one at that. Some of the concerns about a certain conservatism creeping in to the Galaxy studio's return to the series with Super Mario 3D World has been washed out in the glorious technicolour wave of each new trailer, and in that vibrant, inventive spin on the Mushroom Kingdom there's a bigger kicker, too.
There's colour in Super Mario 3D World, and a little of the vibrancy and verve that's sorely missing in so much of a noisy but drab line-up for Microsoft and Sony's consoles. Would you rather wake up to a morning with Killzone, Ryse or Mario? I'd like to think that much is a no-brainer, and if do you like your Christmas soundtracked by throaty violence, let's not forget that the slim third-party support the Wii U has is at least impactful: Assassin's Creed 4 and Call of Duty, two of the seasonal kings, are coming to Nintendo's console, and the former at least looks like a very handsome port.
But back to that colour, because the Wii U's really not lacking in it - it's been a quiet first year, but in that time the console's racked up a rainbow of exclusives. There are the greens of Pikmin 3's model village gardens, the comic book reds and yellows of the hyperactive Wonderful 101 and those beautiful, endless blues of Wind Waker HD. Cast a little further back and there's the colourful theme park of Nintendo Land and the parched deserts of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate - and even the greys and browns of the brilliant ZombiU are distinctive in that game's own odd little way.
Inject a little Tokyo EAD magic into that back catalogue and it's hard to deny that the Wii U's line-up eclipses those of the Xbox One and PS4 - and so it should after its lengthy headstart. Is it enough to turn the tide, though? That's a harder ask, but there are at least signs that Nintendo's beginning to push the console in the right direction.
The late Hiroshi Yamauchi sowed the seeds for both the DS and the Wii before his departure from the company, and it's telling that the machines made in his absence lacked that Nintendo spark of innovation that's at once thrilling and, more importantly, saleable. The 3DS's strange parlour trick had an instant appeal, but it's one that was only ever half-heartedly explored and, of course, dialled back completely for this year's biggest handheld release and the subsequent hardware redesign.
The Wii U's own party trick has never been quite so spectacular, but in many other ways it's been a little like that curious parallax screen - mis-marketed, searching for a purpose and increasingly unloved. It's telling that some of the biggest first-party releases from Nintendo this year still haven't figured out a fitting use for the second screen, and you begin to wonder if or indeed when it's going to follow its handheld compatriot and ditch its headline feature in order to undercut its competitors even further.
But before that happens, like the 3DS before it the Wii U is now starting to look more comfortable in its own skin. Upon its announcement the console felt like an apology to the core that Nintendo were perceived to have abandoned with the Wii (how adorable, too, that that core are appeased by the return of a series where you're snuffling through gardens in the quest for fruit), but recent months have seen the console slowly realigned with the philosophy that made its predecessor such a success.
The simplicity of Wii Karaoke U - which, once I've acquired enough microphones, looks like it will make and ruin my Christmas in equal measure - and the return of the prodigal son in the shape of the Wii Sports Club means that the Wii U's slowly turning into the living room star that its predecessor was, the machine that can bring the family together in a way that Netflix or a Sky Player never can.
That was the Wii's big innovation, really, and it's no surprise to see Nintendo falling back on it. Its play for revolution this time out may have faded away in the murky promise of that second screen, but looking at the other new consoles where even the dream of 1080p 60fps gameplay is looking to falter, at least Nintendo tried to innovate - even if it appears its GamePad gamble has failed.
Without that little quirk to distinguish itself, the Wii U's just another HD console, and all that can set it apart from its competitors is the games it can offer. Good job, then, that in that regard - this year at least - Nintendo's console is pretty much untouchable.
can't wait for you all not to read the thread and circlejerk.