Nintendo Wii U – One Year On

miyamotoHere in the UK today is the first birthday of Nintendo’s Wii U. Apparently not many people have bought the console, and I’ve heard this said like it’s a reason why not to own one. Personally, I’m glad that it hasn’t sold well, all the best consoles didn’t. I’d like to think that one day the Wii U will be remembered alongside the Dreamcast, GameCube and SEGA Saturn as one of the best videogame consoles ever made, so today let’s celebrate its first year of turmoil together.

6The Trouble With Sequels

I’d like to think that given the choice between a console that emphasises motion controls and one that doesn’t, the majority of sane people would chose the latter. But with the Wii U, the accessibility of Nintendo’s former console was completely lost. Before you had games that could be enjoyed simply by waving your arms about like a maniac, and in comparison there was presumably something intimidating about the Wii U gamepad with its two analogue sticks and dual screen gameplay.

In fact I’m fairly surprised that Nintendo chose to stick with its Wii brand, considering that the two systems have relatively little in common. I know that they wanted to associate it with the original console’s success, but no doubt ended up confusing the casual gamers it had appealed to in the process. The same thing happened with the 3DS, and it took a while before many people actually understood it was a new console intended to replace their old regular DS. Of course the 3DS shared the Wii U’s other main problem; relatively few games for an entire year.

marioMario at Launch

The strength of a Nintendo launch line up is usually down to only one factor; the presence of Super Mario. He undeniably carried the Nintendo 64 through its first year, and his absence at the GameCube launch was notable. New Super Mario Bros. U brought the plumber onto the Wii U from day one, although the familiarity of the game essentially prevented it from being a killer app. It’s still the best game in the New Super Mario Bros. series, but clearly lacked the revolutionary elements that defined the earlier titles.

Alongside Nintendoland you had two pretty decent launch titles, and whilst Nintendo all but abandoned the console for 6 months before releasing more New Super Mario Bros. (in the form of New Super Luigi Bros.) it’s perhaps the weak third party support that proved more damaging in the console’s early days. If ZombiU had been better and Rayman Legends had been a launch exclusive then things would have been a different story, and here in the UK we’ve not even seen Scribblenauts Unlimited yet. There was 6 whole months where the only notable exclusive was a LEGO game, and my console gathered quite a lot of dust.

There were other games to be fair, but it’s not surprising that no one got excited for a moderately tweaked version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted. A number of PlayStation and Xbox games saw a Wii U port, and the enhanced features mean that future gamers will find that the definitive version of titles like Deus Ex: Human Revolution can be found on Nintendo’s console. But now Sony and Microsoft have new systems it will be interesting to see how many more yearly releases such as Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty make their way onto Wii U.

03Resuscitation

The first year of Wii U has pretty much been exactly the same story as the first year of 3DS. The console is launched with relatively few good games, nothing is released for six months, eventually we get a Zelda remake, and then we get a 3D Mario/some decent exclusives and all is well. We’re just about there with the Wii U, Super Mario 3D World was released yesterday and it’s quite possibly the best game on the system. Review wise it’s scored better than any Xbox One or PS4 exclusives, although I doubt anyone is taking notice. I personally couldn’t even reach the Wii U section of my local GAME because the queue of people collecting their PlayStation 4 pre-orders was so large. That’s genuinely true, and I had to buy the game at HMV instead.

It’s perhaps worth noting that Nintendo is currently supporting two consoles, and as a company that’s always been notorious for taking its time releasing games it shouldn’t really be surprising that they’ve struggled so much this past year. They have, after all, been releasing a lot of great games. The problem is that in the first half of the year pretty much all of them were for 3DS and not Wii U. We had Fire Emblem: Awakening, Luigi’s Mansion 2 and Animal Crossing. Wii U had, err…

Of course the Wii U doesn’t just need games, it needs good ones. The mediocre response to both Game and Wario and Sonic: Lost World meant neither generated much excitement for the console, although I personally enjoyed both of these titles a lot. But Pikmin 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD are two stand out games that perhaps suggest a stronger future for the console. I’m not talking about sales, I’m talking about games. And you should be too.

4The promise of Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., and Donkey Kong Country means that 2014 is going to be an exciting year for the Wii U. Unlike the original Wii there are no gimmicks here, just well made games with crisp HD visuals and normal control schemes. In another year’s time I hope I’m able to say that the Nintendo Wii U is following in the footsteps of the GameCube, and has made more consistent progress towards creating an extensive library of quality titles.

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