Full disclosure: I didn’t buy a Wii U at launch. FOR SHAME I hear you cry through the voices in my head. Yes, I didn’t buy a Wii U at launch. I’ve never had a Nintendo console from launch, truth be told. Put it down to monetary constraints. By the time I’d gotten round to buying it, the Wii U was a known quantity at that point. May 2013, I walked home from work via the local GAME store, and picked up my Wii U with a copy of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and a pro controller.
The Wii U wasn’t doing too well. In comparison to the Wii 6 years prior, which sold out the moment new stock became available, the Wii U was around 6 months into its life and I managed to pick one up off the shelf. After a very strong opening month, interest dwindled to almost nothing. If you recall, the Nintendo 3DS suffered a similar fate. Nintendo acted with haste with the 3DS: they cut the price, they pushed out the big guns (namely Ocarina of Time 3D and Star Fox 64 3D (I’m still pissed they didn’t call it Lylat Wars 3D in the UK though)), and the tables turned.
Nintendo did no such thing with the Wii U. Despite a lack of public interest, and the release of the PS4 and Xbox One on the horizon, Nintendo opted to wait and see. A questionable library of games to kick off the console certainly didn’t help matters. While there were a few gems for early adopters, much of the launch window was stocked with Xbox 360 ports of crappy dance and fitness games.
I realise I’ve been very harsh on Nintendo at this point. I want to take this moment to appreciate a bunch of launch titles, and year one titles, that actually were very enjoyable. It’ll be no surprise that most of them were published by Nintendo…
New Super Mario Bros. U
Release: Launch Day
The fourth title in the seemingly abandoned 2D sidescroller Mario revival series, New Super Mario Bros. U was really good. They’re all really good in their own right, and NSMBU is no exception to that rule. Playable up to 5 players (four on various controllers, one on the GamePad, acting as a helper of sorts), NSMBU did little to shake up the formula, but was good nonetheless. In particular, a level based on The Starry Night by van Gogh stood out as Nintendo flexing their creative muscle. While it wasn’t the 3D Mario game many wanted, it was the ideal game to show off the TV to Controller casting feature that had been featured heavily in promotion. Good game.
Release: Launch Day
One of five Ubisoft titles available at launch, ZombiU was perhaps the best example of what the controller can do to add to your experience. In ZombiU, you play as a person trying to survive a zombie invasion in London. If your character dies in the game, they’re dead forever, and you have to start again as a new character. It’s a cool idea adding perma-deaths, that ramped up the stress of trying to fight your way out of a corridor with a cricket bat, but the game benefitted from the touchscreen. Picking locks and trying to crack codes worked on the touch screen, and ultimately helped immerse those playing. Good game. Turn off the lights for a few hours and give it a go. The Wii U version, that is. The PS4 and Xbox One ports aren’t quite the same.
Release: Launch Day
I went over Nintendo Land a bit in the last post, so I won’t go on for too long: it’s a really fun minigame compilation, but it absolutely requires a Wiimote or two to get the most out of it. The Zelda and F-Zero mini-games in particular stand out, however Animal Crossing was pretty good also. It came packed in with the Premium Pack, and I would say it’s a very good game.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Release: 22nd March 2013
First game I played on the Wii U. Released alongside a 3DS version of the game, the idea was, if you took the plunge and double-dipped, your progress could be played at home and on the go. What a novel idea…I hope it catches on. I’ll be completely honest here; I could never get totally invested in MH3U. Each hunt lasted upwards of 45 minutes, and I struggled to make my way through it. Hopefully the Switch gets a version, as I like the idea of it.
Lego City Undercover
Release: 28th March 2013
Incidentally, this is a game that will be getting a Switch (also PS4, Xbox One, and PC) re-release this April, however Lego City Undercover was a Wii U title originally published by Nintendo. While series’ such as Lego Star Wars and Lego Harry Potter have essentially been an opportunity to parody and lampoon those stories, Lego City Undercover was an original story that had its sights firmly on the open world “GTA-a-likes”, putting you in the shoes of a cop rather than a criminal. It was very good. Highly enjoyable. I think I’ll pick up the remake.
Release: 26th July 2013
Pikmin is a series that Shigeru Miyamoto clearly loves. What originally released as a Gamecube launch title, made to show off how many intelligent things can be processed by the console at once, developed into pretty popular IP. Pikmin 3 the story of three astronauts exploring the planet Captain Olimar and Captain Louie, from the first two games, have become stranded on. Good game. Controlling the Pikmin factions with the Gamepads touchscreen makes the game run smoothly and intuitively. With a 3DS title on the horizon, hopefully Nintendo continue to support this franchise.
Release: 30th August 2013
I actually played this game in advance at Eurogamer Expo in 2012, and fell in love instantly. Made with the Gamepad in mind, the sequel to the wonderful Rayman Origins is, probably, my favourite sidescroller ever made. Made in UbiArt Framework, an engine designed to give their games a hand drawn look, Rayman Legends is essentially a cartoon video game. It’s been re-released on just about every console ever created, and has a Switch version in the works. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
The Wonderful 101
Release: 15th September 2013
From the minds that brought you Bayonetta and Vanquish comes a really cool little title. The Wonderful 101 is billed as a Saturday morning cartoon come to life. The Wonderful 101 is an elite team of 100 superheroes (the extra one is YOU), who can combine into various weapons and objects when certain patterns are drawn on the GamePad. Imagine Pikmin crossed with The Avengers. It’s cheesy, it’s goofy, it’s quirky and it’s a lot of fun. I’m pretty certain they demanded they got to make this game in exchange for the rights to Bayonetta 2, but I’m glad they did. Very good.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Release: 4th October 2013
Best game of all time in HD. Simple as that.
Ok I’ll give it a bit more of a write up. I love this game. The cel-shaded art style split the fanbase in 2003, but its a decision that has proven to be genius. Even on the Gamecube the graphical style has stood the test of time, however the HD lick of paint has made the game somehow even more vibrant and beautiful. Nintendo didn’t stop at the graphics, however; the infamous “triforce quest” has been trimmed and an additional sail has been added to help speed up the monotony of sailing. The best version of my favourite game ever. Wonderful stuff.
Super Mario 3D World
Release: 29th November 2013
THIS is the game that people wanted. Utterly wonderful. Essentially a sequel to the 3DS title, 3D World is the culmination of all the incredible ideas running through the minds of the genius’ at Nintendo. The game looks beautiful, the soundtrack is incredibly charming, just wonderful. There’s nothing more I can add to the already bulging heap of praise; it’s really very good. It’s a 3D Mario game. Of course it’s good.
Super Mario 3D World Selects (Nintendo Wii U)
In its first year, the Wii U had ten console exclusives worthwhile, and, combined, a genuine reason to buy the thing. The issue came from the lack of third party support. Outside of Ubisoft, who showed real faith in the system, the Wii U received nothing more than standard ports from others. With only a smattering of reasons to buy the system, early on the Wii U fell behind, and failed to pick itself back up again.
Part 4 of the series will take a look at year two onwards of the consoles life cycle, some of the games available, and a few of my own experiences with the console. Expect tears and such.