Feature: Reinventing Nintendo's Major Franchises on Wii U
Posted by Gaz Plant
Time for some comebacks
Thanks to its fresh approach to gaming, the Wii has been a breeding ground for reinvention throughout its six year life cycle, offering us established franchises with a twist due in part to motion controls. The Legend of Zelda has been perhaps the biggest beneficiary of this in the form of Skyward Sword, with Wii MotionPlus offering a new level of precision and control, and leading many to suggest the series can never go back to standard controls.
Aside from Zelda, both Mario and Metroid also received enhanced gameplay thanks to Wii, yet there are many franchises that never got the reinvention they perhaps needed to put them back in the public eye. In fact, many of Nintendo’s biggest franchises simply failed to appear on Wii at all, prompting many to question their existence in the future. So with Wii U now on the horizon, is it time for these dormant franchises to make a return, and just how could Wii U reinvent some of the classics of Nintendo’s back catalogue?
One of Nintendo’s biggest franchises of the Nintendo 64 era, Star Fox has been conspicuously absent throughout the Wii generation, despite continued appearances from its cast in the Smash Bros series. While Nintendo recently delved back into the series on 3DS by releasing N64 remake Star Fox 64 3D, Fox hasn’t barrel rolled his Arwing since 2006’s Star Fox Command on DS; for any series, six years is a long time.
While it could be argued Wii simply wasn’t powerful enough to accommodate a large-scale Star Fox game, Wii U has no such problems and it’s hard to imagine that in six years time the series will still be on this list. Wii U then, seems a great place to reintroduce Star Fox, but it’s not all about the graphics.
Star Fox: Command is perhaps the most obvious parallel to draw with Wii U, and despite some corners of the fan-base not enjoying the game, there’s a lot of scope for a more tactical Star Fox adventure. The GamePad is the ideal place to put a general overview of the battle, and with simple taps on the screen would allow you to use specific squad mates to take down targets.
But perhaps a more interesting usage of the GamePad would be in co-operative play, where two players could take control of a single Arwing. While one player handles the flying and forward lasers, a second player could hop on board with the GamePad and take control of a rotating turret, akin to the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars. With the GamePad’s 360 degree movement recognition, the screen could display the battle and allow you to cover the rear of the ship, creating a thrilling co-op experience.
Despite a named mini-game in Nintendo Land, it’s been a full six years since Yoshi last had an outing as the primary protagonist, and 15 years since he appeared on home consoles in Yoshi’s Story. Despite appearing as an ally to Mario in Super Mario Galaxy 2 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii, it feels about time that Baby Mario was kidnapped again and for the Yoshi clan to set off and save him.
One of the charms of the Yoshi series has always been its unique and colourful design, and despite continued pushes towards photorealism, the success of Kirby’s Epic Yarn could be the catalyst needed to inspire Nintendo’s graphical team into creating another hand-drawn masterpiece. With the added power of Wii U, it’s something that would undoubtedly gain a lot of positive attention.
But what about the GamePad? One use for the GamePad would be to simply not use it at all and stick to basic platforming, or to mimic the platform placing mechanics in New Super Mario Bros. U; but we’d like to think Nintendo are more creative than that. Perhaps it’s time for Universal Gravitation to make a comeback, something that would be made easy with the GamePad’s gyro sensors. Alternatively the GamePad could be used for aiming Yoshi’s eggs when thrown; this could work in two ways depending on the style of game. If it is a traditional 2D Yoshi game, then a touch screen option seems natural, but if Nintendo decided to go the 3D route then perhaps you could hold the GamePad up to throw and aim eggs, much like Metroid: Other M’s missile mode.
A franchise that falls firmly into the category of “I didn’t realise Nintendo made that”, Wave Race is a series unlike Nintendo’s standard fare. Primarily a simulation, the game offers no identifiable mascots or obvious hooks, instead focusing on creating a fun and entertaining water-ski racer. With the trademark recently renewed and the series now 11 years without a sequel, could Wii U be the console to put new life in this unique title?
With its enhanced power, Wii U could offer a more realistic water model alongside the typical graphical improvements, but it’s the potential of the GamePad that puts it above the simplistic water-ski game that the Wii received in Wii Sports Resort. The gyro sensors in the GamePad create an ideal steering bar – push outward on the left to turn right and vice versa, just like you would on a real water-ski. With the GamePad held out in front of you, the screen can then be used to display a map where you need it, rather than hiding it away in the corner on the TV screen.
Alternatively, the GamePad could offer a personal view of the race while you control the water-ski with the analogue sticks. While the TV displays your race, the GamePad screen could be rotated around you to see racers alongside trying to overtake. This adds a risk/reward element in – do you take your eyes off what is in front of you to see who is beside you or keep your eyes ahead and hope no-one is trying to get past?
Remember when you played Wii Sports and imagined how much fun Mario Golf was going to be on Wii? Well we’re still waiting for it, and some might say Nintendo is leaving it a bit late to get a sequel to the immensely enjoyable Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour out before Wii U debuts. If it’s ok with you, we’re going to assume Mario has moved onto the Wii U course and will be hitting the greens on Nintendo’s newest console.
Following on from 2003’s Toadstool Tour is not going to be an easy task, it is after all a game that made playing a golf simulation fun, but Wii U could be the place to do just that. The first trailer for Wii U, at E3 2011, showcased an early Wii Sports Golf prototype, where the player placed the GamePad down on the floor and swung the Wii Remote to hit the virtual ball. With Wii U Sports seemingly in the rough, Mario Golf U could easily borrow this mechanic, something that would alleviate the need for complex button combinations for different swings and powers.
While the Wii Remote is a huge bonus for casual golf fans, allowing anyone to simply pick-up and hit the ball into a Chain Chomp bunker, the GamePad offers greater possibilities for the more involved golfer. The GamePad could allow you to observe the hole from all angles and line-up shots using the touch screen, while also providing traditional control options to hit the ball. Obviously in this scenario, the GamePad would not be placed on the floor.
Barely a month goes by without someone asking where F-Zero is, and with good reason. We haven’t had a chance to show Captain Falcon our racing moves since 2003’s F-Zero GX on GameCube, and for whatever reason that’s the last we’ve heard of the series entirely (outside of Japan exclusive F-Zero: Climax). With fans clamouring for a revival and F-Zero’s sudden inclusion in Nintendo Land, Wii U seems like it will be the home to Captain Falcon’s return.
The most obvious and exciting feature of F-Zero on Wii U are the graphics. F-Zero GX was lauded for its impressive visuals at high velocity on GameCube, and with Wii U being a significant upgrade graphically it stands to reason that F-Zero U would look stunning. With the additional power of the system too, the game has the potential to display a lot of interesting mechanics on-screen at once, creating an even more intense racing experience.
Given the extreme speed of F-Zero, the GamePad feels slightly superfluous to the game, as instead of bolting on gimmicks, the developer ideally will focus on the action itself. However, there is certainly scope for the screen to be used as a map; after all, who wants a map clogging up their race screen? Beyond that, F-Zero U would make a great example of seamless streaming when using the GamePad, and could function as a second player’s view in versus multiplayer.
Given the success of these franchises in the past and the affinity many fans feel towards them, it seems unlikely that another generation will pass them by. Their natural home then is Wii U, and with an exciting new style of gameplay made possible by the GamePad, these franchises could undergo a reinvention that puts them back alongside Mario and Link. None of these games have yet been announced despite countless rumours, so it may be some time before we’re blasting through Mute City or flying over Corneria. Outside of Smash Bros., of course.
Would you like to see these franchises return on Wii U? Let us know which ones you want on Wii U in the comments below, and share your wildest fantasies about how they might play and look.