In the second part of our round table, covering 2013 — part one's discussion of the 3DS is right here — we talk over the Wii U and its biggest games. We also look ahead to what's coming, list some random favourite games and, somehow, return the subject to Altered Beast, as is now tradition.
Joining features editor Tom Whitehead for this second part are editor-at-large Jon Wahlgren, events co-ordinator Katy Ellis, along with lovely writers Martin Watts, Ron DelVillano, Morgan Sleeper, Dave Letcavage and Conor McMahon.
Tom Whitehead: So, the Wii U. That first six months was a bit rough, I think we'll all agree? Did any of those Q1/Q2 games grab you, namely LEGO or Monster Hunter, and...
Dave Letcavage: Outside of eShop games, my Wii U was pretty much in a dormant state the first half of 2013.
Conor McMahon: Oh yeah, things got a little awkward for WiiU owners for quite a while there. I still made use of it, but it got to be kinda a struggle by June or so. That thing seriously went into hibernation.
But hey, it came back out with W101 and Pikmin 3, so...Not all bad.
Tom: I loved MH, but I think the problem was a high console price combined with that software drought. It was an unacceptable loss of momentum, frankly.
Katy Ellis: I still haven't bought a single Wii U game since launch. Nintendo Land is my only friend.
Jonathan Wahlgren: I actually played quite a bit of Wii U in the first half of the year — LEGO City was great, and Need For Speed Most Wanted U proved to be a fantastic port of a great game.
But yeah, it was pretty inert there for a while until late summer. Catastrophically so, one might argue.
Ron DelVillano: I haven't played any of the first-party releases for Wii U this year with the exception of Wii Fit U (which I love). I thought Lego Marvel Super Heroes was genius though.
Tom: I played mine a fair bit in early 2013, mainly cheap copies of Batman, ACIII, the odd download and Monster Hunter.
Martin Watts: I've been hooked on my Wii U this year. Granted, I only got mine back in May, but Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate alone pretty much got me my money's worth.
Conor: Oh! I played Little Inferno, forgot about that.
Morgan Sleeper: Yeah those were definitely lean times for Wii U releases! It didn't really bother me to be honest - I prefer handhelds these days anyway, but I still got a lot of use out of my Wii U - I played a ton of Nintendo Land with my family, and beat NSMBU with my sister, which was great fun!
Plus, and I know I'll get stoned for saying this, but I actually like the slow trickle of Virtual Console releases on the Wii U. It means I can actually get excited about an odd retro game or two when it comes out, and it's like a new release!
Jon: Yeah, most of my attention was on Fire Emblem in the beginning of the year anyway so I can't say I cared all too much that the Wii U wasn't bopping.
Katy: Fire Emblem X Shin Megami Tensei will save us!
Ron: I may not have been playing a whole lot of Wii U games this year, but Netflix is a constant!
Conor: Nintendo Land is STILL fun. I love it. Wario did sorta tide me over for a while, but it felt like an afterthought overall.
Dave: Runner 2 made me care less that there weren't retail games to play.
Jon: RUNNER 2 is phenomenal.
Tom: EarthBound blew a lot of panties off. But now we're into the Summer.
Martin: So, I've got an awkward question to ask: who hasn't played The Wonderful 101 and why?
Morgan: Oh I forgot about Runner 2! That was a great game.
I haven't played W101, but it is on my Christmas list!
Ron: I played the W101 demo and kinda hated it. Very frustrating to me.
Katy: Hmm.. wasn't sure on the demo.
Dave: I'm actually playing through W101 now. Well, not right now, but I started it last week.
Jon: I'm still so impressed that a game as aggressively constrained as that managed to portray as much liberation and joy of movement as it did.
Conor: The demo is a bit deceptive actually. I played it and wasn't too convinced. And then I saw gameplay of the first boss... I hunted it down right after, and it ended up being my absolute GOTY.
Jon: Stick with W101 and it will reward you greatly.
Conor: Absolutely, Jon.
Tom: A demo for 101 is a bad idea. I started and, based on the first-hour, was thinking it was a 6-7 game, but then I played it more and, gosh, it's fantastic.
Morgan: Wow, that's cool to hear. I liked the demo but in a "what did I just do?" sort of way, so that sounds good to me!
Martin: Haha, W101 really was a neverending game!
Dave: Did anyone else get frustrated with dodging and blocking? I feel like there are too many circumstances where it was ineffective.
Jon: Try sucking less, Dave!
It deserved more success, that's for sure. The blocking and stuff does work, Dave!
Conor: It really takes some practice.
Jon: I agree, timing is really challenging to get right. But it comes together nicely.
Tom: It's all about protecting the guy at the front, not the masses.
Dave: Then I apparently don't "get it." I'm big into brawlers and hack-n-slash games but there are times in W101 where controls feel clumsy/wonky.
Conor: I remember reading a review somewhere that started out by saying you'll think it's the most frustrating game ever, but there's a moment mid-battle somewhere that just clicks. It could be early, it could be halfway through the game, but there'll come a time when you suddenly feel in total control of the insanity in front of you. That's when W101 shines.
Jonathan: Conor, that's what happened for me with Bayonetta. And Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. And Vanquish too, for that matter. It's a Platinum thing.
Dave: Maybe it's worse because I feel like I had to protect everyone!
Ron: I'm pretty sure you guys purchased all 10 copies that were sold.
Tom: Anyhoo. Pikmin 3. It was a long time coming, what did you all think of it? I thought it was purdy and sugar and spice nice.
Conor: Well put, Tom!
Martin: I concur!
Morgan: I have to admit I didn't play Pikmin 3 either! It looks like a beautifully done game, but I played the first one and the stress and burden of keeping all my little plant friends alive about did me in. I can't handle the responsibility!
Katy: Totemo kawaii desune~
Dave: Beautiful game. I had to wait an extra month to play it while my Wii U was being repaired, but the wait only made it better.
Tom: Though I hated the bee boss thing, I wanted an enormous flamethrower weapon for that.
Conor: It did a nice job of showing off some lush, 'next-gen' graphics. The Wii U definitely needed that. It still needs it.
Jon: Pikmin 3 was beautiful. I need to get back to it.
Martin: The multiplayer is absolutely superb — it's annoying because I don't have anyone else near me who likes it enough to do those co-op missions!
Tom: It needs online, but Nintendo.
Jon: Martin, fly out to Seattle and we'll conquer some critters.
Martin: I like the sound of that, Jon!
Conor: Awww, this is the start of a bootiful friendship.
Tom: Let's talk about Sonic Lost World, shall we?
Conor: I only played the demo! Sonic is a lost cause to me.
Dave: Sonic is on the Christmas list, so I don't have much to say about it yet. The demo was promising.
Jon: Sonic Lost World is a video game.
Martin: Really? I thought the demo was very dull.
Tom: Lost World was good overall, I thought, moments where it was sublime and awful sections that should have been cast into the fires of Mordor.
Jon: Yeah, I didn't care for the demo at all. I'm sure, much like W101, the good stuff is not in the demo, but I'm not at all inspired by the gameplay to want to seek out more.
Ron: Sonic Lost World is sitting unopened on my shelf. The box is nice, but I've seen better. I like that it is the same size and shape as my other Wii U games. It fits nicely where it stands.
I thought Tom hated it? Didn't Tom hate Lost World? Right? He gave it like a 2/10.
Conor: The demo just made me want it even less. It looks so cluttered and...I just didn't enjoy it. The new Galaxy-esque visuals didn't work, in my opinion. Having said that though, I've yet to sit down and give it a proper chance.
Morgan: Sonic's on my Christmas list too! Your review convinced me to grab it, Tom - and I liked the demo too. Plus, NiGHTS bonus? Sorry, my hands are tied.
Jon: I think LEGO Sonic would be a great contender for Game of All Time. Collect bricks. Build bigger shoes!
Martin: I think what put me off the most with that Sonic demo is that you spend more time watching what's happening on screen rather than actually doing it.
Tom: Wind Waker HD was a thing, but I feel it didn't grab consumers in the way Nintendo hoped. Do you think that is the case and, more importantly, did you enjoy it?
Martin: Well I reviewed WWHD and I've got to say — perhaps to some people's astonishment — that I never rated the original. I thought it looked good, but it had so many things wrong with it and was hugely lacking in content.
So playing WWHD, which fixed nearly all of those issues, was an absolute dream for me — it truly is the definitive version.
Jon: Wind Waker HD was indeed a thing. I'm happy that is is, but I haven't had enough time to dedicate to it.
Conor: I kinda feel as though it never reached the masses. For the longest time I didn't think I'd pick it up, but there were just enough changes to make it worth it. Less of an HD filter over things and more of a total upgrade. A worthwhile release and a nice addition overall.
Morgan: That's awesome to hear Martin! I'm definitely looking forward to playing it eventually.
The GameCube version was the first Zelda game I ever played all the way through, so it's got a special place in my heart. And the graphics are still incredible!
Ron: I didn't play it, but why Wind Waker? Why doesn't Nintendo just remaster all of their games every 10 years and fix those little problems?
I know that is a completely unreasonable statement, but I don't really understand what warranted a remake of Wind Waker.
Jon: Ron, please understand.
Dave: I thought Wind Waker was a weird choice initially because the GameCube version is still gorgeous and hasn't really aged visually.
Tom: I thought Nintendo did a good job, but it maybe wasn't the right content to go beyond the most dedicated fans, it lacked a wow factor because of its style and, ultimately, didn't seem to push people's buttons.
Conor: I know that WW was probably the Zelda title LEAST in need of a graphical upgrade, but the visuals really do benefit from just a little bit of work. On a proper TV it just looks phenomenal.
Tom: Let's consider Wii Party U. Did any of you pick it up, or even see it in stores? Here in the UK its launch came and went with barely a flicker of public recognition.
Conor: Did that actually come out? Seriously? I thought it was delayed, and I'm not even joking. Goes to show just how little exposure it got here.
Jon: I have it, and I enjoy it. It's one I can get my fiance to play and it can be a lot of fun.
Katy: Never seen it on store shelves.
Martin: I think it's a real shame that Wii Party U wasn't marketed heavily in the UK. It's the one game that easily conveys the benefits of the Wii U GamePad to the masses.
It's also incredibly fun. It's a shame that we can't all play it now!
Conor: Now I'm tempted to look into it, actually. Never thought I'd say it, but the Wii U needs more party games.
Jon: Yeah, lots of laughs to be had with it.
Morgan: I remember Martin liked it, so it's on my radar, but I've had so many other games to play and not a large group to play them with, unfortunately!
Tom: I had trouble finding it, but convinced my folks to buy it for their Wii U. It's perfect family gathering material.
Ron: I feel like it definitely didn't get the marketing it needs. I didn't realize until its release that it was actually published by Nintendo. Could just as easily be one of those dime-a-dozen Wii party games.
Jon: I really like the GamePad games where two players each get a half of the GamePad to use.
Morgan: The fact that it comes with a Wiimote is a plus too - I think the next time I do need a Wii Remote, I'll be happy to pay the $10 extra to grab Wii Party with it!
Tom: The Wii U can't sell without visibility though, so the Wii Party U scenario frustrated me.
Conor: Oh I think we could talk at length about the miserable lack of promotion the Wii U has suffered from.
Tom: Now Super Mario 3D World. Do you all love it as much as many (including me) do, and do you think December's sales will show it doing the trick for the hardware?
Dave: 3D World is my favourite Mario since Super Mario World for SNES.
Ron: I do remember our scathing "first impressions" article on it though, so that's kinda funny now that it's apparently the greatest game of all time.
Tom: Don't mention the first impressions review article, Ron...
Conor: Funny how first impressions can be so, so wrong. You're right, Ron.
I love the little journey that title took from ''REHASHHH'' to ''MASTERPIECE''
Tom: Well, Martin and I loved it in the second impressions, so there.
Martin: I think it's a fantastic game; my only issue is that it's not difficult enough. That was one heck of a funny day when we previewed it, Tom!
Jon: I adored it. Nintendo has an incredible knack for uber-polished mechanics, and 3D World is pure gameplay bliss because of it. Not to mention the immense nostalgia overload.
Morgan: I have no idea about sales, but Super Mario 3D World is incredible! I decided last-minute to head to a midnight launch for the Xbox One to pick it up, and I'm so glad I did!
It's filled with so much joy and creativity; every level feels like a different world, and I love how every individual stage doesn't necessarily follow the overworld theme.
Dave: I actually feel opposite, Morgan. I wish the level themes weren't so A.D.D. But regardless, the great gameplay made me not care.
Jon: I do wonder how coloured our opinions of it are because of things like the retro character art and the return of the Super Mario Bros. 2 line-up.
We've been playing Mario forever. Does someone new to the series (they do exist!) connect with it as strong?
Conor: Nintendo really delivered that Friday with two very heavy hitters indeed. It was a smart move on their part.
Jon: I loved walking the overworld. That blew my mind. On reflection, my mind is easily blown.
Tom: I think the critical reaction from across the web showed it wasn't nostalgia kicking in, because not everyone has that fondness. I'd happily declare it as a 10 without nostalgia, but whether people believe that or not is up to them.
Conor: Tom, I'm curious; do you think it compares to or rates - dare I say - higher than Galaxy?
It certainly didn't take as many risks as Galaxy, but it's just about as polished as a Mario game has ever been.
Jon: Tom, I think it's an utterly amazing game with or without nostalgia. I'm just curious because some of the things that I love most about it are the small ways it deviates from "traditional" Mario.
Nintendo has an incredible knack for uber-polished mechanics, and 3D World is pure gameplay bliss because of it. Not to mention the immense nostalgia overload.
Tom: I personally think its quality is comparable to the Galaxies, but they're different in approach. Apple and slightly different apples.
I think Jon makes a good point, but one interesting experiment I've been able to try is multiplayer with people not that attached to Mario, and they were having a huge amount of fun.
Jon: I've actually kept away from the multiplayer because it doesn't really interest me, so I'm lacking that insight.
Conor: Four players on one couch just has to be experienced. Marketing has been pushing that and rightfully so.
Dave: Yeah, multi is bunches of fun. Though I do prefer playing solo.
Plessie is my new favorite character ever. Well, next to Samus.
Martin: I agree, Conor, it's manic, laugh-out-loud fun!
Morgan: It is a bit eclectic, isn't it? For me I definitely enjoy some "themes" better than others - I can't stand desert/sand levels for whatever reason - so the fact that I never knew what was coming next made it much more fun to hit "A" and see what was next!
Conor: Agreed, agreed. It shows the old plumber still has some versatility! It's eclectic for sure, but filled to bursting with tiny little ideas scattered all around.
Tom: I think it's one of those long-tail games that'll accumulate good sales when / if the hardware userbase cranks up. Positive word of mouth will help it along into 2014.
Dave: I'd have to agree.
Conor: It is, it is. More so than Rayman Legends I might say.
Tom: Rayman Legends was fantastic, but sadly overlooked.
Martin: Rayman Legends is my GOTY.
I loved Super Mario 3D World, but I think Rayman topped it.
Conor: Rayman Legends really was quite fantastic, but I think I actually prefer the original. Origins had a structure, a sense of progression. Legends is missing that.
Jon: I bought it on sale over Black Friday and have yet to take the shrinkwrap off.
Dave: Rayman Legends on Vita keeps me from sleeping at night.
Morgan: Wow, high praise here! I really like what I've played of it so far, I'll have to go back and play some more!
Tom: Considering it had extra dev time, there was a surprising lack of structure and, to a degree, content. What was there, however, was terrific.
Morgan: The musical stages are absolutely brilliant, for sure.
Conor: I loved the transition between worlds in Origins, but jumping around different stages in Legends worked in a different way too.
Jon: The music stage in the demo sold me on the game.
Ron: That music stage was great.
Conor: Kung Foot has nearly broken some of my best friendships.
Head on over to page two where we chat about our favourite Wii U eShop games, the system's potential 2014 and our overall impressions of 2013.