On what Steve (a reviewer on these pages) is calling 'Switchmas Eve', he shares his love for the system that's soon to be replaced by the Nintendo Switch. He raises a glass to the Wii U.
It's Switchmas Eve, and like a child waiting for Father Christmas I couldn't be more excited for what the Nintendo Switch Presentation is about to bring. A place in my home is already prepared for Nintendo's next console; my launch day plans are already set and I'm more excited for the Switch than I have been for any Nintendo console to date. Yet while I may be devoting most of my time to my obsession with the latest and greatest, the Switch will occupy a space in my heart right next to Nintendo's most misunderstood and underappreciated console.
I remember the morning of the 18th of November, 2012, very well. I queued up with about four other Nintendo fans outside of my local GameStop and we all got to chatting about what we were most excited about for the Wii U. We all shared enthusiasm about the innovative GamePad and what it would mean for Mario, Zelda, Metroid and everything in-between. That day I picked up everything that interested me without hesitation: New Super Mario Bros U, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Assassin's Creed III, ZombiU and yes, even Tank! Tank! Tank!.
I got home and hurriedly unboxed and hooked up my new console; unfortunately, I fell victim to the Wii U's infamous day one update. I watched my GamePad with anticipation as minutes turned to hours before getting to experience any of what would make it so special; in hindsight it was almost a metaphor for how the console would spend its life. It always felt like there wasn't much to do, but there was always an exciting prospect on the horizon, just out of reach. Looking back, however, I can't help but remember my experiences with my Wii U fondly.
I love Nintendo Land. It's bright, cheery, colourful and was just a great way to introduce Nintendo fans to HD visuals. Each of the minigames was unique and fun in its own way, but the one that I spent the most time on was The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest. Whether I was the archer or a swordsman I had a blast each and every time, and still do to this day. The little taste of some of Nintendo's best franchises all rolled into one package was something truly special to me. To this day I still occasionally return to play Takamaru's Ninja Castle and Metroid Blast, too. Nintendo Land only served to spark my enthusiasm for the Wii U.
Not everything on the console was a hit, obviously, but some solid launch-window releases like Lego City: Undercover and Need for Speed: Most Wanted U kept me company along with some higher-profile games like Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Game & Wario. The next big game I played was Pikmin 3; I remember spending hours obsessively exploring every nook and cranny I could. In the end I found it to be just as fun to watch as it was to play. My wife and I would take turns playing, though she was much better at it than I. We would laugh every time Alpha would say, "Britt-o-ney". We would take pictures with the KopPad when we weren't too busy collecting fruit or trying to upgrade the S.S. Drake.
A little over a month later I was playing through my first English playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, after having completed the Japanese GameCube version a decade prior. It renewed my interest in seeing the greatest of Nintendo's franchises in HD for the first time, since the stunning E3 demo they showed showcasing Link battling Gohma in the Temple of Time. When I finished, it was time for another software drought. A few sporadic releases would save the Wii U from total silence until November when Super Mario 3D World released. Unlike many of my colleagues, I didn't much care for 3D World, but it, along with NES Remix, would get me through to the end of the year.
By 2014 I had accepted the Wii U would never be what I had hoped for back in 2012. Releases weren't coming fast enough, and those that did arrive didn't hold my interest for long. Not only did I have competing consoles now, but I had gotten married and started a family. The Wii U wasn't for everyone, but now as a father it was more for me than it ever could have been otherwise. Having an infant to take care of meant I couldn't just sit down in front of my TV. I had to play games when I could and that's when the appeal of the Wii U's unique off-TV gameplay really sunk in for me.
In those early days of parenthood I sunk more time into my Wii U than I ever have before or since. Instead of being another box hooked up to my TV, the Wii U became a device that was connected to me. I spent hours in beautiful worlds I could hold in my hands. Link, Mario and Yoshi joined me on countless adventures during sleepless nights. The Wii U became less about the console experience and more about the ability to keep games part of my life while my world was changing.
Because of all this, the Wii U became my primary console despite a serious dearth of new games. My new life meant my backlog was growing at a pace it never had before, but it was okay, because the console was designed for people like me; people who wanted to game but might not have the ability to do so on their own terms. Rather than bemoan the Wii U's underpowered nature, I would marvel at just how lovely Yoshi's Woolly World looked both on- and off-TV. I lost my mind and called all my friends when Ryu and Cloud were announced for Smash. I played online races on Link's motorcycle in Mario Kart 8; I even geeked out over what an HD Animal Crossing could like with Animal Crossing Plaza.
The Wii U was far from a perfect console, but it was the perfect one for me. When I couldn't play games how I wanted to, I could still use it to stay in touch with my favourite pastime. Looking back on the Wii U as the sun sets on it, I realize I crossed that horizon many times and shared some of my favourite experiences in gaming with it. Because of that, I'll always love Nintendo's best worst console.