The Wii U is - at the time of writing - about to turn three years old, and despite its young age some are already looking to the next generation from the big N. That seems a pity in light of the strengths of the system, especially as it's delivered so many wonderful games and memories, so to honour the console the Nintendo Life team is going to share its own varied perspectives on what makes the system such a delight.
In this first part four members of the writing team pitch in with their thoughts on the Wii U and its games, with plenty more to come soon.
I didn't pick up my Wii U at launch solely because I wasn't initially sold on the concept. I saw the GamePad as a neat addition to what was Nintendo's first HD console, but not something that particularly grabbed me in a sense of "I absolutely need this". All the same, I bought the console about four months later because I realized that I could never go a generation and skip all of Nintendo's games.
Though I think it could be strongly argued that the Wii U never really delivered on the initial promise of the GamePad, that hasn't stopped the console from playing host to a variety of high quality Nintendo games. I'm a big fan of platformers and in an industry that has by and large moved on from them, it's a refreshing breath of fresh air to play games such as Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, and Yoshi's Woolly World.
Additionally, it's brought a lot of great Indie games to my attention that I might not have caught on other platforms with more packed release schedules. Games like Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails, SteamWorld Dig, and Shovel Knight have all presented unique and interesting experiences that I'm glad I was fortunate enough to try out. On top of this, there's the whole Virtual Console library to work through and I personally don't see the complaints of the retro games being too overpriced. In general, I really like the setup of the eShop and make sure to pop in there at least once a week to check out what's new, which is much more than could be said of the Wii Shop Channel.
If there's one thing that has truly blown me away with the Wii U, though, it's the wonderful couch multiplayer experiences that are available. Playing through Smash 4, Mario Kart 8 or Starwhal with friends is a go to activity when just about anyone comes over, and these have been the source of much entertainment over the past few years. It's experiences like this that don't get too much attention on other consoles and it's a real shame because there are few things as fun as experiencing a game with friends that are right there beside you.
The Wonderful 101 is an amazing game. When I think back on the Wii U in years to come, it'll be one of the first - if not the first - games that come to mind. I'm actually not quite sure how to dissect its brilliance, or even how to intelligently lead into my gushing over it for several paragraphs, so really all I can do is hope to Unite Up with a few like-minded readers and share a woefully under-appreciated game with you.
Admittedly it's a remarkably niche title, and has the low sales figures to prove it, so perhaps that lack of appreciation is relatively understandable. It's an unforgiving game; quick to punish impatience and not without its fair share of rough edges, which is likely enough to push potential players away after a few levels. Even I was shaky at first, and after watching gameplay footage across several different Nintendo Direct presentations, PlatinumGames' involvement excited me more at face value than the actual concept itself. By the time I had gotten my hands on the game I was still put off by the bizarre weapon system, toybox-esque camera angles and a lack of direction. It seemed as though it simply wasn't clicking for me.
And then I reached the first boss.
For anyone who's played the game, I'm sure you'll agree that the first boss encounter is one of many standout moments over the course of the campaign. A spectacular, joyously heroic fight against a mammoth three headed mechanical dragon that keeps the momentum up to the very end, where a triumphant finale caps it all off with the Wonderful Ones' signature theme song. To say I was exhilarated would be an understatement. From that point on, I was completely enthralled.
I grew to learn the intricacies of the combat system, the benefit of building combos and synergy between different attack forms, while learning enemy weaknesses and patterns. Although a dramatic set piece had been the first to truly catch my full attention, I began to appreciate the smaller moments of creativity and sheer personality that run right to the core of The Wonderful 101. The better I got, the more I could enjoy everything the game had to offer, and that's what made it so satisfying. Comparisons to Pikmin or Bayonetta never did the game justice, it's something totally unique, even though the influence of Director Hideki Kamiya's past work can be felt. It's a fresh challenge, bolstered by some ingenious moments of asynchronous gameplay using the GamePad.
We've grown accustomed to the familiar; to regular franchises and our favourite genres, but something completely new is exactly what the Wii U needed. That first boss encapsulated everything I now love about The Wonderful 101 - its soundtrack, its imagination, its action, its battle mechanics, its character and even its writing. For a game that was initially meant to star a team of Nintendo characters, I'm glad that it can stand alone with its own identity, and pride of place on a pretty wonderful console.
The Wii U represents a lot of 'firsts' for me. It's the first console I ever picked up on launch day - I strapped it to the back of my Vespa and rode home extra-carefully - as well as the first console to launch since I'd started writing for Nintendo Life, so I have wonderful memories of tag-teaming live launch day coverage with Ron and Joe. Since then, I've had a great 3 years with my Wii U, and in that time it's easily become my favourite home console since the Dreamcast days.
A big part of that comes from how easy it's been to play with family and friends. I've always loved playing video games, and I've always been lucky enough to have a fellow enthusiast or two to play with pretty much everywhere I've lived, but the Wii U is the first time I've gotten in any substantial game time with friends and family. My fiancée and I have played hundreds of hours of Mario Kart 8 together — usually online against other players, constantly spamming the "I'll be using tilt controls!" chat option in what's become an oddly enduring tradition — and we've had 'non-gaming' house guests lose entire nights to happily helping us best random racers from around the globe. We've also had Nintendo Land nights with nearly all our friends here, and that same launch title led to my immediate family sitting down to the first four-player game I can remember since Mario Kart 64.
Then there's all the little features that make the Wii U so much fun to pick up and use. Miiverse is a blast, and I love having WaraWara Plaza pop up when I turn on the console. And while it might not be a feature of the Wii U itself, there's something about those round disc edges that really makes me happy. I'm also a big fan of the GamePad screen; not only is it super useful for late-night Netflix or playing Mr. Driller 2 in bed (I've been blessed with a GamePad-streaming-friendly apartment!), it's also led to some of the best, silliest adventures in video gaming I've ever had, like playing Captain Toad in the airport during an extended layover, or dragging my Wii U to a coffee shop to download Earthbound when it came out and I was on vacation without Wi-Fi.
Finally, of course, there's the games. Yoshi's Woolly World and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze proved that my all-time favourite genre can still drop jaws in the HD dimension, Super Mario 3D World had me smiling from start to finish, and Splatoon has sent me to bed at 4am dreaming about Inkopolis more times than I can count. It's also been an amazing Virtual Console machine for me, with gems like EarthBound, the GBA Klonoa games, and SNES Street Fighter Alpha 2 (I know, I know, but I love it!) rounding out my Wii U's wonderfully weird library. There's still lots more to look forward to, too! I loved what I played of Star Fox Zero at E3 this year, and Genei Ibun Roku #FE is by far my most anticipated game on (or beyond) the horizon. So whatever the future holds, here's to the Wii U - I know I'll still be playing mine three years from now!
When I picked up my Wii U, the Xbox 360 had primary control of my gaming time. I had the original Wii and still loved it, but it had become more of a supplementary unit. I had imagined the new U and the 360 to co-exist for a while, and I'd probably feel the need to pick up the latest from Microsoft or Sony for the "happy gaming combo" of Nintendo favourites with whatever would arrive only for the other consoles.
And yet I sit today with no other new hotness. The 360 is still in my living room, not replaced, its power not turned on in months. It's not that there aren't great games for Xbox or PlayStation, but I feel content with the variety of games offered through Nintendo. The Wii U, even if it underperforms the others in numbers, still hits all the right buttons for me with its releases. It has produced extremely fun versions of classic franchises as well as out-of-left-field zaniness such as Splatoon that had me retweeting fanart daily for months.
For some, there comes a point in life when you realize you can't play it all anymore, and trying to is just going to waste a lot of money in a mountain of backlog. In that respect, the Wii U doesn't have the perfect library, but it definitely has one that's kept me happy.
Check back tomorrow for the next batch of four writers and their Wii U thoughts. In the meantime share your own in the comments!