Saturday, February 4, 2017
REMEMBERING THE WII-U
With the looming launch of Nintendo's latest console (or is it a handheld?) the Switch, I want to take some time to look back at the Wii-U. Nintendo's would-be successor to the insanely high selling Wii was an absolute failure in terms of sales and third-party support; mostly due to the fact Nintendo fucked it up from before the launch onward. Released in 2012 to little fanfare (and some really bad marketing), the Wii-U was pretty much dead on arrival, thanks to a weak launch lineup, a really dumb name, and a confusing interface. The required touchscreen/gamepad is cumbersome to use, and games that require using it can be a chore. "Star Fox Zero" in particular is one game that requires the gamepad and even tacks motion controls on top of it, killing what could have otherwise been an awesome experience.
Things like the cumbersome gamepad and incoherent marketing are what limited sales of the Wii-U. The original Wii was a smash hit in terms of sales thanks to the fact that it was marketed to appeal to everyone young and old, regardless of experience playing video games. That approach helped alienate most hardcore gamers who now saw Nintendo hardware as gimmicky and unappealing. Not to mention the fact that naming the fucking thing the Wii-U didn't help matters either. Because of the lack of marketing direction, a lot of people thought the Wii-U was some kind of add-on or enhancement for the original Wii, not realizing that it was its own console with its own library of games. Any online capabilities, especially with multiplayer, were pretty spotty as well.
All of this combined turned most gamers off, but those of us that stuck around were treated to probably the best exclusive first-party games of any of the consoles released this generation. Games like "Super Mario 3D World", "Super Smash Bros. for Wii-U", "Bayonetta 2", "Mario Kart 8", "Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze", "The Wonderful 101", "New Super Mario Bros. U", "Splatoon", "Pikmin 3", "Pokken Tournament", and "Xenoblade Chronicles X" are seriously fucking amazing. Not to mention the fact that the Wii-U is backwards compatible with just about all Wii games and the original Wii Virtual Console still functions within as well. The console itself is powerful and Nintendo's first party games always functioned at launch (something that many triple-A titles like "Assassin's Creed" or "Call of Duty" can never claim), so there is a lot to admire here with the console. Additional features like being able to play the game on the gamepad while someone else is watching TV or vice-versa was a nice little addition as well.
Because of the low sales, I expect the Wii-U to become a pretty big collector's piece somewhere down the road. Copies of "Bayonetta 2" (which includes a port of the first game), "Devil's Third", and "Game & Wario" are already commanding some hefty prices, and as the years go on, the console will probably gain more of an appreciation than it ever got before. For me personally, the good outweighs the bad of the console, mostly due to the software library (as small as it may be), backwards compatibility, and the fact that a lot of these games you'll never be able to play anywhere else (probably).
Hopefully Nintendo learned their lesson with the Wii-U, and the Switch will be glorious and everyone will love it.
Wait, that's not gonna happen, who are we kidding?