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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Article: T'was the night before NX reveal, and all through the Wii U retrospective...

Hello, Wii U.

Yes, it's me. Your owner. I mean, your half-owner, since Nintendo owns me because I actually own you. Listen, I've got some bad news. Sure, Zelda is on the horizon, and don't get me wrong- it looks great. But we need to have a talk, you and I. Tomorrow, Nintendo is putting the final nail in your coffin, you see. They're... oh gosh, how do I say this? They're announcing the NX. Like, in a 3 minute video. So I figured... I figured, it was time to say goodbye. Sure, I'll get Warmastered on you, and if Fatal Frame ever goes on sale, I'll try to pick that up, too. But buddy, once Zelda is out, and done... you're history.

I'm not saying I'm going to retire you for an NX. That's what Nintendo is going to do, for sure. And as long as my copy of Hex Heroes, the game I backed because it was made for you, is headed to your download cue, I'll still play you. Maybe I'll keep replaying Zelda, and maybe I'll make some Super Mario Maker stages... but come on, the 3DS version is coming soon, and it's probably going to become my go-to platform for that. But Nintendo is done with you, you know? So I think... I think it's time to do A RETROSPECTIVE WHOOOOOOOOO!

The Hardware:

Well, I know people don't like the Gamepad. I mean, I'm not entirely sold on it myself, and I've had it since Christmas 2012 (dear lord, it's been that long...). The Gamepad is big, it's blocky, but it's definitely not heavy. There's a lightness to it that is quite impressive, and the buttons are responsive. I had to change one of my analog sticks because it kept inputting a forward motion, and you better believe I ditched that standard battery the thing came with.

Then there's the actual console- a longer, curvier Wii, but not in any of the ways one would consider those adjectives sexy. There's little to say about this, other than "it exists" and it's not really thrilling at all. But, I will say that that way Wii U disc edges feel is quite nice- they're curved and not ridged, for some specific reason. I might come back and expand on that fact a bit later.

See, if there's any piece of hardware that Nintendo really nailed with the Wii U, it's actually the Pro Controller. It's essentially a Gamepad without the hulking screen and a bit of an aerodynamic design, but it feels really good in your hands, and the dual analog placement is very nice. In fact, if this were the standard controller layout Nintendo used moving forward, it would be thoroughly welcome- it's different from the competitors and has just a few aspects I would seriously consider changing.

And that's just about it for the Wii U's hardware.

The UI:

The Wii U's User Interface was never a pretty sight. Whenever you booted up the system, you were treated to the actual menu- a slightly more translucent Wii menu (that, for the longest time, didn't even have folders to organize all your junk)- and the Wara Wara Plaza (I know I didn't spell that right, but I'm too tired to care), a mishmash of all the recently released Wii U titles and the various bits people were saying about them. Now, there were some decent improvements from even the 3DS' menu- you could open the eShop without closing out your game completely, and... well, that's pretty much it. Even the 3DS did Miiverse suspension pretty well.

And while we're on the subject, let's talk about the Wii U eShop! It's... not exactly pretty, but it did a fair job at showing off the titles that Nintendo wanted users to see. The cycling of different seasonal menu themes was quite nice, too. And Miiverse! Nintendo's "safe space" Gaming Twitter certainly had its ups and downs, starting out fairly limited and pretty much staying that way, albeit with a weird revamp that changed the user pages and communities but didn't necessarily alter the sort of content that could be posted. For the few games that did utilize Miiverse well, there was some joy to be had- Super Mario 3D World's course comments were rather amusing, and Splatoon's graffiti feature was certainly the most inspired implementation- but did Miiverse add all that much to the Wii U experience? Not really, although it allowed users to put up shareable content a BIT more easily- but the convoluted nature of following both Miiverse content and having a separate friend list was likely done for convenience sake, but it failed in execution.

The Software:

Here comes the hard part.

There is an image floating around the internet that shows off the bleak truth of the Wii U library- which is that, at many points, the 3DS has the exact same kinds of games on it, but with an even larger variety of eShop and third party titles. 3D Mario, 2D Donkey Kong, Mario Maker, Mario Kart, Hyrule Warriors, Paper Mario, New Super Mario Bros., Smash Bros., Pushmo, Xenoblade... the similarities don't stop there. While all the iterations on the Wii U are markedly prettier, they sadly were not always bigger and/or better, with Hyrule Warriors 3DS actually having more content. Nintendo tried time and time again to find a sure-fire hit on Wii U, but too often, they graced the system with something well-made, but not necessarily innovative, or even all that different.

That's not to say the Wii U was devoid of unique content. Pikmin 3 was a refreshing and tight experience that benefited from Gamepad usage, Zombi U was intense and dangerous. Bayonetta 2 was a pulse-pounding action title, and the Wonderful 101 was another unique take on the genre. Xenoblade Chronicles X possessed mechanics similar to its predecessor, but it was a fundamentally different and expanse title. The console's crowning achievement, Splatoon, showed us that Nintendo could successfully translate gameplay styles to their own unique vision. However, continuing on makes the library's accomplishments feel weak- Super Mario Maker is getting a 3DS port, Fatal Frame was pretty, but clunky. Tokyo Mirage Sessions was bizarre and incredible, but ultimately extremely niche. To top it all off, there was Nintendo Land- a shining glimpse of all the ways asynchronous multiplayer and the Gamepad's gimmickry could have worked, but sadly, so many of these ideas would never appear again.

The most disappointing aspect of many of these games is that a great number of them can, and likely will be ported to the NX or subsequent consoles without much difficulty- truly highlighting the missed potential of the hardware. However, this isn't to say that the Wii U lacks quality titles- so many of these titles are stellar, and very few of them will degenerate with the loss of online functionality. Few, but not all.

And so, as we draw the final curtain on the Wii U, we come to my personal retrospective. While I don't pretend to be unbiased, the Wii U has tested me as a Nintendo fan. I bought the initial hype, and I eagerly looked forward to new titles. I devoured any title I could get my hands on, getting burned by some and gaining new favorites with others. Comparing the strength of the Wii U's library with the GCN, its odds don't look so hot. Even against the Wii, there's a large amount of third party titles that still manage to beat out the Wii U. But for every flaw in the Wii U, there's something special, like Xenoblade Chronicles massive world, Pokken Tournament's unique fighting style, or Mario Kart 8's trippy tracks. While the good balanced out the bad, it is up to Nintendo to realize that a console must come prepared for any circumstance- not just equipped to have "a new idea" in case of failure, like Amiibo, but a fully-realized one with a number of planned implementations.

Good night, sweet prince. By this time tomorrow, you'll be a thing of the past.

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