Easter for some will be a time when many families get together socialise and eat so many chocolate eggs a Yoshi would blush. For many though, the flow of new releases at this time of year brings the excitement of a much needed boost to gamers everywhere, in the brief window before the normal summer game drought and the long wait until the eventual onslaught beginning in late September. This year sadly Easter arrived but the release lists were quite disappointing. As gamers we understand these new machines need longer, and we would all rather have a complete game with less bugs than some rush job. So what do you do, what do you play?
During the last generation more than a few gamers wanted the best of both worlds and were willing to invest in multiple consoles - myself included - in order to ensure they got their hands on as many good games as possible. This rang true with great first party exclusives from both Sony and Microsoft. Still the cost of development and death of many developers and publishers has created a scenario in which both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4’s games catalogues have become almost clones of each other. Although they still have some exclusives, for many it is not enough to buy both… yet. This will probably change over time, but with the loss of all these studios it will be long time before many will be able to justify the cost of both.
Out there in the wild is a childhood memory of a company that once said “Now You’re Playing with Power”. Of course that company is Nintendo and although that statement might not be, let’s say honest, it didn’t matter because most people had no clue how old the technology was, and the games set the world on fire. They did it with the Game and Watch, the Game Boy, and last generation Nintendo had a huge success in selling the older technology of the Wii to the masses. The motion controlled little white box had some great games buried under a mass of shovelware. In doing so the Wii may have got a temporary new audience, but for many real Nintendo fans it was not the way we wanted to play. Many of us already had shiny new HD TV’s, and the thought of wrist strain from the pointless waggle of Donkey Kong Country Returns, and the lack of ability to play a 3D Mario game with a standard controller crossed the line in regards to acceptable practices, ‘across this line you do not!’ Sure Mario Galaxy’s art and level design are stunning, but a 480p output on HD TV really did make the Wii look old and there was no good reason not to be able use a classic controller. Now many will say graphics don’t matter and they’re right, up to a point. Nintendo’s gameplay has often been outstanding, but the change from CRT to HD TV, and the HD Twins at the time, slammed the point home. Many Wii games looked great but the technology created to display them had moved on and Nintendo hadn’t. Of course now Nintendo has the Wii U and again uses older technology with new ideas. So what do you do, what do you play?
Well then, is it time to buy a Wii U? For many that answer would be no, the lack of third party support, older technology, online infrastructure and brand image can be sticking points. As a result many opt to buy an Xbox One or PS4 for as their first console when making that jump between generations. Some of us however bought these machines at launch and are itching for new content to play, and with delays, a lack of variety and low content within games themselves, it’s creating constant droughts. Mind you, Nintendo gamers are already accustomed to droughts - they’ve been rife since the Nintendo 64 - and with the recent third party exodus, there can be a need to buy a second console in order to fill that gap with quality games while they wait for Nintendo’s first party content. The future for third party games looks bleak yes, and aside form Nintendo teaming up with outside publishers and developers, the Wii U will not be the place for that content. So if you did initially opt for one Sony or Microsoft’s platforms, and as our industry shrinks while the cost and demand for games rises, we need to seek out quality games to fill our time with, and for that the Wii U offers some great games right now. The console is home to the best 2D platformers in years including Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, New Super Mario Brothers U and there’s more on the way from Yoshi. And that’s without mentioning the best Mario Kart in years, and the great Super Mario 3D World (its last few worlds will test even the most seasoned gamer). There’s Bayonetta 2, Pikmin 3, Super Smash Bros, games that are all more than capable of providing hundreds of hours entertainment. And with lots of other great titles announced such as Starfox, Splatoon and of course the new Legend of Zelda, there is so much more to come.
This machine is really underrated and can provide you with variety, fun, heaps of content, online and local multiplayer (something in which Nintendo still reigns supreme). Let’s not forget Nintendo knows how to get the best out of their own hardware and many games can still stand up against the current competition. Yes the Wii U is not as powerful as the other two, but many of its games run at 720p, 60fps and a few even output in 1080p. The Game Pad is still widely underused but the games that do use it are better for it, most of the time. The ability to play in bed, or when the TV is in use is a great feature for many who have to share the TV, but have to deal with being socialble in the evening. Yes the PS4 has streaming technology, but the difference is the outstanding quality of the stream with no input lag that makes this such a great feature, the only real issue is distance. Still being able to play CoD online whilst in bed makes me feel like I’m a kid in my room again!
The Wii Remote, although still an option, now takes a back seat as the Game Pad with the screen in the middle taking centre stage. The Wii U also does provide a vast improvement in online infrastructure over the Wii, and whilst not as great as Xbox Live it boasts a free service to play against others in a no nonsenses fashion.
Nintendo did real damage to the brand during the last ten years whilst swimming in the ‘Blue Ocean’, and some of the gaming masses now only and see a washed up company that makes out of date products and pumps out the same games year after year… the use of colour must mean it’s just for kids right?
In any case I’m sure Nintendo will find its way to seek out the casual gamers again soon enough with the latest announcement to create smart phone content. But if you’re bored, want high quality games and can get a great deal on Nintendo Wii U, then I strongly suggest you go for it. The level of service, the quality and amount of content are reminders that games can be colourful, fun, complete upon release, and not just cash grabs. So think of Yoshi while munching your eggs, do the right thing and turn your Amiibo around to end its nightmare. Then grab your mates, grab some more chocolate and - whilst you expand that waistline - expand your gaming content, just like Nintendo fans have done for years. So why not go for that second console, I swear the Wii U won’t disappoint.