Wii U: Does It Live Up to the Hype?

Posted: December 10, 2012 in Video Games

As with the previous Nintendo systems, the Wii U had plenty of hype around its release this year, but not in the same way as when the original Wii was release. Other than knowing that there were improved graphics and a new tablet controller, the speculation around what this new system would bring was somewhat confusing. Was the new controller backwards compatible with the original Wii? Were 3rd-party developers going to take more to this new version of the system than they did with the original Wii? Was Nintendo going to be able to compete with the other systems and their stronger gamer bases?

The only one of those questions to be answered was the first one. The controller was part of the new system, which did make the older Wii obsolete (except if you want to go back to play Gamecube games). The Wii U was released in mid-November with two bundles to pick up. The first was the basic package: white, new controller, no game. This was actually the first time that Nintendo has released a system that does not even contain an introductory game. The second was the deluxe package: black, new controller, Nintendoland game, charger base for the controller. With only a $50 price difference, shoppers have been easily able to track down the basic models but not the deluxes. Luckily, I took a trip to NYC and was able to find one easily.

SONY DSCFirst, the controller is a rather interesting design. The tablet interface is rather responsive and allows the gamer to continue to play games on the controller screen while watching TV on the big screen. The contours fit the hand well, though it still remains to be seen if this will hold true for games that maximize the use of all of the controller’s buttons. The controller can also act as a TV remote once paired. The buttons on the remote are your standards one for any Nintendo controller, but the screen does add the possibility for a slightly larger set of button options depending on the type of gameplay you are enjoying.

The Wii U home screen is the same as the regular Wii with the difference in that the main screen shows the Mii plaza while the controller shows the menu. You can use the touch screen to select items and scroll through the system options.

On to the games…

Nintendo-Land_510First up is Nintendo Land…the distant cousin of Wii Sports. Armed with one of the most annoying and slow interacting guides Nintendo has created, it takes a moment during the first load to get to the actual gameplay. Once you do, you will be pleasantly surprised. Rather than simply putting together a random assortment of games to show off the controller, Nintendo chose to infuse some of their franchises into the mix. Included within the games are a Legend of Zelda-themed game where your character works through stages while taking down enemies with the bow & arrows, a Pikmin-themed game where you make your way through levels to reach the spaceship at the end, Metroid-themed game where you take out enemies from your ship and Yoshi-themed game where you collect fruit and try to draw lines on the tablet to make your way to each goal. Each of the games has decent replay value and a solid difficulty curve. I have not gotten to try out the games in a multiplayer setting, but I can imagine that they bring more of a party element to the gameplay.

New Super Mario Bros U

Besides Nintendo Land, I picked up Super Mario Bros U. While the game is not that different from the original Wii version, there are some new items and new playable elements. The new power-up is the flying squirrel, which allows you to glide and have a quick boost upward when needed. It also lets you cling to the walls. The basic map is not so basic anymore. There is not a necessary linear path you have to take after the first two worlds. The path splits and there are hidden paths that can boost you forward. The Star World levels at the end are out of control, as the difficulty level is ratcheted up. The other major addition to this game is the challenge mode elements, including coin grabs, survival levels, time attacks and 1Up challenges. These are quick and give a little bit of competition to achieve gold medals. I have not been able to play this in multiplayer yet either, but I am sure that it is a blast.

There is still a lot of room for this system to grow, as I am still not sure if there will be a great 3rd-party presence. Here are some of my can’t wait and hopeful games on the horizon:

Can’t Wait List

  • Pikmin 3 – coming soon
  • Legend of Zelda – coming in 2013
  • Super Smash Bros – in the future

Hopeful

  • Metroid Prime
  • Pokemon – still without an RPG console version
  • Mario Kart
  • Mario ??? – Galaxy or something similar
  • Final Fantasy – something closer to the PS games instead of the Crystal Chronicles
  • Star Fox
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