With the release of Mario Kart 8 (May 30th 2014) I’ve decided to be very Nintendo-centric this week and post mainly about them! This is another article based on Nintendo and justifying their newest console.

When Nintendo announced the Wii U at E3 2011, there was some general excitement. Critics claimed that Nintendo finally caught up to “the seventh generation” with the use of HD graphics and the hope of a better online infrastructure. The tech demo of The Legend of Zelda with a Twilight Princess graphical style in HD brought general excitement to some, whilst others noted back to the Space World 2000 video Nintendo released and that the style of the Wii U version could actually change.

Now, thoughts on the Wii U has varied opinions. By March 2014, Nintendo sold only 70,000 consoles; I believe the hypodermic syringe theory is in control of the progression of the Wii U, people are influenced by the media and are injected ideas into their heads. The poor sales of the Wii U and its negative press it often receives causes those without the console to refrain from buying it, and those with the consoles to alter their own possible views of the console. There’s constant reports of the Wii U selling bad in addition to the reports of no support from third parties, lack of any exclusive games, graphically and powerfully beaten by the PS4 and Xbox One and even the idea of the GamePad being nothing more than a gimmick – all of which contribute negative press influencing people to stay away from the console.

However it has some great games…

One of my personal favourite Mario games in a long time
One of my personal favourite Mario games in a long time

One argument I often see from Wii U supporters is ‘would you actually purchase a Wii U for third party games?’ to challenge complaints of the lack of third party developers supporting the Wii U. Lets be honest, they actually have a point; My first ever console I played on was a SNES, however the first one I became (as much as I hate using this term) ‘hardcore’ on was the N64. From then onwards, my games I’d purchase on Nintendo systems were mainly Nintendo published games! There’s always a certain charm with Nintendo games that makes them wildly popular and caused certain IPs to become big name franchises and have regular releases. These kinds of games are always fulfil me with excitement as generally these games have great gameplay factors and high replay value; with Nintendo games I usually disregard the lack of a detailed story, unlike how I’d treat various other (generally Western) development teams and companies. In my eyes, Nintendo can continue on having the generic ‘princess being kidnaped’ with slight alterations any time as long as these games still continue to pass down the charm I purchase them for.

Of course, many people complain for the familiarity and comfort of the same IPs with the same plot line and similar gameplay dynamics every time and how Nintendo can get away with repeating and perhaps even ‘milking’ their franchises whilst other franchises such as ‘Call of Duty’ can face criticism for lacking outstanding differences in their products. Since I’ve been arguing the lack of third party games can be justified by the ‘charming’ Nintendo franchises, in the nay-sayers views I’m implying that you should purchase a Wii U just to support the same style game as previous versions and the versions yet to come. I do understand that not everyone buys into the style of Nintendo games, however I’d argue the similarity between each version of games to an analogy of comic books and their movie counterparts: Specifically focusing on Marvel comics and their films, their franchises as a film company is becoming mainstream in pop-culture, causing multiple films to be released a year now from Marvel and retelling the stories from their comic books. There are similarities, and the films can copy many one-liners, copy a lot about plots and such, yet those who are comic readers are still likely to watch and enjoy the movie counterparts for the charm implemented in the films, to relive the past enjoyment they had with the comics and have a nostalgic trip by seeing the comics come to life. In this analogy, the past classic Nintendo games are the comics, and the common release of new games copying similar aspects of the past are the movies, where the games do change gradually with many homages to the past games. Sure, it’s such a broad and vague analogy but there is a clear distinction that ‘it just works’ for Nintendo to copy this style.

Other negative views can be that even if the Nintendo games are good, there’s been such a drought of the need for the Wii U with the gaps between the game releases from Nintendo that the Wii U just (again I hate this saying too) ‘gathers dust’. Again I have to disagree with that idea. Earlier in the article I did claim that Nintendo games have a high replay value, in which I thoroughly believe. From the Wii U I’ve replayed New Super Mario Bros U both in single player, a save file with me and others and such so that I’ve played through each levels multiple times; In this, I/we usually aim to be ‘completists’ and fully complete the game with collecting the three big coins and not leaving a level unturned. The same goes with Super Mario 3D world which I’ve been following the same approach and so on. Also to fit in this gap between the main Nintendo releases, there’s the various Indie games being released on the e-shop to play, there’s the expanding virtual console to play, there’s still great third party content such as Lego City, ZombiU, Rayman Legends (in my opinion being the definitive version out of all the platforms) and more that are very compelling to play. Then there’s also built in software; MiiVerse may have been one of Nintendos most genius decisions they’ve made with the Wii U so far. The gaming social network is beautiful, offering a place for Nintendo announcements, gaming tips, screenshots, sharing views and then just the beautiful amounts of fan-art thats created by fans too. Miiverse is always fun to look back on and just search through the wonders of both strange and outright amazing! Whilst the PS4 has been out a shorter time, I often find myself going back onto the Wii U more than the PS4, and I haven’t looked back onto the PS4 since completing Infamous Second Son as there wasn’t that many compelling reasons to go back there; Yes, there’s Watch Dogs released now (something I’d generally have pre-ordered and played by now ), but admittedly I’m patiently waiting to see what the Wii U version can offer (feature wise with the gamepad and such) and I’m willing to pass on the fancy graphics of a PC or PS4 version if gameplay wise, Watch Dogs plays better.

Less powerful, but…

Ok, so I can’t justify the lack of power from the Wii U. It may have caught up to the previous generation, but CPU wise the Wii U was slacking to just the PS3 and Xbox 360 – let alone the PS4 and Xbox One! All in all, the Wii U has less power than the current gen. I was issuing this today, but even the online seems to suck. My friend just purchased himself a Wii U and wanted to test out the Video call features (something I never tried out until today), after about 40 minutes we gave up and forgot about it; both our Wii U’s would function well in connectivity at one point, and yet when connecting to a call an error would occur. The system wasn’t fluid enough, for example when mine occurred an error, my friends console would still say ‘connecting to call’ despite me being unavailable. The only game on the Wii U I’ve been able to successfully play online was Tekken Tag tournament, I just live in hope that Mario Kart 8 won’t be an issue in the online department. Others can also complain the console is less powerful from the lack of a media player, multitasking and such.

Despite all this, I just wonder does it really matter after all? I mean, if we continued from the idea that we don’t need the Wii U for third party games and it’s main purpose is for playing Nintendo games, does power really matter? Most likely, since you won’t depend on the Wii U to play other games, alternative consoles will be around. Presumably, you’d have a console from the previous generation to play games, or from this generation or a PC that could at least handle low settings, all which means any other games can be played on that instead or deal with media players such as DVDs and Blu-rays. The Wii U just needs to be capable of playing Nintendo games. Games such as Mario and Zelda don’t need photorealistic graphics or CPU demanding tasks for our enjoyment, and Mario Kart 8 prove that. The game is beautiful, the colour scheme and bloom and character animations all look wonderful and honestly shows a  lack of a distinction from the Wii U and the more powerful consoles. If Nintendo can pull of their games to look this beautiful by placing a few wrappers and tricks here and there, isn’t it worth it in the end?

Mario Kart 8 and its glorious beauty!
Mario Kart 8 and its glorious beauty!

The online however is truly a disappointment which I won’t even try to justify. Sure there’s the amazing Miiverse, but when I want to connect online or have chats with people on my friends list and verse others around the world, it should be completely seamless and fluid, not clunky.

Multitasking, again while being an ideal feature that causes a more fluid interface and functionality, isn’t necessarily  needed when the focus is that the purpose of the Wii U is to play Nintendo games, and there isn’t as much priority for extra useful features.

The Gamepad is great and fun to use!

It truly is. The controllers design and button layout (both GamePad and Pro controller)  isn’t as comfortable to use as the ideal Xbox One controller or even the PS4 Dualshock controller, however the GamePad specifically offers a functionality that the others do not. Sure, the PS4 has cross play with the Vita and the Xbox One has Smartglass, but honestly, the Wii U is simple to use because it’s just there; there’s no need for extra devices to play the game, the physical enjoyment and ease of the joysticks and the buttons allow easy control, with the touch screen in the middle allowing easier functionality and if designed right, less clunky gameplay. Sub-menus and long inventory menus can become a thing of the past as the gamepad offers quick and useful shortcuts and such.

One thing I’m hoping that the Wii U version of Watch Dogs has is the lack of the need of the companion app, instead it’s all implemented in the touch screen. This alone makes the game easier to navigate as there’s an easier focus on your devices rather than having a controller and a tablet/phone nearby as well as the TV just to play the game.

In an article about the Kinect, I explored the idea of how the rise in sales when the Kinect didn’t become part of the Xbox One bundle suggests the idea of a lost interest in quick gimmicks; I even mentioned how some can see the Wii U GamePad as gimmicky! However, I truly don’t believe that as I’ve always perceived the future of technology as simplicity and having one device that offers all the features, not having extra devices nearby to control the game.

Then there’s also the Wii U GamePad quick start feature that’s soon to come: 

The quick start feature shows extra convenience for the console as it allows to easily boot software without the console even having to power on. The Wii U lacks the voice controls to activate the console and boot certain applications, instead it offers it by using this innovative technique with the GamePad, and this is just the pivot of all the new ideas that developers can bring and implement into the GamePad if they see past its gimmicky side. With the upcoming Nintendo Direct at E3, I’m hoping Nintendo use it as an opportunity to really show what differentiates the Wii U from other consoles and what makes it worth buying, with the GamePad being the key selling point and not just a useless gimmick.

Then there’s the future…

Yes, there’s me hyping up the games and justifying most of the Wii U,  yet there’s still more to come and we’re hoping that Nintendo forms a great future for Nintendo. The GameCube was poorly selling and had a low game count and lack of hope, but eventually built to be one of my most fond consoles in the end. Nintendo can still 1-UP their console! With E3 coming up, we can only hope Nintendo tries to surprise us with a great collection of games. With the Wii U update and the quick boot, we can only hope for more functionality. And with our knowledge of a Super Smash Bros, Yoshi yarn style game and more coming soon, there’s always excitement that the Wii U will eventually have great games that stands out!

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