Wii U - Nintendo GamesThe real draw is, of course, the exclusive software. The two Nintendo biggies are New Super Mario Bros U and Nintendo Land, the latter coming bundled with the Wii U Premium Pack. We're uploading our reviews of both right now for a more detailed look, but for now suffice to say that between them they make a convincing case for the new console. They drag Nintendo’s trademark cartoon visuals into the HD era, and the games look crisp, detailed and vibrantly coloured. Zombi U is more of an acquired taste, but a thrilling sign of what might happen if the unique capabilities of the Wii U Pad are applied to existing genres with a bit of imagination. It’s not perfect, but there are touches of genius to be found within.
Some will sulk about the lack of a new Legend of Zelda, a Mario Kart or a 3D Mario – and we’ll admit we’re occasionally amongst them – but you can guarantee they’re in development, and this is generally one of the best launch line-ups we’ve seen. Just cast your mind back to the miserable Xbox 360, PS3 and 3DS launch line-ups if you don’t agree. Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros U have a fighting chance of doing a ‘Wii Sports’ and hyping up the mainstream audience, but there are still big questions about the future.
Wii U - The FutureA new console is a sizable investment, and it seems inevitable that the Wii U will face some stiff competition within the next twelve months. Could Wii U buyers be purchasing a dead duck? Well, we still know little concrete about the specifications or capabilities of the next-generation Xbox and PS3, and our best guesses come from showcase titles like Watch Dogs and Star Wars 1313, which are running on PC hardware but clearly targeting the next-gen consoles. Here the Wii U has a problem. It’s a console built to encourage third-party development, but are those third-parties going to be able to build credible Wii U versions of titles running on Wii U hardware? Nintendo’s new baby might have the RAM for bigger experiences, but its CPU and GPU might struggle.
This, then puts the emphasis on the unique Wii U experiences that Nintendo and its closest partners can build. Here there’s more reason to be cheerful. In their own ways, Nintendo Land, Zombi U and New Super Mario Bros U all showcase ways in which the Wii U Pad can make games different, more interesting, more immersive or just more fun. The multiplayer components of New Super Mario Bros U and the best parts of Nintendo Land have that classic Nintendo cross-generational, cross-gender appeal, and they do something that so many big, bombastic blockbusters fail to do: they leave you smiling. They make playing together a wonderful thing, and we doubt they’ll be the last Wii U games to do so, either.
The ball is in Nintendo’s court. It’s built a generally solid, fascinating oddball of a games console, with features to encourage a new generation of smart and innovative games – and the kind of games that families could play together. Nintendo Land, Zombi U and New Super Mario Bros U have things off to a strong start, and with Rayman Legends on the way we know there’s more good stuff to follow.
If you’re a serious gamer planning to buy just one console in the next twelve months, it’s unlikely that the Wii U will be it. If, however, you’re a fan of Nintendo’s classics, or a more casual gamer looking for the next step on from the Wii, then the Wii U is much easier to recommend. It might not turn out to be the future of gaming, but it’s in with a credible chance of mainstream success.
VerdictEven by Nintendo’s standards, this is no ordinary run-of-the-mill console. The Wii U GamePad is a strange, brilliant and versatile controller, and employed properly might just power a new wave of fantastic, innovative games. As a vehicle for family fun, the Wii U is a formidable system, despite a slow UI and the odd niggle here and there. The struggle will be working out how it fits in between the current console generation and the next, and maintaining third-party support, but the potential is there for some great games, and some really unique experiences.
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