Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Nintendo Wii U - My Favourite Current Gen Console & Why You Should Buy One


Nintendo - Still working their magic after 30 years!

This year I have owned and played on all three of the current generation of consoles - Sony's PS4, Microsoft's Xbox One and Nintendo's Wii U. Now, I will be the first to admit that 'modern' games have not be doing it for me for several years now. While, naturally, I still enjoy the smaller indie titles that appear on Steam and other machines (especially the PlayStation Vita), the main 'triple A' titles have left me cold. I have sat down and dedicated time to games such as GTA V, Assassins Creed : Black Flag, Far Cry 4, Drive Club, Forza Horizons 2 and Batman Arkham City, but all of them have felt uninspired, bland and, more importantly, not much fun to play. So, I have generally stuck to a mix of indie games, classic arcade games on MAME, and retro titles on platforms such as the Sega Saturn, SNES, N64, or whatever random console I have purchased that week.





Recently, though, I purchased a Wii U with a pile of games - it was so cheap that it would have been foolish not to. Little did I realise it would rejunenate my love for gaming and also bring back my love for Nintendo - something that faded out after my year long love affair with the Wii back in 2011 (I never really got on with the 3DS to be honest). Now, after a couple of weeks spent playing the Wii U, I can safely say that it's definitely my favourite modern console. Despite its childish image, the games are just incredibly fun and uplifting to play and contain a great deal more soul than the bland and joyless 'triple A' titles on both the Xbox One and PS4. I have been having an absolute blast playing Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8 with my girlfriend, and New Super Mario Bros U, while initially rather underwhelming, soon had me totally hooked. Sure, many of the games are very similar to their Wii predecessors (Wii-decessors?) only this time in glorious HD, but they look so beautiful you are willing to forgive them.





It's not just the finely tuned gameplay and imaginative worlds that make the games such a joyous experience, it's the constant nods to Nintendo's past that bring the biggest smiles to my face; hearing remixed versions of classic Mario tunes in these newest iterations; racing on remastered tracks from Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 in Mario's latest karting escapade; discovering the giant world in New Super Mario Bros U, a wonderful nod to one of the highlights of Super Mario Bros 3; and playing as the dog & duck from Duck Hunt and R.O.B. The Robot in Super Smash Bros. It's this incredible level of fan service that makes you feel as though the games were designed just for you. The games not only look stunning - vibrant and full of charm - but they also feel incredibly well designed - the stages are full of secrets to discover and everything feels as though it was made with love, rather than churned out to tick boxes for the most unit sales (EA and Activision, I'm looking at you!). 





My experiences with Sony and Microsoft's recent consoles pale in comparison; a thoroughly unenjoyable time with GTA V - a game that tries so hard to be 'adult' in tone that it ends up looking like it was written by a 14 year old boy; a vaguely enjoyable driving experience on Drive Club, abject tedium in Far Cry 4 (which includes some of the most aggravating and lengthy cutscenes I've seen) and several other titles that left such little impression that I've forgotten what they are. There's none of the wonder and magic of Nintendo's products and they seem to take themselves far too seriously. Through aiming at an older audience, the other two companies seem to have forgotten the most important ingredient for any videogame, fun!





Nintendo seems to get a lot of flack in the gaming press, whether it's criticism for rehashing the same franchises, releasing the least powerful machine, not linking purchases in Nintendo's eShop to your account (games purchased are locked to the machine, which is, admittedly, pretty annoying), or for appearing too childish (usually by insecure people who worry too much about what other people think). But I believe Nintendo are right to do what they do as it makes them stand out as unique compared to the Xbox One and PS4, whose game libraries and visuals are practically identical. Nintendo games have character,  a lighthearted charm and a unique identity that they are rightfully proud of. 





The Wii U gamepad is worth mentioning too as it's fantastic to use. I'll admit, I had my doubts at first - the thing looked huge to me and I didn't relish the prospect of a tablet-like controller. However, in use, it sits very nicely in my large hands, and the thumbsticks and buttons all rest in comfortable positions and are a breeze to use. You don't even feel aware of it once you start playing - the sign of any good controller. Best of all, many games can be played on the controller itself, and is actually really good, despite not being displayed in HD. This also frees up your TV should someone else want to watch the TV, a stroke of genius on Nintendo's part. If you don't dig the tablet style controller then you can buy a Pro Controller, which is much more like something for the rival consoles, though, obviously, you will miss out on the many additional gameplay elements featured on the tablet screen, such as maps, inventories, touch screen mechanics and many other cool features, so the Pro Controller is generally used for the second player - still, it's a shit load better than the standard Wii remote Plus, which I find incredibly uncomfortable and unsatisfying to use.





So, while my Xbox One and PS4 soon found their way to the classified ads, I am definitely hanging on to my Wii U - I am thoroughly enjoying the titles I currently own and intend to complete them all - something I very rarely bother with these days. I'm also looking forward to playing Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, Yoshi's Woolly World, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, Kirby and The Rainbow Curse, and Zelda The Wind Waker HD, not to mention the fantastic NES Remix 1 & 2 which feature reworked stages from some of the most iconic 8-bit NES games. 





There are also some awesome titles in the works, with a new Starfox game (StarFox Zero), a new Zelda game, Mario Tennis Ultra Smash and, most excitingly of all, Super Mario MakerThis truly has the potential to be one of the greatest games ever released - a level designer in which you can create all sorts of crazy and imaginative Super Mario Bros stages in either 8-bit, 16-bit or modern visual style. With the ability to upload your creations, this could lead to a potential goldmine of exciting, fun and plain bonkers stages to play though - lending the title near infinite replayability. On the indie side of things, there are some exciting titles on the way too; Mighty No.9, Poncho, Steamworld Heist, and Freedom Planet all look set to be well worth purchasing. Personally, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a new F-Zero, Pilotwings and WaveRace game!





So if you have been sitting on the fence about getting a Wii U - maybe you feel it's aimed at kids and you are too old for it - then I urge you to cast aside your doubts and treat yourself to one. It will take you back to the golden era of videogames, when Nintendo reigned supreme. A time when games were super fun and felt like a doorway to another world, one filled with creativity, wonder and joy - the days before the soul of videogaming was ripped out by 1000 identical, grey and miserable FPS games. Kudos to Nintendo for sticking to what they do best and keeping the gaming magic going for three decades! I only hope the Wii U (and 3DS) is successful enough to keep them in the console market in the future, and not end up like Sega, doomed to release a constant stream of Sonic games of ever-decreasing quality on other company's consoles.





If you're a gamer who delights in shooting soldiers in the face online via one of the hideous Call of Duty games, then you are probably not going to get the same level of enjoyment out of Nintendo's console as I have. Sure, the Wii U dashboard is quite bland and features irritating 'elevator muzak' that will slowly drive you nuts, but I find it far less offensive than the in-your-face Xbox One dash, which looks like an iPhone App and tries to shove nonsense like Netflix, Facebook and YouTube down your throat (PS4 fares slightly better, but is still quite 'iPhone generation' in appearance). It's nice that Nintendo have a bare bones dash that makes the Wii U feel like a games console and not an obnoxious media centre designed for social media junkies. However, the Mii characters are less forgivable and will probably make you want to vomit, but if you have an open mind, or simply yearn for the glorious days of the NES, Super NES and Nintendo 64, then now is a fantastic time to jump onboard and give a warm greeting to the characters who probably helped define your videogame education. So, don't waste time, go get yourself a Wii U and embrace your inner child once again. You can thank me later!