Wii Y?

Chick SpeaksThe Wii U.  I was not interested in it.  Then I was.  Then Target accidentally sold the one I had pre-ordered.   Then it came back in stock.  But one of my secretaries wanted one for her kid for Christmas, so I let her buy it instead, figuring that it would be impossible to find over the holidays.  I then went shopping and saw no less than five of the deluxe models at each store I went to.  The little impulse-buy voice in my head taunted me with chants of “come on Cathy, you know you want it.”  Even though I’m not sure I wanted it.  But that’s the funny thing about the impulse-buy voice.  It’s loud, annoying, and won’t shut up until you do what it tells you to.  It then goes away, only to be replaced by the buyer’s remorse voice, which will serve as my co-writer for this feature.

Unpacking a new console is always a treat.  Some websites generate tens of thousands of views doing just that.  For me, I like the smell, but a video of me sniffing my new console would be, well, weird.  But seriously, that “new console” smell.  It’s way different from new car smell.  It fades the moment you plug-in your first game.  Or, in the case of the Wii U, the moment you realize you’re about to wait two hours for a system update for features I don’t even want, like MiiVerse.  While I waited for this, something hit me about the Wii U Pad: it’s enormous.  “No shit, Sherlock” you’re thinking.  But really, the fucking thing is huge.  As in, I can’t believe this is a new electronic device made in the year 2012 huge.  Then again, this is Nintendo we’re talking about here.  When it comes to trends, they always seem at least ten years behind the times, at least in terms of actual technology.  They probably still picture the world as being full of rear-projection TVs and Humvees and Rosie O’Donnell talk shows.  Bigger is better, so let’s give people a portable television set that can be used as a second screen.

Dig those HD visuals.

Dig those HD visuals.

And that’s what the Wii U Pad feels like: a bulky portable TV straight out of 1999, essentially turning their newest console into a giant Nintendo DS.  The thing is, I always kind of pictured Nintendo consoles as being aimed at children.  Sure, most of their hardcore fans are actually thirty-year-olds who have the stunted brain development of a child, but from a marketing perspective, stuff like Nintendo Land seems made to appeal to the kiddie set.  Or, since my parents and their elderly friends (hi AJ!) had fun with it, the young at heart.  Well, hopefully those children can palm basketballs, because otherwise I’m not sure the Wii U Pad will ever feel truly comfortable.  Me?  I have teeny, tiny hands.  Assuming I never use the touch screen, I would still have a tough time adjusting to the Wii U Pad, the way it’s meant to be held.  Once you ask me to start using the touch screen, especially with the stylus, I simply couldn’t figure out a way to hold it without my hands cramping up.  I can’t imagine how children are going to ever enjoy this cumbersome thing.

But, the real problem with the Wii U pad is it just doesn’t add any play value.  The Nintendo DS and the 3DS work because the two screens are right next to each other.  The Wii U involves moving your eyes up and down a lot.  Or alternatively, not using the TV screen at all.  Take Scribblenauts.  Yea, I took a chance on it, despite the fact that the series has lived up to expectations about as well as Challenger did for NASA.  And actually, I still probably enjoyed it more than any other game in the series.  But the thing is, you never actually need to look at the TV when playing Scribblenauts Unlimited.  Everything can be done on the Wii U Pad.  So why make it a $60 console release when a $40 3DS release makes more sense?  The answer is because, um, schooba dooba schimander incoherent under-the-breath mumble.

I try not to be a doom-sayer when it comes to new console launches, and I always look for a silver lining.  I just don’t see one with the Wii U.  Granted, I didn’t really put the console through the type of wringer that I should have.  But that’s because all the games that are getting huge critical acclaim are just “special editions” of shit I just played this last year.  Mass Effect 3.  Arkham City.  Trine 2.  Critical marks for the Wii versions of these titles are great, but I already played them when they first came out, on account of them getting great critical marks back then on other machines.  And, let’s face it, I’ve already played the other “must have” titles that I did pick up.  Scribblenauts Unlimited does add some new ideas, but it’s still basically the same Scribblenauts that I own on my DS, or that I recently paid a whopping $1 for on my iPhone.

That just leaves New Super Mario Bros. U.  First off, I only played it single-player.  The reason being that nobody I know was actually interested in playing it.  What did I think?  Well, it’s easily better than New Super Mario Bros. or New Super Mario Bros. Wii, or New Super Mario Bros 2.  In fact, it’s the first game in the series that feels like a true continuation of the 80s and 90s Mario series, instead of a tribute to those games.  And that’s great, but shouldn’t that have been made, oh, twenty fucking years ago?  How come it took twenty years to get a proper 2D follow-up to Super Mario World?  Maybe they could have existed on the Game Boy Advance, but no, Nintendo decided to cheaply port existing games to the platform instead of attempting anything original.  So while I did have fun with Brand New Mario You, it feels more like playing a mid-90s game with remade 2005 visuals.  In 2012.

Like I said in my piece on the end of the Wii, I don’t buy Nintendo consoles to play third-party games.  I buy them for Nintendo properties.  That’s why I don’t give a shit if the Wii U is already being mocked for its lack of horsepower.  You don’t buy hybrids to win drag races, and you don’t buy Nintendo machines expecting the visuals to knock your socks off.  You buy them expecting the type of entertainment that only Nintendo seems to provide.  In that sense, I guess the Wii U is a winner by default.  I did have fun with Mario U and Nintendo Land, in the same way that I had fun with the original Wii right out of the box on launch day with Wii Sports and Twilight Princess.  But, and here’s  the difference between it and every other Nintendo launch: I don’t see why I needed a new console to have that fun.  With the exception of Nintendo Land, nothing I’ve played on my Wii U over the last couple weeks couldn’t have been done at least equally as fun on the 3DS.

Silly as this sounds, the Animal Crossing minigame in Nintendo Land was the honeypot for entertainment for me.

Silly as this sounds, the Animal Crossing minigame in Nintendo Land was the honeypot for entertainment for me.

I think that’s why I’m still a cynic when it comes to the Wii U.  With the exception of its potential for party games, I don’t see how this bulky ass controller is going to revolutionize gaming.  Maybe it’s not meant to.  Maybe this is just the latest in a long line of machines designed to showcase the best Nintendo’s first parties can come up with.  I guess launch isn’t the best time to talk about a system’s potential.  I would say that if you’re skeptical of the Wii U, nothing at launch will change your opinion about it.  If you’re a raving Nintendo fanboy, you probably stopped reading when I complained about the controller.

As always, the worst thing about any Nintendo launch is dealing with Nintendo fans.  Even Peter Pan would look at Nintendo fanboys and be like “damn, you guys really ought to grow up!”  Yea I know, Nintendo did more to raise you than your parents did.  You ate Nintendo cereal, carried a Nintendo lunch-box, read Nintendo comics, watched Nintendo cartoons, wore Nintendo pajamas, slept in Nintendo bed sheets, and if time allowed, played Nintendo games.  But this whole brand-loyalty thing is just absurd.  Nintendo wasn’t your best friend growing up.  It was a company that targeted you because it could make money off you.  Yea, I know people fall in love with specific brands, but Nintendo fans have kept this childhood obsession going.  As kids, they picked fights with the Genesis crowd.  As young adults, they tried to claim with a straight face that the GameCube was every bit as cool as the PlayStation 2.  And now, as adults, they say anyone who has even the slightest negative opinion of the Wii U is a hater.  STOP IT!  Mature people don’t do this!  Brand loyalty is one thing, but you don’t see Marlboro smokers hacking up phlegm on Camel enthusiasts.

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

14 Responses to Wii Y?

  1. “…you don’t buy Nintendo machines expecting the visuals to knock your socks off.”
    Funny thing is, until the Wii, Nintendo’s console hardware was always cutting-edge, graphics-wise. The DS was also capable of almost the same level of visuals as the PSP. This is actually a fairly recent development!
    I suppose time will tell, as to whether there are developers out there who can harness the GamePad, and give it experiences that are both more intuitive and memorable than what we see right now.

    • kriswd40 says:

      > Funny thing is, until the Wii, Nintendo’s console hardware was always cutting-edge, graphics-wise.

      Not true… NeoGeo and Turbo Graphics 16 were better than the SNES, 3DO one-upped the N64 (and you could make a good argument on the Saturn and Playstation front), DreamCast and PS2 beat the GameCube, etc. Nintendo has never been that far behind but they don’t have a history of leading the pack either.

      I worry about the Wii U… all indications are it’s on par with the Xbox 360 (released in 2005) and PS3 (released in 2006). It’s going to be clearly the weakest of the systems once MS and Sony release their new systems and probably further behind than in any previous generation.

      Plus I just don’t like the controller gimmick. I didn’t buy a 52″ TV so I could play on a 9″ screen.

      • Much love Kris, but a lot of those comparisons are wildly inaccurate.

        -The TurboGrafx 16 was in fact an *8 BIT* machine. It was powered by 8 bit processor, and it was only because of an ambiguity in the law that they could claim to be a 16 bit machine. The only thing truly 16 bit in it is VDC. Although some of its speed stats rivaled the true 16 bit machines, it number is only a product of marketing.

        -3DO had a slower processor and less RAM than the N64. To compare the two is absurd.

        -Gamecube had an IBM 486 MHz processor, 162 MHz graphics processor. Dreamcast had a 200 MHz processor and a 100 MHz graphics processor. Cube had more RAM too. GameCube’s visuals always outperformed PS2 as well.

        • kriswd40 says:

          According to WikiPedia on the 3DO “The system was technically superior to all the consoles released at the time”. That was my general impression from the time too though I never owned one.

          I should have said Xbox/PS2 beat GameCube, DreamCast was pretty much dead by the time GameCube was released. It’s not all about processors and RAM, GameCube (like the N64 before it) lacked the stored capacity on it’s media compared to the other consoles leading to lower resolution textures and omission of in-game video. I always thought it to be a mistake of Nintendo not to embrace CD/DVD when other companies were going that route.

    • I know that Nintendo used to be cutting edge, but they haven’t been that way since the DS/PSP launch that took place when I was 15 years old. My entire adult life has had Nintendo pushing inferior hardware. It doesn’t bother me though. All I care about are games.

  2. ditto on the review. The first batch of games are a bit underwhelming – but hey that was expected. Going to wait on Bayonetta 2 in hopes of salvaging some of those dollars.

  3. I just find it odd that in a generation of smart phones and tablets Nintendo has gone with the Fisher Price version of the those platforms and attached it to a slightly better Wii. If the controller is as unwieldy for adults as Cathy says then children will have an absolute nightmare with it. My other gripe are the special editions of previously released games, so you’re a Nintendo gamer full stop, you get to play Arkham City, Mass Effect 3 and AC3! Whoop! Then in 2 years time the sequels to those games won’t release on the aging Wii U hardware and will instead only be available on the next gen systems from MS and Sony. Yes the first party content is sure to be inventive and worth some of the admission fee but I think Nintendo may just have shot itself in the face this time round.

  4. Robert Boyd says:

    As far as single player games go, I agree that the Wii U’s hardware doesn’t hold that much appeal (mostly moving UI elements off the main screen and onto the touch screen). However, when you start adding additional people…

    2 player full screen mode – I’ve been playing the new Sonic/Sega racing game (excellent game BTW) and I love that I can play 2 player mode and each person gets their own full screen. Makes things much easier and more enjoyable than splitting the screen in half.

    Gamepad playing – Doesn’t work with all games but for the games that it does work on, it’s very nice that you can play entirely on the gamepad if somebody wants to use the TV for something else.

  5. argamae says:

    Cathy, you’ve hit some true spots but all your ranting about how immature and uncritical Nintendo fans are is a bit insulting as I consider myself one. Feels like a preemptive strike to an assault that might not come. I have always had a soft spot for Nintendo and also for their family-friendly image which they fervently defend–even to the laughably silly point of banning all mature content from the eShop from 3 am til 11 pm. At least in Europe.
    And I agree with you in buying Nintendo consoles for the original games and not the third party support. I bought the Wii U and–mustering all of my critical thinking–believe it’s a really good machine that holds a lot of potential. This is especially true for the second screen that you scoff at. So far especially “ZombiU” and “Nintendo Land” showcase this. Gives you a sense of games to come if also the third parties recognize this and tap into the potential.
    I have not found the controller to be overly bulky or unwieldy. It has good grip and using it posed no difficulty for me or some of my significantly smaller friends.

    Concerning the games, I can say that “ZombiU” is one of the most atmospheric and tense games I have played since, hm, well, “Condemned”. The use of the second screen is fun and adds to the gameplay, at least for me. Despite some of the glitches and the somewhat repetitive melee combat it truly brings back a sense of survival horror which was lost on a lot of its contemporary shareholders. For once, you really play the average guy or gal survivor and not some action-hero iconic. Plus, this is definitely a hardcore gamer’s title.

    “Nintendo Land” on the other hand is a somewhat glorified catwalk of the new console features, the same way Wii Sports was. But that’s okay. Most of the games are good fun. And again, in order to get a gold trophy in each of them you have to be a hardcore gamer. Casuals will never get that far.

    So despite the nay-sayers that are always popping up when a new Nintendo console hits the streets I would wager a guess that the Wii U might even surpass the Wii in terms of success.

  6. The Flying Jalapeno says:

    If anything the gamepad is surprisingly light and compact for what it is. My 10 year old niece has played with it for hours since launch and there hasn’t been complaint #1 from her.

    The launch lineup has been very strong, I don’t get the complaints people have with it. Even if you compare it to the 360 launch, it was outstanding. If memory serves me right the whole launch lineup for that was a bunch of EA sports games, a bad Perfect Dark sequel, and some HD versions of PS2 games.

    All it really needs is for developers to use the gamepad stuff wisely. Not shoehorning in gamepad features just because they can. Honestly that’s the one thing that hurt the wii most is making you waggle when a button press would have been better. Games like ZombiU do it right, they know you’re distracted from the main screen while managing your inventory. It really creates great tension. And sometimes facepalming yourself because you were killed after not paying enough attention to your surroundings. For bad implementation of gamepad features, play the Donkey Kong minigame on Nintendoland.. not sure exactly why someone thought blowing into the mic to activate an elevator was a good idea….

    • Argamae says:

      For the record: on the launch title list for the 360 were also the two console exclusives “Kameo – Elements of Power” and “Condemned: Criminal Origins”. Both of which are aged but still have merit to this day. But I agree that the launch lineup for the Wii U ist strong. There is a total of 35 games, counting disc and download titles.

  7. abelxcain says:

    I think it needs more impressive nintendo launch titles. And less tablet. And to not to be a ps360 released on 2012. Also, I see a lot of ports.

  8. withalligators says:

    I haven’t played the thing, but I’m sure I will, and probably won’t own one for years and years. While I think the comparisons the guy up top are drawing are wrong, I do worry that Nintendo didn’t learn their lesson with the Wii. The Wii U is graphical step up from all the machines on the market, outputting native 1080p, with a DirectX capable GPU, etc. But I worry that it will not be enough come the release of Sony and MS’s next batch of boxes. I realize Nintendo doesn’t compete in quite the same sphere as the other two, but not being graphically capable mid-race cost them. Heck, when the Sega consoles (Genesis, Saturn, Dreamcast) came out, They were amazing animals, more powerful than anything else at the time. Then the competing consoles came out a year or so later and people stepped up to those.
    To be fair though, the Wii sold like hotcakes, so bland as it may have seemed, they did something right.

  9. withalligators says:

    *Direct X11 capable* sorry.

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