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.

Kairi on E3 2012: Nintendo Edition

Watch the conference at 9AM, start writing at 8PM.  Sounds fine, except I can’t remember a blasted thing that happened during the show.  Nintendo E3 events all have this problem.  Unless you’re a throbbing Nintendo fanboy, their press conferences all tend to bleed together.  It’s easy to understand why.  “Remember the year Nintendo talked about Mario?”  What Mario are you.. “Or that time that one year when Shigeru Miyamoto came out and pandered to us?”  Well actually that happens every.. “Or that time Reggie Fils-Aime looked like he couldn’t believe he’s 51 years old and trying to shill Let’s Dance?”  NO!  No I don’t remember that time!

Oh thank Christ we don’t have to go a whole fiscal quarter without a Mario game!

Of course, this is a hardware year, so we can call this the year they talked about Wii U.  Which could have been last year too I guess, but work with me here.  Nintendo fans in general seem a little disappointed this year, because Nintendo failed to say all the correct buzz words that cause a reaction in them.  They’re like dogs, conditioned to listen for only key terms.  “Mario!”  Woof!  “Pikmin!”  Woof!  “More Mario!”  WOOF WOOF! But then Nintendo left the poor pooches hanging by not saying other words, like “Smash Brothers” or “Zelda” or “Star Fox.”  Nintendo hounds are sad puppies tonight.  Yep, sorry, I have to cut to the picture.

The face of Nintendo fanboys following E3 2012.

Wii U is coming in 2012, which is ironic given that most Nintendo fanboys are doing the same in anticipation of it.  Most people are of two very different views on it.  They either think it’s brilliant, or that it’s a cumbersome looking piece of shit.  I lean for option two here.  I’m five-foot one-inch tall and I have tiny hands.  Nintendo wants people younger than me with even smaller hands to somehow not develop early-onset carpal tunnel using this.  I’m not saying kids are incapable of using it, but it’s very telling that many of the videos Nintendo showed involved grown adults handling the Wii U GamePad, not children.  Remind me, besides fanboys, what is Nintendo’s target audience again?  And no, it’s not the same as using an iPad.  I can use an iPad just fine, because it has no buttons to press, styluses to hold, or other screens to look at.

It’s weird because Nintendo is kind of famous for making comfortable controllers.  I know the Nintendo 64 bearclaw pad gets some flack, but at age 9 I felt it was just fine.  The Gamecube might have the most comfortable controller I’ve ever used in my life (never did like the Wave Bird as much), and I don’t hate the Wii Remote, even with a nunchuk attached.  It’s just bizarre to me that they could go from being the industry leaders in comfort to being the industry leaders in causing your hand to cramp up just by looking at picture of their next product.  I guess Nintendo wanted a piece of Playboy’s market share.

It doesn’t help that Nintendo showed me absolutely zero games that needed to have this, or more importantly, made me want to own a Wii U.  Yea, they showed a tech demo for a Luigi game that seemed like little more than an update to Pac-Man Vs., itself just a tech demo when you get down to it.  Otherwise, it was mostly used to look at a map.  Next year at E3, for you drinking game fans, just play one for Nintendo’s conference that uses the word “map.”  That’s it.  It’s probably not as potentially lethal to play as one where you take a drink every time someone says “Mario” but you’ll still be blitzed to the point that you won’t remember your own name.

Why do the baby Yoshis look drunk?

Ah yes, Mario.  We’re getting not one, but two games called “New Super Mario Bros.”  Hopefully this means they’ll retcon the previous games in the series to “Old New Super Mario Bros.”  The 3DS entry, called New Super Mario Bros. 2 (because Newer Super Mario Bros. sounded stupid I guess) brings back the leaf from Super Mario 3.  I’m sorry, but when you set out to make a game and call it “new”, maybe step one should be “include new shit in it!”  The Wii U version, called New Super Mario Bros. U (way to phone in the title, Nintendo) brings in Yoshis and the cape from Super Mario World, only this time it’s “new” because it looks like a flying squirrel suit.  It’s like asking your wife to dress up like a naughty nurse.  I don’t get why people do it, because at the end of the day you’re still getting sucked off by the same person.

I have a theory.  I think Nintendo games start off as a game of Mad Libs.  Picture it: a bunch of guys in Kyoto pass a joint around, sip some sake, and then try to name animals.  “Penguin!”  “Flying Squirrel!”  “Frog!”  “Bumble Bee!”  And this is where the power ups in Mario games come from.

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