Tag Archives: Nintendo Wii U

Why Nintendo must “up their game”

I’m a huge Nintendo fan, and have been since the 1980s. Nintendo gaming has given me an abundance of wonderful memories: from my first race on Super Mario Kart on the SNES, via Mario’s groundbreaking first 3D outing on the Nintendo 64, to the wow-factor of swinging a virtual tennis racket using the Wii Remote.

I’m remained fiercely loyal to Nintendo over the years, and despite occasional flirtations with other consoles, Nintendo’s uniquely quirky style of gaming has always been my preferred leisure companion.

Nintendo Wii U
Nintendo Wii U

So, it’s with regret that I feel compelled to have a bit of a whine about the current state of play in the world of Nintendo. I own both of Nintendo’s current consoles: the 3DS and Wii U, and I’ve enjoyed many hours with both. But certain things need to improve, or Nintendo’s in danger of being left behind in the next round of the console wars.

Here’s what I think Nintendo must do:

Invest in user interfaces

I said myself (above) that I love Nintendo’s quirky style, and it’s something that’s strongly in evidence within their console menus, right down to the cute download animations.

I don’t have a problem with this, but I do have a problem with the slow UI on the new Wii U. In a world where people are used to the instantaneous nature of their iPhones and tablets, long waits to access system features on a “next gen” console don’t look good at all. Nintendo-haters have, for a long time, referred to Nintendo consoles as “toys” and “kids games,” and slow cutesy menus are hardly going to change their minds.

Improved retro game support

Nintendo’s extensive library of retro games forms an impressive heritage, and is one of the strongest trump cards the company has to play.

Why, then, was there no Virtual Console service ready when the Wii U was launched? Why do people who’ve already downloaded retro games on their Wii have to go through a horribly unintuitive process to migrate them to their Wii U? Why is the Wii integration on the Wii U so clunky, and almost as much hassle as using an emulator?

Most importantly, where they are available, why are Nintendo’s retro games not priced in a way that reflects the fact that they are, in the main, decades old? Many people downloading them will have already purchased them at least once in another format – and the prices should reflect this.

Nintendo could make so much more of their back catalogue by making it easier and more economical for people to actually play the games.

Recommit to first-party game development

Some of the my most significant Wii U launch memories come from third-party games. That’s not good.

I would have been one of the first people to defend the choice of a 2D Mario launch game. Now that I’ve played actually played New Super Mario Bros U, though, not so much. This game should have been huge and varied, and not what is essentially a game of the same size and structure as all the other New Super Mario titles that have gone before, albeit one hidden behind an attractive world map.

Nintendo Land has been fun, but hardly shows off the new hardware and is, essentially, a mini game collection. What has truly impressed me? Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed, a third-party game, and a short demo of Rayman Legends. The latter is truly inventive, in the way that New Super Mario Bros U really should have been.

I appreciate that it’s early days for the Wii U, and that more first-party content is imminent, but Nintendo need to work fast. This year’s E3 conference is only 5 months away, and will probably bring news of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720. If Nintendo haven’t brought many more people on board by then, they could have a difficult time in the coming years. As yet, they haven’t done quite enough to persuade this loyal fanboy to start persuading the haters.

My first month with the Nintendo Wii U

The launch day for the new Nintendo Wii U saw my wife and I rush out to buy one like excited children. As committed Nintendo fans we had waited eagerly for our chance, and we were lucky enough to find one in the first shop we visited. With time off work booked in advance, specifically for this moment, we drove quickly home to get started. This article discusses our first month with the new console.

First Impressions

My first observation when rooting through the box was that our shiny black premium console is a serious fingerprint-magnet. I was also quite surprised by the size of the new tablet-based gamepad. It’s far larger than I expected, but not to its detriment – the gamepad is well-built and very comfortable to hold.

I was already aware of the day-one software update. This multi-gigabyte download attracted criticism, but anyone who understands technology should be forgiving. The consoles were probably boxed up far in advance of the final firmware being ready, so I was patient through the download and installation, which took just over an hour.

The Wii U
The Wii U

The Wii U’s TV remote integration must be mentioned here. All it really does is allow you to use the Wii U Gamepad as a TV remote, to change inputs and volume, but it work seamlessly. You really have to own one to know how it changes things in your living room, but read on to the conclusion to find out more.

It’s Mario Time

New Super Mario Bros U, the latest 2D Mario platform game, took up all of our initial hours of gaming. We swooned at seeing Mario in HD for the first time and enjoyed and cursed the “old-school” difficulty level in equal measure. I must confess, however, that we felt some disappointment on completing the main game within about 20 hours of play.

I was quite disappointed by this. Many criticized the choice of a 2D Mario platformer for the launch of a “next gen” console.  While I had no objection, this game needed to be truly epic and, to be frank, it just wasn’t. Extra bolt-on modes do not make for an enormous game, and we were surprised and disappointed to find New Super Mario Bros U on our eBay pile long before Christmas day.

Nintendo Land

Christmas marked our first opportunity to put some serious hours into Nintendo Land, the Wii U’s closest equivalent to the “entire family can play” simplicity of Wii Sports.

Nintendo Land is tremendous fun, and despite the individual mini games being more complex than swinging a virtual racket, the whole family did get involved and enjoy the experience.

What surprised us was that the single player “attractions,” particularly Balloon Trip Breeze and Yoshi’s Fruit Cart, grabbed more of our family’s attention than the much-hyped asymmetric multiplayer options like Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. We passed several hours working away at each other’s high scores, rather than chasing each other around maze environments.

While it’s true to say that the Nintendo Land disk has spent little time inside our Wii U since the Christmas flurry of interest, we’re far from done with it just yet. I think the game may have more longevity than Wii Sports, in our house at least, so this is quite a triumph for Nintendo.

Sonic and All Stars Racing

Once we’d exhausted the delights of Nintendo’s first-party games, we still had Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed lurking below the Christmas tree.

We didn’t expect miracles from this multi-format game, so we were surprised and delighted when it delivered, for us, the most impressive gaming experience so far on the Wii U.  The game’s fast action actually gave us a hint of what our “next gen” HD hardware could do. Nintendo really shouldn’t have left a third-party to show us the capabilities of its new hardware, but that’s for another time and another article.

We also spent some time with a couple of demos: Fifa 13 and Rayman Legends, the latter instantly becoming one of my most anticipated games of 2013 thanks to the variety shown in just three demo levels.

The Miiverse

Finally, the Miiverse needs a mention. This friendly and lighthearted social networking platform is truly unique. The ability to comment at certain points of the gaming experience is more engaging than you would expect, and it’s fascinating to interact with people cursing the same level as you are. I’ve only scratched the surface of the Miiverse so far, but am impressed with what I see.

The Bad Bits

It’s not all been fun and games. Transferring all of the retro Virtual Console games from my original Wii was slow, hateful and unnecessarily convoluted. It seemed like a slap in the face as reward for the serious sums I have spent on these downloads.

In addition, the lack of any real Wii integration with the new Wii U menus was a disappointment. Instead, you must effectively reboot into Wii mode if you want to use any old Wii games – it’s clunky and unappealing.

My final disappointment is the lack of any Wii U Virtual Console at this stage. Making 15-year-old games available for download should not be complicated and I actually think it inexcusable that Nintendo didn’t have this ready for release day.

Conclusion

There’s a lot we love about the Wii U, and bizarrely it’s the universal remote functionality that I mentioned above that deserves a special mention. The simple ability to switch on the TV and change the input to the Wii U without a remote means that all you have to do to begin gaming is grab the Wii U gamepad. This, somehow, ends up makes using the console more of a daily activity that it would have been otherwise. It’s an incredibly clever move from Nintendo.

Gaming wise, the Wii U has pleased me, but Nintendo desperately needs to keep the games coming. Right now, I’m playing a couple of indie games downloaded from the eShop (Nano Assault Neo is my current choice), but when they’re done, I’ve played everything I want to. I really don’t want to see a console I was so excited about lingering unused beneath my TV. If Nintendo had some retro games to tide me over (Gamecube titles please!) then this would be less of a concern.

So, I’m happy with the Wii U, but at the same time feel I need a little more convincing. Please don’t let me down, Nintendo.