Monday, December 3, 2012

Wii Play, U Suck

The Wii U is out of the box... for two weeks now in the US and since Friday here in Europe. Not much excitement on my front though. And I probably won't get a Wii U in the near future and it most likely will depend on the Wii U Zelda game, which will arise 2014 or whatever...

But it wouldn't be the first time, that I skipped over a Nintendo console. I didn't get the GameCube until late 2005, at the time the most interesting thing about the Wind Waker was the Master Quest disc bundled with it. And the GameCube didn't feel like an attractive gaming system until I had the chance to test a demo of Twilight Princess at the Games Convention 2005 in Leipzig. That's what changed my mind about the system and made me get a Cube together with all the Zelda stuff for it.

But as cliched as it may sounds, right now the GameCube looks and feels like a much better gaming system than the Wii U ever will be. Why? The GameCube was solely about the games! You insert a disc, you play, no big fluff. The Wii U? You get Miiverse, TViii (lol) and lots of more junk that doesn't have to do anything with gaming. It's all bloated and all of it is not going to matter in ten years. Nintendo's biggest strength used to be making timeless systems and games. I can still put some batteries into my old GameBoy and play Link's Awakening on it. And when I visit home, where all my pre Wii/DS era video game stuff is at, I really enjoy bringing out my GameCube and play the Zelda CE for example. That stuff is timeless. Well, maybe except for the Scart cables and the batteries, but otherwise pretty timeless. The Wii U in ten years? All the Miiverse, TVii, Wii-ever crap won't matter, if they still work at the time that is. Only the games matter then. In fact for most people that's already the case. Or is there actually someone, who's excited about Miiverse? Or buys a Wii U to watch TViiii? (At least in Germany we won't get TViii, it's not important.) So, as always with a Nintendo console, it's the games that will ultimately matter. But what can we expect from Wii U games?

Will we get timeless games that you even can enjoy in ten or twenty years? Or will we get gimmicky Wii U GamePad games?

The biggest gimmick about the GameCube was the GameBoy Advance connection, which is a tad similar to the whole Wii U Gamepad stuff. I didn't like the GBA connection. The Tingle Tuner was an aweful feature and playing Four Swords Adventures with the GBA can gave you headaches, because you had to constantly refocus your eyes between the big screen and the GBA screen... sadly Zelda had to be guinea pig for this gimmick, while all other big Nintendo titles stayed safe from it.

And Zelda remained to be the primary guinea pig for Nintendo's new hardware features. Zelda was THE game to make the most out of the features of the Nintendo DS and Wii, may it be the touchscreen controls or the Wiimote swinging. However, with the Wii and the Nintendo DS the innovative controls helped to provide a more natural and intuitive gaming experience. Especially playing Zelda Skyward Sword with the Wiimote and Nunchuk felt great (it was all the "please slice in the right direction"-puzzles that ruined the experience).

Now, with the Wii U we got innovation just for innovations's sake. With no true advantages more than "you can now play Mario while your girlfriend watches Grey's Anatomy". The console comes with this expansive GamePad and now all big Nintendo games simply have to use it to give the consumer the feeling that he or she didn't buy the pad for no good reason. And of course Zelda will be up front to be the guinea pig again. They won't try to improve what they've started with Skyward Sword and labeled as the best possible Zelda experience. They'll scrap it and do something with the GamePad instead, Aonuma already confirmed that. And I'm really skeptical about that.

One more thing I don't like about the Wii U is the so called "backwards compatibility". With previous systems it was very simple. I put my GameCube discs into my Wii and they run. I put my GB games into my GBA and they run. I put my GBA games into my Nintendo DS Lite and they run. I put my Nintendo DS games into my 3DS and they run. All nice and simple. With the Wii U? In order to play Wii games and use transferred download titles you have to boot up the old Wii interface. Seriously? Imagine you install Windows 7 on your new fancy computer, but in order to play your favorite PC games you'd had to boot up Windows XP again. That would be aweful! No one would like to do that. But with the Wii U and Wii games that's what it is. And there's no good excuse for this.

Instead of focusing on useless crap like Miiverse and TVii they should have focused on these issues. People may have large Wii libraries and naturally they want to carry over their Wii games to the Wii U without them being treated as some foreign beings. And they want to keep using their virtual game libraries without any downsides. If I buy a game like The Legend of Zelda digitally I should be able to download and play it on all future systems. I shouldn't have to boot a different OS in order to play it or even pay for it again, just because it's now in HD, has some 3D effects or save states...

Whatever the Wii U will bring, I just hope that Nintendo returns to focus on what matters most: not gimmicky hardware, not gimmicky features, but the games.

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