What I Think of the Wii U

I’ve been asked this question too many times to count in recent months, but since there just wasn’t enough information on the console before today, I could never consider any answer truly reasonable. Well, Nintendo’s simultaneous American/European broadcast has just wrapped up and now most of that information gap has been filled, so I thought I’d commit my knee-jerk reaction here.
I’m not going to cover all of the freshly announced news because that isn’t what Vagrant Rant is about, but I will lay down my opinions as always. It’s just past 1am in the morning and I can’t promise this will be terribly coherent. It’ll probably be my “rantiest” post yet.

This colour is apparently now considered “premium”.

Well here we are, closer than we’ve ever been to the latest Nintendo home console, knowing more information than we ever have. As a gamer who once devoted a sizeable chunk of his childhood to the revered Japanese corporation, I have always expected big things from Nintendo, and I certainly am not alone. Of course, recent years have not provided the greatest signs that Nintendo is looking out for fans such as myself. Though I have some amazing memories of playing the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube, the Wii just didn’t provide quite as many great gaming moments. They were there, for sure, but they were so spaced out due to the company’s newfound focus on the casual market that the console left a bit of a sour taste in many a fan’s mouth. 2008 and 2009 were so infamously dry of Nintendo quality that I barely played any games in the former and branched out to Xbox 360 and PS3 in the latter.

I may be an all-console owner and lover of shiny new things now, but part of me still wants to return to the days where all I needed was one console to provide for my gaming needs. Now, that just flat-out isn’t going to happen, because I doubt the Xbox 360 is going to suddenly stop its stranglehold on a superior online experience, as much as I doubt that the PS3 will stop coming out with brilliant exclusive titles. But it sure would be nice to have a reason to think about which console to turn on during my free time and have a Nintendo product as a legitimate option. That’s all I ask for.

So, is what I’ve seen enough to convince me to buy a Wii U on launch day (November 30th in Aus)?

In short, yes.

Now let’s be honest, I would have said that regardless, because again, I love shiny new things, but there are a few perfectly legitimate reasons why I believe it will be worth a try:

The new tech.

Curiosity, more than anything, is keeping people interested in the potential of Nintendo’s new system. It’s the very reason I kept getting asked my opinion on the console despite how little information there was to draw from. The momentum of mass opinion, especially on the internet, is a powerful force, and any backlash against the new console for whatever reason was arguably to be expected earlier in the year, but as more and more developers start to reveal some of the clever ways they are using the Wii U Gamepad (especially Ubisoft), and as time since E3 2012 continues to elapse, sheer curiosity is starting to show in anyone who isn’t an anti-Nintendo fanboy.

It’s true that we don’t know enough about the console’s online infrastructure yet to be at all satisfying, but that information will come later. The Gamepad is rightly taking centre stage right now and it’s looking pretty cool. Surely Nintendo can’t make yet another crazy idea work? Well, maybe they can. I’m just saying.

The frankly quite glorious price.

$350 for the “basic pack” (white console + 8gb flash memory + HDMI cable) and $430 for the “premium pack” (black console + 32gb flash memory + HDMI cable + Nintendo Land + various accessories).

Even my most optimistic guess at the Wii U’s price was higher than what Nintendo of Australia has just announced. I guessed between $400 and $550, but I honestly didn’t expect anything under $450. Let’s put this in perspective. Not only is the so-called “premium pack” retailing at a mere $30 more than a bare-bones Xbox 360 with a HDD, but it includes a HDMI cable, which bumps the value right up, arguably to parity with said 360.

But wait, it includes a full first-party game, Nintendo Land, a la the Wii Sports pack-in from the 2006 Wii launch, and it’s a more powerful console with some impressive streaming tech to the tablet controller. And oh yeah, you probably already have a few controllers ready to go with this system, because, come on, nearly everyone got a Wii at some stage. These are the prices the Playstation Vita, a portable console, had at launch for its two models, and it included no extras whatsoever. I mean, I know the Aussie market can be stingy, but I really believe Nintendo has got it right in this department.

The games.

Yes, I know a lot of the Wii U games that have been announced so far are ports of existing games, and that playing them with added DLC and/or Wii U exclusive features may not be enough to convince people to play those games again. But their existence is proof that third-party developers are taking the console seriously. If a neutral potential customer sees that they can play Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed 3, Batman Arkham City Armoured Edition, Fifa 13 or Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on the console, it says something about its credibility, as stupid as that may sound to a Nintendo fan.

Of course, it is the exclusives that stand out as the main reason to get the console. The Wii U will launch with Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros U and no matter what anyone says about those, you just know they will be fun to play. But ZombiU and Rayman Legends on day one? Sign me up. ZombiU looks like it will use the Gamepad better than any other launch game and as for Legends, well if it’s anything like its predecessor Origins it will be top quality through and through.

The console’s first four months on the market actually look quite strong already, which is so crucial for any new console momentum-wise. Pikmin 3, Game & Wario and The Wonderful 101 (formerly Project P-100) will all be immediate purchases for me on release and I’m intrigued by Scribblenauts Unlimited, Lego City Undercover and Neon Assault Neo. Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Skylanders Giants and Aliens: Colonial Marines will apparently have their definitive versions on Wii U as well. We got our first glimpse at a post-“launch window” future this morning with the terribly exciting Bayonetta 2 announcement, we already know there is a new Smash Bros in development for Wii U, and you’d be kidding yourself not to expect new individual adventures for Link, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Samus, Fox McCloud…

Even if you somehow still find the lineup a bit dry and have a 360 and/or a PS3, there is absolutely no reason to complain. There are some truly amazing games on the horizon that you can spend your time on while you wait, and if you don’t have either console, you’ll have a host of those aforementioned ports to enjoy anyway.

If in doubt, faith.

Let’s face it; If there is one developer that has earned the trust of the gaming public after decades of producing consistently amazing games and keeping everyone entertained with a mixture of boundless expertise and never-say-die quirkiness, it’s Nintendo. They have always believed in their games and they match gameplay experiences to hardware more seamlessly than any other company out there. They may have burned some die-hard fans with their casual-market pandering during the last generation, but hey, they said they were going to aim at a new market. Like, explicitly. This time around, they say they have built a console more geared for the “hardcore” gaming crowd, packing experiences like nothing elsewhere, and it kinda looks like they might be right. Why not just believe them?

Bring on November 30th.

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