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A Very Grinchy Wii U Impression Post

I was in the shower yesterday, just a couple of hours before heading out to the Gamestop to pick up my Wii U preorder, when I thought to myself “why the hell am I buying that stupid thing?” Thus began a tumultuous, flippity-floppity bout of a priori buyer’s remorse as I reminded myself of how I really didn’t want to play yet another Mario game (but in HD!) or a host of ports with pseudo-tablet support bolted on. ZombiU, my other pick out of the launch lineup, was getting a critical drubbing- most notably from IGN, who just a couple of weeks ago posted a radioactively glowing preview calling the game the Wii U’s “killer app”. I guess the IGN editors’ idea of a “killer app” is one that rates a 6.3 or “Okay”. What’s more, I found myself thinking that if I were going to buy it, I wanted the deluxe set after all. Not the 8 gig poor man’s version that I opted for to save $50. Damn Borderlands 2 for coming out the day I went to preorder.

At any rate, I wound up dropping my wife off to get a mani/pedi (on my dime, of course) and hauling my two kids over to the shop. I picked up the console and Mario, cancelling the ZombiU preorder in favor of waiting for Gamefly. After hearing multiple reports of folks walking into stores and buying them right off the shelf, the Gamestop clerk’s ranting and raving about how there would be absolutely none of these available at retail by the end of the day seemed awfully hyperbolic.

Once the family were all in bed, I found myself in the living room with the Wii U in its box just sitting there. At once, there was that “OMG new game console” feeling that’s very rare. Especially when we’re talking about a console that is sort of the advance warning of the next generation of hardware. But I also found myself checking Ebay to see what the aftermarket prices were looking like. I’m not proud. I’d double my money on it in a heartbeat if it meant buying the kids a bigger Christmas gift and one of the coveted deluxe Wii U sets.

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I wound up reading a couple of comic books (Morrison’s superlative Batman and Robin, in case you’re wondering) instead of just tearing into the box and plugging in all of the rubber and cooper spaghetti into my stupid TV that only has two HDMI jacks. I had a flashback to 2006, when I wound up rather ridiculously with three Wiis on launch day, but had to wait until Christmas to open mine. I half wanted to just wait on it. But I also half didn’t really care about breaking it out.

I gave in, and yes it was fun and cool to see the new hardware. The gamepad is cool and it actually feels great once you get used to it. At first, it kind of feels like holding a coffee table even after endless hours of pawing an iPad. I rolled my eyes at having to set up another sensor bar, right over the remnants of the sticky tape where the last one went. It powered on, I got a little excited, and then that update you might have heard about started spooling up.

After 20 minutes and another issue of Batman and Robin, I decided to just play some Black Ops 2 (review forthcoming, by the way). After an hour or so, the Wii U was finally ready to do its thing. My first impression? God damn, the menus are slow. Second impression? I really don’t want to be reminded of the Wii, even though I had some good times with it and played some great games on it. It’s too soon.

I half-heartedly made a Mii. It was hardly the joyful “OMG it looks like me!” experience it was the first time. I just didn’t really care. I knew which glasses to pick, typically scowling mouth, tousled hair without poking around. Of course, there wasn’t anyone else in the room to laugh with me about it like there was last time. Regardless, I just couldn’t care less about making a goofy character that looks like me at this stage. With that done, I did all the usual setup steps, fumbled around to find a way to recover my old WiiShop account and purchases to no avail, and finally- some three hours after hooking it up- played some damn Super Mario Bros.

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You probably expect some kind of epiphanic revelation, that after playing Black Ops 2 I was tickled and delighted to see Mario and the gang in bright colors. You might expect me to rhapsodize about how moving from brutally killing xXxshawtymac420xXx and JUGGAL0JEWK1LLA to one of those Magical Games of Our Youth somehow reminded me of the whimsy and wonder of video games. Not so much. My heart did not grow two sizes and all that. Instead, I thought “huh, HD”. Wondered what the point was of having the exact same image displayed on the gamepad as was on the TV. Thought for a minute that maybe I’d just turn the TV off and play it as a handheld. Made it through a couple of courses and died a bunch. Turned it off about 20 minutes later thinking “yep, it’s a new Mario game”. Of course it’s good. Of course it’s cute. But at this point in the franchise’s history, so what?

So I went right back to take up a slot on the wonderful all-Nuketown 2025 playlist. Maybe Call of Duty hasn’t budged all that much of the Modern Warfare design document. But at least it hasn’t been virtually the same nostalgia-coasting game that Super Mario Bros. has been since Super Mario World. I’m not really sure what I expected, but that last Rayman game blows it out of the water.

I did turn the Wii U back on to check out its Netflix functions, and that resulted pretty much in a shrug as well. Yeah, it’s cool to fiddle around with the menus on the tablet, but again, it’s a big so what. I stopped off in the eShop, remembered that I just had the 8gb model, and turned it off again. Didn’t wan tto pay $20 for Trine 2 anyway.

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Here’s the thing. This is a very cool, potentially great console despite my ho-hum, Grinchy attitude toward it. Even though I didn’t feel that “this is the future of gaming” feeling that I felt using a Wiimote the first time (look how that turned out), I can imagine all kinds of awesome applications and innovations that would take advantage of it. The question remains if developers are going to leverage the novelty to do something interesting with it. Or if it’s the new waggle. There’s a very big “if” involved in assessing the Wii U and in particular the gamepad.

I’ve got a rental Darksiders II on the way, which I’m looking forward to, and I’ll probably try Assassin’s Creed 3 on it. I can finally play Xenoblade Chronicles, which I’m picking up today. I don’t have- and don’t care about- Nintendoland. Most of the other launch games I’ve either played elsewhere or have zero interest in. The promise of Bayonetta 2, Platinum’s other title, and using that gamepad in Colonial Marines give me much to look forward to. Developers, it’s in your hands whether this console becomes a major player or another laughing stock like the Vita. Sure, there will definitely be good Nintendo games on it. But what else? The tools are definitely there. The other very big question involved with the Wii U if there’s money there to convince game makers to use them. After atrocities like the Cold Stone Creamery Ice Cream Game and M&Ms Cart Racing, not to mention any cut-rate minigame compliation, it isn’t hard to worry about what’s on tap for this new, promising hardware.

This morning, I looked at the console as I was putting a movie on for my son. It couldn’t be. Was that what I think it was? No. No. It can’t be. It can’t be a speck of dust. Not yet.

Michael Barnes

Games writer Michael Barnes is a co-founder of Nohighscores.com as well as FortressAT.com. His trolling has been published on the Web and in print in at least two languages and in three countries. His special ability is to cheese off nerds using the power of the Internet and his deep, dark secret is that he's actually terrible at games. Before you ask, no, the avatar is not him. It's Mark E. Smith of The Fall.

12 thoughts to “A Very Grinchy Wii U Impression Post”

  1. My survival horror oriented friends have been enjoying ZombiU. I would have done that with Mario if getting a console up here was bloody possible.

    I can wait though. Hopefully it does well. I don’t want it to do Wii levels of sales, then every dickhole developer barfs their shit on it, as you noted. Wii had that problem, so did the PS2.

    There’s a lot they can do with the pad, I hope somebody decides to do it.

    I’m okay with a few great games. I had a lot of fun with the Wii when I wasn’t being irked by motion control and at least Nintendo was decent enough to not make it the focus here. But, I am odd that way, I don’t mind paying for the privilege if the good experiences warrant it. Mario Galaxy 1&2 and Donkey Kong Country Returns made the whole system worth it on their own for me.

    1. Yeah, I think I feel the same way about it. If we can get something on the level of Donkey Kong Country Returns (one of the best platformers I’ve ever played, period), Star Successor, No More Heroes, Monster Hunter 3, the SMG games, or MadWorld…that’s all I need out of it. I mean, shit, I have all three consoles. The Wii U is something of a supplement, and I’d really like to see the more niche, oddball stuff there.

      That said, Darksiders II is pretty darn good on it. The menus and maps on the gamepad are really nice, very well implemented. ESPECIALLY for a loot game. I actually think I’d try Borderlands 2 on it if it had a really nice touch menu system instead of that crappy UI it’s saddled with now.

      There’s also the Xenoblade Chronicles issue. I have it in hand. Lucked up and found a used one at Gamestop. And paid, of course, $0 for it after coupons and credit. That game will be very valuable one day, as will Last Story.

      1. Xenoblade has one of the most satisfying and WTF endings of any game I played this year.

        DKCR is indeed a mind blowingly tight platformer. Ridiculous it didn’t do even better in sales.

  2. Barnes, can you confirm if the WiiU upscales regular Wii games to higher outputs? I know upscaling is not the same as increasing the resolution, but I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on how the image quality does change.

    1. Can’t confirm- I’ll check tonight. From what I think I heard, it does upscale but I’m not sure if it hits 720 or if it just smooths out the resolution.

  3. The main problem with the Wii U in my mine mind is “we’ve all been there done that already”.

    Case in point with Nintendo itself;

    http://pocketmedia.ign.com/media/news/image/connectingcube/gbaconnector.jpg

    Nintendo had something going strong there back in the GBA/Cube days but didn’t follow through. They dropped the ball on the implied “promise” with the DS/Wii & I think everyone is tired.

    Also Microsoft is actively testing the waters with Smart Glass more than Sony or Nintendo has done in the past 10 years combined on supplemental devices. Even still I thinking MS is taking things too slowly. Direct X API should have been outputting XML data to secondary display devices (2nd monitors/laptops/phones) years ago.

    The Wii U isn’t next gen, it’s just a Wii/HD. Everyone already has a DSi/3DS in there pocket already (even more Androids/iPhones) … what were you thinking Nintendo !? Don’t even get me started on Blu-Ray player that can’t play retail movies. Man, 2012 feels like the shitiest year in gaming history, Nuketown/2025 24/7 didn’t even last 6 days …

    1. If ‘dropping the ball’ means selling a boatload of systems, I think they’d be happy to do so again with the Wii U what they did with the DS and Wii. I’m not sure what you mean by the promise of the DS, it is a phenomenal system and had a boatload of amazing games for it.

      The GBA connector, which I did use for the brilliant Pac-Man Vs., had the same problem that the SmartGlass is going to run into. There is NO point in making a subset of your console and expecting it to sell software and have support. Kinect , EyeToy, and Move are cases in point, same as the SuperScope, the eCard Reader, and six hundred Genesis peripherals.

      If you sell a dozen people your system, maybe six buy your add-on if you’re lucky, then hopefully three or four of those might pick up your fabulous add-on requiring game. Why even bloody bother if you can just scrap whatever feature you were putting in and put it on the main console and the dozen people can potentially get it?

      But, that’s my take on it. I think we have differing viewpoints, since this has been a very good year for my tastes in games. I have no idea what way the Wii U is heading, but I think that the pad is more apt to get use at this juncture as a fully integrated and built-in system component.

      Mind, I’m also a pretty glass half full kind of person when it comes to gaming.

      1. This is an interesting issue because what Nintendo does with their disruptive, novelty hardware is to create a completely different, nonstandard platform. I think the strategic intent is to encourage developers to come up with novel, unique games that can’t be played elsewhere. But the reality of it is that it creates a situation where developers have to invest money in developing for things like the second DS screen, the Wiimote, or the gamepad- and that means financial investment and risk.

        The Wii’s architecture was so different than the 360 or PS3, so ports had to be completely different, developed by different teams, and well…you saw the results. If it wasn’t outright horrible, it was some kind of spinoff title with the brand name. It was very smart to make the Wii U more in line with those systems because that means ports can be 1:1…but there’s still that Gamepad issue.

        So if I’m working on the Silver Age Rocksteady Batman game (just wanted to remind everyone that it’s a thing), I have to ask if it’s worth the capital investment to develop truly special, unique feature for what may be a fraction of the game’s potential userbase. First party titles, this isn’t an issue. They’re going to own the thing.

        It does matter that the gamepad is an integrated part of the hardware…if it were another Kinect or (heh heh) PS Move, it’d be DOA.

        As for Helios’ comments about Nuketown…yeah, that really sucks. I freaking love that map, like most folks do. And it’s GREAT for double XP games, because you tend to rake ’em in. I was totally ruling on that map the other night, I NEVER finish top three in pretty much any shooter but I was #1 like five matches straight.

  4. My personal benchmark machine called Girlfriend has not shown the required excitement levels for a new Nintendo product. (which is highly unusual)

    Therefore I will be declining an early invitation at the Wii U Party.
    Good Ruck Kids!

    1. Did you catch that part about the mani/pedi? You’ve got to budget in bribes anytime you make a purchase like this. Take it from a married man.

      The sad thing is that I actually didn’t pay one cent for the Wii U. It was financed entirely with Gamestop credit, PowerUp Rewards bonuses and a couple of trades. It’s how I roll.

      But I still had to make appeasments.

  5. Luckily we are in role reversal situation here (luckily) she is the nut that demands new Nintendo hardware.

    I wouldn’t have purchased a Wii but very much glad she did as I very much enjoyed its gems.

    Does.. this… mean.. I can demand.. bribes from her?

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