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Five Lies the Internet Tells about the Wii U

ten things wii u shot 1

Everywhere you turn these days, there’s a news article or a comment about how the Wii U is a “disaster”, a “flop” or a “failure”. There are constant reminders everywhere from the teenager blog sites to the Wall Street Journal that Nintendo’s beleaguered console isn’t selling as well as Iwata-san and company had hoped. There’s no doubt that Nintendo’s overly optimstic sales projections were a tragic misjudgment of the market- a market which I don’t think the Wii really belongs to. The Wii U isn’t really a competitor to the Xbox One or PS4. It’s a Nintendo console made to play Nintendo games. The handful of AAA ports are almost incidental. Sure, the marketing for the console has ranged from terrible to confusing to non-existent- but that’s no reason for such a great gaming machine to fail. Or for self-styled “game journos” and actual journalists to lie about it.

With Nintendo slashing its sales projections- which were way too high to begin with- the Wii U seems to be primed to get steamrollered by ultra-high powered consoles produced by divisions of two of the biggest corporations on the planet, ironically with all of these promises of “next generation” gameplay as yet unrealized. Yet I will be the first to tell you that it is the best current offering out of the next generation consoles. The PS4 that I picked up on launch day has seen maybe about two hours of total play time between Resogun, FIFA 14, and Don’t Starve. I play something on the Wii U daily. I love the Wii U, and lots of game players I’ve talked to and gamed with love it as well.

So what the hell is going on? Is the dogpiling the result of the hardcore internet forumistas punishing the Wii U for being something other than a new machine on which to play the latest AAA military shooter? Is there resentment being expressed here that Nintendo had such a great success selling the original Wii to senior citizens and the maligned “casual” market? Or is there just a complete misunderstanding about Nintendo and the Wii U, a failure by the mainstream and gaming press to acknowledge that the console isn’t quite trying to run the same race as the next-gen thoroughbreds?

I’m hardly “gaming press” (please don’t count me in with that loathsome bunch), but I want to be at least one voice that deflates some of the lies circulating about this fantastic console. If I get just one person to go out and give this machine a chance instead of beliving the bullshit, I’ll consider this article a success.

Lie #1- “The Wii U is underpowered.”

If this were the case, then Wii U users would be encountering massive slowdown and other technical issues while playing Super Mario 3D World. There would be Digital Foundry reports demonstrating how Pikmin 3 runs poorly on the Wii U compared to the other consoles. Oh wait, you can’t play Pikmin 3 on the other consoles. It turns out that the Wii U is perfectly powered to play Wii U games. Both of the mentioned games look incredible- far better than anything I have yet to see on the Xbox One or PS4. And it’s not just a hardware thing- it’s a production design thing. Those games are made to look great on the Wii U, and nowhere else.

Sure- the Xbox One or PS4 might run Assassin’s Creed 4 with better arm hair rendering or whatever, but who cares. It’s the old adage that you buy a Nintendo console to play Nintendo games, and the whole “underpowered” argument falls apart when you acknowledge that the AAA garbage that’s available for the Wii U is almost a perfunctory glance toward the marketplace dominated by Sony and Microsoft. Sure, the Wii U may not be able to run GTAV or whatever game some snarky AAA developer says will never run on the platform- but who cares? You want to play those games, buy a console powered to play them. You want to play Nintendo games (and some great third party exclusives)? Buy a Wii U.

I promise you will not be lamenting the console’s lack of “power” when you’re playing The Wonderful 101.

Lie #2- “There are no good games for the Wii U.”

Bullshit. The best games I played in 2013 were all Wii U titles. Sure, it didn’t have corny Z-grade trash like Bioshock Infinite or the Last of Us practically breaking their backs to strain for artistic credibility. But it did have some truly outstanding VIDEO GAMES with very traditional VIDEO GAME values released throughout its first full year of availability. What’s more, almost every one of the Wii U’s top games are not available on another console and you will never get them on a Steam sale. You can’t play the amazing HD re-release of Wind Waker anywhere else. Lego City Undercover- the best Lego game to date- utilizes the gamepad in such a way that even if there were a port for other consoles, you’d be missing out on some of its most fun features. And of course, the top shelf Nintendo titles are only playable on Nintendo hardware. As it should be.

So what if every single big-budget EA or Activision game doesn’t come out on the Wii U? I don’t really care. I’ll take one Super Mario 3D World, a game I’ll be playing for years to come, over the latest Splinter Cell or whatever. I’d rather play through Wind Waker another time than a new Mass Effect game, and if I want that I have a PS4- just in case. A console with ten great, timeless, perennial games is much more valuable than one that has tons of annualized AAA shovelware piled on to it.

Folks berate Nintendo all the time for reissues and new titles that stick closely to winning formulas- but they’re missing the point that many of Nintendo’s design concepts are timeless and evergreen. Rather unlike last year’s Assassin’s Creed game, which will be duly forgotten before the next one comes in November. Even if you don’t buy any new games for the Wii U, there’s still a wealth of great Wii titles that you can play on it (backward compatibility and all) as well as plenty of Virtual Console titles. It’s amazing how dated multimillion dollar shooters from 2010 feel when you can play SNES games designed for a fraction of those budgets that still fresh and vital today. The best Nintendo titles have always carried forward this sense of timeless design, innovation and uniqueness.

Bayonetta 2, the new Donkey Kong Country Returns, Smash Bros., Mario Kart 9, the next game from the Xenoblade Chronicles team, that crazy Hyrule Dynasty Warriors thing- lots to look forward to, and all games not available elsewhere except on the Wii U.

Lie #3- The Gamepad is a gimmick.

I’ll admit, I thought so too. I also thought that it was going to be a problem because it, like motion control, was a non-standard control device and that means both special programming and the potential for poor implementation. I doubted its value beyond impressing consumers (which really hasn’t panned out). I wasn’t exactly looking forward to games with perfunctory touch screen controls or silly gameplay tricks to get you to look at it.

But it turns out that the Gamepad is awesome. It’s a great controller, for one- probably the best Nintendo has made to date. But it’s also a terrific second screen device that offers some really fun and interesting gameplay elements. Games that really put it to use like Zombi U, Lego City Undercover, and the very underrated Nintendoland pack-in (my four year old’s favorite game) show its potential for innovation. Other games like Wind Waker HD use it primarily as device to simplify interfaces and add conveniences previously unavailable with strictly on-TV play.

But you can also play many games on the Gamepad without the TV, which is absolutely awesome. I’ve played a large part of Super Mario 3D World on the small screen. It’s an in-house handheld, and it works flawlessly. I don’t call that a “gimmick”, I call that a major function and selling point for the console. You don’t even have to buy an additional $200 handheld to get this feature, as you do with the PS4.

Lie #4- “The Wii U’s online features are behind the times.”

We’ve all read the recent reports from the anonymous developer that claimed that Nintendo’s engineers didn’t really have an understanding of Xbox Live or PSN. That may be the case. But I’m having no trouble at all using the Wii U’s clean interface to look at new content, watch Netflix or connect with friends. And unlike the other consoles, I am more than happy to let complete strangers post things into my games or on my home screen because I have yet to see any kind of negativity, hatefulness, childishness, sexism, racism, homophobia or other toxic behavior. I see posts every day “This game is FUN!” or funny, completely non-offensive pictures drawn by players. The atmosphere is totally different.

Nintendo is not setting out to do the same things that Sony and Microsoft are, I’m not sure why the bashers seem to think that they are. Nintendo has always tried to do something different with their online services, from their much-maligned “friend codes” to the way their virtual shop is set up. I can’t for the life of me figure out what is so bad or wrong about Nintendo’s online features. They work great. They’re simple. They don’t bother me at all.

I’m not having any trouble finding online matches of any games, I’ve not had any kind of connection issues, and more or less the online experience has been completely seamless and far more PLEASANT than anything I’ve ever encountered in six years of being online with the Xbox 360 and PS3.

Do these people mean that Nintendo’s online offering is behind the times because there aren’t advertisements and silly video replay features? Because you can keep those. Thanks. I’ll stay in the dark ages.

Lie #5- “The Wii U is a failure.”

Is the Wii U a financial failure? Yes, it appears that it is because of the aforementioned overly optimistic sales projections and Nintendo’s leadership apparently failing to see how Nintendo needs to move very much in its own spheres of influence and stay away from Sony and Microsoft. I think Nintendo would do well to ignore those companies altogether and to just do their own thing- which is what they’ve done well since the NES days. But is it really a failure in a larger sense, beyond not connecting with the consumer?

I don’t think it is at all.

Nintendo designed a top notch VIDEO GAME CONSOLE focused squarely on providing users with a fun experience. It is not intended to replace the cable box. It does not purport to interject itself into your social life with Twitter and Facebook integration or whatever. It does not want to help you make Skype calls or give you access to exclusive ESPN content. It wants you to put in a disc and PLAY A GAME. It’s a toy, and it doesn’t suggest that it is anything other than that. It will not attempt to take over your living room- unless you are counting having a group of friends over to play a great on-the-couch multiplayer title like the new Mario.

It runs the latest Nintendo software as well as excellent third party titles. It also happens to run ports of some of the big AAA blockbuster games if you care to partake in those. But its focus is on classic video game qualities like charm and challenge, not on providing sub-Hollywood “experiences” full of glossy murder and big-balls machismo.

It offers some innovative new ways to play games with the Gamepad and it provides users with access to a broad range of games from throughout Nintendo’s history, connecting the new with the timeless.

For all of these design goals- if not the financial ones- the Wii U is a smash success. So quit lying about it, Internet.

Injustice: Gods Among Us in Review

calendar man 4-15 injustice shot 2NetherRealm’s 2011 reboot of Mortal Kombat was an unexpected hit- not to mention one of my favorite games of that year- yet the follow up, Injustice: Gods Among Us has still managed to surprise me and in some ways it’s the superior game. Following on from Kombat ’11, it’s a brutal one-on-one fighting game that manages to pull off that very tricky balance between technical, skill-based gameplay and populist accessibility. It’s packed to bursting with (get this) single player content and of course a great roster of fighters including some of the biggest names in the DC Comics universe. That’s right, this is the game that will finally let you put to rest the question, “who would win in a fight between Harley Quinn and Doomsday?”Unlike Capcom’s Marvel vs. Capcom series, which absolutely wallows in colorful, hyperkinetic absurdity, Injustice is a gritty comic book concept where the characters have to take some kind of Kryptonian pills to withstand being stabbed, shot in the face, punched into orbit, and run over by the Batmobile. And it’s also one of those preposterous alternate universe deals, where Superman is a bad guy in another world. It’s every bit as ridiculous as watching Spider-Man and Okami duking it out, but a much greater attention to framing story and Machiavellian subtext creates an at times awkward atmosphere that juxtaposes the grim with the laughable. Speaking as a comics fan that has long outgrown the whole “endarkening” of the medium that occurred in the late 80s and on through the 1990s, I am somewhat disappointed that it’s not a brighter, more heroic game in a Silver Age vein. Everything is dour- Superman even kills Lois Lane and their unborn baby in the storyline..

But there again, this is a game made by the guys that made Mortal Kombat (and the execrable Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, for that matter) so it stands to follow that this was never going to be a Batman: The Brave and the Bold style title, and there’s nary a place in the game for Plastic Man at all. It feels very much like a mostly bloodless Mortal Kombat apart from the removal of the block button and there aren’t any fatalities or X-ray attacks. They’ve played fast and loose with the formula and have come up with some fun, exciting innovations like a mid-battle power meter wager and ridiculously interactive, destructible environments with multiple areas that I think make Injustice a very strong competitor in what has, in this console generation, become a very crowded genre spoiled by riches.

The mechanics are rock solid, with easy combos and tight timing. The fighters are almost all exciting (apart from Killer Frost) with unique styles and signature attacks. Aquaman is a freaking beast. Normal humans like Catwoman and Joker don’t seem to have any difficulty taking down the more Olympian characters, let alone Superman. This is where the more “realistic”, gritty atmosphere is at odds with the content. But it’s grousing, because when you’re a DC fan and you fire up this game, you’re going to be grinning ear to ear the whole time- regardless of the incredibly ugly, overwrought costumes in which they’ve dressed these classic characters (and Killer Frost).

The first thing I did was to go into the single battles and do pretty much every fight you want to see out of the box. Batman versus Superman, that’s a no brainer as is said Dark Knight versus Joker. Superman versus Doomsday and then against Lex Luthor. Green Lantern contra Sinestro. Nightwing versus Catwoman, why not? Then you just get silly with Green Arrow up against his hard travelin’ buddy Hal Jordan, Bane squaring off against Solomon Grundy, or with Harley and Joker having a lover’s quarrel. These first fights- nerding out while breaking in the game’s mechanics and discovering the depth of what it has to offer- were hugely fun. Likewise, the story mode is an absolute blast to play through, even though the writing is god awful and the scenario is like a bad DC Comics summertime crossover event. It’s much like the Mortal Kombat campaign, shifting you between characters and perspectives to tell an actual story beyond “beat these ten guys and then the boss”.

But you want ladders? They got ladders in tons of different mutations with different selections, parameters, and modifications. There is also an analogue of the wonderful challenge tower from Mortal Kombat, a series of often hilarious, frequently difficult mini-challenges that never fail to surprise or excite. It’s also an area of the game where even more DC fan service shows up, including a lot of non-combatant characters. Full tutorials and training are available, and there is a lovely option to show tagged moves from the move list during the game. The developers wanted you to enjoy the game, not be daunted by it.

But if you do want to be daunted, make your way to multiplayer. It’s the usual shark tank. I go on, die a few times, and go back to the single player game. There’s so much of it, and I find it so much more rewarding than nameless, faceless versus matches. That said, if you’ve got some comics and/or fighting game buddies, this game is a couch rocker for sure.

There are a lot of little things I don’t like, but they’re mostly nerdy nitpicks. I can’t stand some of the character models, Wonder Woman in particular. Batman, at least in my experience, kind of sucks. Some of the special attacks lose their spectacle after the 20th or 30th time you’ve seen the fairly lengthy animation. The roster is an easy target, even though it’s stacked with 24 mostly great characters (and Killer Frost). Any DC fan could probably rattle off a list of 20 or so characters that are criminally or sinfully missing- my list would be topped off by Mr. Miracle, Darkseid, Professor Pyg, Ra’s Al Ghul, and John Constantine- but there’s also the promise of DLC characters. But I have a huge problem with paid DLC fighters, hailing as I do from days when you simply unlocked characters by playing a complete-out-of-the-box game. I would advise anyone to consider whether this is a practice you want to support or not by voting against such practices by not buying the season’s pass or whatever else they digitally hawk as add-ons. There’s enough here to enjoy without spending another dollar, unless you’re just a huge Lobo fan. God help you.

Marketing schemes aside, Injustice is a tremendous fighting game with huge play value even for the solo player- and you don’t even need a fight stick to get the most out of it. Comics fans will love the match-ups, attention to detail, and extensive fan service. Fighting game fans will love the tight mechanics, robust mechanics, and innovative concepts. Everybody will love experiencing such a well designed, feature-packed game with virtually endless gameplay.

Barnes’ Best 2012, Console Edition

Reflecting back on the year in video games is pretty grim. There was plenty of mediocre junk and really just a couple of really significant titles. The industry kept truckin’ on toward its self-circumscribed oblivion, writ in DLC, preorder bonuses, shoehorned multiplayer, sixty dollar price points, and endless iteration. Vaporware was popularized by Kickstarter, and indie games apparently brought innovation to the medium by whimsically mimicking twenty and thirty year old design concepts and game styles. Then there was that long, dreary summer where almost nothing of note was released. And then there was Lollipop Chainsaw. Come, Armageddon, come.

But there were some great games this year, none of which have “Walking Dead” in the title. That overhyped, over-feted game is by far the biggest disappointment of 2012- not only because of the lack of actual gameplay, the disjointed Z-grade TV writing, and goofy graphics but also because gamers actually liked this garbage. Are standards of writing and character development in video games that low these days? Look, I like the idea of sophisticated, serial storytelling in games. But when it’s delivered in little more than BioWare-style dialogue trees (sans sleazy come-ons) in a game that makes Heavy Rain look like a video game, we’re moving in the wrong direction.

But these games, unlike Walking Dead, most certainly did not suck. They are Barnes’ Best 2012 material.

First up, two honorable mentions. ZombiU, one of Ubisoft’s WiiU launch titles, received mixed reviews that it mostly deserves because it is hampered by a couple of design-level fumbles (the cricket bat thing) and some hideous visuals. But it’s also full of amazing ideas, pairing up Dark Souls’ fatalism with classical survival horror gameplay. The gamepad makes for some surprisingly compelling mechanics- having to actually look down and rummage through your bag for a grenade while a bunch of zombies are lumbering toward you is one of the tensest, most nerve-wracking experiences I had in games this year. It’s gloriously slow-paced, not at all the shotgun massacre that most murder-fantasy zombie games are.

The other honorable is Dragon’s Dogma. I gave this game a mixed review myself, and it remains a hot mess. It’s an Engrish version of a western RPG, and out of that comes some truly innovative ideas. It’s sometimes infuriatingly obtuse, the game never holds your hand at any point, and it can be ruthlessly difficult. But moment-to-moment, the game is as good as anything released this year. The combat is straight from a brawler but the intricate character development is squarely RPG. There’s no other game in 2012 that let you grab on to a burning Gryphon and stab it to death in the air. I think about this game almost every day, and every day I think “man, I need to get back to that one.”

Now, Barnes’ Best 2012- digital edition. Consoles first.

Sine Mora


This incredible game is the definitive “shmup” of this generation. Beautifully executed, masterfully designed, and accessible without shying away from very hardcore difficulty, Sine Mora is the best game that’s ever had the Grasshopper Manufacture brand on it. Working with Digital Reality, the Japanese developers gave us some of the best bosses, levels, and shooter gameplay of all time. And man, that Akira Yamaoka soundtrack. Influences ranging from Cave shooters and UN Squadron to Blacksad and Giorgio Moroder made for a sophisticated, visceral action gaming experience that was hard to beat in 2012.


I’ve played thatgamecompany’s Journey only one time, but the two hours or so I spent with it were among the most profound and moving that I’ve ever experienced in a video game. Partnering you up with an anonymous online player with no voice communication was a brilliant masterstroke, enabling players to actually experience things like the development of language and the nurturing of relationships. I think those are far more interesting concepts than shooting brown people or anything to do with Kratos. It’s been argued that there’s not much game here and that may be the case, but the sense of exploring more spiritual and transcendental material made this brave, one-of-a-kind games one of the most important video games of the year.


Firaxis did the impossible and resurrected X-COM in a way that was both throwback and modern. It is the same game you remember. But it shows almost twenty years of design improvement, refinement, and editing. What’s left is everything that really matters about the original game, and almost all of the clunky filler and old fashioned content cast by the wayside. Of course, bitchers gonna bitch about something or other not being in the new game, but they’re dead wrong. This is the perfect version of XCOM, circa 2012. One of the best squad-based TBS games I’ve ever played, if only because it’s so masterfully pared down to the key values.

Rayman Legends Demo


Yeah, that’s right, I put a demo on my Game of the Year list. It’s my show. Write a letter if you don’t like it! This Wii U demo blew my mind, plain and simple. In just three levels, this demo showed more heart, joy, passion, and creativity than any number of AAA bloodbaths or fake 8-bit retro nostalgia exercises. The game pulses with energy and excitement, incorporating recent gameplay ideas cribbed from Cut the Rope, Rock Band, and other modern titles. But it’s still a pure platformer, even though you’re using the gamepad to perform touchscreen functions. The co-op is great, the art style is to die for, and the graphics are as good as anything on the market today. This is definitely one to watch in 2013, and it may be a compelling reason to buy a Wii U- far more so than Nintendo’s own New Super Mario Bros. Wii U is.

The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition

Even though it was a reissue of a 2011 game, there wasn’t anything on shelves in 2012 better than the Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition on the 360. This game absolutely blew my mind with its intelligent, thoughtful writing, great characters, and completely immersive setting. Add in viscerally strategic combat, brilliant quest design, and sex scenes that were actually intimate and adult rather than the puerile sleaze companies like BioWare slop into their games and you’ve got the makings of something special. I never play 50-70 hour games twice. But I played The Witcher 2 twice. And I would play it again. No part of this game was disappointing, lackluster, or badly handled, and it is your Barnes’ Best GOTY 2012.

That’s it then. Had I started playing Little Inferno before this morning, that may have had a berth on here as well. Brilliant, brilliant game that I’m afraid many just won’t get.

Rayman Legends Demo Impressions

Last night, I had my first “wow” experience with Nintendo’s new Wii U console. It wasn’t with any of the late-to-the-party ports or even a first-party offering. It was with the demo for Ubisoft’s upcoming Rayman Legends, now available for download. It’s just three levels, but it’s one of the most exciting, refreshing, and innovative gaming experiences I’ve had all year. It’s heartfelt, beautiful, and genuinely whimsical in a way that no cheapjack indie clone coasting along on fake 8-bit chic or even Nintendo’s own nostalgic Super Mario Bros. Wii U is. It’s joyful, full of love for video gaming and without a trace of the kinds of commercial cynicism or insulting lowest-common-denominator condescension that have become endemic in the industry.

It’s a 2D platformer with 3D elements, much like last year’s terrific Rayman Origins. Ancel’s trademark comics style is rendered in an all-new engine, and it looks amazing in 60FPS, native 1080P. Maybe it’s just the shock of the new talking, but I think it looks better than just about anything on either the 360 or PS3. Gameplay is classic platforming, at its root not really all that far removed from the original Rayman- or the original Super Mario Bros. for that matter.

But the key here is that Rayman Legends feels like a very now, very current game. This is the platformer of today. It’s not an aw-shucks genuflection to the good old days. This is a game designed with innovation in mind, drawing on recent game design elements to create a new- and original experience that really, really should have been a Wii U launch title. I haven’t seen anything yet that makes a better case for the console.

Rather than trotting out Mario in another animal costume, Rayman Legends gives platformer fans something new by bringing in brilliant use of recent concepts such as touchscreen gameplay and motion control. There are elements of auto-runners like Canabalt. There are hints of IOS games like Cut the Rope. And in one astonishing segment, “Castle Rock”, the rolling lane of a game like Rock Band or Guitar Hero is subversively hidden in the rhythm-based level design. The result is a glorious symphony of sound, vision, and movement. I don’t think I’ve played any video game this year or even in the past few years that felt so vibrant, alive, and crackling with celebratory energy.

I’m excited about this game because it feels like something new yet it remains a firm example of a classic but somewhat old fashioned video game genre. Most refreshingly, there isn’t a lick of tiresome irony, bullshit hipster intellectualism, or even postmodern revisionism. I’m not going to describe anything that goes on in it, or any of the many happy surprises that happen in just the three levels of this demo. You need to discover those for yourself. From what I understand, the demo is on the in-store display kiosks and I can’t recommend enough that you go check it out if you don’t have a Wii U.

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.

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.

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.

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.