Is a WiiU worth buying? What about right now? It’s an intriguing question that seems to be on many peoples mind as they deliberate over the stalling follow up to last generations most successful console the Nintendo Wii. Last time you checked in with me I was half way through attempting to answering that very question – “Is it worth buying a WiiU right now?”. Is this your first time visiting? You can check out the previous entry here. Previously I’d discussed at some length the sort of price you could expect to pay for the privilege of owning the first next generation console and what sort of hardware you were going to get for your buck. We talked annoying game pad features (turn off damn you!) and which SKU was the one for you. But that’s all in the past. Now we move onto the issue of software, games and the online experience.
Since the very early days of their life Nintendo have had their stumbles; making silly mistakes with hardware and accessories – yes virtual boy, we’re looking at you. However, where Nintendo seems to always strike a home-run, where they ever so rarely fumble the ball is games. For generations they’ve consistently designed and published some of the mediums most unforgettable adventures creating some of the most recognisable characters in the world like Mario along the way. With the advent of the internet Nintendo seemed to develop a new vulnerability, the online experience. Playing online has been an option on Nintendo systems since the Gamecube era but, that’s not to say it’s been a pleasant experience. A history littered with friend codes, weak online infrastructure and frustrating policies has tarnished their reputation. Still, before we get too deep into that we should talk how you’ll be accessing all this content – the system UI.
The introduction the game pad means that the main menu itself has been split into two distinct sections, one displayed on the pad; the other on the TV. The menu’s can be navigated fluidly even if the TV is off as the segments can be flipped between screens on the fly with the press of a button. The first of these two menu’s is a tweaked version of the Wii main menu, the resemblance is so similar they’re almost identical. The game in the disc tray, downloaded applications and games can all be launched from this area – each represented by a square in a grid emblazoned with the relevant icon. Nintendo’s taken a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach and it’s worked superbly. The system is very accessible thanks in no small part to the implementation the touch screen improving on the tried and true formula.
The second section of the main menu screen is where proceedings break from the otherwise traditional approach. This second area is dubbed the Warawara Plaza. Expectedly Nintendo’s cartoony mascot versions of ourselves – the Mii’s – make their return and the Warawara plaza is where they make their home. From the plaza you can see what other console owners and your friends have been playing on their WiiU along with snippets of their thoughts in either text or picture form. Thankfully randomers cannot troll your experience with spoilers as Nintendo actively sensors such information – unless you decide you want to view it. Ultimately the Plaza is the primary window through which you can view the whole Nintendo community dialogue – a social network dubbed the Miiverse.
Miiverse isn’t just relegated to a singular aspect on one screen though, the idea permeates every WiiU developed title – even if it doesn’t feature online modes. The Miiverse encourages the social aspect of gaming at all times and conjures up a feeling of an ever present community that encompasses the whole WiiU library. For example when playing Super Mario players who complete a level in certain ways can leave clues and advice to guide other players journeys, not unlike Dark Souls. It’s a more in depth social networking system than any available on the current gen platforms and feels like a huge, typically quirky, step forward for Nintendo. In addition the friend system is now better utilized and more straight forward thanks to the much requested removal of the heinous friend codes.
The biggest problem that WiiU suffers from right now then is ironically one not typically associated with Nintendo – the lack of games, there simply isn’t a huge selection – especially for the core. It’s a strange twist considering last November WiiU launched with a line up that could be considered rather impressive. Although there was only a small number of first party exclusives the slate was bolstered by plenty of upgraded ports of successful third party titles like Mass Effect 3, Assassins Creed 3 and Batman Arkham City. Since that initial influx the steam of support has stagnated severely. Barely any games have made their way to the system thanks to lagging sales, which have caused even some of the largest third parties, like EA, to lose faith. Until very recently the forecasted future for WiiU in terms of games and sales was bleak to say the very least. Luckily a glimmer of hope illuminated the darkness at the E3 Nintendo Direct event.
Before the Nintendo Direct event the release calender was barren with only a small number of first party exclusives like Pikmin 3, Donkey Kong and Wonderful 101 on the way – anticipated games but hardly hardware movers. Then came E3 where a plethora hugely respected, high profile, immensely popular and more importantly exclusive games were announced. Titles like Super Mario 3D World, Legend Of Zelda: Windwaker HD, Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart 8. We were also promised a brand new original Legend of Zelda was in the works. Such a strong E3 showing gives a great assurance that Nintendo will support this console as it has all previous with wonderful inventive games. Perhaps Nintendo’s renewed commitment raises hopes that WiiU can be turned around like it’s portable counterpart the 3DS which also suffered early in it’s life, before becoming a sprawling platform with a torrent of great games.
In recent years big blockbuster retail games have been relegated from the whole picture to a mere piece an overarching puzzle thanks to the advent and consequent rise in popularity of downloadable titles. Nintendo’s E Shop is looking a bit barren on the WiiU, that’s not to say what’s there isn’t great – just a lack of quantity. There’s New Super Mario Bros U DLC in the form of New Super Luigi that comes a discounted price compared to it’s retail counterpart. There’s some free Monster Hunter stuff too implying DLC is to take a growing role in Nintendo thanks to WiiU’s inclusion of storage space unlike Wii. Sadly though buying full retail games at the store won’t save you much money, in fact it’ll probably cost you more, a disappointing problem that competitors also suffer from.
With a disappointing selection of games on offer in the present and the long wait until the future arrives you might think looking back to the past at Nintendo’s rich gaming heritage would be good idea. The original Wii featured the virtual console that allowed the emulation of many of previous generations iconic games; some less iconic, that could be bought digitally. This library of historic titles took a while to fill out during it’s Wii days so you’d think all the games currently available on Wii would be brought across to the WiiU; you’d be half right. The WiiU features a Wii emulator application that means all your old Wii games can still be played in the traditional method using Wiimotes and Nunchucks. However no new methods like game pads or WiiU Pro controls will work. All the Wii virtual console games work through this emulator so old inputs have to be used.
Only a small number of games are available for the WiiU virtual console, a very small number. These can be played using newer input methods, however if you already bought a title on the Wii virtual console it doesn’t carry across for free – you must pay a premium for the privilege. Nintendo really dropped the ball here. First of all, all if not most of the Wii virtual console games should have been available for download on WiiU with Game pad functionality from day one. Secondly asking users to pay a premium to upgrade their Wii purchases to WiiU ones seems a bit naughty, if excusable because of the cost of porting to hardware with improved functionality. Even more sadly they’re no Wii or Gamecube games available for download here and they really feel amiss, this quiet period would be a great time to replay classics.
So at the end of it all do I have an answer for you? Is the WiiU worth buying right now? Hopefully most of you as you’ve read my experiences have probably decided for yourselves. My own conclusion is that, well, like any purchase it really depends on a number of factors. Have you played most of the third party ports already? Do you really love Nintendo? Do you want to play the latest; greatest hits as they come out or are you happy to wait? The WiiU has some intuitive new hardware in the game pad and much improved online interaction with the Miiverse that is just dying to be used. However, right now there’s slim pickings when it comes to what matters: games. Once they begin to arrive in full force next year and next gen systems have possibly pushed the WiiU price down, for most that’ll be the time to buy. For those a little more fanatical about buying now, know this, the future looks a little brighter for WiiU.
What do you think? Do your thoughts differ? Is there a game that your really holding out for before you jump in? Do you think you’ll ever buy WiiU? Leave you thoughts, comments and criticisms in the comments below.