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access_time June 16, 2012 at 11:30 AM in Features by Justin Weinblatt

The Nintendrone Volume 9: Why The Wii U Will Be A Must Have

The Nintendrone Volume 9: Why The Wii U Will Be A Must Have

People have funny memories. Ask anyone on the internet and they’ll explain how they immediately knew the Wii would be a hit after they saw Wii Sports for the first time. Of course, this was not actually the case. When the Wii was announced, hardcore Nintendo fans reacted with mild optimism. Sony and Microsoft fans reacted with jeers when they saw Wii Sports with its N64-esque graphics. Few truly saw the potential for the Wii among casual audiences.

Nintendo finds themselves in a familiar place. Fans expected Nintendo to try and compete with Sony and Microsoft, and once again, Nintendo decided to go in another direction. Their new console was met with, at best, tepid approval among traditional gamers. Nintendo once again seems to be banking on their ability to market to those who fall outside of the typical gaming demographics. Again, people are skeptical that they will succeed.

It’s not hard to see why people are dubious of Nintendo’s new trend setting attempt. Despite it’s giant touch screen, the Wii U Gamepad is, in many ways, a pretty traditional controller. It certainly doesn’t seem as accessible to a casual audience as the Wiimote. For all its charm, Nintendo Land doesn’t seem like it will be as familiar and well received as Nintendo’s Wii Sports. What does Nintendo hope to offer casual gamers this time around? After absorbing all of E3’s Wii U news and demos, Nintendo’s strategy is beginning to sink in.

The Problem With The Wii

When I was younger and first brought my Wii home, it immediately took up residence in my living room. Everyone in the house was eager to play Wii Sports from my 6 year old brother to my 50 year old mother. Other party games like Rayman Raving Rabbids and Wario Ware Smooth Moves kept the family fun going for a time.

Eventually, things slowed down. I’d become a bit disillusioned with the constant stream of minigame collections, and my family had little interest in games like No More Heroes, Mad World, and Metroid Prime. After a year in the living room, the Wii was relegated to my bedroom along with my other gaming machines, only occasionally being taken out for a game of Mario Party or Just Dance. After a brief period, the inherent schism between hardcore gamers and casual gaming prevailed. How can the Wii U solve this problem?

Girlfriend Mode

To see the motivation behind the Wii U, take a look at Super Mario Galaxy, in particular its multiplayer mode. Super Mario Galaxy allowed a second player to join in on the game. Using a second Wiimote, player 2 could freeze enemies, grab coins, shoot star bits, and make Mario jump.

Super Mario Galaxy’s multiplayer didn’t set the world on fire, but it was brilliant. My little brother was too inexperienced to handle Mario Galaxy’s gravity defying 3D worlds, but he still had tons of fun being my helper. My younger sister had little interest in the main game, but she enjoyed using the 2nd Wiimote to mess with me. On the flip side, once my little brother was ready to try Super Mario Galaxy for himself, my assistance helped him get through some of Galaxy’s more challenging segments.

The low key and perhaps chauvinistically nicknamed “girlfriend mode” hardly set the world on fire, but I believe this seemingly throwaway feature was brilliant. It did two important things. First of all, it turned a single player experience into a multiplayer experience. It allowed me to get my gaming fix in without sacrificing family time. It also allowed two people to enjoy the same game with a completely different experience. I was getting the robust gaming experience I desired while my family members were able to enjoy something far simpler and less intimidating to a novice.

I believe that Super Mario Galaxy’s multiplayer mode and similar efforts, such as the Tingle Tuner from Wind Waker, had a deep influence on the design of the Wii U. The Wii U is set to follow in these footsteps by allowing two players to play the same game, yet enjoy different experiences. To see what Nintendo is going after, let’s take a look at some of their software.

Nintendo Land

Nintendo Land is what Nintendo hopes will become the Wii Sports of the Wii U. The game includes a wide variety of minigames, several of which focus on asymmetrical gameplay. One game that was particularly interesting was the Animal Crossing minigame. Animal Crossing Sweets Park is a tag like minigame, one player uses the tablet to control two guard characters. Each character is controlled separately with one of the Wii U Gamepad’s two analog sticks. Meanwhile, the four other players have the simpler task of controlling one character with a d-pad, collecting candy, and trying to avoid the guards being controlled by the Gamepad player.

Naturally, the player with the Gamepad has a more difficult task ahead of him. Controlling two separate characters with dual analog controls is a complicated task, best suited for experienced gamers. Less experienced gamers will likely feel more familiar with their trusty Wii-mote. In developing this game, Nintendo has created something that will likely be enjoyed by novices and veterans alike.

New Super Mario Bros U and Rayman Legends

New Super Mario Bros U expands on New Super Mario Bros Wii’s four player gameplay by adding a fifth player. This fifth player doesn’t control any actual character, but is instead is free to place platforms anywhere on the stage. When this feature was shown off, most hardcore gamers scoffed. After all, who would want to be relegated to platform creating duties, while your fellow players are enjoying a full fledged platforming experience?

Well, I could think of plenty of people who would enjoy this functionality. How about a younger sibling or child, whose skill set isn’t yet developed enough to enjoy the main game without inadvertently knocking his teammates into bottomless pits or spending half of his time floating in a bubble? Conversely, what about a parent who wants to help a younger gamer gamer by shortening an upcoming jump?

Rayman Legends displayed an even more ambitious asynchronous multiplayer experience. While player one can control Rayman or Globox, player two controls Murphy, a small fly like creature, using the Gamepad. Like Super Mario Galaxy’s co-star mode, Murphy can help collect items, distract enemies, and help with difficult platforming segments. While the second player in Super Mario Galaxy seemed like an ancillary part of the game, Murphy seems integral. In the trailers shown, Murphy can be seen doing everything from cutting grass to collecting power ups to creating bridges. Murphy even got to use a catapult to take down enemy dragons, which looked like tons of fun. After seeing Rayman Legends’ ambitious multiplayer in action, it’s hard to imagine playing the game solo.

Just Dance 4

While it may not be the most exciting thing in the world for hardcore gamers, Just Dance 4 will be coming to the Wii U and it will have an exclusive mode. This mode will allow you to change up a dance routing on the fly, forcing the actual dancers to adjust to routines they may have already memorized long ago.

Personally, I’m not much of a dancer, and the idea of picking up a Wii-mote and displaying my lack of coordination in front of friends and family fills me with dread. Due to this, I’m a big fan of Just Dance 4’s Puppet Master mode. With this new mode, I can join in on the Just Dance 4 experience without making a fool of myself.

Wii U- The Ultimate In Family Gaming

Will the Wii U be the one console that fulfills your gaming needs? Can it provide you with the rich online experience you crave and the third party software you need? Those are questions Nintendo needs to answer. Despite Nintendo’s spotty track record in some areas of gaming, no sane person could deny that Nintendo is the undisputed master of family friendly gaming. Nintendo will make their biggest strength even stronger with the Wii U. With creative use of their dual display system, Nintendo is enabling gamers of varying skill levels and interests to enjoy the same software. If you have children, young siblings, a significant other who resents the amount of time you spend on Modern Warfare 3, or indeed any casual or non-gamers in your house, the Wii U is a must own.


  • Drew Robbins June 18, 2012 at 8:13 AM

    I certainly think that the more casual-friendly functions of the tablet will be neat, but I can’t see the appeal extending itself to core gamers much beyond titles like Rayman Legends.

    What makes the Wii U (and most Nintendo platforms) a must for me is the fact that the emphasis is still on couch gaming. I know that the company is putting a little more emphasis on the online features which is nice, but it’s the multiplayer experiences like New Super Mario Bros. U that I have with friends in the same room which entice me the most.

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