At E3 2011, when the Wii U was announced, many wondered what happened at Nintendo that made them pick that awful name. Just to show you how awful of a name it is: when I first heard it, I thought that it was an accessory for the Wii. I was not alone thinking this, either:
I think one of the things that was a real indicator of that was just, anecdotally, if you went into a retailer and you talked to somebody in the games department, they didn't even understand what it was. I did the secret shopper kind of thing, and they would say, ‘Well, there's no difference between the Wii and Wii U.’1
I was not a Nintendo customer until last year, when I purchased a New 3DS. (Let's talk about that product name, as well. It too is also not the best of names — as some have said, Super 3DS and Super Wii would have been much better names, to be honest.)
But last year in December, after having had a great 8 months with my 3DS, I learned about Xenoblade Chronicles X’s great reviews and I decided to pick up a Wii U. It’s a fun console, and I’ve also had great fun with some older games: I played the original Fire Emblem on the Virtual Console, for example.
You see, I love the console, but it’s a hard recommendation to anyone who doesn’t have the cash to spend on multiple gaming consoles. Besides the silly name, the Wii U has a few other issues that have held it back from greatness.
For a console that has a digital game shop, shipping it with a maximum of 32 GB of internal storage feels insufficient. (Hell, on a PS4 the 500 GB hard drive is not large enough if you play primarily on a PS4.) Now, fortunately you can use an external hard drive, but I still feel it should have been possible to replace the hard drive with a much larger one.
The biggest problem that the Wii U faces is that there are not many must-have titles on its platform. The handful of titles that come to mind are Super Smash Bros, Splatoon, Super Mario Maker, the Wii-exclusive Bayonetta 2 and maybe even Monster Hunter Ultimate 3. Ah, and Xenoblade Chronicles X.
Perhaps some of the remasters like this year’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD and eShop versions of Wii games like Xenoblade Chronicles (the original) are also a selling point, but they are hardly system sellers. That leaves the Wii U with only a handful of games, while the Xbox One and the PS4 have a much wider selection since there’s many more third party games for those platforms available.
But it's not all bad news.
While not exactly the best console to buy if you can only afford one, the Wii U is not a bad purchase. Of course, only a handful of the games on the platform are worth buying the console for, the Wii U is in a much better place than it was when it released.
The gamepad is underused in most games, but is fun to use if you have friends over to play Smash Bros. It's also a great way to play the games without having to sit in front of the television or a big screen.
I also like the extensive offer of Virtual Console games, which allowed me to play the first Fire Emblem legally without having to resort to downloading a ROM. I prefer to have a legal option, let's face it. I felt a bit disappointed that you only have a single state that you can save, but that's nitpicking and you didn't have savestates in the original game either.2
It's a good console. It's not the best, but it's a better purchase than an Xbox One if you already have a PC and/or a PS4, in my opinion. If you can afford it, I think it's definitely worth a purchase.
While not as successful as its precedessor, the 3DS has a spectacular lineup of games, and it’s probably the only mobile device with so many high quality games coming out for it. Fire Emblem Fates just released in Europe, and Monster Hunter Generations is coming out later this year, both of which are massive releases.
Sure, it may not sport the most amazing specs — in fact, the 3DS feels underpowered as a device in 2016 with a subpar display — but it is a pretty cool device with great games, so it doesn't bother me much. You can read more in my writeup about the 3DS here.
Currently the best handheld gaming device out there. Narrowly beats the Vita.
Future of Nintendo
As a business, Nintendo has seen better days. But I can only remain hopeful that they’ll do well in the future.
Nintendo has already said they will be addressing issues like the account system (your account is tied to a single device — so if you have a brother or sister and want to buy a game digitally you can’t put it on the two devices you might own) and more with the release of the Nintendo NX, which will release next year. I’m curious to see what that will be, but the consensus seems to be that it’ll be a handheld/tv hybrid with wireless and streaming capabilities. (And recent rumors say VR might be involved as well. All of this remains to be seen.) Consider me slightly amused and perhaps interested.
Some franchises like Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing will also be getting smartphone spin-off games: I’m not sure how to feel about that. I just hope they don’t put in any in-app purchases. But if they release a solid version of Fire Emblem on smartphones, I’ll be sure to buy it immediately.
While it doesn’t look like there’s much being unveiled this year, I’m curious to see what Nintendo will bring to the table next year.
Wii U Sales Hurt By Retailer Confusion, Misinformation. I don’t know how much of this is true, but what I do know is that the Wii U’s sales were not helped by the release of the PS4 and the Xbox One, which are both graphically more powerful and priced similarly. ↩
Of course, for fan translations of Fire Emblem games you won't be able to use a Wii U. Emulators that are available on e.g. Android also offer more save slots. ↩