The MoeGamer Awards are a series of “alternative” awards that I’ve devised in collaboration with the community as an excuse to celebrate the games, experiences and fanbases that have left a particular impression on me in 2018. Find out more and leave a suggestion here!
Over the last couple of years, I’ve become very enthusiastic and passionate about my gaming collection, and my infinitely patient and wonderful wife has done a fantastic job of configuring two of the rooms in our house to display said collection — the living room contains all the reasonably current stuff (basically PS1 onwards) while the upstairs study is a “retro room”, consisting of Atari 8-bit, Atari ST and Philips G7000 Videopac games.
I’ve been adding to my collection from all angles over the course of the last few years. But if I had to pick one system that I’ve enjoyed collecting for the most this year? Not necessarily the cheapest, but one that is enjoyable to collect for? That’s what this award is about.
And the winner is…
Nintendo Wii U
This may be a controversial choice for some, but hear me out.
My podcasting partner Chris and I had a discussion about the Wii U a little while after the Switch originally launched (and before ports from the Wii U such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe had been announced). During that conversation, we determined that over the long term, the Wii U was likely to end up in a similar situation to other notorious “failures” (and I use this term loosely) over the years, such as the Dreamcast and the Neo Geo.
It’s unfashionable to regard the Wii U in similar terms as those two systems that have become legendary over time because a lot of people are still in the “lol, Wii U” phase, but it has a lot in common with the pair of them: a manufacturer that seemed to not quite know what it was doing with the product (despite past experience and success in the case of both Sega and Nintendo); some unusual, specialised hardware; and, perhaps most importantly, a small but beautifully formed library of games.
Plus, unlike the other two, in the case of the Wii U you also have the fact that the thing can not only play the games for which it was specifically designed, but also the games from its immediately preceding generation. Imagine if the Dreamcast could also play Saturn games; that’d be pretty sweet, no?
The Wii U is also home to some unique experiences that you can’t get anywhere else — at least not in quite the same form. The second screen of the GamePad added a great deal to a variety of games, whether it was simple inventory manipulation in Wind Waker and Twilight Princess HD, the addition of an always-visible map screen in a variety of action adventures, or even augmented reality-style gyroscopic controls in titles like Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water.
Then, of course, there was arguably the main benefit the GamePad offered: the ability to provide an asymmetrical multiplayer experience, where one player could be doing one thing on the GamePad screen, while up to four others could be doing something else on the main screen of the television. This was demonstrated with great confidence by pack-in game Nintendo Land, and continued with a number of other interesting games, including Nintendo’s own Wii Party U and Game & Wario, and a few third-party titles such as Ubisoft’s ZombiU.
So why is the Wii U so fun to collect for? Well, primarily because the majority of the best games you can get for it are experiences you can’t have anywhere else. Yes, there are a few ports — and since the Wii U was technologically inferior to its contemporaries in the early eighth generation (much as the Wii was in the seventh generation), said ports were often the “worst” way to play said games — but they’re easily ignored. Focus on the system’s core library — primarily first-party titles by Nintendo, with a few notable exceptions — and you have a collection of games that, while considerably smaller in number than that which other platforms offer, provides many hours of potential fun.
And I’ve mentioned it a couple of times already, but that backwards compatibility with the original Wii shouldn’t be underestimated as a selling point, either. Yes, “the Wii is a shovelware platform” is a meme at this point, but like its successor, it’s also home to a variety of legitimately good, substantial games — games that aren’t multiplayer-centric, casual party games — you can’t play anywhere else. And, because the original Wii was a much bigger success than its flawed follow-up, there are a lot more of them.
Even better, most Wii games are ridiculously cheap right now, with most reasonably common games going for prices in the single digits. And with a Wii U you get to enjoy them on a modern TV via an HDMI cable, giving you the best picture you’re going to get from software designed for 480p, tops, as well as making it easy to capture video footage and screenshots from them.
Wii U-specific games, meanwhile, are holding some of their value at the time of writing, with the most popular and common titles from Nintendo tending to average out around half their original selling price on the second-hand market, sometimes a little less. These games are still eminently affordable to collect, then — with the exception of Maiden of Black Water, which only had a limited release in Europe and consequently goes for £80 or more, even incomplete — and the relatively small size of the library of exclusives means that getting a complete set (however you define that) of physical releases is well within the capabilities of even more casual collectors.
On top of that, the system’s digital storefront is still up and running at the time of writing. A variety of great games are available, including digital-only exclusives such as the excellent NES Remix and retro titles via the much-loved Virtual Console section of the store. Unusually, the Wii U’s Virtual Console even offers titles from the handheld Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS systems, allowing many of these games to be played legally on the big screen for the first time since the days of the Super Game Boy and the Game Boy Player. It’s also a hell of a lot more affordable to get digital versions of the handheld Castlevania games than physical copies these days! Just make sure you invest in some sort of external USB storage; the 32GB of the Wii U’s “Premium” model doesn’t go very far!
So I say jump in while it’s affordable to do so, and while the system is still relatively “unfashionable” for collectors. You’ll have access to two different platforms’ worth of games, a lovely looking system — although simple, the straightforward elegance of the Wii U console itself remains extremely attractive to me — and a snapshot of a fascinating, experimental period in the history of the world’s most enduring gaming brand.
If you enjoyed this article and want to see more like it, please consider showing your social support with likes, shares and comments, or become a Patron. You can also buy me a coffee if you want to show some one-time support. Thank you!