Nintendo’s Wii gained something of a reputation as a “party game machine”, for better or worse.
The Wii U never quite captured the same success as its predecessor in this regard due to its considerably smaller audience — not to mention the rise of other types of games filling a similar niche — but that didn’t stop Nintendo in particular from producing a number of different games intended to be played socially. With other people. In the same room! Imagine that.
One such example was Wii Party U, a successor to its similarly named predecessor on the older platform. Designed to be accessible and understandable to all ages, it’s neither the most complex nor technically impressive game on the platform — but it is noteworthy for being very successful at what it does.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Wii Party U
It’s easy to write off a pack-in bundle of minigames as being somehow “lesser” than full-scale titles. But the Wii U’s Nintendo Land was special — and in a different way from its spiritual predecessor Wii Sports.
Functioning as a joyous celebration of Nintendo’s most beloved properties — and a few slightly more obscure ones, too — Nintendo Land is an enjoyable enough experience in single-player, with several games specifically designed with solo play in mind, but it’s in multiplayer that it truly shines: Nintendo’s same-room party gaming at its finest.
And it’s an evergreen title, too; some five years after its initial release, for many Wii U owners it’s a game that still gets regular play, particularly when friends come to visit. Let’s take a closer look at what makes it so special.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Nintendo Land
Star Fox Zero, a return to Star Fox’s standard formula after numerous games exploring alternative game styles, was met with a somewhat mixed reception on its original release.
Developed as a collaborative effort between Nintendo and action game veterans Platinum Games, Star Fox Zero was intended as something of a reboot of the series, retelling the stories of the original games and reflecting the original gameplay styles while incorporating some new elements of its own.
It was these new elements that caused some consternation among those who had difficulty adjusting to them, but this didn’t stop Star Fox Zero from being an interesting and worthwhile addition to any Wii U owner’s library.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Star Fox Zero
The idea of a “construction set” for a video game being sold as a standalone product is something we haven’t seen a lot of in recent years, but it used to be a common sight in the earlier days of gaming.
Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, titles such as EA’s Racing Destruction Set, Interplay’s The Bard’s Tale Construction Set and SSI’s Unlimited Adventures allowed players to try their hand at game design without needing to know any of that pesky programming, albeit within the constraints of an existing game’s framework in most cases.
The concept of “programming-free game creation” was later expanded on by companies such as Clickteam (Klik and Play, Games Factory, Multimedia Fusion, the latter of which is still used by many indie developers today), YoYo Games (GameMaker) and ASCII/Enterbrain (RPG Maker) — these packages were more “general purpose” and could be used for a wider variety of projects, but became quite a bit more complex as a result.
Given Nintendo’s love of making “toy-like” games, it was entirely appropriate that it would be the one to mark a triumphant and high-profile return to the standalone, more constrained and accessible “construction set”. Super Mario Maker was the result, and it’s one of the Wii U’s most interesting titles.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Super Mario Maker
While Nintendo platforms were very much the spiritual home of JRPGs in the 8- and 16-bit eras, in more recent times most of those games have jumped ship to Sony platforms.
This isn’t to say there’s a complete lack of JRPG goodness on Nintendo platforms, however; the 3DS has some solid titles, the original Wii had its three famous “Operation Rainfall” titles Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower — and the Wii U has Xenoblade Chronicles X.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is, it’s fair to say, a fairly different beast from its predecessor, and consequently it wasn’t to everyone’s taste. However, even if you didn’t enjoy it, it’s hard to deny that it’s a truly remarkable game, and a highly noteworthy entry in the Wii U’s library.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Xenoblade Chronicles X
Multiplayer online shooters are notorious for being incredibly popular, but not particularly welcoming to newcomers.
Doubtless most of you reading have experienced at least one occasion where, while attempting to learn a new game, you were berated for being a “noob”, or utterly dominated by an experienced player taking advantage of the “fresh meat” on the map. With determination, you can push beyond this, of course, but it’s not something that everybody finds particularly palatable or fun.
Which is why Splatoon is such a wonderful piece of game design from Nintendo. By shifting the focus away from attacking other players directly while simultaneously removing the most common ways for people to be jerks to one another — i.e. voice and text chat — it created one of the most accessible, enjoyable takes on the multiplayer shooter ever created, and a game that even people who typically dislike multiplayer shooters can enjoy.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Splatoon
In contrast to The Wind Waker, which shook things up considerably in terms of both aesthetic and game structure, you’d be forgiven for thinking Twilight Princess was “just another Zelda game”.
It marks a return to the semi-realistic visuals of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, and is set firmly on dry land in the familiar land of Hyrule — albeit another, differently laid-out Hyrule to its predecessors on the grounds that it’s yet another era in the extremely convoluted Zelda timelines.
But get into the game a bit and you’ll discover something a little different to what we typically expect from a Zelda game: childish optimism replaced with melancholy; the usual feeling of light inevitably triumphing over darkness replaced by questions over whether everything really will turn out all right this time; and an air of slight cynicism that largely emanates from Link’s perpetual companion Midna, one of the most memorable characters the series has ever seen.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
Nintendo’s Super Mario franchise isn’t really one series any more. It’s split off in a number of different directions, each catering to a slightly different group of fans.
The different subseries have enough in common that someone who just enjoys “Mario games” can get something out of all of them, but each type of modern Super Mario game is clearly designed with a particular type of player in mind. And it really benefits their overall game design.
One of the more recent additions to the formula is the Super Mario 3D series, kicked off with Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS and continued with Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Super Mario 3D World
Pikmin is one of Nintendo’s series that often gets forgotten about, but it’s a real gem — and its Wii U installment is no exception.
Often (arguably) erroneously decribed as a “real time strategy” game, the games are actually more akin to puzzle adventures, in which you explore a world and figure out the best ways to proceed and defeat the enemies in front of you. In the grand tradition of games that feature sprawling, huge maps, too, there are plenty of shortcuts to unlock and lots of revisiting earlier areas with new abilities to find hidden secrets.
And the whole thing is tied together with a delightfully cute aesthetic that fits the tone of the experience perfectly.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Pikmin 3
Those of us of a certain age have a habit of looking back on things with distinctly rose-tinted spectacles.
When we actually come to revisit those things that we regarded with fond nostalgia, however, it can sometimes be disappointing. And it can be difficult to convince those who weren’t around for those things we’re nostalgic for that they, in many cases, have great value and historical significance, even if they “don’t hold up all that well today”, as the saying goes.
While Nintendo has enjoyed a certain amount of retro fever recently thanks to the launch of its dinky, mini-sized NES with a selection of pre-loaded games, many modern gamers still find the brutal challenge of games from this era — the notorious concept of “Nintendo Hard” — to be nigh-unpalatable. And even for those who don’t mind a bit of a challenge, it can be difficult to know where to start when developing the skills to play these games.
Enter NES Remix and its sequel, then, which tackle these problems head-on and create two brilliant experiences in their own right.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: NES Remix