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.
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At the time of writing, the Wii U may be yet to play host to a brand-new, original mainline Zelda title — Breath of the Wild will be one of the last retail titles for the system — but it’s home to one of the best spin-offs the series has seen.
Unlike its stablemate Super Mario, Zelda actually hasn’t seen all that many spin-offs over the years, with only Link’s Crossbow Training on Wii and the two atrocious CD-i titles springing immediately to mind. This is perhaps because Zelda is an inherently more “serious” affair than Super Mario — sure, it has its moments of levity, but it’s always been less focused on cartoon silliness and as such it would be rather strange to see perpetual protagonist Link doing things outside his normal remit such as playing tennis or golf. (That, of course, didn’t stop him making an appearance in Mario Kart 8, but that was something of an outlier.)
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t scope for the series to explore gameplay styles outside the mainline titles’ “explore, dungeon, puzzle, boss” formula, and Hyrule Warriors is a potent proof of concept that demonstrates the ensemble cast the series has built up over the years is more than strong enough to carry a game that doesn’t focus exclusively on Link.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Hyrule Warriors
Originally intended as a pack-in game for the Wii U as a demonstration of the GamePad’s capabilities, Game & Wario has been considerably overshadowed by its eventual replacement Nintendo Land.
But it’s a great game in its own right, both as a showcase for the Wii U GamePad and as a title that provides enormously varied quick blasts of entertainment whenever you feel like it.
It’s very much an old-school Nintendo game, in other words, and while it’s rather different from previous WarioWare titles, it’s an excellent addition to any Wii U owner’s library.
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Any time someone claims that Nintendo’s flagship action-adventure-kinda-sorta-but-not-really RPG series The Legend of Zelda is stagnant and doesn’t try anything new, the perfect rebuttal is The Wind Waker.
Originally released in 2002 to a somewhat surprised Gamecube audience that wasn’t sure what to make of its cel-shaded visuals and seafaring-heavy gameplay, The Wind Waker has subsequently proven itself to be a timeless classic in the series as well as one of the most interesting Zelda titles there has ever been.
And with the HD remaster for Wii U, the definitive version of the game now exists thanks to some much needed tweaks and updates as well as full widescreen support and glorious high-resolution visuals.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD