U IS FOR UNDERDOG

I remember how studiously I kept up with news of any and all upcoming systems when I was a kid.  When EGM would break a story about a console's design, technical specs, or launch titles, I was all over it.  I knew every detail, and could rarely contain my excitement.

In recent years, however, I've grown a bit jaded and indifferent towards future generations of systems.  The thought of a PlayStation 4 or a new Xbox doesn't excite me - I'm just not ready to invest in yet another new piece of hardware and reconfigure my entertainment center around it.  Ugh, even the words "entertainment center" make me cringe... why do I need so much entertaining?  I truly had no plans of inviting any more hardware into my life.

Until, about two weeks ago, I made one of the greatest impulse purchases of my life - I bought a Wii U Deluxe bundle.  I may have been caught up in the pre-Black Friday hype, but I'll be damned if I didn't want to be a part of the launch group and experience something new and exciting.

 Image Courtesy of Nintendo

Image Courtesy of Nintendo


When Nintendo unveiled the Wii U last E3, I scoffed along with the rest of the gaming world.  As a lifelong Nintendo fan, I was a latecomer to the original Wii, but after witnessing the 3DS firsthand and not being particularly impressed, I feared the worst for the beloved brand when I saw the new gamepad and started hearing buzzwords like "asymmetric gameplay" being casually tossed around.  It just didn't make any sense.  

And then, after keeping up with news about the system... after seeing the endless barrage of hate from naysayers... after hearing online gaming journalists discuss Nintendo's failure before the console was even on shelves... I realized something.  Nintendo greatly sculpted my imagination as a child, and the thought of a world without them was a very bleak one.  Nintendo, once the clear winner, is now the underdog, fighting for another chance at the spotlight, and so few people seem to be betting on them.

I wanted to be one of the people who was with them from the start again.  I came up with three good reasons why purchasing a Wii U would be beneficial to my life as a gaming enthusiast, so I budgeted out the cash and threw the money down.

1 - I wanted to support Nintendo.  Wii U is their chance to prove that they are the experts in the kind of video gaming that I grew up with.  The system may not graphically outdo Sony and Microsoft's future offerings, but gameplay has always come first for me anyway, and the step away from a motion controller as the primary user input device is a promising gesture (despite Wii having games that successfully took advantage of motion controls).

2 - I wanted to play games remotely on the Wii U gamepad at night so I could be closer to my son.  He wakes up often looking for Dad to comfort him (awwwwww :D ), and although I'm typically in the basement and can hear him on the baby monitor, the thought of being able to play a console game on the couch 5 feet away from his bedroom was comforting.

3 - I desperately want to play The Wonderful 101 next year.

Despite some reviewers claiming that the Wii U version of Black Ops 2 is the best version, I sincerely doubt that Nintendo is going to pull fans away from their existing consoles to experience the game in a new way.  However, the announcement of this Platinum-developed exclusive most definitely was a deciding factor in my decision to get a Wii U.  That game will be a day-one-purchase for me.  In fact, Platinum has also secured the only other day-one-purchase I've made in recent memory, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.  Platinum, in my mind, is singlehandedly fighting to revive the dying art of video gaming with beautifully crafted, stylistic, and innovative titles.  Until Treasure puts out a new release, they have me more excited about gaming than anyone else in the industry right now, and their teaming up with Nintendo is very exciting.

Wonderful 101 is directed by Hideki Kamiya, whose credits are insane.  He created the original Devil May Cry.  He directed the 2nd Resident Evil game, my personal favorite from the series.  He's responsible for Okami and Viewtiful Joe, and Bayonetta.  He once said in an interview with 1UP that The Legend of Zelda: A LInk to the Past is the game that influenced him the most, and that it "has no equal."

...because now we have 3D effects and move around worlds freely, and play movies, and it’s impressive... and it costs the user about 9,800 yen. But Zelda managed to go above and beyond the call of duty and pull it together on that hardware to give people plenty of value, lots of ways to play. This is a perfect, complete game.
— Hideki Kamiya, 1UP Interview


I.  Love.  This man.

A young Kamiya, pictured with his mother.  What a badass.
A young Kamiya, pictured with his mother.  What a badass.

He and his peers at Platinum Games are doing great things, and I can't wait to experience Wonderful 101.  Reading about it and watching clips of it make me feel full of anticipation like I used to as a kid while tracking a game that wasn't going to be available for months and months.  It looks like an insane amalgamation of Viewtiful Joe and The Last Guy.  Kamiya is an innovator, and I'm excited to see what he does with the Wii U Gamepad, as I'm sure it will be awesome.  (Come to think of it, Wii U would be perfect for an HD remake of Okami...)

I am pretty much obsessed with Platinum, and when I heard they were doing an exclusive game, Nintendo had my attention.  They captured my attention even further when it was announced that Platinum had another exclusive for Wii U lined up...

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For anyone who loves action games and has never played the first Bayonetta, please stop wasting your time on the internet reading my ramblings and get it now!!!!

The announcement that Bayonetta 2 will be exclusive to Wii U seemed to piss off a lot of gamers on various internet forums - gamers who hold their noses high in disgust at the thought of purchasing a Wii U as I once did.  Gamers as a bunch, especially on the internet, don't come across as the most optimistic or positive people, and are quick to naysay, shoot down, and criticize just about anything.  But this seemed to really, really piss people off, sparking angry tweets at Kamiya, threatening to kill him for making the game exclusive to a "toddler's console."  Look, business decisions are business decisions, and I can understand why people who do not want to purchase another console would be disappointed, but that's just uncalled for, and is not in line with the true spirit of gaming.  Negative attitudes like that really bum me out.

These are the kinds of people to whom the majority of big publishers are tailoring their business decisions, which is a pretty scary thought.  They're the lot that will completely dismiss something into oblivion over some inane technical specification, like a game's frames per second or maximum resolution.  They don't seem to remember the hardcore days of Nintendo before they experimented with the "appeal to everyone" model... or maybe they're even too young to know about it.

A "toddler's console," the Wii U is not.  The gamepad is probably the nicest piece of gaming hardware I have ever owned.  It fits perfectly in my hands, the button placement is natural, and the triggers feel punchy and responsive.  The analog sticks have the perfect amount of resistance to them.  The ridge across the back allows you to easily and comfortably hold the gamepad with one hand while reading or typing.  The screen is enormous, bright, and beautiful.  The audio coming out of the gamepad is puzzlingly rich and full for how small the speakers are.  And the entire device combines forces with your television to make a giant, detached, high definition DS.

 Image courtesy of r/gaming

Image courtesy of r/gaming

 
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The entire Wii U experience is incredibly classy, actually.  Featuring soft whites and grays like a Matrix loading program, along with rounded frames that stretch from the TV down onto the gamepad, further suggesting their spacial link, the system menu is clean and full of style.  Upon startup, the TV displays WaraWara Plaza, a visual depiction of the top rated and most-commented-on drawings and text posts from MiiVerse users across a multitude of games.  I've sat in awe at how interesting it is to see people's creativity in expressing their excitement for a game in unbelievably detailed drawings, as well as their willingness to assist other players in need of help.  Perhaps it's a symptom of a moderated social network, which caused concern for a lot of gamers, and if it is, I'm fine with it because the atmosphere is perfect without the expletives and derogatory remarks that typically accompany gaming experiences these days.  Perhaps Nintendo people are just less likely to be assholes.  Either way, WaraWara and MiiVerse are places that are not only fun to browse - they're fun to participate in too.  And I never thought I would say that, being an individual who is pretty tired of social networking and the constant clamoring for attention that goes hand-in-hand with it.  MiiVerse is just a cool place with cool people, and I don't have to dig through an ad-riddled site to get tips on how to beat a boss - I can simply turn to the community with the touch of a button and interact with other players directly.


One thing that I really love about Nintendo is the way in which they can reinforce a mood with excellent music and sound effects.  Everything from the eShop to the system settings menus feature their own batch of pleasant "Nintendo songs," for lack of a better description (you know, like the drawing music that plays in Mario Paint).  Plus, they have moments in which the tracks that are playing on the TV and the gamepad change, diverge, and interweave, making a unique, semi-surround sound experience unlike anything I've heard in a game system before.  Nintendo Land does this a lot too, with excellent results.  I really hope other developers pick up on this and incorporate it into their games - it's a small touch, but has a lot of creative possibilities.

Speaking of which, Nintendo Land is incredibly fun, both solo and with friends.  It not only serves its duty as tech demo and introduction to the new gamepad, but it is full of nods and winks at many classic Nintendo titles.  Approach the corridor for the Zelda amusement and you are treated to the title them from A Link to the Past.  When this first happened to me, I thought "Oh man.  Nintendo is back, and they are serious."


I'm not kidding when I say I thought "They did that for me."  They do this with the F-Zero game and it's 16-bit counterpart's music as well.  Nintendo, I sincerely hope you dropped all the little touches like this one throughout Nintendo Land to inspire old farts like me into believing that you're ready to get down to business again.  To many, the world "hardcore" seems to describe something a la Call of Duty.  To me, it's more about eloquently speaking the language of video games on a level that is not only entertaining, but activates the imagination rather than dulling it.

Overall, I'm incredibly pleased with how my Wii U experience has gone these past two weeks.  New Super Mario Bros. U is honestly the closest the series has come to recapturing the special magic that dissipated with Super Mario World in my opinion, and is the most fun I've had with a platformer in a long time.  Plus, it has what might become my favorite boss fight against Bowser, ever.  If only Nintendo could start to bring that magic back to Zelda and Star Fox.  Maybe they will.  I'm hoping they will.

Personally, I am incredibly happy that Wii U is getting exclusives Like Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2 - I hope that Nintendo understands how lucky they are to have two very hardcore games by a very hardcore developer up their sleeve, and that they continue to build a successful relationship with Platinum, and others.  3rd party support from creative-thinking developers, as well as indie developers who support the eShop, will allow for the opportunity to do something really incredible and original with this system.  My fingers are crossed - if it lives up to be a fraction of how cool I'm hoping it will be in my own mind, it's going to be a pretty damn good ride.