E3 laid bare the Wii U launch line-up. Pikmin 3 and New Super Mario Bros U are repping for Nintendo's beloved franchises; Wii Fit U has its sights on the casual crowd; Batman: Arkham City - Armored Edition and Rayman Legends are leading the charge for third-party games. The Wii U instalment of Super Smash Bros., meanwhile, is in the hands of Namco Bandai, but far from a launch title--series mastermind Masahiro Sakurai tells us to expect a long wait.
It's a pity this Super Smash Bros. isn't landing alongside the console, and not only because we would have spent all Christmas bopping relations off platforms with Zelda. The Wii U's day-one games could use a few more crucial buys--a few more familiar franchises, or even a few more third-party offerings that weren't out months ago on other machines.
What is missing from the Wii U's first wave? What, you wonder, would our fantasy launch line-up look like? Wonder no more. In the dream world to which we are withdrawing, little by little, every day, these are the games that would arrive on shop shelves the same day as Nintendo's new console.
1. Pokémon U
Pokémon had a lacklustre showing on the Wii (we are looking at you, Pokémon Battle Revolution). It's time to make amends with an outstanding Pokémon console title on the Wii U, whose tablet controller suggests nifty possibilities aplenty.
In our open-world Pokémon adventure, the Wii U tablet would be your Pokédex and Pokéball while you free-roam up on the TV. You could simulate hurling your Pokéball onto the big screen and into battle with a flick of that motion-sensitive tablet. And there could be delightful online multiplayer in which you meet and duel other trainers, in contrast to the disappointing lack of online action in Pikmin 3.
2. Metroid: Chozo
We're (mostly) not here to list every major Nintendo franchise and sulk about its absence on the Wii U launch slate. With Skyward Sword out only last November, for instance, we are content to hold on a bit for Link's inevitable Wii U outing. And though Mario Kart HD wouldn't have gone amiss on top of New Super Mario Bros. U, we are, like heroes, prepared to wait on that as well.
Still, the time is ripe for a fresh blast of Metroid. Since origins stories are hot right now, why not take Samus back to her roots and revisit the Chozo? We imagine an adventure based on Samus' last years among the series' ancient bird-people, when she is still growing up and learning to use her Power Suit--with plenty of cool suit abilities mapped to a slick, sci-fi interface on the Wii U tablet's touchscreen.
3. Animal Crossing U-niverse
We couldn't miss Nintendo's heart-warming social sim more, and there couldn't be a more perfect platform for it than the Wii U. Japan gets the 3DS sequel this autumn, but the series' anthropomorphic critters get only a cameo in the Wii U mini-game collection, Nintendo Land.
Imagine Animal Crossing's woodland wandering in TV-and-tablet mode. The controller would be your inventory and map, naturally, but also your motion-sensitive fishing rod, augmented-reality butterfly net, and touchscreen sketchpad for customising your house, flag, and whatever else needs your doodles. And when your jerk housemate/parent/partner needs to watch regular television, you could pick fruit and traipse around your friends' villages on just the smaller screen.
4. One Role-Playing Game (Mass Effect 3 Doesn't Count)
When the Wii U gets out of the blocks this winter, the number of 'core' gamers who haven't played Mass Effect 3 will be approximately zero. This is a blockbuster game that wraps up a blockbuster trilogy; it hardly slipped under the radar when it came out for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in March, nine-ish months before the Wii U's prospective launch.
There will no doubt be a handful of new gameplay features, much as with the Wii U version of Arkham City, but a handful of Wii U-exclusive tweaks do not a killer app make. An attention-grabbing, fan-pleasing role-playing game into which new console owners can sink tens of hours? That's more like it. A big-screen instalment of Golden Sun would do the trick.
5. Another Survival Horror
At E3, Ubisoft was the third-party outfit with the most enticing Wii U titles. Rayman: Legends was one and the other, a bigger surprise, was ZombiU, a London-set, first-person zombie blaster with a penchant for permadeath and risky real-time inventory fumbling.
That's a good start, but on our Wii U wish list sits another survival horror to bolster the Wii U's adults-only offering. Let's call it a brand new Fatal Frame (Project Zero, if you like), in which the Wii U controller becomes your camera for snapping malevolent spooks that are only visible on the tablet display, and not on the TV screen.
6. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
If an instalment of a niche Japanese horror series doesn't scream record sales, there's always Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 to balance it out. Though Treyarch insists it is not talking about Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 for Wii U, it also is dropping ten-ton hints that the Wii U Pro Controller, the one with the triggers, is interesting for it, a developer of first-person shooters.
The question isn't if but when we see Call of Duty on Nintendo's next gamebox. Sooner, please, rather than later. If the Wii U wants to prove it's got hardcore shooter chops, here's opportunity the first. And if the promise of a Call of Duty with Xbox 360-comparable graphics is going to mean anything, it can't roll up weeks after the current gen has had it.
7. Super Mario Galaxy 3
This is Super Mario Galaxy 3. Questions?
Beyond our demanding a sequel to the sublime Super Mario Galaxy 2, this is also about inviting the Wii U to really show us what it's got. New Super Mario Bros. U will look crisp and lovely on HD televisions, but the thing for selling the Wii U's upgraded graphical grunt would be a 3D Mario game--specifically, a HD follow-up to the Wii game that made us gawp like Jodie Foster at the end of Contact.
The Wii U's debut slate is a known quantity, but it doesn't stop us wondering what might have been--or what's yet to come on the new Nintendo machine. What's in your fantasy launch line-up?