Join us over the next few days as we look at all of the leading games consoles and platforms out right now and try to convince you why you should spend your hard-earned cash. Today, Martin Gaston tells you why the Nintendo Wii U is the console to buy in 2014.
It's a new year, provided you subscribe to the Gregorian calendar, and I think you should buy a Wii U in 2014. Wait! Don't go! Sure, the machine is woefully underpowered, the sales numbers are dire, and Nintendo's latest device will almost certainly go down in history as one of the most troubled and unloved consoles of modern times. But… I still think 2014 will be the year to invest in the Wii U.
I know, I know, but let's relax for a minute. It's natural to be suspicious. You can't go two clicks on the Internet without somebody referencing the fact that the human body is naturally immune from catching Wii U fever, and it's all too easy to get caught up in all that doom and gloom. But let's sidestep the dry issue of financial reports and whether some executives are going to get their Christmas bonus, and talk about Mario, Zelda, and whether we'll see another decent Metroid game in our lifetimes.
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A common criticism of the Wii U is that, with an almost complete lack of third-party support, the Wii U is home to first-party Nintendo games and nothing else. That's fair. I doubt we'll see many, if any, major third-party announcements this year. If you ask me, that's the primary reason why the Wii U can't compete with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as your living room's main gaming machine. Sorry, Nintendo. But there's an opportunity here for the Wii U to take more of a complementary role, because of this: the Wii U is home to first-party Nintendo games.
Nintendo games, you see, are wonderful. They are! Some are better than others, of course, but the company manages to add a distinctive, adorable, and unique stamp to everything (Steel Diver and any Nintendo game that ends with 'Party' excluded) it produces. And, sure, it would be nice to see the company take a few more risks with new characters and games, or even just make another Metroid (come on, please, it's been ages) but, at the end of the day, I would hate to live in a world without Nintendo in it. Last year's Super Mario 3D World is phenomenal, Pikmin 3 is worth anybody's time, and the HD update of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is a loving restoration of a classic, even if I think the game's always had a few problems.
The Wii U's Virtual Console is also home to Earthbound, one of the most celebrated cult titles in gaming history, and one now finally available to play legitimately (without shelling out a small fortune on the cartridge and hooking up a SNES) if you're prepared to stomach Nintendo's shockingly archaic digital account management.
One of the reasons I think 2014 will be the year to buy a Wii U is because we'll actually see some more titles released. So far, Nintendo's 2014 slate includes Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and Bayonetta 2. While I'm aware that Platinum Games' oeuvre seems to have about as much commercial appeal as a Tiger Woods book on monogamy, despite them being almost universally excellent, I'll be there on day one. While we're on the subject of potentially excellent games that almost certainly won't sell, Monolith Software's upcoming RPG X also fits the bill.
There is, of course, also an untitled The Legend of Zelda in the works. I'm not talking about Dynasty Warriors spin-off Hyrule Warriors, either. And that should be exciting news to anybody, even if the end result is a dud on the level of Spirit Tracks.
If you're a fan of wacky races, precision jumps, bright colours, and zippy action--if you like videogames, essentially--then just the thought of that lineup should make your heart flutter.
Nintendo is also bound to announce a new thing or two over the next few months. So if we all cross our fingers and wish for a new Metroid game simultaneously, it might just happen.
I don't own a Wii U yet, but that's okay: nobody does. But I'm going to buy one this year, instead of relying on the one parked in the GameSpot office. And while I personally think that the current $300 price tag is offputting, there is absolutely no way (in my opinion) that price isn't going to come down before the holiday season. If Nintendo doesn't do it officially, the retailers will.
Nintendo has rarely been one to compete on raw horsepower, but it's safe to say the Wii U lacks the punch of the latest consoles. But many Wii U games, despite the lack of CPU, GPU, and RAM, can actually capture the full range of the colour spectrum, which is more than you can say for anything on Xbox One. I can't see how anyone can take a peek at Super Mario 3D World in action and not think that it looks like twenty years of everything good in their lives rolled up and stuffed into a game where you can dress Toad up in a cat outfit. The idea of somebody not enjoying that just doesn't make any sense to me.
Then there's the GamePad, which lets you play games away from the TV, which is probably quite useful in some circumstances, but is rarely something I experience as a twenty-something man child who still lives like an isolated student. All I can really tell you is that the thing needs charging more than I would think possible and, yes, I do feel a little silly when holding the big, bulky GamePad as a controller, too. But it makes me no more awkward than sitting in a dark room playing Call of Duty with a little headset microphone, mind.
Elsewhere you've got Miiverse, Nintendo's game-by-game community portal that lets players attach pictures and leave messages. It's actually a lot more fun than it looks, and quite often I've ended up down the rabbit hole of Miiverse, scrolling through reams of messages. There's also a brilliant Twitter account that has taken to cataloguing the more bizarre Miiverse posts, often before Nintendo's stellar community team takes them down. While the rest of Nintendo's online offering--online servers generally seem poor, and your digital purchases are bound to the console rather than an account--is patchy at best, Miiverse is a triumph.
The Wii also carved out an enviable niche as a must-have device for family gatherings, but Nintendo's efforts to recreate this in the Wii U have yet to pay off. Nintendo Land doesn't have the universal appeal of Wii Sports, although my family would be more than happy to play a few games of Mario Chase on Christmas day. Wii Party U, Wii Fit U, and Wii Sports Club really don't do much to excite, however. Or that Wii Karaoke U game. Jesus.
All in all, I think too many people are too hard on Nintendo--it feels like longstanding gaming fans are relishing the opportunity to kick the company when it's down. The Wii U is by no means an essential piece of hardware, but quality software is starting to trickle in and nobody else makes games quite like Nintendo. A curious machine, then, but one I think we should all think about buying in 2014.