There’s no hiding the fact that Nintendo has had a more than rocky start with the launch of their Wii U system ever since the next-gen console hit the store shelves in November 2012. The name was confusing, the giant GamePad controller seemed gimmicky at best, and Nintendo’s overall message just seemed to be lost in the explanations of “you need to play the Wii U to understand the Wii U.” After all, wasn’t the Wii U just essentially an HD version of the Wii? There are many gamers, even today, who don’t consider the Wii U to be a true next-generation system akin to the PS4 or Xbox One.
And let’s also not forget that one of the Wii U’s big third-party exclusives, ZombieU, received less than stellar reviews, not to mention the highly-anticipated Rayman Legends being hit with multiple heavy delays so Ubisoft could simultaneously release the game on multiple platforms. Other third-party support has been less than ideal for Nintendo and their early attempts to recapture the hardcore audience of gamers, with some publishers opting to bypass Wii U ports of their big multiplatform games entirely. And of course, why would anyone choose to play the latest Call of Duty game on the Wii U, of all places?
But all of those early hardships and mixed messages aside, is it finally time for you to start thinking about buying Nintendo’s latest console? It’s been over a year now since the Wii U was first released, and in that time since completing the hardware, Nintendo has been hard at work doing what they do best: creating magical gaming experiences that you simply can’t have anywhere else. And the best part about it is that now Wii U owners are finally seeing some of those big system-selling titles come to fruition, like the flawless Super Mario 3D World, the long-awaited Pikmin 3, and the innovative The Wonderful 101, with many more coming up on the horizon.
But now that Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One have finally been released into the wild, gamers can properly size up the different consoles for the very first time, and more importantly, compare the different games that each one has to offer. And the cold hard fact of the matter is that the recently released Wii U-exclusive Super Mario 3D World scored significantly higher across the gaming journalism board than any of the big exclusive launch titles on PS4 or Xbox One. That’s certainly gonna mean something, right?
The big Xbox One exclusives scored fairly enough, with both Ryse: Son of Rome and Dead Rising 3 scoring well within the 7 and 8 range, with many reviewers praising the graphics and presentation but criticizing the repetitive gameplay; likewise, the digital exclusive on-rails shooter Crimson Dragon was hit with more unfavorable reviews. Sony’s PS4 sadly didn’t fare any better, with Killzone: Shadow Fall falling into the “generic shooter” category, and Mark Cerny’s own Knack being slammed with shockingly mediocre scores that never reached higher than a 5 or a 6. I don’t know if a Nintendo-owned platformer ever received scores as low as that.
To put all of this into perspective, the Wii U’s Super Mario 3D World, which was unabashedly released on the same day as the Xbox One, received universal acclaim with high 9s and even 10s everywhere that you looked (we gave it an impressive 9.8 in our own review as well). Sure the big PS4 and Xbox One games looked amazing on their shiny new consoles, but Super Mario 3D World brought the innovation of gameplay and massive amount of variety that gamers all clamor for. So the big question remains: do you want the console with the greatest specs and the most powerful hardware, or do you just simply want to play great games? Well if you chose the latter answer, then there’s no better time than right now to become a proud Wii U owner.
Do you remember when Nintendo’s latest portable system, the 3DS, was first released to similar mixed results? Almost the same exact thing happened that we’re seeing with the Wii U right now. The lack of proper games at launch made the 3DS an immediate failure to the public, so much so that Nintendo issued a hefty price cut a few months after, with a special rewards program to accommodate the early adopters who bought the system at full price. But then a funny thing happened: the 3DS started getting some massive exclusives like Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, and now the little handheld system couldn’t be more of a hot commodity. It also certainly helps that the Wii U went through a welcoming price cut at the end of the summer, and now comes bundled with a free download of New Super Mario Bros. U and its expansive DLC, New Super Luigi U.
I’ve had my own Wii U for a few months now, and I can’t say that I’ve ever regretted my purchase one bit. The graphics are colorful and sharp, the GamePad feels great in your hands, and the touchscreen implementation is an especially nice touch in games like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD and Pikmin 3. Nintendo Land is also an incredible gaming experience, whether playing solo or with a couple of your friends, and one that offers a true hardcore challenge that many old-school gamers will more than appreciate: all things that failed to come across during Nintendo Land’s awkward reveal at E3 2012.
And of course, the Wii U is nowhere near its peak of great games yet either, with such colossal system-sellers like new iterations of Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. slated for 2014, and the early rumblings of The Legend of Zelda in 2015. When you purchase a video game console, you’re not only buying it for the games that are available right now, but the prospect of other games that are coming in the future. Well Nintendo’s Wii U still holds that incredible promise for the years down the road, but it also has a lot of great games right now that would more than warrant a purchase.