The State of Wii U 2014

One of the more perplexing things about Wii U’s user interface at launch was just how slow it could be opening and closing games and applications. Compared to consoles like PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (and even Wii), Wii U was downright sluggish. Nintendo had specifically stated it would be releasing system updates to speed things up, and the company kept its word– for the most part. Though exiting and entering software could still be speedier, the Quick Start Menu makes it easier than ever to launch into a recently opened game or app, and that sort of user-friendliness is always appreciated. Kudos to the introduction of folders, by the way. It’s been a joy collecting all my titles together into chunks that are easier to navigate.

Equally as important, though, has been the continued support and expansion of the Virtual Console. Though major releases remain intermittent, there’s no denying that Wii U’s Virtual Console has grown by leaps and bounds. There are still some prominent games missing, but what is available, coupled with the inclusion of Game Boy Advance titles, has been very appreciated. Much has been said about Nintendo’s lack of third-party support, and though it’s a legitimate concern, so long as Nintendo and its remaining partners can keep churning out irresistible titles, fans will continue to have reasons to want to own a Wii U.

3) Social Networking

Miiverse remains a pure stroke of brilliance on the part of Nintendo. From fostering a genuine sense of community amongst players with similar interests in particular titles, as well as serving as an outlet for artists to show their love for their favorite characters and series, Miiverse is like nothing else on home consoles. It continues to be implemented in fascinating ways, too, from Mario Kart 8 to Resident Evil: Revelations. Nintendo knows how to draw people together, and Miiverse is emblematic of that.

Speaking of Mario Kart 8, what a wonder that game has been for Wii U. Besides boosting hardware sales, it’s also getting people online and playing in droves. It’s important in this day and age for video game consoles to have a strong online presence, and the Mario Kart series is as strong of a draw as any other franchise on the market. With the promise of Super Smash Bros. and Splatoon on the horizon, Wii U will (hopefully) only continue to be a big lure for packs of players online.

The Bad

1) Where’s the Report Button?

Since we just touched on what Nintendo is doing right with online, it makes sense to now turn to what it’s doing wrong in that area. Whether on PlayStation Network or Xbox Live, players have grown accustomed to being able to pinpoint and report trouble-making players. That Nintendo has left its customers with no way to defend themselves from online harassment is frankly unconscionable. Virtually every time I log into Mario Kart 8 for some online racing, I’m greeted by players with names like “Sukac***”; I’ll leave the censored letters to your imagination, but suffice to say it’s nothing good, and nothing that anyone should be subjected to without recourse.

It’s a glaring hole in Nintendo’s approach to online. Being able to alert the company to this sort of untoward behavior should have been number one on the list of features when constructing Wii U’s online architecture, but instead it’s been reserved for Miiverse. I’m thankful it’s somewhere, but it’s past time for Nintendo to get on the ball with making Nintendo Network player-friendly in every regard. This sort of basic thing shouldn’t even be an issue moving into year two of the system’s life.

2) Virtual Console

I included this above in what Nintendo is doing right, but I think that the Virtual Console still has enough lacking that it’s worth a mention here. I’ve said this before, but if there’s anything that Nintendo has that Sony and Microsoft would kill to get their hands on, it’s the company’s wealth of classic games and franchises. There are so many excellent titles from NES onward that Nintendo is failing to utilize, it’s hard to comprehend why. It’s been wonderful seeing Game Boy Advance find its way to Wii U’s Virtual Console, but where are the Nintendo 64 titles? Why aren’t there any GameCube titles on the way?

I understand it takes resources within Nintendo to get these games up and running on Virtual Console, but given what a boon those games can be, I’d think it would be a higher priority to get something as classic as Ocarina of Time on Wii U. Regarding GameCube, though, I can see how there might be a conflict of interest for Nintendo– after all, why charge $10-$15 (presumably) for a GameCube game, when the company can do an HD update like with Wind Waker and charge $50-$60 for it, instead? That sort of bean counting shoots over my head, but I think the argument can be made that both original and remade GameCube games could coexist on Wii U without cannibalizing each other’s sales.

What it boils down to is, besides all the great new games Nintendo has in the works, the classics are timeless, the classics are irresistible. Nintendo has touched so many generations of players over the past nearly thirty years now that every console has its own devout following. People want to play GameCube games again. They want to play Nintendo 64 titles. Which reminds me: Nintendo also needs to get Sega and Neo Geo games back into the fold. Sega has commented on the lack of Genesis titles, but left the door open if fan demand is high enough. Wii U should be the destination for classic gaming; make it so, Nintendo.

3) Cross-Buy, or Something Similar

This week, I was ecstatic to see that Gargoyle’s Quest II: The Demon Darkness, an NES gem, was making its way to both Wii U and 3DS’s Virtual Consoles. The only problem? I had to buy it twice, at full price. Sony’s Cross-Buy initiative, which allows payers to purchase a game once and download it across all compatible consoles, is something Nintendo needs to emulate. I understand it’s not the most appealing thing from an accountant’s perspective, but Sony, though king of the home console wars thus far this generation, is still sucking air on the handheld front, yet continued to make the effort to ease the pressure off of consumers.

If I go and buy Resident Evil on PlayStation Network, I can play that game on my PS3, PS Vita, PSP, and PlayStation TV. One purchase, multiple systems, it’s brilliant. If Nintendo is unwilling or unable to be that generous, then compromise instead. Give players half-off a second copy if they buy a game available on 3DS and Wii U, for example. The company already gives players a great deal on Virtual Console rehash purchases, asking a respectable $1-$1.50, so getting something similar going for other software shouldn’t be the biggest hurdle to jump. That Gargoyle’s Quest 2, though– worth a double purchase!

4) Broken Repair Policies

As I discovered and then rediscovered, playing Wii games on a Wii U can be hazardous to the system’s health. But a scant few weeks after purchasing my Wii U, I installed the Wii Fit Channel only to find that it corrupted the Wii portion of the console’s memory. I sent the system in to be repaired, only to find that Nintendo couldn’t fix it, and had to instead send me an entirely new Wii U. In an instant, every bit of save data from all my years playing Wii was gone, along with my save data for all my Virtual Console games.

Jump to October of 2014, and the same exact problem occurred, this time by taking an errant screenshot while trying to exit a match in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. My data corrupted again, I called up Nintendo to setup a repair, only to be told that my warranty was expired and I needed to pay up to get it fixed this time. Yes, though it was Nintendo’s faulty design work that caused the issue, and having no way of knowing which Wii games will cause the problem to arise, I still had to pay to fix the thing. Unacceptable.

I think it’s completely unreasonable to have a problem like this linger now two years into Wii U’s life cycle, but even worse that Nintendo wouldn’t eat the cost knowing that consumers have no way of predicting which titles can do the corrupting. It’s a crapshoot I have no interest in partaking in anymore, either, as I now refuse to play Wii games on my Wii U– Wii Mini all day, now. Let’s also not forget that with some games de-listed from the Wii Shop Channel, once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. It was so long Yoshi’s Cookie, this time, though I was happy the Donkey Kong Country trilogy could still be redownloaded. In short, Nintendo needs to iron out quirky glitches like this, and not bombard unwitting customers with unfair charges to fix their error.

Wii U is primed for a transformative 2015. With games like Super Smash Bros., Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Splatoon, and much more on the way, Nintendo is making it harder and harder for even the most cynical of gamers to not want to jump on board. Though Nintendo has plenty of things to improve on with Wii U, one thing is certain: the company at least tries to learn from its mistakes. Wii U has in no way been stagnant since its launch, continually evolving and growing as time has gone by. Nintendo had a good system on its hands, but with the right nips and tucks, it can be great.

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About contra

Film maker. Video game historian. Will put more in here this section soon!
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3 Responses to The State of Wii U 2014

  1. Prof.mcstevie says:

    Even with all the issues I have with the Wii U, it is an HD system that doesn’t brick itself, for their first push into HD they are doing rather well, but there ARE some small things that need cleaning up for it to really shine as a competitor.

    • contra237 says:

      I think somethings need to be fixed with Nintendo online store. Glad to hear Nintendo is doing very well finally making a profit can’t wait for the 2015 lineup.Nintendo should’ve been HD last generation finally their artwork is incredible it was incredible on the Wii and now it can fully be exposed.

      • Prof.mcstevie says:

        I do wonder if they believe in the notion that limitations breed genius. Give someone the freedom of HD and they might not learn to be efficient and creative, the geniuses of early coding found ways to make every line of coding the most beautifully effective as it could be, if all coders were like that on a system we could have gotten every PS1 game with the quality of Crash Bandicoot. That level of work on the same system that gave us Kula World is nothing short of technical genius, the same thing with the Jack & Daxter series.

        Naughty Dog have always found ways to squeeze out the most of every system and it is extremely impressive when you see the stories of the companies porting their games. The guys who make the Jak HD collection were spending most of the time just TRYING to figure out how what wizardy was used to get the game to work.

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