I’d argue that retro stops when things can’t be plugged to a CRT. The 360 has analogue video out, the wiiu doesnt
wii u has analog bro
There you have it, the Wii U, definitively a retro console. Hook it up to your CRT and… wait actually don’t do that.
OK so it’s not retro, but the system was super behind the times and even today that Nintendo feel is certainly more in line with classic games than the AAA hogwash on other platforms. And right now is a pretty good time to get Wii U stuff, as prices have dropped significantly in the last few months and it won’t be too long before new physical copies of Wii U games are hard to find.
Now, it is almost impossible to really talk about the Wii U without getting into the horserace it competed in, or the market that it launched into, the branding issues, a terrible first year that wasted a head start, or the million failed attempts to save the system. But let’s try to keep the negativity to a minimum, shall we? This is an appreciation thread.
For me, the Wii U will always be about games, games, games! For a failed system, there is a great library full of instant classics to dive into. While the Switch is, in many ways, the Wii U done right, with some of the best games already making their way over, there are ample reasons to buy and play Wii U games now and into the future.
But let’s start with some console revisions, shall we?
Early releases of the white Wii U were only 8GB internal memory, but later you could get the white one with a full fat 32GB of storage.
Every black Wii U comes with 32GB of internal storage. Many also came with a few extremely useful extras such as the charging cradle for the Wii U Gamepad.
While Nintendo made approximately 1.5 million different 3DS Special Editions, the Wii U got just one, the not very limited Zelda bundle complete with a uniquely styled gamepad. Gamepad aside, this variant is the same as other black Wii Us with 32GB storage, all the usual digital deluxe items, and came with Wind Waker HD + a digital version of the Hyrule Historia book.
… Oh wait this isn’t a Wii U? Yeah Nintendo never made a Wii U with a revised gamepad, which is a shame since the original is somewhat larger than it needed to be. The Switch, in many ways, takes the Wii U’s best ideas and executes them better and more successfully. I’ll try not to get to salty about all the best Wii U games getting ported to the Switch, since it’s best for everyone to have the ability to play these games.
As mentioned above all Wii U’s came with 8GB or 32GB of internal memory, which just wasn’t all that. Some games via download can use a huge % of that space since retail Wii U games were on Blu Ray. Thankfully, Nintendo was surprisingly forward thinking in that you can just hook up any USB hard drive and get as much data as you need. Unfortunately, the Wii U USB ports only supply 500mA so you may need a Y cable or an externally powered hard drive enclosure. They don’t officially recommend it for performance and reliability reasons, but as long as you don’t go too cheap or stuff them too full USB flash drives also work well.
One of the best and most bizarre features of the Wii U actually shut down on Nov 7, 2017. This quasi-social network of Miis is best known for amazing drawings and awful, just awful posts. Some of the more notable games on Wii U had Miiverse integration to share level comments, drawings, and Yeah!s
Dual Screen Action
That’s right, Nintendo’s gimmick circa 2004 became one of the defining aspects of the Wii U. With a 480p H.264 encoded video stream beamed directly to the gamepad, games could make use of of the second screen for whatever crazy thing they wanted.
While compelling implementations of dual screen gameplay are thin on the ground, and while the Wii U implementation was never as good as the DS’s due to the nature of how you hold the gamepad, there are a number of games that will forever remain compelling plays on Wii U due to this feature. It may seem dumb, but just having a map always available + an easy access inventory can be really nice, and this is something that will be lacking even on ports to other platforms including Switch. These include:
- Zombi U: despite souped up ports on other platforms, the map + inventory being available make this survival horror game still best on Wii U
- Nintendo Land: another launch title, this time a set of minigames features the best ideas Nintendo ever had to make use of the gamepad.
- Tokyo Mirage Sessions: this bizarre exclusive uses the gamepad as the character’s cell phone, featuring a fake LINE (complete with stickers) that’s used to talk to other characters and receive quests.
- Zelda: Wind Waker & Twilight Princess HD: The GameCube originals will always be #1 in my heart, but again the inclusion of map & inventory on the gamepad makes the Wii U versions better playing.
- Pikmin 3: Once again a map, but in this case, being a strategy game where you need to frequently switch between three party members, having that map always on hand to issue commands is really handy
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the best exclusives on the platform.
- New Super Mario Bros U: Don’t let the samey visual design and music put you off, this game is easily the best 2D Mario has ever been. Or at least it would be if it wasn’t for…
- New Super Luigi U: Luigi finally gets his own platformer. Here, all new levels of similar theme to NSMBU are used, with each tightened down to 100 seconds. This combined with Luigi’s unique physics makes for one of the hardest and best 2D Mario games to date.
- Super Mario 3D World: With this game and 3D Land before it, Nintendo took 2D-style Mario and brought it into three dimensions. Clear levels, hit halfway points, mount flagpoles, and go through mostly linear stages. If you’ve been holding out on this game because it isn’t the 3D Mario you wanted, stop waiting! 3D World is packed full of inventive, novel stages + ideas, increasingly tricky platforming, and is overloaded with charm. For my money, the best Mario game and one of the best games I’ve ever played.
- Tokyo Mirage Sessions: This game is kinda crazy; a mix of a traditional turn-based SMT-style JPRG with Fire Emblem character ghosts possessing the main characters all wrapped up in Persona-style style & modern day setting with a whole whack of idol crap thrown in. Somehow it all works really well and it’s one of the best games on Wii U.
- Super Mario Maker: OK this one’s kinda cheating; it’s on 3DS and there’s nothing really stopping a straight port to Switch. But being able to make levels with a stylus allows a level of control that I just don’t think is workable with finger-touch.
- Bayonetta 2: Hideki Kamiya’s been very clear that this Nintendo published game will only ever be on Wii U. Or at least only Nintendo platforms
- Xenoblade X: The original sequel to Xenoblade, apparently now a side-title or something, this open world extravaganza pushed the limits of what anyone thought was possible on the system.
- Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze: Retro Studios’ second Donkey Kong game is full of great platforming and interesting areas from beginning to end.
- Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker: This spinoff of the Mario 3D World puzzle stages is so, so cute. The puzzle areas themselves get really clever too. Honestly one of the most delightful budget titles from Nintendo in a long time.
- Hyrule Warriors: Again, cheating because the (surprisingly legit) 3DS demake exists. This Musou game featuring Zelda characters, settings, and an original story somehow came together really well.
- Dr. Luigi: Rounding out the Year of Luigi (confusingly mid 2013 to mid-2014), this game is pretty much your requisite Dr. Mario featuring Luigi for some reason. I really like the title so I included the game in this list.
Running list of games ported to Nintendo Switch
Look, I’m glad that people without a Wii U can enjoy these games but it is nice for a system to have its own character with a set of exclusives. Anyway, here’s a list of cool games stolen by Nintendo Switch (WIP):
- Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Mario Kart 8
- Fast Racing Neo
- Bayonetta 2
- Hyrule Warriors
- Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze
- Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
- New Super Mario Bros U & New Super Luigi U
- Tokyo Mirage Sessions
- The Wonderful 101
What’s your favorite aspect of the Wii U?