What I’d Like to See From Nintendo at E3 2013

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By now, it’s well-known that Nintendo has decided to forgo a traditional E3 presser this year in favour of a Nintendo Direct livestream. I had initially wanted to write a few words on that particular decision (basically, I think it’s a dumb one; the Nintendo Direct should’ve been used to support the E3 presser, just like last year), but time flew by and now that we’re on the eve of E3, it’s kind of a moot point.

I probably won’t write articles like this for Sony and Microsoft. I’ve always been a Nintendo fanboy, although as I’ve grown older, I’ve gotten better at recognizing how alienating and puzzling the company’s business practices can be at times. I desperately want the company to turn around its recent slump because I know that at some point I must buy a Wii U, but the pragmatic person in me knows that buying one now, when the price is high, the memory is low, and the game library is meager, wouldn’t be in my best interests. Nintendo’s games have always been my favourite of any developer, so I really don’t care if the Wii U remains devoid of third-party support; I fully intend to buy it as nothing more than a box that will allow me to play Mario and Zelda games.

Here are a few things that I’d like to see Nintendo do at E3 2013:

1. Adjust Wii U price/SKU – The white 8GB Basic model is Basically useless (ha). A tiny little bit of memory (much of which is taken up by the OS) and no pack-in game. Apparently it’s not selling so hot (and despite Nintendo’s claims that the Basic stock is only being “rebalanced,” rumours continue to fly that it’ll stop being sold at retailers after E3), so what Nintendo should do is pull the plug on the Basic model and cut the Premium model’s price by $50 (so it’s the same price as the $300 Basic set). This seems like a likely scenario, but in my fantasy land, the Premium slips to $250 and the new Premium (with 100GB+ memory) retails for $300.  I doubt this will ever happen, but then again, I didn’t see the 3DS receiving a $70 price cut after 6 months either. In the increasingly digital world we live in, 32GB is still next to nothing in terms of memory, and really, screw USB sticks and SD cards. HDD Memory is cheap; add some more!

2. Phase out DS and Wii games – I know this one is probably a given, but we got new Pokemon DS games a year and a half into the 3DS’ lifespan, so who knows. Still, everything’s gotta be 3DS and Wii focused at this point. Let the old, inferior systems wither away and die. The 3DS is a bonafide success now, and with enough attention, the Wii U can be, too.

3. All the games – In light of Microsoft’s and Sony’s current DRM/online debacle, this is Nintendo’s big chance to regain some lost ground. Right now, there is little reason to be excited for any of the three next gen consoles. However, Nintendo’s console has a head start, supports used games, and isn’t always online, so if they give gamers a reason to want to buy their console for its software selection (rather than just to circumvent ridiculous DRM), they’ll really have a chance to begin driving the nail deep here. Everyone thought Wii U was dead in the water after a tumultuous first 3 months at retail, but it’s received a second chance with the increasingly messy reveals of the PS4 and Xbox One. So crank out Wind Waker HD as fast as you can, but get either the new 3D Mario or Super Smash Bros. out by Christmas, too. If it’s 2014 before the Wii U has a killer app (sorry, but Pikmin 3, Wind Waker HD, and Mario Kart don’t count), then the battle will be all but lost at that point. A year and a half of no killer apps will be too long of a drought for most fans to endure.

4. Pipe dream games – I’m just gonna lay out my personal wishlist here, as unlikely as some of these games may seem. Firstly, I hope they don’t fuck up the new Smash Bros. somehow by either a) turning it into a traditional 2D fighter or b) introducing a new gimmick, like tag-team a la Mario Kart: Double Dash. Just give me new characters and I’ll be fine. Secondly, I’d like to see more of the Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem crossover from Atlus, as well as Monolithsoft’s new X game. Finally, I’d like to see the Golden Sun series concluded with a fourth installment. The third game had a weird (and quite frankly, bad) story which started off being about a certain plot point only to completely abandon it two hours in, then picked up said plot point again in the dying seconds of the game. That ain’t no way to end a series. Still, Camelot’s working on Mario Golf right now, and I think Golden Sun: Dark Dawn ended up receiving middling reviews and sales, so it’s entirely likely the series is dead. Sad face.

With Nintendo’s E3 Direct scheduled to be only an hour long, I have a feeling the focus is going to be on the games rather than the hardware. And really, this is the way it should be. Pack the Nintendo Direct full of crazy game announcements, then relegate the price changes to a press release. Hopefully this is what will happen, but of course, their track record indicates that Tuesday’s stream will potentially be a mishmash of Wii U features we already know about, a series of “classic” games coming to the eShop that most people pirated years ago, and a showcase of recently-released 3DS games, all sandwiched between shots of Satoru Iwata staring at fruit.

Mother’s Day Special

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My mother reads my blog. I’m sure your mother does too, even if you think she doesn’t. You probably mentioned it to her once offhand, she laughed and told you what a clever name you picked, she secretly Googled the name after you left, she proceeded to read every article in your archive, she blushed at the language, and now she’s eagerly awaiting your next post. Despite your paranoia, she’s probably not doing it to keep tabs on your cyber-life; more likely, she has always thought you were a great writer, and she just wants to read some more of her beloved child’s creative output.

My mom would probably read my blog regardless of what I wrote about. It could be a blog dedicated to my favourite serial killers and she’d still come back for each new top ten list. However, because I write about video games, there’s a personal connection there for her. In addition to dabbling with Pac-Man and Pong during her university years, she’s been playing video games with and without me fairly regularly over the past few years. It’s given us a neat hobby that we can enjoy together, one that a lot of mothers and sons probably don’t share simply because there’s a generation gap there: we grew up in a time when games were incredibly popular and complex and they didn’t.

I think the very first time I watched her play a game was when I let her play the fishing minigame in Twilight Princess. It was calm, inoffensive, satisfying, and fairly easy to control, making it a good introduction to gaming for a non-gamer like herself. When she expressed desire for a deeper fishing experience, I went out and bought Hudson’s Fishing Master, which had the advantage of being a dedicated fishing game with more advanced controls and a wider variety of fish to catch (over 100 fish compared to Twilight Princess‘s 6 or so). If I remember correctly, it had a multiplayer fishing derby mode too. We played the crap out of it for a good while.

I think the first game that we played actual co-op together was Super Smash Bros. Brawl, of all things. We played through the entire story mode a few summers ago, which was pretty fun. I would take the lead while she provided support, running along behind me and beating the crap out of anything that crept up on me. Even without enemies, just making it through the treacherous platforming sections of the labyrinthine Subspace Emissary levels was a challenge in itself, and the game provided a helpful “cheater button” that would instantly warp her back to my side if she found herself stuck in a wall or falling into a bottomless pit. Although she liked Meta Knight and Pit because their multiple jumps reduced the chances that she’d land in one of said bottomless pits, Captain Falcon was her all-time favourite mainly because of his raw power.

Since she likes to exercise, I bought her Wii Fit as a Mother’s Day gift a few years back. Although we do the yoga and the strength exercises and enjoy them enough, she likes the balance board minigames a lot too. While I was at university one winter, she spent a good amount of time practicing the snowball fight minigame to the point where she owned the entire board of high scores, and even though I tried my hardest, I could not crack any of her scores. She is actually the best Wii Fit snowball fighter I have ever seen. To see her play this game is to suddenly feel great shame re: your own sluggish reflexes.

When I first started using Steam regularly, one of the first games I bought was Plants vs. Zombies. I showed it to my mom because I thought she’d find the character designs cute, and I forget exactly what happened next, but it ultimately ended up with her playing the heck out of the thing while I twiddled my thumbs and waited patiently for her to return my computer. I bought her a copy for herself, then another copy for the DS she would eventually inherit from me, then a third copy for the iPhone she would buy the next year. She still plays the game regularly, but I mean, the thing isn’t even a challenge for her anymore. She never loses. Her in-game wallet has long since stopped counting her money (it maxes out at $999,900, in case you were wondering). When I told her Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time was finally coming out in July, she was overjoyed, and she jokingly inquired about midnight launches in our area. At least, I’m assuming it was a joke.

It was in early 2011 that she began to show interest in Animal Crossing, so I gave her my DS Lite and treated myself to a 3DS preorder. I bought two copies of Wild World and told her that she could live in one town, I’d live in the other, and we could visit each other whenever we liked. Well, she got pretty good at making money pretty fast, and by the time she finally became debt-free, I was still paying off my second expansion. The thing is, she actually knows stuff about interior design, so her mansion actually looks like a coherent, smartly furnished work of art, whereas my shit shack is a glutted mess of indoor barbecues, lava lamps, and electric guitars. I’m finally on my last mortgage payment right now thanks in no small part to the fact that she likes dropping bags of money around my town, but boy, has she made me work for those Bells (she likes hiding them behind buildings, which, thanks to the game’s lone camera angle, means they’re virtually impossible to see). She once dug a ring of holes around a bag of Bells and then planted pitfall seeds in each one, creating an effective booby trap. I once visited her town only to find nearly every square inch of the place covered in Bells, almost as if she had paved the streets with her wealth in an egregious display of opulence.

Right now, we’ve got a few games on the go. She still plays Plants vs. Zombies often enough, but we also started Telltale’s The Walking Dead a few weeks back. She’s a big fan of the show and she already understands the lore, so this one was a no-brainer. Being an adventure game, the emphasis on story and dialogue means that we have fewer pointless action sequences to trudge through. We’ve also been playing Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, which I told her had the same basic gameplay as Brawl‘s Subspace Emissary. She’s become something of a boss-killer as Meta Knight; whenever a difficult fight comes up, I unchain her and she becomes a whirling dervish of barely contained fury while I just kind of whistle in the corner.

I’m glad that my mom has taken an interest in something that I’m deeply invested in. She sometimes worries that she’s a bad co-op partner or that she’s holding me back by dying too much, but of course that’s not what I care about. The important thing to me is that we’re spending time together, and although we have many other hobbies that we frequently enjoy together (gardening, for example), gaming always felt like one of the few things I could teach her about, rather than the other way around. I’m very grateful that she’s had the patience to play with me for these last few years, because games these days often have a high barrier of entry if you’re not already familiar with the medium. Even if, some day, we stop playing some of these games together, I can always go back and look at the perceptible marks she’s left on many of them: her high scores in Wii Fit Plus, her nametag in Smash Bros., her profile in Fishing Master (complete with dog custom-named “Hercules”). And if I want to look at something she personally did for me in a video game, I can read any of the dozens of loving, thoughtful letters she’s mailed to me in Animal Crossing, the kind that only a mother can write. I’ve saved every single one.

I’m Not Dead, I’m Just Playing Fire Emblem

FireEmblem

It’s been a while since I last posted, although that was certainly not my intention. See, a wonderful thing came into my life last week, a true blessing from on high. Nah, it’s not a baby; it’s just Fire Emblem: Awakening, only one of my most-anticipated games ever and possibly the best game I’ve played in the last year.

I’m still young enough to be within that coveted 18-25 year-old male demographic (the one that likes all the violence and the sex, apparently), but as I age, I find I’m getting less excited by new game releases, even ones that I undoubtedly would’ve lost my shit over as a younger man. After buying Skyward Sword and Super Mario 3D Land in November 2011, I didn’t beat the former until late this summer, and I didn’t even play the latter until May. I didn’t feel sick with anticipation in the months leading up to their respective releases, and I wasn’t caught up in the pre-release hype machine that usually resulted in me checking for new screenshots, trailers, anything, several times a day (I couldn’t sleep the night before Pokemon Stadium came out because I was rewatching all the commercials in my head all night).

But then Fire Emblem: Awakening released in Japan last year, and my interest went from cautious curiosity (the last two Fire Emblems, one of which was Japan-only, were both lazy remakes that threw away much of the series’ steady progress) to desperate need once I saw all the features packed into this game. I’m a Fire Emblem diehard and a jaded, fairly negative person to boot, but even I thought the game looked damn impressive. As the game neared its February 5 release date, I wondered last Tuesday how I could ever wait another full week.

Then came the rumours: Canada broke the street date a week early. Fuck Canada. Hey wait, I’m in Canada! Do you think?…nah, I’m never that lucky. Still, I called my local EB Games just to be sure, and the slightly surprised clerk on the other end told me that she hadn’t gotten to calling me about my preorder yet, but yes, they had them in today and were going to be selling them today, street dates be damned. A half-hour later, I couldn’t believe it: my most anticipated game in years, and I had it a week before I was supposed to. I let myself cackle, just because it felt like the thing to do.

Sooo… this is actually what I’ve been doing instead of writing: playing Fire Emblem in some nega-universe where someone fucks up, every EB Games in Canada gets the game shipped a week early, they sell it the next day, then they stop selling it the next day once the hammer comes down (guess the House of Mario wasn’t too happy about it), then they tell everyone who was unlucky enough to not buy it during the Great Street-Date-Breaking that they have to wait ’til the 8th due to “shipping problems.” That fucking sucks, bud.

I hate to gloat, but usually I’m never quick on the draw for things like this. I miss every great Steam or Amazon sale because I don’t find out about it until a day later, and I never get those free game codes that devs sometimes tweet. But finally, my luck came through when it mattered most (to me, anyway).

So here I am, about to beat a game that comes out in a few hours. I’d like to thank whoever got fired in EB Games’ shipping department for allowing this to happen. Your brave sacrifice will be remembered by Canadians for all time; we’ll erect an ice sculpture of you in our parliamentary igloo, right next to the throne from which Celine Dion holds high court.

When Nintendo Goes Into Panic Mode, We All Win

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After a lackluster 3DS launch in 2011, Nintendo took drastic measures in order to make the handheld more palatable for the holiday season. Just six months after its March launch, the 3DS’ inflated $250 price tag suffered a huge $70 price cut, with Nintendo promising free game downloads to early adopters. I was one of said fools, and though I enjoyed the smattering of Game Boy Advance and NES games that Nintendo delivered free of charge, I would’ve just rather had my $70 back. Not long after, the 3DS XL made my launch 3DS obsolete. I vowed never again to buy a console on day one.

The 3DS price cut is notable because of how swiftly it arrived and how deep of a discount it was. Had Nintendo simply sold the handheld for $200 from day one, I imagine they would’ve met with far more success even despite the drought of decent games (which would eventually last for over a year). Instead, they were forced to dip below $200 far too early in the console’s life cycle. Let’s be clear: in this case, the customers were the winners, because $180 is more than a fair price for the handheld. The only people who got screwed were the handful of early adopters, like myself.

So when Nintendo announced that the Wii U would be sold at the exorbitant price of $350 for the full package (the less said about that bastard child of a $300 Basic package, the better), I sighed because I felt they had learned nothing. When their full launch window release schedule was published recently, I shook my head. Once again, they were launching an overpriced console with no killer apps for at least six months. And sure enough, the Wii U didn’t sell amazingly well over the 2012 holiday season. So Nintendo, a company that’s actually been doing a much better job lately of listening to their fans and generally feeling less like a bunch of out-of-touch Japanese suits, went into full-blown damage control mode today, advertising that new Wii U titles would be announced via a special Nintendo Direct stream.

Well, I got up early for said stream, which was extremely hit or miss. The first twenty minutes of the thirty-five minute stream were dedicated to Miiverse, with the adorable Satoru Iwata re-explaining the online service for the millionth time like it was a brand-new program. It’s easy to see why they might’ve thought this was a good idea; nearly every major gaming site has agreed that the Miiverse is as engaging a distraction as they come, and Nintendo has latched onto this praise like a drowning man clutching a piece of flotsam. But this kind of information would only be of interest to the casuals who honestly don’t have the Wii U anywhere on their radar, and they won’t be sitting at their computers with the hardcore gamers watching a Nintendo Direct stream. I think a lot of people could’ve done without the Miiverse crap, but when it finally ended, Nintendo went into full-on “we’re sorry” mode.

After addressing two of the Wii U’s biggest criticisms in its menu/download performance speeds and the lack of Virtual Console, Nintendo began dropping the names, one by one. They glossed over the fact that new 3D Mario and Mario Kart games were on the way, which was wise of them, since everyone expects those anyway and having those be the big game announcements would’ve been truly depressing. They gave up some tantalizing tidbits about the next major Zelda game, and although Aonuma was as vague as can be, it seemed he was hinting that the next Zelda could be non-linear, open-world, and multiplayer. Well, the community wants at least two of those three things in the next Zelda anyway, so this seems to be another occasion of Nintendo bowing to fan demand as regards the future of Zelda (recall how everyone went apeshit when they revealed the realistic, dark art style of Twilight Princess, since that’s what the fanboys had been wanting for years). Could be all right, but I’m a fan of linearity in my games. Oh and by the way, they’ve got an HD Wind Waker remake to tide you over until then, no biggie.

These were all games that I expected to be released for Wii U at some point in the near future, so Nintendo gets checkmarks for reassuring us that they’re indeed in development (a far cry from the days when they’d pretend like every new Mario or Zelda was a privilege and after each game was released, there was no telling if or when we’d ever get another one). I was a little disappointed that they’ve still got nothing to show for Smash Bros. (although they reconfirmed that two titles were in development for 3DS and Wii U, respectively), but at least it’ll be at E3 this year. It’s likely too much to ask for it to come out this holiday, so it’ll probably be late 2014 before we have the damn thing given how slow Sakurai works. A shame, because that game is absolutely a system-seller, and the series is historically evergreen to boot; the longer it’s on store shelves, the more profit for Nintendo, so why not get that shit out on day one? Perhaps Sakurai should’ve been working on this instead of fucking around with a Kid Icarus reboot that no one really needed. Ah well, I can wait. It’s not like my friends and I are going to get tired of Brawl any time soon.

And then there’s those beautiful niche games that cater to the 1% of the total gaming population, the freaks like me who love bizarre Japanese crossovers, punishingly difficult strategy-RPGs, and post-cyberpocalyptic pseudo-MMOs. Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem might be one of the most bizarre game announcements of all time, but even weirder is the fact that, being announced on the North American Nintendo Direct, one can reasonably expect this game to arrive on our shores at some point. Possibly without even having to resort to Operation Rainfall II. I lost my collective shit when this game was announced, and sadly, I must admit that Nintendo has me; if this game comes out before Smash Bros., I will buy a Wii U for it. Monolith Soft’s X (which looks to be a spiritual successor to Xenoblade Chronicles, or possibly even an actual sequel if the “X” ends up just being a codename) is just icing on the JRPG cake, really.

Nintendo starts feeling the heat, and all of a sudden they’re forced into revealing pretty much every major title they’re working on for at least the next year, just to prove to fans that, yes, we do indeed have games in the pipeline for our poor, forgotten Wii U. They may not have wanted to show their hand this early (with some footage or screenshots, this would’ve been a damn impressive E3 presentation), but I feel like the fans have benefited from Nintendo’s frantic scramble to showcase the Wii U as a console with a deep lineup of first- and third-party content. Finally, I’m excited about being able to play some Wii U games, despite the fact that I might not see any of these titles until this Christmas. Until now, the prospect of owning a Wii U, ever, seemed up in the air as long as Pikmin 3 was their big 2013 title. But now, things are different, see. Now I need a Wii U because it’s the machine that will allow me to play a Shin Megami Tensei/Fire Emblem crossover and a new Monolith Soft RPG. When those games drop, I will buy a Wii U whether Nintendo’s hacked $70 off the price by then or not.

Too Late For Pandora’s Tower?

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Like most hardcore gamers who own a Wii and like JRPGs, I was beyond incensed when Nintendo shot down Operation Rainfall, stating they had no plans to bring Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, or Pandora’s Tower stateside. I hadn’t really looked into any of the games beyond Xenoblade, but I had been starved for good JRPGs for a long time, and for some bizarre reason I had just assumed these titles would be summarily localized. But no, it took almost two long years (compounded by the agony of watching Europe get all three games much earlier than us) for Nintendo to finally cave in and squeeze out a few copies of Xenoblade. Xseed Games stepped up to the plate and published The Last Story, and they did right by their fans by printing a second run and dropping the price a few months after launch (Nintendo did no such thing with Xenoblade, which currently goes for like $100 on Ebay). Finally, I had the two games I wanted; I was never much interested in the strange action-RPG gameplay of Pandora’s Tower.

And yet, today Xseed announced it picked up Pandora’s Tower for a North American release. And I’m scratching my head as to why.

Pandora’s Tower was always the black sheep of Operation Rainfall, the one that most people (including myself) could live without as long as they got the other two games. While Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story constantly make appearances in conversation about the Wii’s best RPG (with the former even being considered by some to be the best JRPG of the generation), no one’s talking about Pandora’s Tower, which IGN has admitted is “no classic.” It’s possible the game is too repetitive, too strange, too shallow for its own  good. Pandora’s Tower will be forever linked to Xenoblade and The Last Story because of Operation Rainfall, and sadly, they cast a large shadow of critical acclaim that the slightly-above-average Pandora’s Tower may never be able to escape from.

Even if we’re going to ignore the quality of the game itself, I feel it’s going to be an enormously tough sell in today’s market. Unlike the well-pedigreed Xenoblade and Last Story, Pandora’s Tower was made by Ganbarion, a studio I had never heard of before, and certainly not a trusted name in the JRPG world. It’s easy to generate buzz by marketing a game as “from the creators of Xenosaga” or “from the creator of Final Fucking Fantasy“; “from the creators of One Piece: Unlimited Adventure” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The timing is also of concern. The industry is currently in flux as everyone waits for the next gen PlayStation and Xbox to drop. Meanwhile, new consoles like the Vita and Wii U struggle to break new ground and attract customers, while the 3DS seems to be finally settling in and establishing itself as the new dominant handheld, while outdated consoles like the DSi continue to chew up additional market share. So where’s the Wii in all of this? Well, it outsold its own successor last holiday season, but it’s definitely on its way out. Xseed admitted that the odds were stacked against The Last Story, and many in the company didn’t want to spend money localizing a $50 Wii game in an unpopular genre (for the American market, anyway) for release at the end of the console’s life cycle. Its August 2012 release gave it a few months of leeway before the Wii U bit into Wii sales, and against all odds, it became Xseed’s bestselling title to date. But can they pull the same thing twice with Pandora’s Tower, which lacks the critical acclaim, developer pedigree, community buzz, and advantageous timing of The Last Story? If the Wii had one foot in the grave in August 2012, I shudder to think of what console sales will be like by the time Pandora’s Tower gets released in Spring 2013. The Last Story also suffered numerous delays before finally being released in August, so it remains to be seen whether Xseed can actually get the thing out the door by March-April. Sooner would be better than later.

I think this thing’s gonna tank, personally. It’s too late in the Wii’s life cycle, there’s no buzz, most Operation Rainfall protestors have already been mollified by the releases of Xenoblade and The Last Story (for Americans, both in the last year), and Xseed’s own Last Story localization is currently filling the Wii JRPG market through its second print run. I’m hoping Xseed found some way to release this cheaply, because since the company has like six employees, one expensive bomb could mean the end of this tiny localization studio

Wii U Thoughts Revisited: Software Woes

I know I’ve already spoken at length about my disinterest in Nintendo’s new console, but with tonight being the eve of the Wii U’s release, I figured it was a topic worth revisiting. Almost six years ago to the day, I froze my ass off in a line in front of Future Shop, all for the Wii. The store wasn’t accepting preorders, so desperate gamers had to begin lining up in front of the store at 8 PM the day prior, and were required to stay in line until 12 PM the next day (it being a Sunday, the store opened late). I was only sixteen at the time, and needless to say, I felt like shit the next day after getting no sleep and braving the frigid November temperatures (it’s currently 0 degrees where I live), but I was truly caught in the grip of the hype and goddammit, I would get that console on launch day. Of course, there were specific reasons why I wanted the console so badly: Twilight Princess, possibly the best launch day killer app since Super Mario 64, and there was also Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the horizon, which at the time was less than a year away from release (several delays eventually crushed this notion). I was a fairly optimistic sixteen-year-old, but even back then I was skeptical of the motion controls; for me, getting the Wii early was important because it would allow to play killer apps immediately (Zelda) and within the near future (Smash Bros.)

The problem with the Wii U is that it has no such killer apps, either within the launch window or beyond. New Super Mario Bros. Wii U has been rightly criticized by nearly all reviewers as a predictable, typical, all-too-familiar 2D Mario experience that feels like it was only created to satisfy the inevitable demand for a Mario game at launch (though it’s still getting decent reviews, which, again, is typical of a Mario game). Nintendoland is a glorified minigame collection that deserves to be a pack-in with both versions of the system, rather than Nintendo attempting to market it as a $50 standalone game. ZombiU could be interesting, but it’s as generic as a shooter as NSMB Wii U is for a Mario game. Rayman Legends honestly looks charming as all hell, but it’s not a system-seller. Not for me, and probably not for Joe Consumer either. And the less said about the cash-in ports of Mass Effect 3, Batman: Arkham City, Ninja Gaiden III et al., the better.

If there’s little enticing me to buy the system at launch, there’s even less to look forward to in the new year. Pikmin 3 looks great, and I enjoyed the second one to a reasonable degree, so if there’s one game that could make me cave early, it’d be that one. But other than that? Nothing. No 3D Mario, no proper Zelda game. No oddball, unlikely appearances like a console version of Golden Sun, a flight-only Star Fox, or that Pokemon MMORPG everybody seems to crave. Certainly no F-Zero (where the hell has that series been?). They mentioned a Wii U version of Smash Bros. two E3s ago and haven’t mentioned it since, save for the fact that Namco’s developing it and Masahiro Sakurai didn’t work on it at all prior to this year due to his commitments to Kid Icarus: Uprising. That game is undoubtedly a system seller, but it’s likely at least two years away. That’s too far away to warrant buying a Wii U now. Some people seem to get pissed off when developers announce games far in advance of their release dates and slowly generate hype over several years (Bioshock Infinite comes to mind), but I actually like it. Letting me know what’s in the pipeline gives me something to look forward to, and based on how it looks to be shaping up, it could influence my decision to purchase a console early.

I could look past by doubts about the hardware and stand in a launch line for another Nintendo console tonight, once again allowing myself to be swept up by the hype. But I can’t overlook the fact that even if I do get the console, there is absolutely nothing out right now or in the near future that I’m dying to play. I will undoubtedly pick up a Wii U once the RPGs start coming out or Nintendo looses its heavy hitters, but currently, it’s not worth freezing my ass off in front of Future Shop.

Wii U Thoughts

Six years ago, I froze my ass off waiting in front of Future Shop all night for the Wii to come out. EB Games was about the only store in town that was doing preorders, and once those sold out, the rest of us peons had to brave the harsh Canadian November for a full night. But we watched Robot Chicken on a projector some kind soul had brought, some dudes played WoW, and we chased some hooligans with baseball bats when they decided to egg us. It was a pretty fun experience, and when I finally brought my console home, Twilight Princess was in every way the game I had been waiting for for years. Maybe I’m just too old and jaded for stuff like that now (I went to the Borderlands 2 midnight launch, then immediately turned the car around once I saw the long line outside EB Games), but I won’t be braving the wilds to get a Wii U on launch day this time, and here’s why.

Price – The $300 package, with no games and only 8 GB of memory, is a ripoff, and given that the deluxe package sold out far earlier than the basic version, it seems people understand that. But the original Wii SKU included a minigame collection and console stand for $250, whereas the Wii U version that includes both of those (and a bunch of other crap to drive up the price) is $350. I think it’s about $100 more than I’d pay for it, so I’ll definitely be waiting for a price cut. Nintendo had a humbling lesson about pricing with the $250 3DS, but given the influx of Wii U preorders right now, they’ll unfortunately probably get off easier this time.

Memory – 8 GB? 32 GB? Memory’s cheap these days, so why pack in some little of it? This limits their ability to allow game installs, the size of games on eShop/WiiWare (remember the Super Meat Boy debacle?), and the size of quality DLC. For $350, I would’ve expected a hell of a lot more than 32 GB, given that my 360 can currently handle 250 GB, while my computer can handle quadruple that (and it was a little more than double the price of the Wii U).

Launch library – The 3DS’ biggest problem rears its ugly head once more. In 2011, Nintendo learned that it’s difficult to sell a system without hardware, and as a result, the 3DS had to take a massive price cut. The launch library for the Wii U is very weak, with no hardcore killer apps in sight, just another 2D Mario game (which are apparently so easy to make that they developed two of them simultaneously this year). The only game I’m excited for is Pikmin 3, and it’s unclear when that’s even slated for release (“launch window” is pretty vague). I don’t buy Nintendo consoles for the hordes of shovelware clogging the Wii U’s launch window; I buy it for the amazing first-party games. The Wii U needs system sellers like a 3D Mario or Super Smash Bros. at launch, not a year or two down the road.

Console power – I’m actually pretty comfortable with the Wii U’s graphical power; just having it in HD alone is a huge plus. Excellent games like Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn and Xenoblade Chronicles were difficult to look at because of the piss-poor character models, or in Radiant Dawn‘s case, everything. In a year or two, the Durango and Orbis will blow the Wii U out of the water, but until then, Xbox 360-quality graphics on my Nintendo console is just fine by me.

Online – Why is online such a hassle for Nintendo? I just want a nice, clean interface like Xbox Live, devoid of cumbersome Friend Codes and rarely-used Mii hangout spots. This Miiverse thing looks like a social media playground more than a means by which you can play games with your friends, which isn’t surprising given Nintendo’s recent obsession with social media. I don’t want a video-calling service to ask for game help from octogenarians; I want to be able to easily join my friends’ games of Smash Bros.

Controller – I’ve endured Nintendo’s obsession with alternate control styles for eight years now, and I’ve come to the following conclusions: some games are indeed improved by touch interfaces, but no game is improved by motion control. It’s a harsh blanket statement, but I feel it’s true. Skyward Sword was utterly ruined by the MotionPlus controls, and as I look at my Wii library across the room, I see a ton of games – Excite Truck and Okami spring to mind – that I would’ve much rather played with a traditional controller. Nintendo’s finally giving us a sleek traditional option in the Wii U Pro controller, and I hope many games take advantage of that rather than continuing to shoehorn in unnecessary and flighty motion controls (seeing as the MotionPlus is still the Wii U’s default controller, and the GameCube controller option has been eliminated).