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And there’s the rest of the machine’s steadily improving year one line-up. You know, all that other great stuff you’ve ignored because it’s on the Wii U. Pikmin 3. Zombi U. Lego City (shut up, it’s great). Drop your serious, glowering, hardcore gamer ego at the door, and you’ll probably enjoy Wii Party U as well. Because regardless of their rep, bona fide Nintendo-developed party games are always fun. Oh, and did I mention that the Wii U version of Batman: Arkham Origins is currently the only one not beset by a game-killing plague of brokenness? Yeah, Nintendo has the best version of one of this autumn’s biggest games, but no-one’s talking about that, either.
Oh, and the 3DS? Stellar line-up this Christmas. There’s a brand-new Zelda. There’s Adventure Time. There’s Mario Party. There’s Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. There’s the final Professor Layton. There’s Bravely Default (in Europe, at least). There’s Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies. There’s Animal Crossing. There’s Pokemon. Going back a bit further back into the year, there’s Shin Megami Tensei 4 and Monster Hunter.
You’ve probably noticed the theme of the last three paragraphs. If not, there’s something desperately wrong with either you or me, because as far as I’m concerned I’ve been hammering it home like Thor sending a postcard. Basically, the Wii U’s reputation is crippling Nintendo’s ability to grab a slice of the Key Limelight pie. Nintendo has made massive screw-ups with the machine’s price, launch timing, horsepower and marketing. Of that there is no doubt. Everything about the console’s management has been a car wreck. But what the console has now could not be further on the quality scale from how it’s been handled.
With a Nintendo console, you’re always buying a first-party machine. We’ve long had to accept that. The days of widespread publisher support are over. But now, finally, Nintendo has a line-up, spread over both of its consoles, that makes it a real contender in the fun stakes. And you know the really great flip-side to being first-party only? All your best stuff is entirely exclusive. Unlike many of the best games coming soon to the supposed ‘real’ next-gen.
Super Mario 3D World is one of the best games of the year. Objectively and subjectively, it’s one of the finest, most polished, most downright fun pieces of game design I’ve enjoyed since January. And you can only get it on a Nintendo machine. Ditto Zelda. And Zelda on the 3DS. And 90% of everything else I mentioned above. And while I wouldn’t recommend the Wii U as anyone’s main console, as a secondary machine that exclusive quality makes it darn near essential now.
But Nintendo really needs to go all-out this Christmas, because it’s, ironically, not going to get a better chance to change minds than during this next-gen launch window. The PS4 and Xbox One will never be less engaging than they will be this Christmas, just as the Wii U is becoming a real prospect. Nintendo needs to, at least briefly, remember how it used to sell games. It needs to embrace the specialist gaming press again. It needs to engage with its old audience.
It needs to, for just a couple of months, drop the patronising, sterile, vapid kids’ TV tone of its advertising and shove Mario and Zelda to the front, in the most dynamic, vibrant, fun-pushing way it can muster. It needs strong bundle packs, it needs smart pricing, and it needs to convince those of us who just like good games that it has those in droves. Because between now and late February, Nintendo has a real chance to make a dent.
But what am I saying? This is madness. It’ll never work. Why would it, when there’s all the fun of spending £400 on Killzone to be had, and then the positively enthralling period of excitement that comes with waiting several months for something else to play? The ‘real’ Next-gen is where it’s at. Just look at all those extra particle effects in Knack. That's where the important stuff is. Nothing to see here.