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,
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
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
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.