Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Sheer Joy of Wii-U

Quite a while ago I gave my extensive thoughts (in THIS post) on the state of the video game industry and how I had no interest in the new generation of consoles. I felt the PS4 wasn't enough of an upgrade and how I'd rather stick to retro gaming because I already knew what I want and what I'd like. That and not anticipating only to be disappointed by political levels of promises in new games. I even talked smack about the Wii-U, expressing no interest.
My opinion slowly changed and I recently picked up a Wii-U. Let me tell you something... it's exactly what I needed in this day and age of gaming.

I love you.

Since I've been into gaming for most of my life I've seen it go through almost every change it's ever gone through, minus everything before I was born. For the most part there's been a lot of consistency minus the upgrades in hardware and visual capabilities. It all came down to putting a game into the slot/disc tray and playing. Sometimes there was a short cutscene, sometimes there was an introductory stage, but for the most part it was simple, fun, and effective.
When the last generation (PS3/X360/Wii) happened it felt more like games wanted to be PCs (minus the Wii of course.) While you didn't have to be connected to the internet it was definitely an integral part of the experience, giving you constant system and game updates. Fixing problems present in the core game or what have you. While it was a benefit it became tedious at times.
Now the industry feels too big... in a way. Consoles are these massive machines and have equally massive games that all feel very heavy. And that's the best way to describe the modern gaming industry. Heavy. When I pick up a AAA blockbuster title I feel like I'm being weighted down by a ton of content and if I don't play through all or enough of it I won't get the proper experience, including DLC. Likely why I haven't played through Skyrim or GTA V yet. While I've immensely enjoyed plenty of these like the Assassin's Creed games, I feel like playing them is sometimes too dedicated experience. Similar to watching a long, super serious TV show where if you stop or lose track you may as well put it down or start over.
Sometimes my experience in gaming is heavily affected by this. I'm currently working through Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. I've spent tons more time on the pirate ship doing side quests than I have doing the main story. Because, dammit, the main story is so dense and confusing but the side quests and ship battles are straight up fun! It's that lack of interest in the core of the games that made me wonder... how much do I even like gaming anymore?

Then I got the Wii-U.

The Wii-U is just what I needed in this modern age of gaming. And, Nintendo, I apologize. I feel we were never seeing eye to eye all these years. I think I saw you as mostly overrated despite having a lot of fun with a lot of your games and consoles. Seriously, I am so thankful for your most recent addition to the gaming world and I cannot thank you enough.

Stay with me... I don't want you to leave.

I think what I was feeling was exhaustion over the serious, heavy toned, and super lengthy games that the modern industry keeps cranking out. Many of which are given 'GOTY' or 'Game of the Year' awards or are considered "Mindblowing!" and so on and so on. Again, it's like hearing how good shows like Dexter, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men are. I bet they're objectively good but those are big, heavy, and lengthy experiences that make it hard to decide what kool-aid to drink because once you're in... you're in!
Then there's DLC, sequels out the ass, and piles of other games you HAVE TO PLAY! It makes the whole gaming world feel like a cult where if I don't play the right games I'm not in that world proper.

What am I trying to say with all this? Well... that Nintendo is kicking everyone's ass in the enjoyment department right now. In a world where everyone seems to be putting all their efforts into being the next big thing in story, graphics, and overall presentation, they forget about something that Nintendo never forgot... "how do we make this fun?"
It hit me when I sat down to a long session of Super Mario 3D World. A feeling I hadn't had in a long time. The bright colors, the accessible but challenging gameplay, the presentation of the Wii-U itself in the main menu, everything about it made me feel a sense of joy and whimsy and it made me so happy. I was having fun playing with their console and gave me a real sense of joy and excitement I haven't experienced in years with gaming.


Sure there are experience I've enjoyed over and over the last few years. Games like Persona 4 Golden hit me on a personal level I didn't expect. Deadly Premonition is now one of my favorite horror game experiences of all time. But those games, mixed with the experience of their source console, didn't have something the entire Wii-U experience does have. Everything from the boot up screen to the games themselves are such a fun, positive, and easy to handle experience that it makes me want to revert to the simpler times of gaming. Even when I transferred data from my Wii to the Wii-U it was a Miyazaki-esque experience of joy.
What you do is first you format an SD card and it copies all your data from the Wii. Then you take that card, pop it into the Wii-U and it pulls it off. This isn't presented with the standard progress bar. It is presented with a group of Pikmin grabbing the files, putting them into packages, and hustle their way down long corridors onto a spaceship to fly to the planet Wii-U. The same thing happens in reverse when pulling files from the SD card onto the Wii-U unit. It's one part clever, one part adorable, and overall a nice change to the otherwise boring, methodical drag PCs and the PC style gaming modern consoles have.

I don't want this to sound like I don't like big or serious games anymore. I have one heck of a back catalog and recently started playing through the Tomb Raider reboot. I just needed a change of pace from the overly serious, overly heavy games the industry has been overflowing with this last decade or so.
It reminds me of when I first got into film as art. All I would watch were obscure, artsy, foreign, and super serious movies. I wouldn't watch many mainstream movies, even look down on them because they weren't 'worthy enough.' Eventually it got to be too much. Everything I watched would be so heavy, serious, or deep. Eventually I got out of that overly serious attitude and got a good mix of fun mainstream and artsy obscure stuff and I'm happier because of it.
These last few years I've played so many mega huge games including multiple massive RPGs. Sometimes it is good to just take a break and jump around as Mario for dozens of levels. I think I lost sight of that for a while. Like if a game doesn't last 20, 40, even 80 hours it wasn't enough of a 'value.'

What am I trying to say with all this? Not much more other than how wonderful a change of pace the Wii-U is, not to mention how much a step above the Wii it is. It is no longer the $200 bowling machine your grandma has. It has more potential than ever and it has an approach that offers a truly unique experience to an industry that's notorious for making the same game over and over again.
Yes I realize the irony in that statement, what with it being Nintendo and all.
This doesn't mean I won't play those bigger games anymore. This also doesn't mean I won't play games that could be considered art. The games I currently have for Wii-U are definitely more fun and goofy than intense experiences but there are some that are different than that. But for the most part some of the biggest and best games have that unique fun that other games don't focus enough on.

So, Nintendo, thank you. I love the Wii-U so much and am so happy I invested in it. I can't wait to pick up Smash Bros, Toad Treasure Tracker, Bayonetta 2, Splatoon, and to see how you implement unique fun other consoles don't like what Watch Dogs may do and what I know Zombi U does.

Here's to many years of fun, Wii-U.

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