Over the holidays we’re republishing some choice features from the last 12 months. A mix of talking points, interviews, opinion pieces and more from NL staff and contributors, you’ll find our usual blend of thoughtfulness, expertise, frivolity, retro nostalgia, and — of course — enthusiasm for all things Nintendo. Happy holidays!
Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they’ve been chewing over. Today, following up on his piece from a few weeks back, Jim delivers his verdict on the ten-year-old console and how it holds up in 2022 …
Picture the scene. The year was 2012. I, age 14 at the time, was at my absolute coolest. Did that mean being myself and not worrying what others thought of me? Absolutely not. I was 14. What others thought of me was the be-all and end-all of my existence. My 14-year-old coolness — or lack thereof — was the precise reason why 10 years ago I didn’t buy a Wii U, and the reason why I haven’t bought one since.
In 2012 I was busy doing what everybody else was doing, and that was not buying a Wii U. While I was still obsessed with playing Ocarina of Time on my Wii or Pikmin on my friend’s GameCube, most of my friends were deep in talks about mysterious games like Call of Duty and GTA, and a thing called ‘Xbox Live’. All this is to say that when the Wii U was released, for me there was nothing cooler than to get one.
Ten long years have since passed without me having a Wii U to call my own. That is, until recently. Seeing the anniversary approach was like a shock to the system. I suddenly realized that it had been a decade and that one console which I always thought I was too cool to buy was soon going to be on our minds once again. How could I call myself a genuine Nintendo fan without ever having held a GamePad? All of this had to change.
I got myself a Wii U around a month ago. I asked my friends and you, our wonderful readers, what I should do to make my experience a U-phoric one.
What followed has been a journey of highs, lows, and a fair amount of confusion.
Beginning with the bigger picture, or its smaller GamePad counterpart, the console might just be the most Nintendo that Nintendo has ever gone. Yes, it doesn’t hit every beat and its physical design isn’t fantastic (more on that later), but it sure is one of the most innovative home consoles to date.
The whole idea of taking what worked with the DS and with the Wii and mashing them together, Frankenstein’s monster-style, is such a chaotic approach to console design, but one that I genuinely love. Despite its Fisher-Price fashionings, the Wii U is not a console that plays it safe by any stretch of the imagination, and that is what Nintendo is all about.
the GamePad feels like it has been designed by somebody unfamiliar with the proportions of the hands
Getting to grips with a new home screen and UI has always been a favorite moment of mine, and the Wii U delivers Nintendo touches in droves. Having become so used to the Switch, booting up the Wii U felt like a real return to what made me fall for Nintendo in the first place. Seeing all those Miis running beneath giant game icons is an inspired choice. Sure, it might not be the most practical approach to press here to play game, press here to do settings – something that it achieved in the quick start-up mode on the GamePad which was added in a firmware update – but it is oozing with Nintendo-ness all the same.
So too is this the case with the console’s use of music. The Switch has made us too used to silence, but the Wii U takes the Wii’s approach to creating vibes and dials it up to 11. Oh, you want to make a Mii? Here’s a banger. You want to chill on the home screen? Another banger. Feel like changing the parental settings? Guess what, it’s a banger again.
This being said, it wouldn’t be fair to talk about the console without addressing the elephant in the room – I mean, just look at that thing. The console itself looks too much like a Wii (a big reason why I and many others initially thought that it was nothing more than a new accessory) and the GamePad feels like it has been designed by somebody unfamiliar with the proportions of the hands. What go-go-gadget bethumbed designer decided to swap out the original design’s 3DS-esque circle pads for analogue sticks and then place the right one above the buttons? A few games of Splatoon on this bad boy and I was a carpal tunnel case waiting to happen.
I am very aware that playing this console for the first time once it has ceased production puts me in the highly privileged position of having all the games ever released at my disposal. Yep, I missed out on the big waiting times between tentpole releases, and the entire virtual console library is just there. This console had some great games.
My month of play has meant that I have hardly been able to scratch the surface but there is so much out there guaranteed to keep me entertained for many more months to come. Xenoblade Chronicles X, Wind Waker HD, Yoshi’s Woolly World, (dare I say Star Fox Zero?). These are all top-notch titles which haven’t seen a subsequent Switch port, so the Wii U is still the place to play them.