Last week Nintendo dropped a bombshell of information on us, the announcement of the NX’s release date in March 2017 and the delay of the new Zelda game to release on both the Wii U and its successor. While exciting, this news still has Nintendo fans wondering, was the Wii U worth it?
The Wii U as We Know It
Since the moment of the Wii U’s unveiling at E3 in 2011, the console has fallen under question by gaming media and the public alike. From the half-step name retaining the Wii branding, the odd tablet controller, and its lack of largescale first party games at launch, it’s taken years for the Wii U to find its footing and even then can be argued to have never reached its true potential. With the NX taking away Zelda’s status as a Wii U exclusive and little in the way of major game releases until then, the console looks to be on its last legs just four years after its release.
The loss of Zelda’s exclusivity is a particularly large hit to owners of the Wii U, many of whom purchased the console with the expectance that the game would be released on its original planned date back in 2015. Due to the announcements of its delay and new availability on the NX, many are left to speculate that this dual console release is the main reason for its pushed back date.
Nintendo fans are no strangers to this treatment however, with many (including myself) hypothesizing this game would follow the route of Twilight Princess, which launched on both the Gamecube and Wii. However, while the Gamecube and Wii still received their own console-exclusive Zelda games with The Wind Waker and Skyward sword respectively, this development says measures for the Wii U as the first Nintendo console without an exclusive Zelda title, outside of the infamous Virtual Boy.
But Zelda isn’t the only classic Nintendo franchise the Wii U will be missing. Nintendo staples like Metroid, F-Zero, Punch-Out, and no real successor to the Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy lineage are all noticeably absent on the Wii U, with a Metroid Prime already being considered for the NX. Aside from first-party titles, while the launch of the Wii U was accompanied by a handful of third-party games like Darksiders 2, Assassin’s Creed 3, and Batman: Arkham City, this support quickly faded away with the release of the PS4 and Xbox One. Aside from the Wii U’s relative lower power in this new generation of consoles, developers had the additional complication of finding a use for the gamepad, an endeavor that Nintendo itself has really only taken full advantage of in a few of its titles.
Not that the games released on the Wii U were missing the immaculate quality that Nintendo games are known for. From additions to the standard series like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros., twists on old formulas like Mario Maker, new original games with Splatoon and Wonderful 101, and HD treatments to Zelda, the Wii U lineup is far from disappointing. But it’s Nintendo’s publishing of Bayonetta 2 along with its Wii U exclusivity that really showed promise for the console, and perhaps provided a glimpse at one potential direction that was never followed through as the company moves on to the NX sooner than anticipated.
What Could Have Been?
Why stop at Bayonetta, a game that could find no other home? Could Nintendo have bolstered its lineup had they pursued more endeavors like this? Maybe Nintendo should have funded other projects much like Sony’s backing of Shenmue 3. Perhaps spiritual successors to games originally found on Nintendo consoles like Yooka-Laylee, Mighty Number 9, and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night should have been more actively pursued by Nintendo. Rather than double-down on first party games when left without third parties from Ubisoft or Activision, Nintendo could have started its own family of left behind series. The Wii made Nintendo a generous amount of money, and what better way to put it to use than bringing back your childhood games. I can see a world where Nintendo used some of its respectable influence and more importantly, treasure troves of money, to bring back memorable characters like Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot to the Wii U.
It’s unfair to play backseat publisher in retrospect to the Wii U’s shortcomings, but it’s a prospect that may have broadened the horizons of the console a bit more past its now nonexistent third-party support. It may be silly to dream of Nintendo scooping up forgotten video game mascots, but none of us imagined Cloud in Smash Bros. was a possibility either. If they could have brought us joyous and surprising moments like that more often, the Wii U might have seen a very different path.
The Future of Nintendo
So what does that leave us Wii U owners with now? There’s no major upcoming Nintendo console game releases scheduled until the NX, and with this year’s E3 being dedicated solely to the new Zelda, it looks like we’ll be stuck with an abandoned Wii U until then. Though the enormous financial failure of the Wii U is hard to argue against, it’s hard not to feel the sting as Nintendo cuts its losses and moves on. No one’s quite sure what the NX is yet, but they’ll have to work very hard to convince both those who left the fandom before and during the odd lifespan of the Wii U, and those who felt the burn and held on until the bitter end.
To really make good on Wii U owners, the NX will assuredly have to be backwards compatible. This of course immediately brings up the problem of the controller. While we still know nothing about it, rumours of a console-handheld hybrid have been circulating since its announcement, and this could hypothetically tie in with Wii U compatibility. Could the NX support the Wii U controller? After all, the Wii U supported the Wiimote, and even Gamecube controllers for a limited selection of games. This might however mean implementation of another touchscreen controller in favour of a more traditional one, a tactic that may have severely hurt the Wii U. But with games like Mario Maker and Splatoon entirely depending on a touchscreen, can Nintendo really abandon some of their most popular and critically successful games? Another large factor to consider is Nintendo’s hugely popular Amiibo lineup collection. These electronic figurines won’t be going away any time soon, and the NX controller will need to utilize an NFC reader once again, possibly eliminating the use of a standard controller limited only to buttons.
Along with our physical Wii U games being playable on the NX, is it too much to expect downloads to be available on the new console as well? With Nintendo’s history with online and account systems, this may be dreaming too big unfortunately. But If they really wanted to gain back the loyalty of fans, both already purchased digital and Virtual Console games should be available for re-download right from the onset, along with a revamped account system to better streamline users for this new generation. The Virtual Console has been a point of complaint for years, and the NX is no better time to start mining this hugely potential wealth of historic and memorable games. Perhaps a subscription service or at the very least tying these games to an account for cross-buy could be implemented. I know I don’t want to have to rebuy Super Mario World on the Virtual Console for a third time.
Nintendo truly has a lot of work ahead of them if they want the NX to both surpass the expectations of the Wii U and reach its own potential. While the Wii U will always be looked back on for its amazing handful of games, the system itself was a huge misstep for Nintendo, and one that they sadly but understandably want to put behind them. I only hope that they not forget those who stuck by them during this period and treat the NX as both a welcome to newcomers, and a thank you to those who stayed.