With all three “traditional” next-gen consoles now on store shelves (ignoring the potential SteamBox revolution) many gamer's will be buying, or receiving, one of these new machines this holiday season.
While I've historically always been excited about new system launches, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have yet to grab my attention in any meaningful way. They are quite similar and their differentiating features have more to do with the multimedia capabilities than their gaming prowess.
With that, on the Xbox One's launch day (November 22, 2013) I decided to buy Nintendo’s Wii U.
A year ago, I wasn't terrible interested in the Wii U. The touch screen controller isn't very high-end, the hardware isn't a significant leap over the current generation hardware, and Nintendo's online strategy falls largely flat compared to the excellent Xbox Live services I’m accustomed.
However, my interest in the system began to change with Sega'a announcement that future Sonic games will be exclusively released on Nintendo consoles. While a few years ago this wouldn't have been terribly exciting, but with Sonic's return to greatness this now actually means something.
While the traditional gaming press wasn't that impressed with Sonic Lost World, the YouTube community seemed far more forgiving. After watching a few positive reviews I knew the Wii U was in my future.
As of this writing, you can buy a Wii U bundled with New Super Marios Bros. U as well as New Super Luigi U for a cool $299. In addition to this bundle, I picked up Sonic Lost World for a grand total of $350 plus tax. This is a much better value proposition than either Sony or Microsoft can provide.
Sonic Lost World is pretty great. The graphics are very Sonic-like and really capture the feel of the original trilogy with their design. I haven't played Mario Galaxy so I can't comment on how much the game mimics Mario's style. This is an extreme departure from the much beloved Sonic Generations graphic and gameplay style but I don't mind.
Sonic Team has always seemed to push Sonic into new directions which has frustrated fans. It has also led to many disappointing titles, such as Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic 2006. But the last 3 titles (Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations, and Sonic Lost World) have been pretty solid, and I appreciate them wanting to deliver new experiences. I’m sure they will fumble here and there, but I hope this is the final turning point for the series.
New Super Mario Bros. U was a launch title for the system. I have played very few Mario games since the original trilogy on the NES system. I've played a few levels of Super Mario World and Super Mario 64 but neither captured my interest like the original titles, and I’ve spent very little time with them.
Needless to say, I was very excited to play a High Definition side-scrolling Mario game!
New Super Mario Bros. U definitely delivers and it's hard to put down. I found myself playing in multi-hour sessions which is something I rarely do now-a-days. The graphics are quite good, as is the sound, and everything has a high amount of polish and detail. The difficulty varies from laughably easy to brutal at times.
I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed the controller. The screen, while not exactly high-res by today's standards, is still quite good. The color reproduction is excellent and the horizontal viewing angles are terrific. The touch screen is of the resistive kind (not capacitive) like the DS and 3DS and works well for simple presses. Anything beyond that, and you'll want to use the stylus.
Lastly, the gamepad has an infrared (IR) blaster on the front of it, and you can control your TV (and presumably other devices) with it. I actually found this quite handy and it works as advertised. You don't even have to turn on the Wii for this functionality. Very clever. I previously used, and loved, the Harmony 1000 touch screen universal remote and hope that someday the Wii U gamepad could be used in this capacity.
The current Wii U bundle also includes New Super Luigi U, which is a remixed version of the Mario game featuring Luigi as the main protagonist. Luigi's physics are very different than Mario (think Super Mario Bros. 2 on the NES) and the levels are much harder. They are also shorter, each level starts off with the classic "you are running out of time" jingle, and a limit of just 100 seconds.
This is seriously challenging stuff, and reminds me a lot of N+. You are going to die, a lot. After finishing Mario, I will probably come back to Luigi and try and finish it.
So there you have it, I own a Wii U and absolutely love it. If you are a fan of this website, the podcast, or just classic gaming in general, I would highly recommend buying a Wii U this holiday season and holding off on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One until they mature a bit.