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Miscellaneous

Wii U: How do I feel about it now?

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When Wii U launched, I posted this on my tumblr talking about the social aspects of the system. I really liked the concept of MiiVerse and the new online accounts structure using Nintendo Network IDs. While I still like both of these features, I’m somewhat disappointed by the system and how Nintendo is supporting it thus far.

I really felt at launch like the Wii U could really enable Nintendo to get the hardcore fan back. I think they probably have done to some extent, but not as many as they need. Particularly because it looks as if they’ve lost a large percentage of their casual market that the Wii enjoyed for so long.

I think the main issue with the system is the gamepad. When I first started using it at launch, it had a really nice unique quality to it. There’s really nothing else mainstream like it, as you can’t really compare it to a traditional tablet. As the novelty wore off however, I found that even though it has all the buttons you would expect, after some time playing it, my hands started to feel very uncomfortable, to the extent where I had to stop using it. This occurred after a fairly short period of time, about 30 mins of playing. This may not apply to other people, but to me, I want to be able to play a system for at least an hour, maybe two before I get discomfort from the controller.

The next issue is the fact that not many games support the gamepad in innovative ways, and even when they do, I find myself only using those functions once or twice and then going back to the traditional control. I even consider the Pro Controller to be my default controller for the system for any game that allows its use.

The third issue that I see with the gamepad is that it is expensive, and because of this, it limited the graphical power that Nintendo could give the system due to needing to keep costs down. This means that effectively the Wii U is a generation behind the two new systems in power, just as the Wii was. And while Wii U games are by no means ugly. In fact, Mario 3D world in particular is beautiful to behold, but it simply can’t match up to the graphical prowess of the PS4 and XBOX One.

The biggest issue this creates is the same one Nintendo have had before, most notably with the GameCube, where they couldn’t get 3rd part publishers to bring their best multi-platform games to the system. Seeing as they’ve lost most of their fickle casual audience of last generation. A lot of people, including myself predicted that before the system launched, it would have made far more sense to just ditch the gimmicks this time around and just made a powerful system with a fantastic controller. Remember the gamecube controller? This would have given Nintendo somewhat of an equal footing in the hardware market with Sony and Microsoft and more importantly made it far easier and cheaper for 3rd parties to bring their games over to the system without having to develop a totally different version of their games for Nintendo’s system. The current situation isn’t a cost-effective one for developers, and subsequently Nintendo are relying on their own games to bring customers to the platform. And that hasn’t gone very well for them so far, and I can’t see how they can increase sales by the number they need to in order to be competitive with the other two manufacturers. Mario Kart and Smash Bros. Are going to be great games, and system sellers, but I don’t think that even the huge potential selling power of those games can shift enough Wii Us to save the system from being labelled as another gamecube-esque failure for Nintendo.

The design choices Nintendo make with their systems continues to mean that their consoles can’t be my systems of choice. I love playing Nintendo games, and I’m sure that Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros. will be two of my favourite games of the year (if smash bros. isn’t delayed), but almost everything else I’ll be playing on PS4. It’s a shame that Nintendo don’t seem to care about changing that situation any time soon.

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Miscellaneous

E3 2011

Wii U Controller
Image by ze_bear via Flickr

I think this year’s E3 has been a strong one from all three companies. Certainly a lot better than in past years, especially Nintendo who have not always brought their best in the last several years. This is a quick overview of how I think each of the three big companies conferences went.

Microsoft

Microsoft seemed to be a bit ordinary and predictable in their approach this year, and it does make me wonder who’s running things over there when you see casual games taking the centre stage at a show where hardly anyone is interested in the majority of those titles. Yes, Dance Central 2 should be a great dance game just like the first one was, but I just think they could have mentioned the game with a quick trailer and then moved on to the next game. It just didn’t seem necessary to demo it to the audience they have in attendance.

In terms of the rest of the show, no real surprises. I suppose 2 Halo games are better than one for fans of the series, but anyone could have predicted Halo 4 and that Microsoft would want to jump on Sony‘s HD remake bandwagon for some quick cash.

Sony

I don’t think Sony had the strongest of shows but it was certainly similar to last year’s in being very consistent and safe in a way while still exciting fans with great gameplay demos of titles like Uncharted 3.

The Vita name for the NGP is starting to grow on me slowly. If I had written this on the day the name was confirmed, then I would have not been in such a great mood about it, but now I can see how it may work. In terms of Vita games, I think they’re doing well for a launch lineup, with Uncharted leading the charge with many other strong titles such as LBP, Killzone, Call of Duty and more all in the pipeline as well as the traditional Sony launch games like WipEout and Everybody’s Golf. I’m pretty confident that they’ll be something for practically everyone when the system ships, unlike the 3DS on launch.

Nintendo

We knew pretty much everything about the Wii U before it was announced. Practically nothing was a surprise except the name. Which I suppose looking at it now isn’t really surprising. It makes sense for Nintendo to keep such a successful brand name going rather than risking a whole new identity for their new system.

The most exciting aspects for me to come out of the conference were the slew of game announcements. Not counting all of the games we already knew about, Super Mario 3D and Luigi’s Mansion 2 were the big stand-outs on 3DS. There wasn’t really anything on Wii that we didn’t already know about but the Kirby game looks to be the pick of the bunch alongside Zelda Skyward Sword.

Mario Kart 3D got a new trailer and now we know what the gimmick will be in this latest version, flying and underwater aspects. I quite like the idea of turning into a big glider and actually being able to control your flight rather than following an automatic path when you fly off a big jump, so I’m looking forward to this. I’ll be a little disappointed if they don’t feature bikes as they were so much fun in Mario Kart Wii but it’s not something that will ruin the game if it’s not included, likewise stunts.

Star Fox disappointed me a bit because I first thought this was a new version rather than the previously announced remake, but it seems like they just re-announced the same old game which isn’t ideal really.

A quick note on the Wii U controller. I hope they change a couple of aspects of the buttons. An analogue trigger is a must for realistic driving games and currently they’re not showing this so I hope they add those. I also was disappointed to see that they use the same design of analogue circle pads from the 3DS on the Wii U which to me doesn’t make much sense. The whole reason you would use those on the 3DS is because a traditional stick wouldn’t fit with the clamshell design of the system. Here, you’re not bound by height restrictions and as the controller is already so big, I would have expected full size analogue sticks just like the Nunchuk and Classic Controller. Not having those I believe will negatively affect precision control.

Conclusion

Overall, I think you would have to say that Nintendo had the best conference. A new system is practically guaranteed to overshadow anything else that’s shown, and it proved to be the case here.

The Vita price point of $250 was a bit of a relief but it’s still going to be expensive here. Then again, even if it comes out at the ridiculous £225 price tag the 3DS launched at, then I’ll be a lot more accepting of paying that much for this device over Nintendo’s one.

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Miscellaneous

What I want to see at the major E3 conferences

Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009
Image via Wikipedia

E3 is always an exciting time of year for gamers. We build it up so much, but often are left disappointed or even bemused by some of the things that happen in the big 3 press conferences, especially Nintendo’s in recent years. They’re certainly not the only ones. Sony and Microsoft have both had their fair share of awful, embarrassing shows.

This year is the time for all 3 companies to wow us and justify the mass excitement that goes hand in hand with E3. This is what I’m hoping for from each of them.

Nintendo

I think Nintendo on paper should have the most to talk about on Tuesday. We all know that their new system will be officially unveiled. From what we know, it seems that Nintendo will be going back to their more hardcore route. Whether or not they simply try to bridge the gap between being too casual and too hardcore or go fully in the traditional gaming direction is unknown, but I personally hope that they put their traditional audience first. Casual games can still exist on a hardcore focused system, but not the other way around.

If they are planning to go fully hardcore with the new system then they have to fully match Sony and Microsoft in every way. If they don’t give gamers the online functionality, community features and other functions that they’re used to, then the new console won’t be able to be considered any truly hardcore gamer’s console of choice in this upcoming generation.

Sony

The NGP will surely play a large part in proceedings on Monday night. You would assume that they’ll announce an official name, but probably not a price or release date. Generally, in recent years Sony conferences have either been ridiculed or applauded. However, the last couple, although they were strong showings, mostly focused on demos for games we already knew about, and that’s not really exciting for an event such as this. I hope they really just go all-out with new game and service announcements tomorrow, and leave the demos for the show floor, or at most a quick video montage.

Microsoft

The general trend I can see in the last few years of Microsoft conferences tend to be towards mostly showing demos for 3rd party games as well as some exclusives. Last year marked the addition of casual gaming with the kinect which I hope isn’t such a big focus this year, but I don’t see them ditching their successful casual programme. They’ve also been known to surprise people by poaching games, mostly from Sony when the PS3 was struggling. Unfortunately, you can also expect to hear news such as early releases for MW3 DLC and other things like that. Halo isn’t a series that Microsoft will be willing to give up on now that Bungie are moving on to new things, so I would be surprised to hear something about a new Halo game from another developer.

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Miscellaneous

3DS Two Months On

Blue Nintendo 3DS on display in Nintendo booth...
Image via Wikipedia

How is the health of 3DS looking now, just over 2 months since launch? Well, I don’t know about you but after almost 100%ing pilotwings resort about 2 weeks after the system launched, I’ve barely touched my 3DS on. Except to rub the dust off it of course.

I don’t think anyone can deny how useless Nintendo have been in terms of giving gamers great titles to play in the launch window of the system. In this business games and systems come and go so fast that I don’t think it would be going too far to suggest that some people have simply forgot about the 3DS already. Maybe it’s just that Nintendo aren’t worried as they know they can win back the hardcore in an instant with some big announcements.

With that said, there are good things on the horizon. Big titles are going to start coming in the next month or so, and with E3 about 2 weeks away now, surely Nintendo can’t let that show go by without announcing a plethora of incredible games to get everyone excited about their next generation portable again.

The problem is, the games industry doesn’t work like other tech segments. Unlike apple, Nintendo will never surprise people by saying that a game or system comes out that very day. These things take months and years to coordinate. Unfortunately, this means that whatever they do announce won’t bolster the ailing lineup for the first 2 thirds of this year.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to love the 3DS like I have pretty much all other Nintendo systems over the years, mainly because of the awful battery life and 3D that doesn’t agree with me. I’m willing to give it a shot, and I’m keenly waiting to try out some games. I have pretty much every strong title on my lovefilm rental list currently. As far as games I want to buy and keep, Mario Kart 3D and Animal Crossing remain my top two from the games we know about. I just hope we get those this year, because otherwise it’s going to be a very long wait for some 3DS owners I know.