Analyzing The Wii U Launch Lineup
In case you've been living under a rather large boulder the past year, Nintendo has a shiny new console called Wii U that will be hitting stores November 18. In short, it looks amazing, but no matter how great new hardware looks, it's software library will always define it. That said, I decided to take a look at what games will be available on day one. Without question, Wii U easily boasts one of the stronger launch line-ups I can remember. There's truly something for everyone, from a strong first-party presence, to hardcore third-party franchises, to casual, music and sports, and even a new IP. With 23 launch titles, this is going to be a long one so I hope you packed a sandwich. Or something. Yeah, I'm done now.
New Super Mario Bros. U
When Nintendo drops a new console, Mario is there to make sure that thing sells. While it's pretty much the same New Super Mario Bros. you've played for years, U adds new power-ups like the squirrel suit and the Yoshi clan return with cool abilities as well. The new Boost Mode supports five player co-op, with the fifth person using the gamepad to create platforms that assist the other four. I'm not sure who would actually want to be that fifth player, but whatever. Challenge Modes offer unique objectives to shoot for and Boost Mode takes place in scrolling stages that increase in speed with each coin collected.
I'll be honest, as cool as New Super Mario Bros. U looks, I'm not quite as pumped for this as I'd like to be and here's why. We've gotten a lot of Mario in the past year and that's both good and bad. I adore Mario, and I'll play every game no matter how many Nintendo cranks out, but I'm feeling a just a tad fatigued with the series. Still, If I'm able to pick up a Wii U at launch, this would without question be my launch game of choice.
Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition
Wii U is finally getting the game it needs but not the game it deserves. Or is it the other way around? I'm not really sure. Batman Arkham City was my 2011 game of the year, but I'm not sure an armored Batman and Catwoman are enough to make me want to purchase it again. Who is this for, exactly? The only people I can see buying this are either diehard Batman fans or gamers who don't own a PS3, Xbox OR a decent PC but want to play the game. I can't imagine there being very many of the latter.
Assassin's Creed III
This is exactly what Wii U needs to succeed: big time third-party titles. While I'm already planning to purchase ACIII for PS3, I could be convinced to change my mind given the right persuasion.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Call of Duty is no stranger to Nintendo, but this looks to be the first entry that isn't a bastardized version of Sony and Microsoft's versions. I have little doubt the single player will deliver, but multiplayer is a huge question mark. Nintendo has been stubbornly vague about how online play is going to work on Wii U but whatever it is, they have an uphill battle to compete against the other online services, particularly the behemoth that is Xbox Live. If Wii U's Black Ops II multiplayer is in any way inferior online to what the other consoles offer, I just can't see it doing very well at all.
Considering that this version will come with all released DLC, including Argul's Tomb, this is easily the definitive version of the game. That is how you do a port. If you're getting interested in Darksiders II and plan to purchase a Wii U, I would seriously recommend getting this version over the others.
Just Dance 4
The wildly popular series returns and is set to sell an obscene amount of copies and give casual fans a reason to check out Nintendo's latest gadget. I'm terrible at dancing, both in real life and the virtual one, so this isn't for me. Still, let's take a quick look at the track list and see if there's any goo-HOLY CRAP, WILD WILD WEST IS HERE! Okay, this game is amazing now. I can't wait to sit back and watch other people dance to that. Oh no, that horrible "Call Me Maybe" song is here too? Now it's in my head! I hate this game now.
Nice to see a quality handheld series get a shot at the big time. Unlimited ditches the sidescrolling format of the first two games for a full open world. Word-savvy players can still use their impressive vocabulary to summon stuff, but the new object creator provides a pool of ready-made pieces that can be mixed and matched to produce a myriad of helpful abominations. Friends can unleash their inner mad scientist together via local co-op, and custom objects can be shared with friends online.
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
The original Epic Mickey's twisted re-imagining of the Disney universe and intriguing paintbrush mechanics were bogged down by bland objectives and a finicky camera. While the bulk of the gameplay remains unchanged, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit returns as a playable co-op character. Power of Two promises to correct the problems that plagued the first game, including an overhauled camera system and full voice acting, complete with musical numbers. Despite it's glaring issues, I had a good time with the first Epic Mickey. New design polishes, and the ability to play with a buddy, launch Epic Mickey 2 towards the top of my launch purchase list.
ESPN Sports Connection
You'd be forgiven for mistaking this for Wii Sports because that's essentially what Sports Connection is. Up to six players compete in a variety of sporting events (six, to be exact) under a family friendly enviornment. In addition to utilizing the Wiimote for the actions you'd expect, the gamepad can be used to draw routes during football plays or act as a caddy in golf (yay?). Sports Connection's offerings don't appear to be nearly as robust as Wii Sports', but it looks like decent way to kill time with friends who also have nothing better to do.
Game Party Champions
Along with Sports Connection, Game Party Champions will also help Nintendo meet it's quota for obligatory mini-game collections. Favorite pastimes like ping pong, table hockey, and hoop shot can be enjoyed in three modes. Quick Play is exactly what it sounds like and Story Mode pits players against each other to win the title of World Champion. By far, the most interesting is Party Mode, which has players taking turns using the gamepad to play a randomly selected game while the others use Wiimotes to sabotage or "grief" that person's performance. I think the player this screenshot is attempting to grief the other by pretending to be a dancing goal post or something.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge
Shoot, I thought this was the Razor Ramone DLC for Ninja Gaiden 3. Ninja Gaiden is no stranger to beefed up re-releases, and this one boasts a new playable character in Dead or Alive's Ayane (pictured above), the Scythe DLC, as well as future content that Team Ninja is keeping under wraps. The neutered violence of the original version has been dialed up significantly, with sliced limbs sailing among geysers of blood. Ninja Gaiden 3 was met with a lukewarm reception at best, so it'll be interesting to see if these additions are enough to persuade both disappointed fans and wary newcomers to give Ryu's latest adventure a shot.
Where there's a Wii launch, there are Rabbids not far behind. This time the maniacal not-rabbits have taken over an amusement park. Over 20 attractions host an assortment of mini-game goodness, with the gamepad and Wiimote used in tandem for all manner of ka-razy mischief. I apologize for my inappropriate use of the term ka-razy.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Am I the only one slightly surprised this isn't called Tekken Tag Tournament U? This version includes a batch of Nintendo-themed features, most notably a Mushroom Battle mode that litters the arena with power-ups such as Mega Mushrooms and Poison Mushrooms. If that doesn't ensure absolute hilarity, fighters can also be outfitted with costumes based on Nintendo staples like Mario or Zelda, which gives the funny appearance of battling cosplayers. Online play is still a mystery (as has it has been for Wii U in general) but details should come as launch day creeps closer.
FIFA Soccer 13
Fans of soccer/football/"that game you can't use your hands in" have something to look forward to come November 18. Team Management Control uses the gamepad to direct players on both offensive and defensive runs and to quickly change team tactics. Statistical analysis on matches and players are displayed on the controller, allowing for informed decision-making during play. That's great for players who love that in-depth stuff as well as people like me, who know next to nothing about soccer but fumbling through stat charts will make us look like we do. The gamepad can also be lifted and viewed through to aim the ball to set up and execute tricky shots.
Karaoke games are all the rage, partly because it's fun to watch terrible singers attempt to perform popular music. I'm sure you know what you're getting here, but it is worth noting that song lyrics can be displayed on the gamepad, as well as the TV. Now you have no excuse for butchering the lyrics to "Party Rock Anthem" other than your own ineptitude. There's also no limit on how many people can play at once, so feel free to use your awful singing to end as many friendships as you'd like. The clueless schmucks in the back are clearly unaware that the singer is trying to do just that.
Unlike Just Dance 4, "Wild Wild West" is absent here. Boo. However, like Just Dance 4, it does have "Call Me Maybe". I regret to announce that I will have to decline my invitation to this party.
If you can't tell, this Wipeout isn't the futuristic racing version but rather the people-jump-through-weird-shaped-holes-in-walls kind. If you're a fan of the games, don't expect too much beyond new courses and characters. You'll still be jumping, sliding, and dodging your way through massive Discovery Zone-esque obstacle courses and laughing at your friends when they fail miserably.
Skylanders struck gold last year by combining the two things kids adore: video games and collectible toys. Skylanders: Giants looks to replicate that success and while it will be availabe on every console, the Wii U version boasts improved graphics and resolution. The core experience remains the same, but the gamepad allows for some interesting new features such as displaying monster stats in real-time, and even to play mini-games, such as a light card battle. As it's name implies, Giants will have new, larger figures, with a monster's strength now tied to how big it is. Over 40 new figures will be introduced but even better news (especially for parents) is that all previous figurines, as well as the Wii version's portal, will be compatible with Giants.
Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013
Your Shape sprints into the next generation to aid gamers in their ongoing war against fat and calories. If you're looking to shed a few pounds, there's some pretty nifty features such as creating personalized fitness plans, a database of healthy recipes, and even a dance mode. I swear, if "Call Me Maybe" found it's way into this game too...
Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper
For those unaware, Warriors Orochi is a crossover of the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors franchises. If you're familiar with either series, expect to single-handedly eradicate entire armies to the tune of inapt butt metal. Orochi 3 also features characters from hit series Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive and lesser known titles like Bladestorm: The Hundred Years War and Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll. What sets Hyper apart from the original version are a new Dual Mode (which combines one-on-one fighting with card battles), improved graphics, and two new playable characters.
By the way, this is based on the current TV series and is unrelated to the Transformer titles developed by High Moon Studios. I hope that cleared up any confusion. There's not much to say about this title, actually. Players choose their favorite Autobot to battle Megatron's Decepticon forces with brawler-style combat as well as several vehicle segments. Prime captures the show's unique stylized look pretty well and multiplayer contains a mix of cooperative and competive modes. The TV show is pretty solid and the game looks like solid fun for all the Mini-Cons running around your house.
Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed
One thing has always bothered me about these games. Why would a hedgehog capable of running faster than the speed of sound lower himself by driving a lowly automobile? Anyway, the Wii U version of Sega's fledgling racer sports some pretty cool features that might current owners consider a re-purchase. My favorite is the five-player splitscreen (with four players sharing the TV screen, and the fifth using the gamepad), unheard of for a console racer of any kind. Viewing the TV through the remote turns the gamepad into a rearview mirror. Tapping a player icon on the touchscreen also provides a real-time view of that racer's perspective. If that's wasn't enough, this version also boasts exclusive Battle Arenas, and a special edition that features new tracks and Metal Sonic as a playable racer.
Sonic & All Stars is pretty enjoyable kart racer that should, if nothing else, act as a solid hold-over until Mario Kart Wii U inevitably rolls onto the scene.
Zombies have infected just about everything these days and wasted no time shambling their way to Wii U. ZombiU captures the intensity and terror players have come to expect from zombie survival while introducing some intriguing elements to separate it from the pack. The gamepad acts as your survival kit, housing a variety of weapons and items. You'll also use the gamepad for aiming weapons, unlocking doors and other creative puzzle solving. Death in ZombiU is permanent; you'll switch to a new survivor after your original one's brains are devoured. You can then hunt down your previous character, now zombified, and kill it to retrieve any lost items you were carrying before. As the only original mature experience that seems to fully embrace the gamepad's capabilites, ZombiU is one of the premier titles on this list.
I just became the heavyweight champion of the world. What am I going to do now? I'M GOING TO NINTENDO LAND! Now that that's out of my system, Nintendo Land is more or less a collection of mini-games with a theme park aesthetic. Each attraction is based on an iconic Nintendo license, such as Mario and Zelda, and features it's own unique mini-game. Depending on the attraction, players will either work cooperatively or compete against each other.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest unites four players to slay enemies, while a fifth uses a bow and arrow to provide cover fire. In Metroid Blast, the player using the gamepad controls Samus' gunship to hunt down four other players using Wiimotes. Concurrently, the Wiimote users work together to destroy the gunship. Solo events are also available, but who visits a theme park by themselves? As a pack-in with the Wii U deluxe edition, Nintendo is clearly banking on Nintendo Land to be the launch day hit that Wii Sports was for the Wii. Many of the attractions shown thus far look like a blast, and I'm excited to take my friends on a trip to Nintendo Land.
So, all you early Wii U adopters, what games will you be buying at launch?