It goes without saying that 2015 was a great year in gaming, with a heap of excellent games from every platform out there. The Wii U has been no exception, contributing some of the greatest games of recent years, and also some not so great ones. We’ll be going over every up and down, every hike and hurdle, that Nintendo’s current home console had to overcome.
2015 was a year that Nintendo gave a lot of power to players from letting them create their own game to showing them a new perspective on a popular genre. It brought the cuteness, and it brought the intensity, but it also brought its own disappointments. With its twists and turns, let’s see how the Wii U fared overall…
Kirby Won Us Over, and Mario Did a Party Foul
The folks at Nintendo kicked off 2015 with something adorable, which isn’t atypical of them anyway. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse was the first major Wii U title to roll its way over to gamers, and was well-received, for the most part. The GamePad was the perfect tool to bring back Kirby, that unbearably cute little ball of whatever he’s made of. Well, this time, he was made of clay.
Artistically, Rainbow Curse was astounding with every single element of the enemies and environment giving the illusion that it’s made of clay. Suffice to say, a lot of detail went into making this game look as seamless as as clay-like as possible, and it was a nice way to ring in the new year for Nintendo.
Subsequently, Mario Party 10 came on the scene, and didn’t quite make the splash everyone would have liked. While the GamePad had a very clever use to allow a person to play as Bowser and nefariously control various mini-games in an attempt to eliminate every player in a mode called Bowser Party, there simply weren’t enough mini-games using this mechanic to warrant multiple playthroughs.
Throw in a sore lack of unlockables and Mario Party 10 proves how, overall, it couldn’t make waves. It just splashed around. In a puddle, I guess.
Splatoon Brought Maritime Madness to the Wii U
The month of May came along and Nintendo’s repertoire got hotter than a Miami summer (which is impossibly hot, trust me), thanks to the release of Splatoon. Handled almost exclusively by the new generation of developers over at Nintendo, they were given near-complete creative freedom to create whatever they wished. As a result, Splatoon came about and gave every shooter on other consoles a run for its money. With its simple team-based premise, things stayed fresh, strange, exciting, and very tactical.
With a phenomenal single-player campaign to work as a glorified tutorial for the multi-player meat of the game, hefty customization, and Nintendo still releasing downloadable content nearly every week at no charge, Splatoon has been almost too good to be true, and is sure to have a very bright future.
June held another surprise when Nintendo completely pulled a rabbit out of a hat by releasing a Super Smash Bros. digital presentation announcing Ryu from Street Fighter would be joining the fray, along with fan-favorite Lucas from Mother 3.
On top of that, Nintendo just sort of went, “Oh, by the way, you can download them, like, uhhh, now. Deuces.”
Super Mario Maker Gave Players Power
The second of Nintendo’s new IPs was Super Mario Maker, and it made a grand impression on the gaming world with it’s extremely intuitive control scheme that could only be executed as splendidly with the Wii U GamePad. It gave people that incremental learning curve to really let a person evolve beyond just placing cool objects into meticulously placing and calculating designs and structures.
Amid over 1 million levels uploaded, some have been downright sadistic and others have been a walk in a park. A park that looks like a Mario level. Plus, it always helps that Nintendo has frequently released free content like new tools, levels, and characters.
Most importantly, though, it’s been amazing to see the gaming community stretching their creativity to its limits and then pushing that boundary even further. For once, gamers are on the other side of their passion for a new perspective of everything that goes into game design.
Yoshi Brought Joy, but Animal Crossing Board Game Bored
The final months of 2015 have been fairly inconsistent for the Nintendo Wii U. October brought players Yoshi’s Woolly World. As if Kirby and the Rainbow Curse wasn’t already cute enough, Nintendo went for the double-tap with a shotgun blast to the face of adorableness. This time, the next entry in the Yoshi’s Island series was made entirely out of yarn, and it looks and plays as nicely as it would probably feel. Nintendo made the fundamental game fairly easy with the gritty challenge being that of finding every collectible to unlock the intense levels for those daring enough, making Yoshi’s Woolly World another inclusive and cozy gem in the Wii U’s library.
The subsequent months, however, weren’t as kind, beginning with the October release of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water. Regardless of its free-to-start play model, it failed to make the impression it could have, receiving warm to unfavorable criticisms, and it came across like an excellent idea that didn’t seem to live up to its full potential upon execution.
Then November brought Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival. Many players’ hearts stopped during the E3 announcement of Animal Crossing in HD, only to see that it would end up being a board/party game. The generally negative feedback was a lack of exciting features, excluding one very interesting Desert Island Escape mode, but it wasn’t enough to prove to players that Amiibo Festival was more than a glorified supplement to buying the Animal Crossing amiibo series. Sure, it provides all the cuteness, but Kirby and Yoshi proved that, in 2015, being cute is just half the battle.
GIANT MECHS. Also, Cloud Joined the Fight
Shortly thereafter, Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash made its debut, disappointing longtime fans of the series. Players got great Mario Tennis mechanics, but that’s it. It left little to the imagination by playing it very safe, with no significantly game-changing modes, and almost every court looking nearly identical. It looked great with Nintendo’s signiture fluid animation, but its sheer lack of content prevented players from wanting to return to the court and stay there for very long.
Fortunately, Nintendo had one big ace in the hole with Xenoblade Chronicles X, ending 2015 with a bang. Immediately, players were astounded at the scale of the game and the depths at which the developers dove to create an immersive and complex experience to keep players involved and enamored for months. Its ambition only augmented the adventure, showing the world what the Wii U can do when pushed nearly to its graphical limits. The result is an extraordinary journey overflowing with customization options, gorgeous environments, and mechs. To elaborate, GIANT BADASS BATTLE MECHS.
Also, the lack of a new F-Zero was compensated for with another high-octane futuristic racer in the form of Shin’en Multimedia’s FAST Racing NEO, which brought heart-thumping single-player, online, and splitscreen racing in the last leg of the Wii U’s year for a blend of the contemporary and the classic racing experiences. It was met with open arms by the gaming community, as its blinding speeds fill that adrenaline rush that so many F-Zero fans and beyond have been seeking. Seriously, it’s like melt-your-face-off fast.
If that wasn’t enough, Nintendo came back with video along the lines of, “Oh, by the way, remember when we put Ryu in Smash Bros.? Yeah, well, we’re adding Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII, too. No big deal.” Don’t say you expected that, you liar.
Nintendo’s 2015 was clearly inconsistent, but its highs more than made up for and upstaged the lows. Many great titles have cemented themselves in the core Wii U experience, supplementing the slow, yet always growing, catalog of games that provide that quintessential fun, plain and simple. A large portion of 2015’s success has been supported by a steady flow of free to inexpensive downloadable content released almost on a weekly basis and more amiibo.
Although two of its biggest titles, a still untitled Legend of Zelda and Star Fox Zero, have been delayed to 2016, that just makes next year more exciting.
In all, 2015 for the Wii U has been another case of quality over quantity. The Nintendo Wii U carries on with its own stride, making it own waves as it goes along, staying out of the big fight and ultimately providing great experiences, even if it isn’t the epicenter of the definitive home entertainment experience. It definitely has heart, though.
It’s very admirable to see the company still pushing through, even in the wake of the tragic passing of Satoru Iwata who served as the President of Nintendo. The company remains a prime example of keeping their composure with poise and fervor, in a way that is sure to make Iwata proud. Here’s to another humble year for the Wii U.