History won’t be kind.
History will most likely judge the Wii U as a misstep. A series of missteps. It’ll remember the name, which was silly. It’ll remember the hardware, which couldn’t compete. It’ll remember the third party support, which felt non-existent.
More profoundly it’ll remember the Wii U concept itself: a concept that, perhaps for the first time, showed a chink in Nintendo’s ability to innovate in the purest sense. In years previous Nintendo had reinvented gaming, almost effortlessly. It had given us the DS and touch screen gaming. It gave us the original Wii, motion controls, and the (transient in hindsight) sense that the future was here in our living rooms. Right now. In our lifetime.
The Wii U was different. We were used to being surprised by Nintendo. But this time we were surprised that we weren’t being surprised. The Wii U was almost shockingly staid and traditional. The Wii U was what Joe Blow might recommend Nintendo do if you asked him on the street. Tablets are in, right? Mobile gaming is a big deal, right? People are tired of motion controls, right? Why don’t you make one of those iPad things…
It’s funny. Nintendo didn’t like press and fans referring to their brand new ‘GamePad’ as a tablet. Probably because that’s precisely what it was, and a poor one at that. It represented an insecurity; as if Nintendo was thoroughly aware it was playing follow the leader and wanted everyone to just conveniently forget that.
And more importantly it was so very un-Nintendo. For the previous decade Nintendo had been Henry Fording the shit out of its audience. Giving us the automobile when we wanted the faster horse. This this time they were giving us the horse and we recognised that. We were looking that gift horse right in the mouth with a ‘hmph’ and a grimace. The Wii U was what we expected from Nintendo, and that never sat right.
History won’t be kind to the Wii U. History won’t remember it in the fondest terms.
But I will. I suspect others will too.
Looking through the drawers of the video games that will soon be gathering dust: a realisation. If I were to count up all the hours spent playing the Wii and compared them to the hours I spent playing the Wii U? The Wii U would win. By a powerful margin. A landslide even.
I loved the Wii U.
I loved Nintendo Land, which was a mainstay in my living room for years. A game we constantly played when family and family came to visit.
I loved Mario Kart 8, which might be the best Mario Kart ever made. I enjoyed Pikmin 3. Wind Waker HD is probably still the most beautiful game ever made. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was a genuine masterpiece.
I loved loved loved Splatoon, perhaps the most innovative online shooter of this generation — a game that highlights Nintendo’s ability to bend any genre to its whimsical will.
Then there’s Super Mario 3D World. A game I initially dismissed as ‘conservative’. Today, with a three-year-old son in the process of discovering video games it feels sublime.
The Wii U didn’t really prove anything, at least not in the negative sense. History won’t be kind to the Wii U, but it might just represent it as a temporary blip; a moment of uninspired madness. The Wii U proved only that which we already knew: that Nintendo was capable of making mistakes on a grand scale. That Nintendo was capable of taking risks.
That Nintendo is still capable of making incredible, genre defining video games. The Wii U proved that all over again.
History won’t be kind to the Wii U, but I will be. I’ll remember it fondly, and I’ll be sorry to see it go.