Having already mentioned six titles with which to remember the Wii as you throw it down a flight of stairs, Nintendo’s new Wii U console is as ready as it will get for launch. The Wii U will hit the masses this November 18th with lines of people anxiously awaiting the next big gray market item. Originally, 23 physical retail titles were promised. Here are some of the highlights.
In a heads-up move, many of these games hit stores this week ahead of the actual system. The rest are expected on November 18th.
The New Super Mario Bros. U (Nintendo, Wii U Exclusive)
As game icons go, Mario is really the alpha and omega for the big N. Whether the Wii U flops in two years time or propels Nintendo towards the next decade, ‘The New Super Mario Bros. U‘ is already poised to be the console’s top-selling title.
The game itself is the latest in a long line of Mario titles. It’s basically a sequel to ‘The New Super Mario Bros. Wii’, which itself had taken the concept from the DS ‘The New Super Mario Bros.’ of returning Mario to his 2D platforming roots, while incorporating as many old and new Mario mechanics as possible. The Wii version shifted the focus to multiplayer, encouraging four people at a time (gathered around one TV, gasp!) to help and not hinder progress through the levels. The Wii U version introduces several new modes that are designed to test and refresh play styles. More significantly, it adds the ability to add booster blocks through the touchscreen of the Wii U GamePad. I actually disliked some of design choices for the levels in the Wii title, but the Wii U version looks considerably better.
ZombiU (Ubisoft, Wii U Exclusive)
‘ZombiU‘ was a originally vaporware multi-platform title until it was refocused as a Wii U exclusive. Of course, what isn’t to like about fighting your way through a zombie-filled United Kingdom? One of the more fun aspects of the game involves the player character. Once the player dies, that character is dead. The player must become another character and then seek out their former character’s remains in order to progress.
The real question is whether the Wii U GamePad will be a blessing or curse for this game. Everything that would normally be done with an intrusive HUD or an overgrown pause menu has been shifted to the touchscreen. Then there are the motion controls, which are a big part of fighting off zombies. Initial impressions of the game are very positive, and suggest that we’re getting a launch game far and above the normal standard.
NBA 2K13 (2K Sports)
A big-time sports franchise in full on a Nintendo console… Are we talking about the Super Nintendo? No, really, ‘NBA 2K13‘ is not only a top sports franchise (it really stands alone in terms of the NBA), but the Wii U version actually looks like it has some special features. Unlike football, calling plays and sets in basketball can quickly shrink down the playbook due to having to use shortcut key combinations. The GamePad’s touchscreen uses augmented overlays to open up the play-calling options. No word yet as to whether playing as the Lakers only has variations on “Give the ball to Kobe.”
Rabbids Land (Ubisoft, Wii U Exclusive)
When Nintendo finally began to show the Wii U in action, it was agreed that one game stood out above the others to illustrate some potential for the new interface. Surprisingly enough, it featured not Mario, but Ubisoft’s own Rayman. Sadly, that excellent demonstration was followed later by news that the game, ‘Rayman Legends’, had slipped from the Wii U launch and into 2013. Instead, we get the Rayman spinoff, ‘Rabbids Land‘, for which I must accuse Ubisoft of dastardly bait and switch tactics.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (Tecmo)
This one is a head-scratcher from Tecmo and Team Ninja. ‘Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge‘ is a reworked version of the unpopular ‘Ninja Gaiden 3’ from earlier this year. The combat has been changed in an attempt to de-emphasize quick-time events, and Ayane, one of the fighters from the ‘Dead Or Alive’ series, has been added as a playable option. Other changes involve difficulty adjustments to make the game tougher. None of this seems Wii U specific. In fact, this is a game for which the player should (although not required) switch to using the Nintendo’s Pro controller. All told, this seems like a game that was slated to be a ‘Director’s Cut’ follow-up on the 360 and PS3, but was instead thrown at the Wii U.
SiNG Party (Nintendo, Wii U Exclusive)
I feel that ‘SiNG Party‘ is worth mentioning for two reasons. First, it comes bundled with a large, corded microphone. Second, it utilizes the GamePad reasonably well by displaying the lyrics and playlists that are so central to the karaoke experience.
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (Disney)
‘Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two‘ is actually a multi-platform title, but by aligning its release date with the Wii U, it manages to act just like a Wii U launch title. The first ‘Epic Mickey’ was disappointing, and suffered from some troubled development. That somewhat lowers expectations for the sequel, but this one has some serious hope. The game has drop-in, drop-out cooperative gameplay, a feature that has buoyed similar titles such as the Lego series.
Scribblenauts Unlimited (Warner Bros.)
With ‘Scibblenauts Unlimited‘, this will be the first time that we have ‘Scribblenauts’ on a home console. And why not? On some level, the features that made up the Nintendo DS are part of the core interface of the Wii U. Also notable for this installment of the series is a multiplayer mode, and greater focus when it comes to the objective of the game. You know, aside from being creative and having fun.
Mass Effect 3 (Electronic Arts)
Less than a year since ‘Mass Effect 3‘ was originally released, it comes to the Wii U complete with its extended ending. While I know that the multiplayer community is active, it’s still funny to think that anyone has been awaiting a Wii U version to play ‘Mass Effect 3’. On the other hand, if the whole trilogy were coming to the Wii U, that would really be an impressive launch day purchase. In lieu of the first two games, this version has an extended beginning to bring the player up to date. The opening comic used for “Mass Effect 2′ on the PS3 was dreadful, so let’s hope for something better. This version sports a new tactical interface for directing squad mates that should be cheered, but it also still has Kai Leng, one of my least favorite characters in anything ever.
NintendoLand (Nintendo, Wii U Exclusive)
Finally, we have ‘NintendoLand‘, a game that the company hopes will recapture the family-friendly multiplayer fun that ‘Wii Sports’ managed some six years ago. Unfortunately, footage of Nintendo-themed minigames in a kitschy theme park setting hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. It’s hard to imagine parents running around as Samus or controlling Pikmin with the same level of enthusiasm as ‘Wii Tennis’, bowling etc. While it’s a full price title, Nintendo has wisely bundled the game with the coveted Deluxe Wii U (32GB, black, other bonuses).
Other Wii U launch titles include:
‘Tank! Tank! Tank!‘
‘ESPN Sports Connection‘
‘Call of Duty: Black Ops II‘
‘Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed Bonus Edition‘
‘Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper‘
Transformers Prime: The Game
‘Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U‘
‘Assassin’s Creed III‘
‘Madden NFL 13‘
‘FIFA Soccer 13’
‘Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition‘
‘Game Party Champions‘