The Wii U launch line-up may be full of ports and late multiplatform releases, but it’s still considerably better than anything we’ve seen from the current generation of consoles and handhelds.
The Wii U launch line up is substantially more impressive than the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3’s offerings, and more recently the terribly boring debuts of the 3DS and PS Vita.
The Wii U’s Big Guns
The Wii U launch line-up is fairly consistent throughout North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
The big game -- the one that will sell hardware -- is New Super Mario Bros. U, despite the 3DS offering only three months prior. Nintendo learnt its lesson from the third party focus it employed with the 3DS. In a baffling attempt to give third parties the spotlight, Nintendo held-back its big guns. The result: nothing worth playing at launch.
While Pikmin 3 would have been exciting, the Wii U only needed one key franchise, and Mario is always a winner. Then there’s NintendoLand, the Wii Sports of this generation, packed in with the Premium Edition. Whilst it won’t offer much in terms of single-player longevity, it will be the “free” social game that gets everyone from your friends to elderly grandparents semi-interested in the Wii U.
Outside of strong first party support, Ubisoft’s ZombiU will set the tone for a more mature audience, as will Activision’s slew of titles including Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, 007 Legends and Transformers Prime. They may be multiplatform, but it’s important that they’re on Wii U in full force.
Snaring what could be the most impressive version of Assassin’s Creed III, not long after the PS3 and Xbox 360 launch, was also crucial. It’s not a stretch for multiplatform gamers to wait an extra month, especially with so many other games released in the busy October-November period. Ubisoft will ensure it becomes the second best-selling publisher at launch with the exclusive Rayman Legends.
Talking about Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Arkham City as Wii U launch titles is a little disappointing, but they are both Game of the Year contenders and there’s conceivably a large audience with a Nintendo preference yet to play them.
Perhaps most importantly, if the 3DS and Vita have taught us anything, the months following release, through until the end of March, are assured of quality. Aliens: Colonial Marines and Monster Hunter will be released in early 2013, Then there are the likes of Lego City: Undercover, Darksiders II, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Marvel Avengers, Sonic & All-Stars Racing, Fifa 13, NFL 13 and Epic Mickey 2.
A full list of Wii U launch period games can be found here.
vs. Xbox 360
The Xbox 360’s launch drawcard was Perfect Dark: Zero, which wasn’t all that bad, but hasn’t been remembered fondly, and wasn’t reason enough to invest in Microsoft’s ploy to get the jump on Sony. There was also Call of Duty 2, but that was before the franchise became the entertainment juggernaut it is today.
Outside of those the options were baron, with a long list of ports -- namely ‘06 sports games -- and little that wasn’t available on the last generation Xbox, such as Gun. While it certainly wasn’t a terrible launch, it doesn’t quite have the same exclusives as the Wii U, and there’s no contest when it comes to the ports.
vs. PlayStation 3
If you bought a PS3 at launch -- which I must confess, I did not -- you owned Resistance: Fall of Man and Motorstorm. The latter was solid, whilst Resistance received mixed reactions, as it wasn’t for everyone in the same vein as a Mario game.
The PS3’s launch was plagued with delays, with Oblivion, F.E.A.R. and Rainbow Six: Vegas all missing the Pal launch.
It had an array on ’07 sports games, Call of Duty 3, and a bunch of titles that were released on Xbox 360 several months earlier, including that beyond awful Sonic The Hedgehog game, which signified that Sega’s once iconic character was not going to make a grand comeback with the new generation.
Whilst a handheld and a home console are not directly comparable, we can still assess the quality of the titles based on how they performed, or will perform, on their respective platforms.
The 3DS launch was abysmal, and can be attributed to the premature $100 price cut just four months later. There was nothing to play. The only “must have” game was the watered-down port of Super Street Fighter IV, simply because there was nothing else even remotely worth your time.
Nintendogs + Cats was Nintendo’s big attraction, and it only appealed to a minority of its newfound casual audience. While lucrative, it isn't the market investing in new hardware at launch. The Nintendo faithful, the Mario, Metroid and Zelda fans, were snubbed at launch. It was almost insulting, particularly as an Australian, where Pilotwings Resort was delayed until the following month.
Rayman 3D was decent, but as a 12-year-old game, most had played it and didn’t want to pay for it again. Other dodgy ports, like Asphalt, Ridge Racer and The Sims 3 all deserved to be burned.
It’s promising to see Nintendo has learnt from its mistakes. The Wii U launch line up is clearly superior to the train wreck that was the 3DS launch.
vs. PlayStation Vita
Vita is only worth a comparison because it’s the most recent platform to launch. It was almost as bad as the 3DS’s debut, but at least Sony gave gamers something they could enjoy in Uncharted: Golden Abyss, even if it did insist on frustratingly useless rear touchpad controls.
Likewise, WipeOut 2048 was enjoyable and at least Rayman Origins was a port from the same millennium. Everybody’s Golf was surprisingly addictive, Ridge Racer was better than the 3DS monstrosity and Little Deviants offered some family fun.
Its biggest problem has been the period following launch. Besides the localisation of Gravity Rush, there’s been nothing worth playing on Vita. While it beat the 3DS, if you weren’t a diehard Uncharted fan, there was little enticement to buy a Vita at launch, and really, there still isn’t.
Wii U is Best
By comparison to the four most recent platform launches (as the Wii’s successor, it was not included), the Wii U is starting to look pretty good. Yes, we’re heading back to New Super Mario Bros too soon, and Mass Effect and Batman are a little old, but they’re all fantastic games. If you have to rehash software at launch, at least rehash the best available.
By Ben Salter