When the Wii U released in 2012, it was a lot of things. It was the first Nintendo console to support high definition graphics, around seven years late to that party. Some of the Wii’s better games still suffer from looking like they’re older than they really are because of this: Skyward Sword, which released in 2011, looks like it would have been at home on the GameCube in 2004.
The Wii U was also a strange, living-room adaptation of the dual-screen approach Nintendo took for years with the Nintendo DS and 3DS systems. Its large controller with an embedded screen and ability to play games without needing to look at a TV are clearly blueprints for the system that would follow it. The Wii U was also the company’s biggest commercial failure since the Virtual Boy, due to a combination of factors.
An Honest Shot
The Wii U was, by all accounts, a solid console. A bit awkward, of course, trying to compete with Sony and Microsoft in their arena while still trying to be a whimsical Nintendo system. What really held it back was a combination of the unusual control scheme, the abysmal marketing campaign, and the tragically short range of the Game Pad.
A few games, like Nintendo Land and the Wonderful 101, made good use of the Wii U’s Game Pad. Others, however, implemented it in ways that were bizarre and distracting. The system’s marketing did it no favors, either, confusing audiences about what, exactly, it was. Was it a new add-on for the aging Wii system? Did it play unique games, or was it just another way to play Wii Sports?
Most striking, however, was what the system didn’t do. It wasn’t truly portable. Even in your own home, you could only carry the Game Pad a few feet away from the system before it lost connection. So, even if you wanted to just use the Game Pad to play Game Boy Advance games from the Virtual Console, you’d have to stay in the same room as the system.
What Did They Learn?
The Switch is positively overflowing with Wii U ports. When Pikmin 3 Deluxe launches on October 30, it’ll be the tenth first-party Nintendo game ported from the Wii U to the Switch.
Super Mario 3D World, which is getting a port early next year, will mark the eleventh such game. This isn’t an indictment of Nintendo for being “lazy” or for “recycling” games: the Wii U’s library was actually pretty good.
In more ways than one, the Switch feels like Nintendo doubling down and releasing a “corrected” version of the Wii U. For longtime fans who actually had a Wii U during its short four-year lifespan, this is likely somewhat frustrating. However, for the vast majority of Switch owners who never touched the ill-fated system, this is only a good thing.
While the games might be old news to a few players, they’re essentially brand-new to a generation of Nintendo gamers. The Switch, by delivering in ways the Wii U couldn’t, addresses all of the issues that the system had.
The Switch has normal controls that don’t rely on gimmicks. Its marketing was excellent from the jump, showing normal people using the system in (mostly) believable scenarios. And, most of all, it actually is that giant Game Boy Advance your inner five-year-old wanted.