Impressions: Wii U Preview Conference

If you’re holding your breath for Nintendo, you can finally exhale. After months of waiting, the Wii U console has a price point: $299.99 USD for the “regular” white console and $349.99 for a “deluxe” black Wii U with Nintendo Land included.

The real question, however, is whether or not Nintendo’s fabled console is really worth it. We’ve seen some neat presentations, including ZombiU and Scribblenauts Unlimited, but what we’re also seeing are rehashes of games we’ve already played. Aside from that, we’re noticing other clues that Nintendo could continue its path as the unfortunate broken record it became after the original Wii’s launch.

Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America’s chief operating officer, held a special conference on Thursday to show everyone what they can prepare their own bodies for, and proving whether or not the Wii U is truly an investment worth looking into.

Let’s start with Nintendo Land. As we saw in the preview, Nintendo’s newest feature party game received praise from popular outlets like Polygon and IGN. However, there was a time when Wii Sports seemed like the greatest experience on the planet -- and don’t get me wrong, it was a genuinely entertaining presentation overall -- until everyone got bored with it and sold their Wii for reasons like “there aren’t enough ‘cool’ games on this system.” Take the Wii, add party game tech demo elements like those seen in Wii Sports. Then, multiply it by “U” and you’ll probably get Nintendo Land.

And then there’s New Super Mario Bros. U. We sampled this game at PAX Prime, but since it was a short single player demo with three level options, we didn’t see much aside from the new flying squirrel suit, a basic reimagining of the cape from Super Mario World. Thursday’s conference, however, highlighted some aspects involved with what Mario fans want: greater challenges. Promising new rush modes and time-based exercises is an excellent step in the right direction, especially if Nintendo decides they’re not messing with the classic feel and aesthetic of Mario.

The biggest surprise of the conference was definitely Bayonetta 2 being announced as a Wii U exclusive, which actually hurts for many “hardcore” fans. Because now, unless you wait five years for the “highest definition collection” on the PlayStation “Orbistinator” and “Xbox NOT-720,” your only choice is to buy a Wii U. But wait a minute -- none of us own any of the next-gen consoles yet, so it’s really not that bad.

Regardless, some folks already pitched some fits. Kotaku cited a rowdy crew of Twitter fans who, quite honestly, overreacted. Nintendo is clearly looking for ways to please core audiences, but some of these same individuals refuse to even consider purchasing a Nintendo console because it’s, well, a Nintendo console. Sure, fair enough.

Seriously though, we still know little right now. Yes, I personally sampled the Wii U and even mentioned how it didn’t seem like Nintendo experimented in the realm of new core experiences. However, I missed my shot at ZombiU, probably the most praised Wii U title so far, and there aren’t currently many other working third-party titles at this time. With the aforementioned announcement of Bayonetta 2 and other offerings from developers like Activision, perhaps Nintendo is trying after all.

That being said, hopefully Bayonetta 2 feels like it’s supposed to, and hopefully Nintendo doesn’t push Platinum to create some overcomplicated control scheme requiring too much attention from the player (see: Project P-100, or The Wonderful  101). What’s also important is that we see plenty of next-gen core contributions as opposed to rehashes of games we’ve already played on the PS3 and Xbox 360.

Nintendo's $350 Wii U “deluxe” package is the overall best value because it gives users both 32GB of storage and Nintendo Land as an added bonus. Honestly, it’s sad how the basic price point ($300) gives you a measly 8GB and no extra inclusions, which practically forces you to buy the other package (thanks for the crap tech lesson, Apple). Now if the original included at least 16 GB of storage, consumers would probably get a better buy. Then again, Wii owners were always doomed when it came to internal space, so it’s at least encouraging how Nintendo’s finally giving us gigabytes instead of megabytes.

If Nintendo continues working toward third-party support and makes cross-play less of a gimmick and more of a practical implementation, then the Wii U is a promising investment. There’s also a good chance it’ll be the cheapest next-gen console, making it the best value overall if third-party experiences are truly worthwhile. Granted, it’s scary to see Nintendo shadowing some of their past mistakes, but they do seem to have some exciting new features in the way of online communication and overall appeal to the average core gamer.

The Wii U is set for sale in North America on November 18, which is (surprise) just in time for the holidays. All things aside, know what’s also encouraging? For the first time in years, there’s a “Wii” product grandma probably doesn't want.

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