Wii U: Deja Vu?

Journey with me now… back… through the mists of time…

The year is 2006.  After the successful purchase of a DS Lite, I’m well on my way to becoming a Nintendo fangirl – something of a surprise, since prior to the DS the last Nintendo product I’d owned was the original console.  The Wii seems like the console of The Future: more family/party oriented (not just for hardcore gamers), more innovative, more intuitive.  Cheaper. Backwards compatibility, Virtual Console.  I got one shortly after launch, though it wasn’t easy.

Now fast-forward to the future (Hey, is that a backward Super Mario theme I hear?).  My Wii is a very modern-looking bookend without the books.  I haven’t bought a new game for it since Wii Fit, which I haven’t played since my trainer and I had a falling-out.  I don’t think I’ve bought anything on Virtual Console (well, I do still have the original console, so I had trouble justifying a double purchase), though I do occasionally take advantage of the backward compatibility by popping in a Gamecube disc of old Sega Genesis Sonic games (pause for breath).

I’m not sure if it’s that the Wii is really not that interesting, or whether it’s just a symptom of a shift in my own gaming habits.  I don’t often go out and buy new games anymore, period, regardless of format.  If something is available on multiple consoles, I tend to go for 360 first.  If  I’m looking for something quick and easy, I go for the iPad.  And I don’t have as many parties at my house with bunches of friends, which, honestly, was how the Wii was mostly used in the first place.  Such is the life of a boring adult, I suppose.

So when I first heard that a new Wii console would be coming out in the next year or so, I barely cared at all.  I don’t use my old Wii; why would I want a new one?  But then Tuesday morning Twitter was abuzz with updates from the Nintendo presentation at E3.  I tuned in because I was interested in seeing the live orchestra performing the Zelda medley; I stayed for the rest.  And saw the presentation trailer for the new Wii console: Wii U.

Oooh.  Pretty.

There’s lots to be excited about with Wii U.  It doesn’t just seem like the next generation in Wii; it utilizes the screen technology to such an extent that it seems less like the next generation of Wii, and more like an entirely new console.  In fact, in practice I could see where it could have much more in common with the DS than with the original Wii; more about using two screens than pointing and waving the Wiimote.  Perhaps it should have been called DS for Wii to get the party emphasis across (see? I can do silly Wii puns too, Nintendo).

What’s in a Name?

Actually, the name of the new Wii console, as well as the trailer promoting it, tellingly downplays the “party” atmosphere.  Whereas the first Wii promotions were all about pulling in the entire family, from toddlers to grandparents, the “U” in Wii U is literally supposed to mean You, the Hardcore Gamer.

Non-gamer family members want to watch something on TV?  No problem! It’s an instant portable game – well, portable to the couch, anyway.  Whether you’re drawing, playing an RPG, drawing squiggly lines on a personalized character, it’s all at your fingertips.  Most of the concepts shown in the video feature only one or two people – a far cry from the party gimmicks that the Wii has become known for.  Now, will the actual games reflect this?  Hard to say – but it’s clear Nintendo wants this to be a contender for all gamers, not the “baby” console.

More Than Just a Console?

In recent years, Nintendo has often been compared to Apple in aesthetics, and that’s certainly not going to stop now.  Not only is the new controller very reminiscent of an iPad (well, mated with a Game Gear, maybe), the smaller “tabletop” game function is more similar to an App than a console game.  There’s also apparently an ability to video chat that visually will remind most of Facetime (or every scene of “the future” ever). In many ways the Wii U reminds me not specifically of Apple or any other brand, but just the direction we’re all taking with our electronics: appliances that have more than one specific function.  In a household that might have a TV/computer/media center, with a tablet that serves as a laptop/e-reader/hand-held game, it makes sense to have a video game console with as many configurations and possibilities as possible.

At the same time, the Wii U doesn’t truly pretend to be anything other than a box with which to play video games; it’s just that it promises many different ways to play video games.

Timey-Wimey?

The Nintendo E3 presentation more than piqued my interest; it’s given a strong case for why it should not be perceived as simply Wii 2.0, but rather something totally new and different from both its predecessor and every other console out at the moment.  It seems like it’s the console of The Future: more innovative, more intuitive.  Able to be enjoyed with friends, or alone.  And have I mentioned the backwards compatibility and…?

Whoa.  Just got a headrush from the deja-vu.  And that’s what’s still giving me pause, what will stop me from rushing out and buying it at launch.  Maybe it really is the console of The Future; maybe it’s another console that doesn’t quite fit me.  None of the games mentioned have made me particularly excited yet, though I am curious about the new Super Smash Bros. that was vaguely hinted at.

Thus, I wait.  Not just for the concept of a console that really gets me excited, but for game feedback that does as well.  After all, it’s a game I really like (Rock Band) that’s kept the Xbox 360 in relatively constant rotation over the years between flings with other games; otherwise I might have two dusty white, modern bookends.

I admit it, though: I’m rooting for both Nintendo and Wii U.

What about you?  Are you excited about Nintendo’s new console?  What else from E3 has got you amped up?

 

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