Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Post-Mortem: My 20 Favorite Wii U Games, Part 1 (#20 - #11)

Ah, Wii U. Nintendo's biggest commercial flop since the ill-fated Virtual Boy just so happens to have become a console that's near and dear to my heart. Those two facts are probaby not unrelated, either, as I've been getting less and less enamored with the typical AAA gaming output of these days (which the Wii U severely lacks) and more and more fond of those lovely, excellently-designed indie titles (which the Wii U has in spades). Add Nintendo's first-party output, which is what made me a fan of the company in the first place, and you have a library that's actually pretty great.

Here are the twenty main reasons why I think so. (I mean, ten. This is only part one, after all.)

EDIT: Click here for part two.

20) Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Developer: Nintendo, 1-Up
Publisher: Nintendo

In a list of Most Adorable Wii U titles, this would likely make it all the way to #1 (although Kirby and the Rainbow Curse would give it a run for its money). Treasure Tracker takes a formula first seen in bonus Super Mario 3D World levels and expands it exponentially, creating small diorama-like puzzle levels that are an absolute joy to pick apart.

The best thing about it: The level design for the small, self-contained stages is just unreal.

The worst thing about it: Way too few boss battles that are just repeated over and over.


19) Bayonetta 2
Developer: Platinum
Publisher: Nintendo

The action in Bayoneta 2 is as pristinely designed as it is stylish, making for a fast-paced, supremely pleasant romp. The fact that this is a Wii U exclusive allowed Platinum Games to really optimize the game, meaning it runs flawlessly in a technical level (quite important if you're trying to chain intricate combo sequences).

The best thing about it: The extremely well-implemented combo system.

The worst thing about it: It lacks a reliable way to keep track of collectibles for backtracking purposes. Getting 100% is gonna be annoying.


18) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
Developer: Tantalus, Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Twilight Princess isn't exactly the most groundbreaking Zelda game out there. In fact, it's perfectly content to just try and elaborate on what came before. If that can be somewhat disappointing, on the other hand it results in an extremely tight iteration on the series' legendarily appealing conventions, with some of the best-designed dungeons the franchise has ever seen.

The best thing about it: The dungeons!

The worst thing about it: Its lack of ambition in propelling the series forward.


17) Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft

Ubisoft's stealth-based open world series has its fair share of criticism thrown at it, but Black Flag represents Assassin's Creed at its absolute peak. The Caribbean setting and the pirate theme are the main reason for that, steering the gameplay towards exploration and naval combat, and allowing the player to sail the open seas in search of big prizes.

The best thing about it: The extremely alluring Caribbean open world, although naval battles are a close second.

The worst thing about it: It's Assassin's Creed, so it obviously has stealth-based tailing missions.


16) Mario Kart 8
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Yes, Battle Mode is a joke, and that was fixed on the Switch-only Deluxe version. But as far as running through wacky circuits with incredibly tight controls go, you just don't get much better than Mario Kart 8. The game's longevity is even further increased by plenty of unlockables and one of the best sets of downloadable content Nintendo has ever released.

The best thing about it: Perfect game to sit down with a few friends and have a night of unbridled gaming joy.

The worst thing about it: The battle-mode is just recycled racing tracks. It sucks.


15) Child of Light
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft

In this 2D platforming RPG, you control a royal Austrian girl in a dreamy journey through the afterlife. The game is bursting with artistic sensibilities, from the watercolor-like graphics to the rhyming structure of the dialogue, while the turn-based combat is kept interesting by a healthy dose of real-time mechanics. Add all of that together and we have one of the best games Ubisoft has released in its recent history.

The best thing about it: The beautiful, explorable watercolored game world.

The worst thing about it: The rhyming dialogue gets pretty forced at times.


14) Xenoblade Chronicles X
Developer: Monolith Soft, Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

If there's one word to describe Xenoblade X, that word is ambition. Boasting the most massive open world I've ever seen in any game, the game puts you in the shoes of a survivor of Earth's demise, who is part of an effort that is humanity's last hope: colonizing the planet Mira. Over several vast continents, you'll come across magnificent beasts and vistas, accompanied by a complicated but challenging system of gameplay mechanics. And yeah, at some point you get to fly around in mechs, and that is as incredible as it sounds.

The best thing about it: Flying around an enormous open world in giant mech suits. I mean, duh.

The worst thing about it: The game takes the micromanaging of character stats to a whole new level of obnoxiousness.


13) Don't Starve: Giant Edition
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Klei Entertainment

Surviving is hard, even if modern life may make it seem otherwise at times. But don't worry: Don't Starve will remind you of that. Here, you're a gentleman scientist thrown into a mysterious word, all alone, and tasked with slowly making life less hard for yourself. The loop of foraging, fighting wild beasts / creepy monsters, gathering resources, and inventing new contraptions makes building your own one-man fortress one of the most addictive experiences I've had in recent gaming memory.

The best thing about it: There's just something about exploring a creepy cartoonish world to collect materials. The allure of thriving from humble beginnings is a strong force.

The worst thing about it: It sorely lacks a more laid-back gameplay mode. Dedicating hours to a save file only to see it wiped due to permadeath is not a lot of fun.


12) Super Mario 3D World
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

In general, I like my 3D platformers to be open-ended instead of level-based affairs. For that reason, I approached Super Mario 3D World cautiously. It took me literal minutes, however, to fall in love with this gem of a game (which, due to its excellent 4-people multiplayer support, I still play to this day). Pristine technical performance, along with the series' trademark charm and level design perfection, make this game a complete must-have for anyone with even a passing interest in the genre.

The best thing about it: The pure Nintendo magic of the level design.

The worst thing about it: Level-based linearity in 3D Mario games is a tough sell ever since the open-ended perfection that is Mario 64.


11) Guacamelee!: Super Turbo Championship Edition
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Publisher: Drinkbox Studios

A colorful metroidvania platformer with beat-em-up elements, Guacamelee is a story of redemption for an undead luchador in a Día de los Muertos-inspired setting. As a very challenging title that keeps throwing exciting secrets at the player until the very end, it's proof that funny writing and top notch exploration-based gameplay can happily coexist.

The best thing about it: The explorable 2D open world is extremely interesting, and its Mexican theme is super fresh.

The worst thing about it: El Infierno had so much potential. It's a shame it's nothing more than minigames.

(To be continued.)

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