The Wii U’s Best Feature Isn’t Coming To The Nintendo Switch – Forbes
I was always a fan of the Wii U and its excellent first-party games.
Even though I know that Nintendo bungled many things about that system – not the least of which was its terrible name – I never really understood why more people, and especially more families, didn’t buy the console.
After all, it had great games. Maybe not right away, but over time the Wii U ended up boasting some of the best games of the past few years. These ranged from Mario Kart 8 (which is easily one of my top five games of the past 5 years) to Super Smash Bros. 4 to Wonderful 101 and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze just to name a few. Sure, there wasn’t a ton of third-party support, but the system was still the first Nintendo console to bring us HD Nintendo games. There was no original Zelda (well, not until this March anyways) but there were HD remakes of both Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, and both were excellent (though Wind Waker felt most at home on the Wii U.)
In other words, the system had games. It was under-powered but those games looked great.
But even beyond the games, the Wii U offered up something that was really novel but woefully, tragically underutilized: The touchscreen gamepad.
This second screen opened up a universe of gameplay possibilities, but only ended up being used at a bare minimum by both Nintendo and other developers. Sometimes it was used poorly – the awkward controls of Star Fox Zero for instance – and sometimes it was brilliant, like Wind Waker’s inventory system. There are still games I wish had been ported to the Wii U because that second screen would have been so incredibly helpful.
I always wanted a Dark Souls port, because it would be amazing to manage inventory and equip/unequip items via the second screen. In that game, you can’t ever pause, and have to load up the inventory menu while your character remains vulnerable to attack. Having a second screen with touch capabilities would have been a natural fit for Dark Souls (and was used, to similar effect, for the entertaining ZombiU game from Ubisoft.)
One reason the gamepad probably never caught on was its clunky design and too-small screen. The gamepad itself is too bulky and has lousy battery life and the screen feels weirdly small in such an awkward housing.
If I had to change anything about the Wii U (other than its name, which I’d change to Super Wii) it’d be the horsepower and the clunky design of the gamepad tablet.
With just a little more oomph in its processing power, and a slicker, sleeker gamepad, the Wii U could have been a really great system – so long as games were released that actually took advantage of a second screen. Even a bunch of cheap mini-games that used the gamepad as a primary screen could have been fun. Tag on an “on the go” mode (similar to the Switch) and you’d have had a perfect little Nintendo console.
In other words, the central gimmick of the Wii U (second-screen) + the central gimmick of the upcoming Nintendo Switch (portable hybrid) would have been a terrific combination.
All of which is to say that I really, really wish Nintendo’s new console had second-screen capabilities. The big draw of the Switch is that it can be played docked (TV) or in handheld and tabletop modes (portable, not on a TV.)
All that’s missing is second-screen. It would be awesome if you could dock the Switch wirelessly rather than just via the Switch Dock, allowing you to play on the TV while holding the tablet as a controller. That would leave the tablet open for inventory management in games like Skyrim or Dark Souls or Zelda. It would allow Nintendo to make cool party games and mini-games that took advantage of asymmetric gaming, and it would mean that the Switch had four different modes to play.
I’ve critiqued Nintendo in the past for relying too heavily on this type of gimmick. In the Wii U’s case it was the second screen. Before that, the Wii relied on motion controls. The Switch relies on hybrid portability and dockability. But in this case, I think Nintendo probably should have incorporated the two (it does make use of motion controls still). If you’re going to go with a gimmicky system in the first place, rather than trying to compete toe-to-toe against Sony and Microsoft purely in terms of horsepower, than you might as well go all the way. Having dual-screen gaming strikes me as a no-brainer with a system like the Switch. It’s a shame it isn’t an option.
You can also follow these posts via my email newsletter!