So here’s what did not quite make my cut for Games of the Year, but still seemed decent enough that I thought you all should know about them. Here’s ten. They get smaller graphics than my top four. ZombiU (Wii U) This is the Wii U’s killer app. It is intense and detailed, without falling into the gimmicky tech trap that most of the Wii launch games suffered. Outwitters (iOS) It’s no Hero Academy, but I still continue to make time for it. It’s built for the larger screen of the iPad, where it looks Retina-fantastic, but the lack of a move-undo hurts it. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (3DS) They have never made a bad Professor Layton game. Never. Pokemon Conquest (DS) It is such a shame that this DS release looks like such ass, because the notion of Pokemon done up in shades of Advance Wars/Fire Emblem/Hero Academy is damn powerful. I hope they do a 3DS sequel that looks less like shit. LittleBigPlanet Vita (Vita) This was the first time I played a Vita game and thought I was genuinely looking at a PS3 title. It looks that good. Sleeping Dogs (PS3) Grand Theft Auto in Hong Kong. Very well done, except that the Arkham-lite combat sucks. PlayStation All-Stars (PS3) Although it has been burned by finger-pointing gamers (ITZ JUST SMASH BROTHERS) and by Sony’s abandoned winter promotion, I can’t not have fun with this one. Sony is one of the few non-Nintendo houses that could pull this off, and they did. Retro City Rampage (PS3, Vita) I usually hate retro de-makes, and ’80s culture gags make me cringe, but this is just a super-fun teeny-tiny Grand Theft Auto. The Unfinished Swan (PSN) Although the game seems a bit unfinished (short, and constantly changing gimmicks), what sealed it in my memory is when you head into the final portion and have to play through the initial credit roll. Beautiful. Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii) Another one that is just plain silly fun. This would be my first pick for a Wii U eShop line of $10 downloadable remastered Wii games. Extravagantly overlooked.
So I’m digging ZombiU, and Nintendo Land is reliable, but I’m already itching for something else on my Wii U. I spend a lot of time scrolling through the Community posts, which are usually packed with hilarious drawings. That Miiverse/Pictochat thing is going to be massive for helping the Wii U stand out. I realized today that I would totally already have Batman Arkham City Armored Edition IF it was, you know, a smidge cheaper, and if it had Achievements/Trophies. As much as I love that game, and as much I want to see the new GamePad tools, I just don’t know that I can spend $60 for it when people won’t even know that I’ve played it. I could have had it cheaper. Toys R Us ran a Wii U sale the other week. Now, my TRU did not have ZombiU in stock at the time or maybe I would have bundled that with Batman. But you subtract out ZombiU and Nintendo Land and there just is nothing else for me right now. Especially, again, knowing that there’s no Achievements and no building-a-sharable-comparable-stat-library functionality. Yet. Maybe they’ll add it later. I hate side-scrolling stupid-hard Mario games, so don’t even. I suppose it’s too early to expect Nintendo to have the kind of interesting weekly digital offerings for Wii U that they have for 3DS (sort of) and that Sony has for PS3/Vita. Nintendo kicked off their bizarre Deluxe Digital Promotion this week, where you earn store credit by buying&downloading at the eShop. But you can’t start claiming that benefit until the day after you buy something (I assume Nintendo gives you retro-credit on what you just bought, right?) and then you can officially start earning the cashback. Which is weird. LEGO City Undercover, Pikmin 3 and Game & Wario need to hurry the hell up. Now those are exclusives I can get behind regardless of Achievements.
So are we taking the relatively available Wii U as a sign of Nintendo meeting demand (so as not to replicate the we-left-money-on-the-table problem during the Wii’s 2006 launch) or Nintendo overestimating demand? I was on GameStop’s Wii U wait list. The thing is, I’ve already played the Wii U at three different events over the past two years, so I really did not feel the technolust that meant I had to have it on day one. Like, when the original Wii launched, it was such a disruptive device that you just had to see what the hell Nintendo was thinking. This one, I’ve already played it, and I already get it: there’s a tablet in the controller. But even though I was prepared to wait it out, GameStop called on Tuesday and I was in. The wait list thing really was perfect for me. I was not in line, I was not especially devoted to putting money down for a preorder (I missed the preorder supplies anyway), and the wait list assured me that I would get one. What I didn’t want was another 2006-2007, with the Wii U being impossible to get and stores everywhere selling out of them within hours of the truck unloading. I sat out for a black Deluxe model, of course. The white set is for chumps. Nintendo Land. It is so far away NOT this generations bullshit Wii Play (you all can stop making excuses for that one now). Yeah, it’s 2012 and we’re still making minigame collections, but there’s some great both-feet-forwards from Nintendo here that make this a lasting title. There will be a Nintendo Land 2 next year, want to bet? (Kirby! Pokemon! Wario!) I can’t really identify a stinker in the bunch (except for maybe that the Ghost player simply cannot be beat in Luigi’s Ghost Mansion), which is saying something for a mini game collection. Sure, the really good ones are quite obviously REALLY good, but the lesser games are still worth the effort to unlock all the modes and take a stab at the Mii Stamps. Is that what we’re doing with Achievements, Nintendo? Mii Stamps? You seem to like that idea. You’ve got about a year to figure out how to collect those and make them a public-facing, sharable thing, ok? The Wii U interface is slick, although switching between apps is sort of slow. They’re inventing their own UI with the left-side layouts to the eShop and Miiverse, which is nice. The big standout feature is seeing comments and drawings from other users! Is there some poor team of Nintendo saps that have to approve all the comments that go public? There must be, since a lot of the drawings are just too good, and I have yet to see a penis. You can “yeah” a comment/drawing, which is Nintendo’s version of Facebook’s Like. And yes, this means there is also an “unyeah” button, which is pretty funny. One big drag so far has been the notification system for the video chat app, which apparently is incapable of interrupting your gaming to tell you that someone is calling. That certainly needs a fix. But being able to see when Wii U friends are online, and even, gasp, send them messages, is just such a blast of fresh air. The Wii was a lonely, closeted device. Nintendo’s efforts to make it seem social were ham-fisted one-offs designed mainly to add bullet points (sure, yeah, we have voice chat!) Like, I already have the feeling that other people are actually playing the Wii U, thanks to the user comments and the bizarre main menu screen that shows which games are currently popular (and unpopular, in the case of Ninja Gaiden Razor’s Edge and Batman Arkham City.) My Nintendo Network ID is fourhman, so friend up. We can only hope that there’s a major 3DS patch coming that incorporates the NNID system and matches everything up just like Sony has with the PS3 and Vita. Although given that the 3DS has become a massive success story (what a surprise! Nintendo runs away with ANOTHER handheld generation!), the only pressure to rework the 3DS comes from whenever Nintendo execs look over at iPhone/iPad numbers.