I’ve finally gone back to ploughing through the last of my Wii U games (although confusingly for anyone who’s just joined us, most of them are actually Wii games or Virtual Console purchases). Anyhoo, my noble task just got a bit more urgent, as I’ve ‘accidentally’ bought a Nintendo Switch. I went into town to trade in some old PS4 games, and I saw the Switch sat there on the shop shelf, and I thought: “Dammit, I’m just going to buy it.”
And yes, I am impulsive.
So yeah, I now have a Switch! But I also need some space under the telly – not to mention a spare plug socket – which means the Wii U will have to go sooner rather than later. So I’ve spent the couple of weeks or so whizzing through the games left on my Wii U backlog – here are my thoughts on the stragglers.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
I gave up on Skyward Sword. That news might be shocking to some, but I just did not get on with it AT ALL.
It starts off amusingly enough, with a great little scene where you smash up pots – as per usual in a Zelda game – only this time one of the other characters tells you off. After decades of Link entering people’s houses and gleefully smashing up their property while they impassively gaze ahead, finally someone has called him out. Good gag, Nintendo, good gag.
But it’s all downhill from there. The tutorial is excruciatingly slow and boring, and it was literally hours before I was let off the leash to actually do some proper adventuring. But worse than that are the motion controls, which are a form of exquisite torture. I remember actually exclaiming “ARGH, this is awful” as I attempted to control my flying bird by wobbling the remote around in the palm of my hand. And trying to get Link to charge his sword by thrusting it into the air is frankly comical. The motion controls make a slightly dull game simply infuriating.
Oh, and don’t get me started on Fi, your robot-like, sword-based companion. Who the hell thought she was a good idea? The moment I turned off the game for good was when I finally got to the Great Deku Tree, which totally filled the screen ahead. “Finally I’m getting somewhere,” I thought. Then Fi piped up with: “My sensors detect there is a large tree ahead”, or something equally stupid and obvious, and I decided then and there that there was no way I could put up with another 30-odd hours of this. Done.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Silent Hill at least shows Zelda how motion controls SHOULD be done. Their integration is very clever and intuitive, with the remote controlling your flashlight on screen, and lots of puzzles that involve various methods of grasping, poking and pulling. I also really liked the way you hold the Wiimote to your ear to answer in-game phone calls. The conceit is that your daughter is calling you from the ‘other side’, and hearing her crackly voice emanate from the remote’s speaker is genuinely unsettling.
I enjoyed what I played of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, but in the end I didn’t see it through to the finale – partly because it looks very dated now, and partly because this is a remake of the first game, so I felt like I’d seen most it all before, even if Shattered Memories shakes things up in interesting ways. Apparently it has a very good twist ending based on your answers to a psychiatrist’s questions at the very start – but I don’t have the stamina and patience to get that far.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
Someone pointed out to me a while back that Tokyo Mirage Sessions takes the initials of Shin Megami Tensei and uses them backwards. I love that factoid.
If you’ve never heard of TMS, it’s a Wii U exclusive crossover between Atlus’s Shin Megami Tensei games and Intelligent System’s Fire Emblem characters – although it’s much more like the former than the latter. The FE characters appear in heavily modified form as personas that you can summon, but the game itself is based around pop idols and turn-based battles. The battles are pretty clever, too – I like the way you can create combos between characters by matching certain moves, and there’s quite a bit of strategy involved.
That said, the game didn’t really grab me, and I baulked at the thought of playing it for 60 hours or however long it takes to complete. It’s nice enough, but not essential.
EarthBound and EarthBound Beginnings
OK, here’s a big admission – I don’t like EarthBound very much. Map Schwartzberg (aka Matt) has probably dropped to the ground clutching his chest after reading that.
The thing is, I never played the original game, because it wasn’t released in Europe, so my first taste of it was as an adult when it was finally released on the Virtual Console. And playing it as an adult doesn’t have quite the same effect that I’d imagine playing it as a young kid would have. It reminded me of reading The Catcher in the Rye when I was in my 20s and thinking, “That was OK… but it would have rocked my world if I was 15.”
Same thing here. The idea of going off on an urban adventure as a child is endearing, and I loved the way you have to call your mum to save the game. But a lot of the humour isn’t as surprising or, well, funny as it would have been 25-odd years ago to an adolescent me. And the battles are very simplistic, and frankly dull. The ideas in this game would have blown my mind in the 1990s, but they’ve been copied so much since then that it doesn’t have the same impact it once would have had.
Basically, I’m saying I missed the boat on this one a couple of decades ago, and now that I’m finally on the boat, it’s full of holes and the captain is dead.
I also bought the prequel – EarthBound Beginnings – a while back in a moment of impulse (see above), but to be honest I haven’t even played it. If I didn’t enjoy EarthBound, I doubt I’d enjoy an older, less good version of it.
Soul Axiom shares a lot of DNA with the later game State of Mind – both feature protagonists trapped in a low-poly world after their personalities have been uploaded into computer system. Unfortunately both are a little, well, boring. The plot of Soul Axiom is intriguing, but the puzzles are mostly pretty dull. Shame.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
I love the Fire Emblem series, and I was keen to sample this Nintendo DS remake of the first game, available now through Nintendo’s Virtual Console. But after a couple of hours’ play, I keenly felt the lack of the series’ later innovations, such as fully developed character interactions. By the standards of the modern games, this feels bare bones. It’s playable enough, but nowhere near as exciting as, say, Fire Emblem Awakening.
Metroid: Other M
This much lamented game is a weird semi-3D version of Metroid, with action viewed from side on but with the ability to switch to a first-person view to scan the environment. It works surprisingly well – you hold the Wii remote sideways and use the D-pad to move, but if you turn it to face the TV, the game automatically switches to the view from inside Samus’s helmet, allowing you to aim missiles and search for hidden upgrades and routes.
You can tell it’s made by Team Ninja, the folks behind Ninja Gaiden, as there’s a much greater emphasis on fast-paced combat than in any of the other Metroid games. Moving at the last possible moment enables a dodge to avoid enemy attacks, and if you press A at the same time, you can immediately gain full power on your charge beam. There are loads of other flashy moves as well, like jumping on an enemy’s head and discharging a high-powered shot into their cranium, plus finishing moves and all sorts of other chunky combat abilities. It’s a different direction, and I quite like it.
What I didn’t like, however, was the characterisation of Samus in this game. She’s fully voiced here, and ends up collaborating with a group of Galactic Federation soldiers headed by Adam, her old superior when she was in the army. And she has a weird, uncomfortable relationship with Adam, viewing him as a sort of father figure, despite him constantly talking down to her and even sexually discriminating against her. It’s the very definition of an abusive relationship. Samus even agrees to not use her full arsenal of weapons until the deployment of each one is ‘authorised’ by Adam. This is not the kick-ass, lone bounty hunter I know – if I was Samus, I would have immediately told Adam exactly where he could stick his authorisations.
Despite this, I actually quite enjoyed Metroid: Other M, but I eventually gave up on it for two reasons. First, the tiny Wiimote D-pad is very uncomfortable to use in such a fast-paced game, and it really began to hurt my thumb after a while. Plus, although clever, the constant switching between 2D and 3D by turning the remote gets tiresome, and I couldn’t help but feel that the game would have been much better played on a ‘proper’ controller with a button to flip between viewpoints. And second, the combat is just too damn hard. I gave up around a quarter of a way in, when I’d just ran through a health-draining lava room only to face a chamber full of hard-as-nails cyborg space pirates while already low on energy. After several attempts to defeat them, not helped by that tiny D-pad, I was ready to throw that damn remote at the wall. That controller was a fun idea at the time, but it’s utterly bobbins for playing fast-paced action games.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap/Spirit Tracks/Wind Waker HD
I’ll be honest with you, I’m all Zelda’d out right now. I began the Year of Zelda with enthusiasm in 2017, with the intention of playing through all the games I’ve missed over the years, but I quickly ran out of steam. The thing is, they’re mostly the same, aren’t they?
I started Minish Cap, a beloved entry in the series, and it was fine, and charming enough. But I was just overcome with ennui while playing, thinking I just can’t face playing through yet another Zelda game. Reader, I have Zelda fatigue. I think I need to just step away from the series for a while, so that I can come back to it refreshed and enthusiastic for the next entry. And with that thought in mind, I didn’t even bother loading up Spirit Tracks, which I know is one of the weaker entries, anyway. Likewise, I didn’t try Wind Waker HD – I got this as a free download in some Nintendo promotion, but I’ve already played through it on the GameCube, and I didn’t feel the need to retread old ground.
Zelda games, I love you, but we just need some time apart. It’s not you, it’s me, I need some space right now. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, you know?
And I had that thought in mind as I queued up to buy my new Switch. I initially approached the counter with Breath of the Wild in hand, but as I was staring at the cover I was overwhelmed with Zelda fatigue. I know BOTW is a great game, but I need a break from Link before I dive into it. I put it back on the shelf and picked up Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle instead. Mario in the style of XCOM? Now there’s something genuinely new and exciting.
And that’s that. I had some amazing times with my Wii U, which was one of my most played consoles for a long time – and I fondly remember opening it up on release day, and scaring the bejesus out of myself by playing ZombiU. We had some fun times old girl. I hope that you can make someone else as happy as you made me.
Bye bye Wii U. You’re in a bag, now.
Check out the rest of the series: