Monday, January 27, 2014

Nintendo Should Revive the Gamecube Controller with Smash Bros Wii U

Super Smash Bros Wii U and Mario Kart 8 are the two premier titles Nintendo is set to launch on the Wii U later this year. In case you haven't heard, the Wii U isn't exactly selling all that well. Nintendo was forced to cut their sales estimates by more than 6 million for the system.

Many have written articles with recommendations for "saving Nintendo" and "turning around the Wii U," but I'd like to take a moment to pose another idea. No, this won't save Nintendo or reverse the fortunes of the Wii U. It would, however, serve as a small gesture of goodwill to long-time Nintendo fans who've supported the company through difficult times: the should release a collector's edition of Super Smash Bros Wii U and bundle it with a redesigned, Gamecube-esque pro controller.

Collector's editions are somewhat rare, although not totally uncommon, for Nintendo. Most recently, we've seen special editions with Zelda titles. They went all-out on Skyward Sword for the Wii, releasing a special edition bundle including the game, 25th anniversary soundtrack (also with the standard version), and a Zelda-themed Wii Remote Plus.

For Wind Waker HD, they packaged the game with a custom Ganondorf figurine.

They also bundled a standard Wii controller with Wii Play and released the Metroid Prime Collection with a steel case and an art book. So it wouldn't be totally outside the realm of possibility for it to happen with Smash, yet it would be a first for the Smash series.

Perhaps I'm just being selfish regarding the controller choice, considering the Gamecube controller is probably my favorite of all-time. Additionally, I've only known Smash with a Cube controller. Of course I played the N64 original, but Super Smash Bros Melee is when the series really took off. The game worked to perfection with the controller, feeling as if every detail had been designed with the controller in mind. Nintendo must have agreed as they elected to enable a number of controller options for the next iteration: Super Smash Bros Brawl.

Unfortunately, the Wii U dropped the Gamecube compatibility of its predecessor and thus, the Gamecube controller ports. Therefore, Nintendo would have to create a complete new controller design to work wirelessly with the Wii U. To be honest, it saddens me that Nintendo went away from the Cube controller design in the first place. With a few tweaks to the triggers and the d-pad, they would have found a classic design with staying power, similar to what we've seen with Sony and Microsoft's controller. Instead, they chose a new design with their Wii Classic Controller and now the Wii U Pro Controller, and in the case of the latter, a design strikingly similar to that of their competitors.

In terms of design, I would use the same body as the Wavebird controller. The coloring would be all black with a subtle Smash Bros Wii U logo at the bottom center. I would also make the d-pad slightly larger, re-design the top z-button and add another to the left, and tweak the triggers ever so slightly to give them less travel distance and slightly more responsiveness when you press them down, but leaving that satisfying "click" at the end. Of course the center would need to be redesigned with a plus/minus button and also the home button. This would be me my ideal design, but there's now way I'd complain even if they just released the exact same controller. 

Let's be clear, the Wii U Gamepad and the Wii U Pro controller will be fine options for Super Smash Bros Wii U, but I'm not sure it will feel perfect on either of those. There are also attachments sold online (like the one here) that allow players to use the Gamecube controller on the Wii U, essentially turning it into a Wii Classic Controller - but not a Wii U Pro Controller. And the difference is significant being that some games do not support the old Wii Classic Controller as an option (ex. Mario 3D World does, Wind Waker HD does not). Given their history of supporting every input imaginable, one would think that Smash Bros Wii U will support the classic, but there's no way to be certain. So even if Nintendo doesn't make an updated Cube controller as I'm hoping, it's still possible the die-hard Smash fans will still be able to use our old Cube controllers. 

A move like this certainly isn't going to reverse Nintendo's fortunes with the Wii U, but I do think it would go a long way toward enticing fans of the Gamecube classic to return and play the latest edition of Nintendo's brawler...just how they remember it. Oh and if they really wanted to send the fans into a frenzy, they could finally announce the launch of a Gamecube Virtual Console to coincide with the controller's release.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2013 Game of the Year

2013 Game of the Year Awards

Although 2013 saw the release of two powerful new consoles in the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, the majority of my favorite games of the year came on the hardware we've grown familiar with over the past generation. 

I've compiled my top 10 games of the year and have listed them below, starting with my 10th favorite game and working up to number 1. There's also a brief explanation for each title. If you've missed any on this list, I highly encourage you to give these a shot.

10. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (Wii U)

Loved the original, but didn't remember it being this good. The art style and cel shading is unmatched even to this day.

9. Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

While I didn't find 3D World to be as revolutionary as Mario 64 or Mario Galaxy, it's still an excellent entry to Nintendo's historic franchise.

8. Rayman Legends (PS Vita)

Just pure fun. Gorgeous art, near-perfect controls, and fantastic music. I could have done without the Murphy levels.

7. Guacamelee (PS Vita)

Drinkbox Studios nailed it yet again. Guacamelee was one of the games from 2013 to provide a significant challenge, requiring a familiarity with each of the game's many mechanics.

6. Grand Theft Auto V (PS3)

GTA didn't really reinvent the wheel (pardon the terrible pun), but Rockstar didn't need to. GTA V is pure fun from start to finish. There's a ton to see and do, but the story left me wanting more. The heist missions were great. In fact, I wish there had been more of them.

5. Tearaway (PS Vita)

Wow...not sure I've ever played a game more charming. I smiled more during my playthrough of Tearaway than probably any other game on this list. The art style and graphics are truly unmatched. Love how they used the Vita in so many different ways that never felt forced or inconvenient.

4. Bioshock Infinite (PS3)

The story ended up a in strange place that I didn't expect...but I could not stop playing Infinite. There was a constant urge to see what twist awaited behind the next corner. I found the gameplay somewhat repetitive at times, but never bad. The plot was enough to keep me going and, oh what a story it told.

3. Tomb Raider (PS3)

No doubt that Crystal Dynamics borrowed a number of mechanics from other recent high-profile titles, but Tomb Raider stands as on its own as an amazing title that breathes new life into an age-old franchise. They did a fantastic job making me care about Lara again.

2. Resogun (PS4)

This one took me by surprise and I certainly never expected it to be Game of the Year material. Gorgeous and addicting, I'll likely be playing Resogun throughout the PS4's life cycle.

1. The Last of Us (PS3)

Naughty Dog's latest masterpiece took everything I love about gaming and brought it together in a single, cohesive package. Jaw-dropping graphics, sublime acting, incredible story, fully immersive atmosphere, top-notch stealth gameplay (despite what some may tell you)...The Last of Us has it all. I knew immediately after finishing that I had experienced something very special. At the end of the day, there's really no higher recommendation I can give than to say that every adult who considers him/herself a gamer should play this game. It's uncomfortable and even hard to play at times. You'll laugh. You'll smile. You may even shed a tear. One thing, however, is certain: you will never forget playing The Last of Us.

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