Stranded on Wii U: the games worth saving before the eShop shutdown

Stranded on Wii U: the games worth saving before the eShop shutdown

The Wii U’s online services are out of breath. On March 27, Nintendo is set to shut down the eShop for Wii U systems, removing the ability to purchase games and download demos, though your existing purchases will still be accessible…for now. That’s a real shame, because the Wii U is home to some high-end software, including boundary-pushing first-party titles that were never ported to Switch or rely heavily on the Wii U’s new controller.

So before it’s too late, we’re highlighting some of the most technically accomplished Wii U titles worth picking up before the shutdown – including some that are significantly cheaper digitally. In addition to some great first-party releases, there are some great games from smaller studios that are at least worth remembering for what they’ve done with the Wii U hardware.

The obvious starting point here are the two Zelda remasters for Wii U – Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD. They’re both essentially respun GameCube titles, modernizations that add new textures and effects but largely leave the original visual designs intact. Wind Waker HD is certainly the most successful of these efforts, with new textures, a revamped UI, gameplay tweaks, and reworked lighting with bloom, real-time shadow maps, and ambient occlusion. Even with the stock geometric meshes in place, the game holds up brilliantly at 1080p. There are also some issues – there can be noticeable aliasing in ambient occlusion and shadow maps, and the cartoonish styles of the original models are somewhat lost in indirect lighting, but it’s still a wonderful game.

While words can paint a picture, the video review gives a better impression of these Wii U games in action.

Twilight Princess HD is perhaps a little shy by comparison, with the main visual changes largely limited to texture resolution increases and a UI overhaul, but there are also tweaks to the background decor. , shadows and lighting. We’re back to 1080p here, with usable image quality, but the more realistic style of the visuals means the limitations of the stock geometry and lighting are more evident than in Wind Waker.

I’d still say that the two HD versions are the best ways to play these games right now – and the Wii U eShop is the best way to get them as they’re significantly cheaper on the eShop than they are. are in physical form. Twilight Princess HD is particularly expensive, reaching over $100 even for a used copy. Once the eShop closes, these games will become prohibitively expensive for many players.

For fans of 2D platformers, Yoshi’s Wooly World and Kirby: Rainbow Curse are two of the best genres on Wii U. Wooly World is an absolute pleasure to play, an effortless little platformer that’s fantastic to control. It presents a stylized woolen world from a fixed 2D perspective, and despite relatively basic visual techniques – solid blocks of yarn appear to be depicted using fairly basic textures, with fabric fringes manipulated at the help of alpha textures – the appearance of the game is really pleasing. Sure, Yoshi’s Crafted World in 2019 takes the concept to the next level, but Wooly World is worth experiencing on its own. Image quality here isn’t great, at 720p without AA, but the action is smooth at an almost locked-in 60fps. It’s one of my favorite Wii U titles and it’s also relatively cheap on the eShop. Technically, there is also a 3DS version of this game, but its severe graphical cuts make the Wii U version superior.

Yoshi’s Wooly World and Kirby: Rainbow Curse are two beautiful, colorful games with unique art styles.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a sequel to 2006’s Kirby: Canvas Curse on the DS, but with a much more compelling visual style as the entire game mimics the look of plasticine – with careful material work and intricate shading . The game’s animation has a kind of stop-motion style to it, which seems to have been achieved largely by swapping models in and out of common background animations. The title also takes full advantage of Wii U hardware, with pen-based gameplay taking place entirely on the Wii U GamePad itself. The game runs at 720p 60fps with some form of post-process anti-aliasing. Rainbow Curse is one of the best-looking Wii U exclusive titles, and it’s well worth picking up.

So far we’ve covered games in pairs, but Xenoblade Chronicles X is a massive open-world adventure that really wows on hardware. The sense of scale is stunning, with large enemies, trees, and shadows rendered even in the distance. In direct lighting conditions, the game generally looks excellent, and the towns impress with dense, high-quality artwork and plenty of civilian NPCs. Again, there are constraints here – smaller objects can spawn near the player, human characters can have oddly exaggerated proportions for their otherwise realistic faces, and the player party can walk through many in-game objects, including including NPCs. Still, for a 720p30 title with AA post-processing, it’s easily one of the best-looking Wii U titles in the open world.

While some of the games we’ve covered so far have appeared on other platforms, other titles simply wouldn’t work elsewhere thanks to their unique use of Wii U hardware – and some are true Wii exclusives. U eShop that will be impossible to acquire through legitimate means after March 27. (There are actually over 100 games that are both eShop and Wii U exclusive, though few are of particularly high quality.)

Xenoblade Crhonicles X is a surprisingly epic game for the Wii U, featuring a mix of wide open spaces and detailed city environments.

One of the most ambitious is Affordable Space Adventures, where you pilot a small spaceship through alien worlds, solving puzzles and overcoming various obstacles. The touchscreen interface allows players to manipulate spaceship systems in real time and also serves as the ship’s control panel, with readouts for fuel, heat, electricity, and system status. The GamePad integration here is truly impressive – it’s hard to imagine gaming without it. Still, it’s one of the few games that really took advantage of the Wii U’s unique functionality and achieved something special.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is another eShop-exclusive title that requires heavy use of the GamePad. Gameplay revolves around using the Wii U GamePad as a game camera directed using the controller’s gyroscope. The game has since been ported to other platforms, although it really seems designed specifically around GamePad usage. Some cross-platform titles also had effective GamePad integration – Batman: Arkham City and Deus Ex: Human Revolution both incorporate stylized GamePad implementations that offload menus and various mini-games to the touchscreen to good effect. These aren’t game-changing additions and the games are easily accessible elsewhere, but they do add an interesting element to the experience on Wii U.

Finally, a quick mention should be made of the Wii U games produced by Shin’en Multimedia, a very accomplished Nintendo-focused developer. Two of their Wii U efforts – Nano Assault Neo and Art of Balance – are readily available in similar form on other systems, although both impress here as well.

Fast Racing Neo is the key release here, a high-octane racer that features physics materials, ambient occlusion, and a new temporal oversampling technique that appears to build a 1280×720 image from a base 640×720 resolution. Apart from a handful of frame rate drops, it also packs a smooth 60fps, a must given the blistering running speeds. It’s one of the technically impressive Wii U titles ever released, despite only coming in at 829MB after installation. The caveat here is that while the game is technically a Wii U exclusive, an expanded version called Fast RMX has been released as a launch title for the Switch – featuring improved lighting, better weather effects, gameplay elements, and more. higher quality user interface and a good anchored 1080p / Portable 720p presentation with DRS. In terms of content, it includes all tracks from Neo and also adds six new courses. I tend to prefer the simpler handling of the Wii U version, but both games are worth experiencing.

Fast Racing Neo is technically a Wii U eShop exclusive – but the Switch title Fast RMX brings much of the same content next-gen.

So these are some of the most technically impressive Wii U titles – but how do you actually download them to a Wii U account? If you have a Switch and link your Nintendo Switch and Wii U accounts, you can add funds on Switch and access them on Wii U. These funds will still be accessible on Switch, so there should be no problem if you don’t spend what you add.

It’s just a shame that the eShop itself is essentially disabled. The launch of the Wii U was just over 10 years ago and the console looks quite modern, with built-in HDMI and new game streaming capabilities. There are a ton of games on the service worth buying online, especially with the prices of some titles rising rapidly in the secondary market. This is also a problem for the 3DS, which also closes its eShop on the 27th.

Wii U preservation in general has reached troubling markers in recent weeks, with a number of reports of consoles failing. For now, this appears to have been isolated from issues with the eMMC-based on-board system storage in early production units, though it’s hard to say for sure. Conservation is also hampered by the relatively low number of units sold for the system, as well as the fragility of a few key components like the GamePad. Keeping Wii U systems in top working order seems like a tougher prospect than other machines of the era, which is concerning as the systems begin to fade.

Although the Wii U didn’t exactly set the world on fire like its predecessor, it did provide an HD-capable platform for Nintendo’s development studios and outside partners to develop software. Even with a low-powered GPU and bizarrely weak CPU, the system was still far more capable than any previous Nintendo platform, and the visual achievement and complexity of first-party Wii U titles were often impressed. In some ways, it felt like a test run for the Switch, a system that arrived a few years too early to really make the concept work.

Today, roughly six years after the launch of the Switch, there are still a significant number of awesome games stuck on the aging Wii U. My advice would be to grab them while you still can, as the window of opportunity is closing fast.

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