At the time of writing, Nintendo’s latest console, the Nintendo Switch, has already begun to release worldwide. As a hybrid between a home and handheld system, it represents a bold new direction for Nintendo, particularly from a software creation standpoint. However, as is the norm with traditional games hardware, when one thing begins, another must come to an end – in this case, the ending in question is that of the era of the Wii U, Nintendo’s previous home console which, whilst playing host to a number of critically acclaimed titles, served to be a commercial failure that has caused the company to rethink many aspects of its approach in designing a follow-up.
Although the Wii U will always be remembered as the catalyst for a difficult period in Nintendo’s rich history, now is a fitting time to look back and celebrate some of the things it did do right, namely those that may easily have been overlooked or even forgotten amidst a mixture of reverence for much-loved games and harsh, often deserved criticisms of the attitudes and structure that made the system what it was.
A Social Approach to Starting up a Console
There are likely some who are unaware that the first screen you see when you turn on your Wii U has a name; the “Warawara” of the WaraWara Plaza is taken from the Japanese onomatopoeia for ‘bustling’, or the general sounds of chatter in a crowded place. This is an appropriate title for the console’s ‘hub’, a social open space filled with crowds of players, represented by their Mii characters and sharing their thoughts, progress and artistic tributes to the games they’re playing with the world. This is linked closely with the Miiverse, the console’s own social network, but rather than navigate an application or focus on ‘posts’, the WaraWara Plaza offers a more natural, convivial way of sharing the activity of gaming with other people – it sets out to create conversation and give using the system a communal feel in an original manner.
In terms of structure, the WaraWara Plaza could potentially be seen as an extension of the setup established by the 3DS’s StreetPass Mii Plaza, serving as a place to gather players and their shared experiences, with some not-so-subtle marketing for the latest titles taking place on the side. Perhaps it’s how drastic a change it presents from the Wii’s largely isolated online system that makes it noteworthy. It’s safe to say that there’s room for further exploration when it comes to the WaraWara Plaza’s concept for a social system – potential that will more than likely go untapped, but should be appreciated regardless.
A UI with Unnecessary but Exemplary Sound Design
If you asked me to name a piece of music that comes to mind when thinking of the Wii U, it would have to be the track linked above. With the likes of Super Mario 3D World, The Wonderful 101 and Mario Kart 8 on the platform, this may seem like a bizarre pick. The music, produced by an unknown, presumably in-house composer, plays when viewing the system’s ‘Download Management’ screen – it also served as the background music for the killer day one update that left many waiting hours before even being able to do anything with their new machine. Continue reading