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Wii U in 2014: The Exclusives
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Wii U in 2014: The Exclusives


With the holiday cheer and rush of record-breaking console launches behind us, it’s time to look forward to the year ahead and what the video game industry has in store for its enthusiasts in 2014.

In this six part feature series, we will take a look at the platform holders, their consoles and the exclusive games expected to arrive on each. We also go in-depth and take a look at each first-party development studio and third-party partner to discern what they’re working on.

Today we turn our attention to Nintendo and the Wii U. To describe 2013 as a 12-month bumpy ride for Nintendo would be putting it delicately. The Wii U has suffered severely worldwide because of its lack of compelling software for the system. However, if there’s one rule in the video game industry, it’s ‘never under-estimate Nintendo’. Let’s take a look at why 2014 marks the year The House of Mario comes back from the brink…

Can Nintendo’s first-party software bolster hardware demand?

Much like the Wii U right now, Nintendo has survived hardware troubles before. Many years ago, before the reign of Wii and before the casual crowd dominated a major portion of the video game market, Nintendo struggled through two hardware generations with consoles that performed incredibly poorly in comparison with their competition. The Nintendo 64 and Nintendo GameCube were those two consoles.

After the commercial phenomenon that was the Nintendo Wii, it was always going to be a hard ask for Nintendo to hit gold a second time with the Wii U. While they entered into the market one year ahead of the competition, they did so with few compelling titles and an online infrastructure that paled in comparison with the standard set by the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 six years beforehand. Exclusive titles such as ZombiU, The Wonderful 101 and The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker HD have not ignited hardware sales for the chugging console. Even Super Mario 3D World, a game that has featured in many 2013 Game of The Year debates, didn’t create a big enough splash last holiday to make the Wii U an attractive purchase against the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

However, much like many people wrote off the 3DS during its early days, all it takes is a couple of standout titles to put a spring back in Nintendo’s step and it all starts with a fan favourite this February.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze swings in this February

Heralded as one of the most challenging platformers still around, Donkey Kong Country has enjoyed its latest revival on both Wii and 3DS in the form of Donkey Kong Country Returns and the fun looks to continue on Wii U with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.

The next entry in the critically-lauded series is once again being developed by Retro Studios with the help of Monster Games, the development team that ported Donkey Kong Country Returns to 3DS. This next iteration marks the return of Dixie Kong, a much-beloved character that hasn’t appeared as a playable character in the series since 1996. Also, sporting his handy walking stick that doubles as a pogo stick, is Cranky Kong, who is being introduced to the roster for the first time in the franchise’s history.

If Tropical Freeze can hit the same quality level as its predecessors, it stands a very good chance of creating buzz for the Wii U in a period that is traditionally quite empty regarding big video game releases.

One of the most anticipated releases of 2014 and a title that will undoubtedly generate plenty of buzz when it arrives is Mario Kart 8. One of Nintendo’s biggest money-making franchises, the series has made very few missteps over the course of its lifetime and the next instalment looks to be on the right track as well (pun most definitely intended).

Expect Mario Kart 8 to move Wii U hardware for many years

The game is scheduled to release in the (northern) Spring of 2014, but you can guarantee that it will impact sales for much longer than those short three months. Just as a quick history lesson, Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS has sold over 8 million copies and Mario Kart Wii, the latest Mario Kart game on a Nintendo console, has slid into over 34 million homes worldwide since its launch in April 2008 (both as of March 2013).

These sales figures aren’t exaggerations, only undeniable proof that this seminal racing franchise transcends the video game industry and, like Grand Theft Auto, is a cultural juggernaut that will sell Wii U hardware when it arrives in a few short months.

Speaking of juggernauts, Mario Kart 8 isn’t the only ace up Nintendo’s sleeve in 2014. Dormant for almost six years now, the Super Smash Bros. series looks to be making its Wii U debut in 2014 as well, though this time, things are a little different.

Development duties are now being handled by both series-developer Sora Ltd. and new comer Namco Bandai, a creative decision that will hopefully add some refreshing changes to the franchise formula.

Just a few of the characters that you’ll find in Smash Bros. – Image: Player Essence

Creative director Masahiro Sakurai has stated that the fighting style of the fourth game in the series will strike a balance between the fast-paced frenetic action of Melee on the GameCube and the slower, hard-hitting action of Brawl on the Wii.

The new characters confirmed for the Wii U exclusive so far include Mega Man, the Wii Fit Trainer, the Villager from Animal Crossing and Super Mario Galaxy’s Rosalina & Luma. While an official release date has not been confirmed, there have been rumours stating that it will release in the (northern) Spring of 2014, however given the proximity to Mario Kart 8, and considering proper development only began in early 2012, it’s more likely to ship closer to holiday 2014.

Another title that’s expected to arrive later in 2014 is a game codenamed X from Monolith Soft, developers of the critically-acclaimed Xenoblade Chronicles on Wii. The Japanese sci-fi role-playing series is known for its vast, open world and emphasis on seamless exploration, something Creative Director Tetsuya Takahashi is well known for.

As a former designer on Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger, Takahashi has an impressive pedigree for creating rich and mechanically superb role-playing games. After being acquired by Nintendo in 2007, Takahashi’s studio, Monolith Soft, is now a first-party Nintendo studio and will create games exclusively for the Wii U and, possibly but not likely, the 3DS.

With giant mechs, giant worlds, solid combat mechanics and undoubtedly dozens upon dozens of hours of gameplay to sift through, X is poised to be a highlight for the Wii U when it lands later this year.

Monolith Soft’s follow-up to Xenoblade Chronicles, codenamed X

What third-party developed exclusives can we expect on Wii U?

Besides those four Nintendo mega-franchises, the Wii U has two other exclusives expected to arrive in 2014. One that was only announced recently is Hyrule Warriors from Tecmo Koei.

Technically a first-party IP, the game combines the hack-n-slash action of Tecmo Koei’s Dynasty Warriors with the characters and setting of Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series.

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has confirmed that Hyrule Warriors is not the final name of the game and given its sudden announcement, it wouldn’t be too surprising if it slipped into 2015, though how far along it is in development will become much more obvious when we eventually see gameplay at E3 2014.

Will the Zelda-spin-off, Hyrule Warriors, release in 2014?

Wrapping up, the final confirmed Wii U exclusive in 2014 is Bayonetta 2. The action title from Platinum Games is the sequel to 2009’s original Devil May Cry-like romp that garnered much praise for its tight (second pun also definitely intended), fierce combat and unique combo systems.

While the first game in the franchise performed fairly strongly commercially, a sequel seemed unlikely, especially after developer Platinum Games moved onto titles such as Vanquish, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and The Wonderful 101.

Interestingly, Sega won’t be publishing the sequel as it did the original. With Nintendo deciding to bring the game to market exclusively on the Wii U, the quality bar set by the first game will almost certainly be met if not exceeded thanks to Nintendo’s high standard for polish.

Bayonetta has had a haircut for her arrival on Wii U

Thankfully, word out of Platinum Games is that Nintendo has been relatively hands-off with the game’s development, allowing the team to breathe and flex their creative muscle with the new hardware. While there is no official word on when the game will hit store shelves, it’s a sure bet Bayonetta 2 will be baring all it has to offer (Achievement Unlocked: Pun Hat-Trick), including a release date, at E3 later this year.

There you have it: all the confirmed Wii U exclusives expected to arrive over the next 12 months. What do you think of Nintendo’s line-up? Is it enough to gain the attention of gamers in 2014? How will the Wii U’s exclusive roster fare against the likes of Halo and Infamous? Let us know what you think in the official forum thread.

Join us later today when we predict what else Nintendo has in the cooker for its fans. Will we finally see a new IP from Super Mario Bros. creator Shigeru Miyamoto? What of Zelda and Metroid on Nintendo’s home console? Find out right here on Doublejump.

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