I finally bit the bullet recently and bought a Wii U having heard a lot of good things from close friends about how much time they put into the machine that no one seemingly wants or particularly needs, that and Bayonetta 2 is out October. So, with Wii U in hand, what games does one buy? Mario Kart 8? Super Mario 3D World (Land?, I can’t keep them straight)? Pfftt, no, I bought all the comic book games of course. As most of the games that I play that have made there way to Wii U thus far are titles that appear on other consoles, I’m going to forgo reviewing the entire package and just focus on the features exclusive to the console. I will break break things into three categories:
1) Positive: Features that make the game better than anywhere else, 2) Neutral: Things that are nice but otherwise don’t really add anything nor take away from the experience and finally 3) Negative: Fairly self explanatory, but in any case, these qualities actually make it worse to play the game on the Wii U. After all is said and done, I’ll make a verdict whether a game is worthy re-buying if you already have purchased it elsewhere.
To kick-start the new “What’s New for Wii U” series, let’s look at the progenitor comic book game on the latest Nintendo console, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition.
1) GADGET SELECTION
Batman had a lot of gadgets at his disposal in Batman: Arkham Asylum and his collection rose even more in the second “Arkham” outing. Getting to that one specific gadget proved to be quite a pain sometimes, especially if you’re trying to reach something on a diagonal on the terrible Xbox 360 directional pad. The tablet controller of the Wii U makes getting to your arsenal as easy as hitting up on the directional pad and then tapping something on a menu. Should you wish you can place up to three gadgets that you can quick selection to the left, right and down directions by simply dragging an icon from your gadget menu and dropping it on a direction. This is perhaps one of the two features that will make playing on a regular controller painful when Batman: Arkham Knight comes out.
2) BATMAN’S NEW ARMOR
Though it’s only a cosmetic upgrade that doesn’t add anything to the experience, I actually came to really enjoy the new Armored Bat Suit that WB Games Montreal came up with for Batman. The plate armor actually reminds me somewhat of the new Bat Suit that Rocksteady seems to be moving towards for next year’s Batman: Arkham Knight.
3) THE CONTROLLER MAP
If the gadget selection on the tablet controller was the first feature that makes me lament that Arkahm Knight will not be on the Wii U, the map is the second. Selecting Riddler trophies or sub-objectives off the main path is as easy as tapping on the appropriate icon on the controller. You can drag around the map with the stylus as well as zoom in and out by hitting plus and minus keys on the touch screen. It doesn’t take you out of the game one bit, and for a nice added bonus, Batman is starring at his arm mounted console while you’re navigating the map, further immersing the player into the experience.
4) MENU NAVIGATION
Along side the map is a series of icons that bring up things like how many Riddler trophies you have left to find, what upgrades you can get, a break down of your moves and a new feature that will be discussed in point number 5, the Sonar. Much like navigating the map, this doesn’t take the player out of the game and it’s much fun then then fumbling around sub-menus in a pause screen.
One of the new tools to the Armored Edition of Arkham City is the sonar. At the expense of the map, you can turn on this tool and it will pick up the locations of enemies and hidden collectibles as you’re going through the various environments. This feature is especially useful if you’re already very familiar with the layout of the game and are looking for secrets as you’re playing.
6) SCANNING RADIO FREQUENCIES
This may just be an issue with me, but I found getting to just the right frequency given by the Riddler hostages a tiny bit annoying using the Xbox 360’s control sticks. On the Wii U, all you have to do is drag an icon around the touch screen until you get to the right frequency which takes no time at all. A small thing in the grand scheme of things, but something I liked a lot nonetheless. This also plays out well in the phone scanning side-mission featuring Zsasz.
1) CONTROLLER RADIO
When contacted by either Oracle, Joker, or simply listening to the random henchman having converstations, everything but the main conversations going on comes through the controllers built in speaker. While it’s meant to add to the illusion that you the player are Batman, it’s sometimes hard to either hear what they’re saying or the volume comes off as too loud. Adjusting the volume using the slider on top of the tablet it not that intuitive either. A nice touch, but something I could’ve maybe done without.
2) B.A.T MODE
To best explain the new B.A.T mode in the Armored Edition for those who didn’t play this version of Arkham City, it’s the same thing as the Electrocutioner gauntlets in Batman: Arkham Origins, which is fitting as the two games come from the same developer. Basically you build up power and then you can power up your hits by clicking in on the two control sticks. I often forgot I had this gadget even in my arsenal, and felt like I was cheating when I used it, which is exactly how I felt when it was in Batman: Arkham Origins.
On the PS3/Xbox 360, hacking a device was accomplished by searching for a key word by rotating the control sticks until they vibrated at the right intensity. Hacking on the Wii U is done exclusively on the tablet by moving the stylus around until you get the right part of the word and the controller vibrates, though you also have to look out for a scan line that comes across the screen in regular intervals. Getting hit while you’re confirming a key part of the word simply moves it to another part of the tablet screen that you’ll have to look for elsewhere. Neither are really better or worse than one another.
4) GEL DETONATION
The explosive gel can be detonated by tapping an icon on the tablet or will by hitting a trigger button. Pretty unnecessary, but you can still do it the old way so it doesn’t hinder the game in any way by having it in it.
When in investigation mode looking for evidence in a crime scene, you have to hold your tablet up vertically with your screen. Should you want then, you can move around your physical space in your home to look for something on screen as opposed to moving the sticks and walking around. This is yet another one of those features that’s meant to add a layer of immersion, but is just another gimmick. Luckily you can still do it the old fashioned way and move around the tablet with the two control sticks.
1) CATWOMAN ARMOR
I was a huge fan of the new Armored look for the main character, not so much for Catwoman, the main reason being it’s completely unnecessary. Batman hides in the shadows and uses stealth to his advantage, but at the same time expects to get into a fist fight or put himself in the line of fire from weapon carrying goons. Catwoman is thief who would probably forego armor for a suit that would be better for sneaking through tight spaces than the bulky armor look that was redesigned for her. A better candidate for this would’ve been Robin, who you play as in the DLC, but he keeps his same outfit from the game elsewhere.
This is more a nit-pick on the button placement on the Wii U controller and nothing that could really be fixed by WB Games without making the gameplay awkward, but the Nintendo “ABXY” diamond layout for the face buttons is no longer the standard for video games controllers; Tt’s now the layout as it appears on the Xbox 360. This caused me to hit a few buttons by accident having spent the last console generation more or less playing everything on my Xbox 360.
3) REMOTE-CONTROLLED BATARANG
Upon throwing the remote controlled batarang tool the game transitions to the Wii U tablet where you can guide it with either the buttons and sticks, like on the PS3/Xbox 360, or with motion gestures. The screen is a little bit too dark to see where you’re going sometimes, and when controlling the batarang with the sticks and making the adjustment to see better, the motion controls take over and you end up into a wall or on the ground.
SHOULD YOU BUY OR RE-BUY? If you’re a person who ONLY owned a Wii last generation and missed out on the “Arkham” games, you should rectify that immediately and pick this up. Included in the package is everything that came in the GOTY edition so you get a lot of game for your money. If you’ve already played through Batman: Arkham City, I would consider picking this game up now as you can get it for pretty cheap (I picked it up for $15 used) as it gives you an excuse to replay an excellent game again with some nice additions.