Minecraft Wii U - Changes and Features

By Blair Nokes on February 10, 2016, 9:03AM EDT
Wii U

At this point in time, it's almost redundant to talk about Minecraft now. It's a game that's blown up on the PC scene with an incredible mod community that continues to give new and creative life to a game world that is one of the largest game worlds to date with an area roughly 102.4 billion squared kilometers in size. For those who need a visual comparison that's larger than the area of Neptune. Minecraft is a virtual blocky world full of endless possibilities and one that has captured the imaginations of children and adults alike. Some of the most creative uses have been to recreate scale models of popular settings like a 1:1 scale replica of the USS Enterprise, or all of Final Fantasy VII's Midgar, or even the Mines of Moria. Verizon even teamed up to create cell phone towers and a working cell phone complete with an internet browser and video call capabilities. In that aspect alone I have nothing but the highest respect for Minecraft as a tool, and a software capable of doing what is conventionally unthinkable. And that's only the first component of Minecraft. There are three main gameplay modes: survival, adventure and create. I've talked a little about create which gives players an infinite amount of almost all blocks and are invulnerable. Survival shares many of the same building properties, but there is now a day/night cycle that unleashes enemies at you unless you design your sanctuary properly. Players will also have health, hunger, and armour bars, and oxygen bars when underwater. Adventure mode lets you interact with mobs and flip switches or pull levels, but destroying blocks using tools with a CanDestroy data tag on it. Similarly, you can only place blocks if said block has a "CanPlace" data tag on it, making this mode perfect for the use of your adventure map.

Minecraft originally came out on PC, and then on the Xbox 360 where sales skyrocketed due to the popularity of the console at the time. It then expanded to mobile phone app games and then onto the PS3. During the dawn of the 8th generation of consoles we also saw versions appear on the Xbox One and PS4. One of the bigger surprises was that on September 15, 2014, Mojang publicly announced that they would be bought by Microsoft. They have been part of Microsoft Studios since November 2014. With that business decision made, many wondered if "˜d we would ever see support for the other consoles, but thankfully Microsoft has had the class to offer the same DLC across platforms. But one of the biggest questions still remained, and that was if Minecraft would ever appear on a Nintendo device. Mojang founder Markus Persson had announced that they had no plans to release Minecraft on the Wii U back in 2013, but believed that a Wii U version would make sense; it's out on practically everything else so why exclude one demographic? Mojang's Daniel Kaplan also commented that there were no plans for a Wii U release again in 2014 due to the Wii U's "very small" install base. This was a little confusing, as at the time the statement was made the Wii U had a larger install base than the Xbox One. But still, people imagined the interesting possibilities of a Minecraft port on the Wii U, especially considering the Gamepad's functions could mean that players could access their inventory or maps through the gamepad rather than on the main TV screen. Features like that are best shown in the Wii U ports of Darksiders 2 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution DX.

Minecraft was officially announced for the Wii U by both Nintendo and Mojang on December 5, 2015, for a December 17 release. At the time of announcement, they did stress that the Wii U version will have the typical off-screen play, and will come with a plethora of DLC that players can purchase alongside the game. But as it currently stands, there is no inventory implementations on the Wii U gamepad, but they did say that it could happen after launch. Still, this was one of the biggest missed opportunities for Minecraft to really show off a use of the Wii U hardware and to impress consumers. Instead of something practical like inventory management, we're left with a black brown screen with a block in the center. It was almost amusing to think that any time that could have been spent utilizing the hardware was instead used on what is essentially just filler. To make matters worse, the Wii U port is the single most expensive port to date, coming in at $29.99 for a pure digital title, with plans for a physical release at a later, undefined date. The PC version used to be the most expensive and for good reason; it was and is still the definitive edition that contains the full game world and limitless possibilities thanks to the mod support. The console ports are not the full game world, and needed to be limited due to their hardware. The Wii U has currently been measured to have the same sized game world as the PS3 and 360 ports. So in short, Wii U owners get a port of the last generation version of the game, at $10 dollars more for the added off-screen gameplay for the Wii U gamepad. It doesn't seem like a great bargain for Wii U owners at all.

Despite a lack of creativity in the port itself, the game does run wonderfully. There's going to be loads of pop-in due to the procedural generation of the environment, but even with its limited space, Minecraft is still quite large on the Wii U, and will not hinder your building capabilities. I decided to start my game using the Greek Mythology mash-up pack, which gives players an ancient Greece aesthetic for the architecture. Everything looks clean, and there are not any major framerate dips which is commendable due to the sheer size of everything. There are 22 packs in total, ranging from a variety of inspirations like The Simpsons to Skyrim. There are even three Star Wars theme packs that will surely get attention due to the movie's success. 6 of the texture packs come bundled with the purchase of the game itself which is a nice additive. Mojang and Nintendo both mentioned that they will try to come up with other themed packs in the future; if they could actually release a Legend of Zelda themed pack, or even a Metroid theme, the Wii U version would definitely show its value. Split-screen does exist as well, but you cannot use the Wii U's off-screen capabilities for it. It will just use traditional split-screen on the TV, and will even load your Mii characters. I feel like they may pay some attention to this feature in the future, as a lot of multiplayer games on the Wii U are usually done by using the gamepad and TV, so that both players have the full screen available.

Despite what it currently lacks, the game is still Minecraft, and sales are indeed looking promising for the Wii U; it's currently at the top of North America's eshop recent best-sellers, and earned the 9th spot in Japan which is a little surprising considering Minecraft wasn't as popular in Japan as it was in Europe and North America. This news will definitely quash the concerns that a Wii U port at this time would be too late. There was a clear demand, and sales are showing that.

Overall Minecraft on the Wii U is an excellent port in terms of pure gameplay and controls. It plays exactly as you would expect. I'm still a little disappointed that the game didn't come with more practical gamepad uses at launch, but it is nice to know that they're still considering it as a possibility with a later update. It's extremely pricy, considering what it doesn't do, but I think the demand for the game in any state on a Nintendo device has been reason enough for fans to support it. If the promise of future content is kept, and if they're able to incorporate some Nintendo themed worlds for the game, Minecraft on the Wii U will end up being one of my favourite iterations of the ridiculously popular block builder.

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