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- Star Fox Zero
One of the biggest Wii U releases this year was going to be the triumphant return of everyone's favorite space-faring fox in Star Fox Zero, but Nintendo recently delayed the game until Q1 2016. It's a disappointment for many Star Fox fans, and it also affects the Fall/Winter schedule for the broader Wii U audience. Nevertheless, the delay of Star Fox Zero won't make or break the Wii U's year. In fact, it may help Nintendo avoid a weak start to 2016.
As far as exclusives are concerned, the Wii U has had a solid year already. Two of the best games of 2015 – Splatoon and Super Mario Maker – can only be found on Nintendo's console. When the company actually develops games for its platforms, it often hits home runs. Splatoon and Super Mario Maker are perfect examples, as the former injects life into the competitive shooter genre, while Super Mario Maker allows fans to live out their game design fantasies and craft ingenious Mario courses. I'm thankful that we even have those two games on the Wii U this year.
The upcoming Wii U lineup also features some standout titles, namely Yoshi's Woolly World in October and Xenoblade Chronicles X in December. The new Yoshi game already came out in Europe, but those of us in North America still have yet to experience the adorable yarn-infused adventures of Yoshi. Xenoblade Chronicles X, on the other hand, touts a huge 100+ hour JRPG experience with a gorgeous world and dynamic combat. If it's anywhere near as good as the original Xenoblade Chronicles on Wii back in 2012, then we're looking at one of the best games of the year.
Clearly it's not a question of quality when it comes to the Wii U's library of games. Quantity stands out as the main concern, and it largely relates to a lack of third-party support. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One don't have a ton of exclusive games coming out every year, but they have enough third-party support to the point that there's never a lull in the release schedule. The Wii U, on the other hand, goes months at a time with no noteworthy games. Star Fox Zero, a single Nintendo-developed game (with help from Platinum Games), doesn't solve that problem.
Even more important than all of that is the fact that Star Fox Zero likely needs the extra development time. I'm not the kind of guy who obsesses over visuals and technical specifications, and yet I find myself severely underwhelmed by the look of Star Fox Zero. It seems like the kind of game in dire need of visual polish, and hopefully Nintendo can address that with the delay.
I'm hoping the extra time also allows Nintendo to refine the controls and gameplay as well. I had an opportunity to play Star Fox Zero at a Nintendo event a couple of months ago, and I didn't enjoy the dual screen approach. I struggled to split my attention between the TV screen and gamepad, and it seemed to go beyond an inherent learning curve. The game simply didn't feel good, and Nintendo is a company that excels at mechanical consistency. My adverse reaction to Star Fox Zero was atypical, but perhaps the delay will give Nintendo time to analyze and perhaps tweak that aspect of the game.
Each month brings us closer to the official reveal of Nintendo's next console, codenamed NX. There are only so many more Wii U games the company plans to release before that time comes, so it's not a drastic decision to delay a game until early 2016 to help create a better overall product. Some solid exclusives have come out for the Wii U this year, and I personally can't wait to spend quality time with Xenoblade Chronicles X in December. In the meantime, let's allow Nintendo to work more on Star Fox Zero so it becomes another great console exclusive and not a huge disappointment as the lifespan of the Wii U begins to dwindle down.