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Su-per cutesy happy fun gaming time!

When the Wii U was announced, although a long-term Nintendo fan, I wasn’t really too… bothered. As a long-term fan, I should probably have been falling over myself to offer them my firstborn, my soul and all my money. But there was something about it that didn’t click. The name was too close to the Wii, the gamepad looked cool but ultimately clumsy and it just didn’t seem to compare with the glitz and glamour of the bigger consoles even though they were older – the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

Nintendo Land looked like the console’s Wii Sports, and a rather dull presentation where a poor guy stood there explaining the rules of a minigame (even if it was one with a Luigi’s Mansion theme) wasn’t exactly encouraging. Ultimately, it all looked cool, but not cool enough to justify spending such a large amount of money.

I can wait, I thought to myself. There are better things to spend money on (barring the essentials of rent, food, bills and other boring grown-up stuff). I was more excited about the Pikachu 3DS XL, which is essentially just a bigger, prettier version of a console I already own – and that’s saying something.

That all changed however when I actually got to have a go on the Wii U, in a tiny corner of HMV Oxford Street, a few days after the Wii U’s release. It’s almost shameful how quickly I went from oh, it can wait to MUST HAVE ONE AND HAVE IT NOW; sensibility went straight out of the window.

Coochie-coochie-coo!

I was with my boyfriend, and we gave the Rayman Legends demo a quick go. It was fun, ridiculously fun. But the best part of the experience was how we actually had to play together in the best sense, actively co-operating, actively communicating. We couldn’t make it through the level without talking to each other, and most importantly, without laughing together. It’s the kind of experience that Portal 2 co-op nailed, but with a sugary twist. We don’t really game together, we game at the same time – usually him on his phone or on the Nexus 7, me on the Xbox 360, just because we like playing different things. But on the Wii U, when he used the gamepad to tickle a heavily armed character so my Rayman could kick him in the belly, it was the icing on top of a hilarious and entirely enjoyable cake. We went halves on a Wii U a week later. We’ve been enjoying Nintendoland, and I’ve been watching him play ZombiU, helpfully screaming whenever there’s a zombie.

Online multiplayer has never really been my thing – I thrive on face-to-face communication and there’s something really special about gathering together with people to play a game in the same space. It explains why my birthday Mario Party (we just got together and played lots of Mario Kart) was so much fun – you get to play with your friends and have fun in a way that’s genuinely entertaining and heartwarming. For want of a better phrase, and entirely at risk at sounding trite, it brings you together.

Nothing brings you together like questing for the Triforce.

Playing the Wii U has really injected the fun back into local co-op, and if you are still on the fence about it I actively encourage you to give it a go, to try and then buy. It’s a shame that the console’s appeal can’t really be captured or conveyed in a better way than terrible advertisements of people laughing and smiling.

With the Wii U, Nintendo have shown what they’re good at – clean, quirky fun, with lots of fun with friends and generous dashings of nostalgia. Before you write it off completely, give it a go. Then come and join the MiiVerse – you’ll find me there as Pikasu.

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