First released on November 18, 2012, the Wii U always had a difficult task to overcome. And while the console was deemed a failure since its inception, there was one thing Nintendo learned during the lifespan of its ill-fated console: The perfect marriage of music and gameplay.
The truth is that the Wii U always had some big shoes to fill. The Wii was a huge success, not only with the hardcore audience but also, in the late Iwata’s words, “the blue ocean” a new market composed of those who were too intimidated by video games. It was such an arduous task that even Nintendo itself didn’t know how to market the console.
Third-party developers quickly became aware of the situation and little by little withdrew their support, leaving us with a console that was made by Nintendo for Nintendo — this trend has always been the norm for Nintendo (to create a console that adheres to its own needs), but it felt more preeminent in the Wii U generation, even if Nintendo itself struggled to understand its own concept.
Throughout its life, the Wii U saw an eclectic selection of games. Some were experimental and many were failures, as evidenced in the console’s first few years out in the wild, but one thing always remained constant: the music.
Ahhh... the Wii U’s flagship title, quirky as Nintendo. As the pack-in title (at least on the deluxe version of the console) Nintendo Land served the same purpose as the unforgettable, albeit more accessible, Wii Sports: to showcase the capabilities of the console.
Nintendo Land Main Theme | Composed by Ryo Nagamatsu
Nintendo Land may not have been as accessible or as successful as Wii Sports, but it more than made up in its downfalls with its personality. Between Monita, the hostess/sentient monitor of Nintendo Land, and the music that’s equal parts jovial and playful, Nintendo Land feels exactly like what a theme park made by Nintendo would.
If you thought Nintendo Land was quirky, then Game & Wario is downright bizarre. Need evidence? Just take a look at the video below. Game & Wario was supposed to pick up the torch and finish the job that Nintendo Land started, unfortunately, it burned itself and all its surroundings in a freak accident of epic proportions.
Dancin’ Pirates & Match My Moves! | Composed by Yasuhisa Baba, Masanobu Matsunaga, Takeru Kanazaki, Hiroki Morishita, Sho Murakami, Yoshito Sekigawa
To be honest, I have no words. Game & Wario is a collection of “games” as bizarre as the anti-hero’s career. In the end, the game felt more like a collection of tech demos that failed to highlight the strengths of the Wii U. One thing is for certain, the music is catchy, fun and a joy to dance to.
Not much can be said about the third title in the Pikmin series. It kept the basics of what made the original Pikmin so appealing while adding extra management tools via the Wii U Gamepad touchscreen. Yet, watching the little critters play around in hyper-realistic locales, now in HD, gives you that warm fuzzy feeling in your heart that few other games can.
Staff Credits | Composed by Asuka Hayazaki, Atsuko Asahi, Hajime Wakai
Pikmin has always been known for its *ahem* calm nature. The music through the series titles has always focused on giving the feeling that you’re a small part of a larger ecosystem with small splashes of unusual composition and sounds to highlight the liveliness of the titular creatures.
The first, and only non-game to make it into this list (unless you count Game & Wario). Animal Crossing Plaza was a spin-off of the Mii Plaza, but instead of having a bunch of Miis discussing games and sharing doodles, the Animal Crossing Plaza served as a hub for all the AC content found on Nintendo’s own and the soon-to-be-dead social network, Miiverse.
Not much can be said about Animal Crossing Plaza since it was mostly used as a promotional material for New Leaf. Apart from the Miiverse integration, the other main function of the plaza was to update players on the in-game events while listening to music inspired by the series.
I lied. Nintendo was not the only company who produced amazing music for the Wii U. Even though The Wonderful 101 was published by Nintendo, they had little to no involvement in Hideki Kamiya’s experimental brawler.
The Won-Stoppable Wonderful 101 | Composed by Hiroshi Yamaguchi Lyrics by Hideki Kamiya | English Lyrics by Bryan Gray | Performed by Jimmy Wilcox, Rob McElroy, Bruce Blanchard
Presented as a video game where you control a horde of superheroes (101 to be more precise, hence the title), The Wonderful 101 soundtrack is inspired by the sounds of superhero cartoons of yore, with an epic sound and lyrics that are equal parts campy and cheesy.
The second of a series of Sonic titles part of an exclusive contract with Nintendo, Sonic Lost World tried and failed to remix the Sonic formula. This time by integrating linear stages inspired by the level design of Super Mario Galaxy.
Windy Hill - Zone 1 | Composed & Arranged by Tomoya Ohtani
Sega following their tradition of producing great soundtracks for the Sonic series, regardless of the quality of the game, once again managed to outdo themselves. Upbeat and energetic, the Sonic Lost World soundtrack evokes the sound of both modern and classic Sonic.
Stepping up to the bat, and trying to save face for the console, was Super Mario 3D World. A game that initially had nothing unique to offer— it was a simple step-up from the successful Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS: Larger worlds, better graphics and... yes, an unforgettable soundtrack.
The Credits Roll| Composed by Mahito Yokota
Moving away from Super Mario Galaxy’s space orchestra style, Super Mario 3D World edges closer to the lighthearted vibe of its 3DS predecessor, with the added oomph of the explosive sound of a Big Band Jazz Orchestra. In the genre, Mario found a style that would let the music of the series be meticulous and laid back at the same time.
It’s true that once Nintendo finds a formula that works they stick to it and rarely look back. But even when they push out title after title they still experiment with ideas to keep the gameplay fresh. Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii still relies on the solid platforming and inventive level design that made the series popular.
Grassland Groove | Composed by David Wise
There was just one thing Retro Studios and Nintendo were missing to make the full comeback to the golden era of platforming. Fortunately enough for them (and for us), David Wise, the lead composer for the original trilogy reprised his role for Tropical Freeze. The final result speaks for itself.
Lauded as the quintessential Mario Kart experience, Mario Kart 8 took everything that made the series special, added a (Möbius) twist and broke all the boundaries that limited previous iterations.
Dolphin Shoals (Highlight Reel) | Composed & Arranged by Atsuko Asahi
Similar to how Mario 3D World discovered a new world of sounds, Mario Kart 8 took that same approach, added a couple of explosive individual performances and called it a day, resulting in the best dynamite saxophone solo in gaming (and possibly ever).
The umbra witch returns, no thanks to Sega. Actually, thinking about it, Bayonetta 2 wouldn’t have been possible if Sega didn’t kindly give the distribution rights away so easily. Much to the dismay of her loyal fans, the sequel to the 2009 cult hit was being published by no other than Nintendo.
And just like with Platinum’s previous effort, Nintendo’s role was once again minimal, with the exception of a few exclusive costumes for Bayonetta to don, like Sexy Princess Peach, or Sexy Link, or Sexy Fox McCloud... or... you get my drift, right? Anything Nintendo but in the overly-sexualized way only Bayonetta can pull.
Moon River (∞ Climax Mix) | Composed by Henry Mancini | Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Arranged by Naofumi Harada | Performed by Keeley Bumford
‘Fly Me To The Moon’ was both the main battle theme and a classic jazz song for the first title in the series. ‘Moon River (∞ Climax Mix)’ is equal parts as charming and provocative as its predecessor. It’s no wonder why the Henry Mancini classic quickly became a staple song of the series.
This is just the first half of what the Wii U had to offer, stay tuned next week for the second and final part comprising the later years of the console.
In the meantime why don’t you share your best memories with the console? And don’t worry if you don’t want to talk about the music, just share talk about your favorite moments <3
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