Minecraft is one of the most popular gaming franchises in history; so much so that it is recognized by millions of gamers all around the world. It has been quite a while since it made its humble entry onto the gaming scene back in 2009; now, it’s owned by Microsoft and has over 70 million in sales. The game has seen release on practically everything that either connects to a screen, or has one of its own. Interestingly enough, the Wii U actually goes both ways, but after 3 years on market, Minecraft is only now making its way to the console.
So with this (strangely) late arrival on Nintendo’s home console, does Minecraft hold up well on the Wii U? Well yes….just like every other version.
If you have any experience with Minecraft on any other platform, then getting into the Wii U version should be as simple as walking and talking. Virtually nothing has changed from the other iterations. While this is great, at the same time, it’s this version’s biggest letdown—but we’ll get into that later.
If you have no idea what Minecraft is (who are you?), allow me to explain. Your goal is to conquer the world around you in any way you see fit. The entire game is literally resting in the palms of your hands as you’re able to build, destroy and explore the vast environment around you. Minecraft‘s world is open and seamless, allowing you to do whatever you please, whenever you please. Getting into the game isn’t the easiest thing, though. For the most part, everything is pretty straightforward, but at the same time, it’s all rather complicated.
As the its name suggests, the game is built around the activities of mining for materials and crafting them in order to create all sorts of items. These items are then used to create big structures. From a simple house, to a giant castle or even a replica of a Wii U console—what you build in Minecraft is all dependent on you. As it may seem, this game requires a whole lot of patience and thinking. It’s not the kind of title that you just jump into and start doing whatever.
Minecraft features 3 modes: Creative, Survival and Adventure. The Creative mode is the most straightforward and it’s also the biggest representation of what Minecraft is primarily about: using your imagination. In Creative, you have no restrictions or worries and can freely create whatever you want to your heart’s content. The other two modes shake things up a bit.
The Survival and Adventure modes are similar to each other, but there are a few key differences. The main goal in these modes is as the name’s suggest, adventuring and surviving. Your character has a health and hunger meter. Your resources are limited, meaning that its imperative that you keep track of what you have and avoid as much danger as possible in order to keep your precious items. The game feature’s a day/night cycle, and at night, monsters come out. This is where the main survival aspect comes in as it’s pretty much necessary to retreat to a shelter at night to avoid any unnecessary skirmishes. Adventure mode features just about everything Survival mode does, except you can’t use any sort of cheats and must follow standard rules. This is good for players who want to create worlds that are similar to that of your average action/adventure game.
With these three distinct modes and the power of human imagination, you can have a 1,000,001 (or more!) different experiences in Minecraft as you explore the vast world and play along with your friends. That’s also a very big factor of the game—social interaction. While Minecraft’s single-player mode is just fine, it’s multiplayer is almost a totally different ball game. Being able to explore and cause havoc with your buddies whether they’re right next to you on the couch, or an entire ocean way, is a very satisfying experience. The Wii U Edition supports voice chat as well as USB keyboards, so there are no shortage of ways to communicate. In addition, you can also type with the Wii U Gamepad which is a lot better than pointing and clicking at letters. If you decide to use the local-multiplayer mode, the Pro Controller is supported, which is a nice plus. Of course, Miiverse-sharing (while not directly implemented into the game) also serves as a plus, as that one guy who decides to make everyone else feel bad by creating that massive replica of Hyrule Castle can show it off to the world.
Another great aspect of the Wii U Edition is that there are 6 texture packs as well as a few pre-created worlds that are available right from the start. From modest visual changes like the City and Fantasy texture packs, to special inclusions such as The Simpsons and Mass Effect, you’ll be able to jump right into the thick of it from the very beginning. The only downside with this is that the game still costs $10 than the other console versions, making this DLC, while technically “free”, still come with some sort of price-tag. Of course, there are various other packs which will be made available via fully paid-DLC in the future as well.
All-in-all, Minecraft runs just fine on the Wii U. It’s no different than any of the other versions, aside from the fact that it features Off-TV Play; a killer-feature that has been implemented in almost every Wii U title. Now then, while it’s great that the Wii U Edition is tit-for-tat with everything else—it’s also quite sad.
Minecraft has been in high demand for the Wii U practically from since the console launched. The reasoning makes sense; it’s just one of those ‘meant-to-be’ kind of situations. The Wii U Gamepad is the perfect fit for a game like Minecraft. Titles like Xenoblade Chronicles X, Mass Effect 3, Pikmin 3 and ZombiU are perfect examples for what Gamepad features would work beautifully with Minecraft. Despite the fact that it took 3 years, the Wii U Edition features zero Gamepad implementation outside of Off-TV Play.
Not only was this a strange decision, but it’s such a huge missed opportunity, it’s almost pitiful. While it’s great that the game comes packaged with free extra content, it’s still not enough to justify the incredibly long wait and lack of effort. Now, I’m not saying that it’s the easiest thing in the world to create a game for the Wii U, but seeing that fans already spelled out what they wanted eons ago, I find it amazing that 4J Studios simply took the easy way out, despite the fact that they could’ve started work on the title so long ago.
Because of this, there’s nothing that really separates the Wii U Edition of Minecraft from the 7 other versions of the game. This mean’s that anyone who’s wanted to play the game may have very well already done so; with that said, who is going to run out and buy the Wii U version outside of the franchise’s major fans? Playing the Wii U version was nice, but I couldn’t help but feel massively disappointed. Holding the Gamepad in my hands, I just kept wondering to myself: “It would be great to have gyro-functionality to control the camera, and being able to actually use the touchscreen to place blocks and manage my inventory. Hey, can I least have a map?”
In the end, Minecraft: Wii U Edition is a pretty straight-forward port. If you’ve played the game on any other platform, then you’ll be able to jump into the experience in no time flat. If you’re a first-timer, then you have a pretty well put-together game waiting for you, but if you’re a fan of the Wii U Gamepad, then just go in knowing that the only purpose it serves in this game is to be a mirror. The somewhat free extra content is still appreciated, but considering the game is still $10 more, it’s hard to fully justify it. Thankfully, there’s still support for voice chat and USB keyboards, meaning that the Wii U version is just as social as every other edition.
Even though it’s great that the game is identical to all of the other versions, it still could have been so much better if they actually went ahead and used the console’s unique features. With that said, if you don’t already have Minecraft, it’s really up to you to decide if you want to shoot for the Wii U Edition or not.