2014 was a great year for Wii U owners in terms of exclusives, but even if games like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. were terrific - they can't really compare to the level of anticipation that we have for The Legend of Zelda Wii U.
First heard of in early 2013, The Legend of Zelda Wii U (please, give us a proper name soon, Nintendo) was said to challenge the conventions of previous titles in the series. But there wasn't much more revealed about the game that year as Nintendo focussed their attention on Wind Waker HD.
In a way the manner in which Eiji Aunoma and the team wanted to challenge the conventions of the series was a return to its roots. The nature of the early topdown titles gave players more freedom, and this degree of freedom was something they wanted to introduce with the next big 3D title. And while it doesn't look like it's a complete departure from the more recent action-adventure style, there certainly seems to be a degree of sandbox design (i.e. approaching objectives and problems from different angles, using different means to achieve the same goal) and some open-world fundamentals.
At E3, where Nintendo once again opted out of the traditional press conference format for a "Nintendo Direct" style presentation, we were given a brief glimpse of the game that included a very cinematic introduction to a boss battle.
As the finale of December's Game Awards, Nintendo showed a video where Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aunoma sat down and played the game (on a tantalisingly small screen in the background), showcasing just how expansive this version of Hyrule is. The demo also featured Epona and it was explained how Epona will traverse the world in semi-automated fashion avoiding obstacles like trees and thus making for a more immersive experience. After all, horses rarely run into trees in the real world.
The new Legend of Zelda for Wii U is being targeted for release towards the tail end of 2015. Hopefully it will be fully playable at E3 this summer, and hopefully it will deliver on all the expectations Nintendo's careful teasing has brought about. Until we've seen it played in front of our own eyes and experienced it for ourselves there's really nothing to lower our expectations. This could very well be the game we'll all be talking about in twelve months.
While there are plenty of games that take after the Legend of Zelda series (most notably recent indies looking at the old 2D titles for inspiration), we thought it would be a good idea to look at what else there is on the Nintendo platform to look forward to in 2015. After all, if you're a Zelda fan you've likely already invested in a Wii U and you may want to play something else while you wait for the grand new Zelda adventure to arrive.
Two major titles set for release in 2015 are the new Star Fox that Shigeru Miyamoto is working on, and the intriguing concept of Mario Maker. The latter is perhaps the one Wii U title (outside of Zelda) that intrigues us the most. Constructing our own 2D Mario levels looks simple and fun and switching between the various 2D eras of Mario - from 8-bit up until the most recently released New Super Mario Bros. U - at the press of a button should give the player a tremendous sense of empowerment. Star Fox hasn't been shown publicly just yet, but it was shown to select members of the press at E3.
Then there's the long-awaited Xenoblade Chronicles X - a game that perhaps looks like it will appeal to Zelda fans most with its open-world approach. Kirby and Yoshi both have new upcoming adventures lined up for 2015. We're particularly excited for Yoshi's Woolly World from the developers that gave us Kirby's Epic Yarn - it looks stunning.
What else is there on Wii U in 2015? Well, there's the wonderfully imaginative multiplayer shooter that is Splatoon, and the always dependable Mario Party (number 10 is due in 2015). A favourite of ours, the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series is also hitting Wii U this year. And then there's Tomonobu Itagaki's Devil's Third that will hopefully see the light of day this calendar year.
In many ways 2015 looks like it may be another strong year for the Wii U, and even if it naturally lacks a little in quantity, hopefully it'll make up for it with another dose of quality.