Like a Gangrenous Limb -Devil’s Advocate: Moffat Era Doctor Who

Deny: Moffat’s Doctor Who


Doctor_Who_-_Current_Titlecard
Current flash screen

Like with any rules of Entropy, the Law of Diminishing Returns basically argues that the longer something is in production, the higher the surrounding costs & the lower quality begin to erode not only the product but also the consumers’ faith in said product. In terms of media: this means that the longer a series is being broadcast or a franchise is made the higher the costs it is to make & the lower the quality of the show/franchise becomes, which in turn erodes viewers faith that they will see a return to the (imagined) quality of the series.

This can be argued as being true for the majority of television series & media franchises in existence. With some long running series losing what originally made them popular because of changes in production costs/values, changing cast/production staff & disagreement between writers & producers over the direction the series should progress &/or end verses the (overbearing) expectations of the audience/fandom.

I think few series/franchises currently in production epitomise all these as greatly as the last few years of the seminal sci-fi Doctor Who.

Now, many people have been throwing around qualifiers such as “worse series ever!” & making (empty) threats to stop watching the show & cease investing in the merchandise. I’m not going to do such things, despite being a long long term fan of the franchise. In my never humble view, the past series has indeed been, overall, terrible but it hasn’t been ‘irredeemable’.

To begin this argument, some background first:

Versions_of_the_Doctor
Doctors 1 through 12. Missing is the War Doctor 8.5

My earliest media memories are of watching Doctor Who in that lovely two hours that the ABC used to dedicate to children’s programming between 5 & 7 PM. I began with the colour repeats of the Jon Pertwee & Tom Baker incarnations before the broadcasts progressed to Peter Davidson, Colin Baker & Sylvester McCoy. I also had the luxury of watching the repeats of earliest episodes when the ABC decided to show them as a double episode block when I was a teenager. I even watched the basically subpar made-for-television movie starring the eternally underrated Paul McGann as part of an advanced fan screening. I’ve even read the old comics & books, listened to the radio dramas & currently possess, thanks to a highly invested friend, all the episodes from the 1st to the movie.

So, yes: I am highly emotionally invested in the franchise as a whole but I am still not any sort of compulsive super-fan or mouth-frothing fanboy.

Yet, I do have to comment in the decline of quality over the past several years but I’m not going to lay the blame on the usual suspects. Instead, I am going to offer up a few (possibly controversial) views & opinions on where possibly the fault lies.

You see, the fans were particularly blessed with the relaunch of the series back in 2005, with the fantastic (but discontent) Christopher Eccleston in the titular role. That short run was memorable in that it paid homage to the original series but moved beyond what was known –leaving a chronological & narrative gap between the 8th & 9th Doctors, filling it with an unknown conflict simply called ‘the Time War’, that supposedly wiped out the Time Lords & their Dalek enemies. This new entry into the long running franchise rebooted audience expectations & demand, reaching into new US markets & reinvigorating a slightly stagnant fandom who were hungry for new produce to fuel their hungry. The short lived but excellent Eccleston run lead into David Tenant’s tenure & whilst I maintain that Tenant was an average Doctor (but great actor) working with amazing material, it was his 5 year period with the show that the majority of new fans latched onto. Unfortunately, the series decline began in 2010, when show runner Russell T. Davies left & Tenant hanged up his Sonic Screwdriver, being replaced respectively by Steven Moffat as show runner/head writer & Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor.

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The face of evil itself. Or a woolly headed Glaswegian. One or the other.

Whilst many erstwhile fans pin the blame on Smith for the series’ decline, I maintain that he was an incredible actor working with subpar & that it was Moffat’s fault for the failing quality of the show.

Many have already criticised Moffat’s failings, including accusations of misogyny (which he has oft times defended himself against but even more allegations of tyranny are still thrown at him), he is merely a single facet of a much larger problem between audience demands/expectations & the bureaucrats who run the BBC.

The heart of this issue is the current UK Conservative Government’s attempted to make huge cuts to the BBC budget which, in turn, will & have taken huge chunks out of Doctor Who’s soaring budget costs. Yet at the same time, the same BBC Trust’s is wishing a great merchandising stake, especially from the US market (even altering scripts & season schedules to fit the US timetable) & dumbing the series down so it will be both friendly to kids & the perceived average US audience.

This creates a dichotomy between the wants & needs of the BBC chairpeople, the extreme & diverse demands & expectations of the audience/fandom & the overall controlling nature of Moffat’s production. This is amplified by the fact that Doctor Who is the flagship franchise of the BBC & affected by political whims of various levels of governance, stakeholders & broadcast partners. Not to mention the extreme ways that the BBC sought to avoid online piracy & audiences having episodes ruined across various timezones & geographic locations.

Such behind the scene scuffles ultimately spill out onto the screen –such as having mid-season breaks to accommodate the US audiences or huge shifts in plots– yet it all spills at the feet of Moffat, his offsider/writing partner Mark Gatiss & the rest of the core production team, especially the writers.

Many people have levelled criticisms of the past two seasons of Doctor Who on Peter Capaldi & Jenna Coleman, similarly to how criticism was thrown at Smith & Karen Gillian’s Amy Pond, but they are all victims of the same forces. That being Moffat, his writers & the production.

The past two seasons have seen the uber fan Capaldi take the reigns of playing the Doctor & he proves himself again & again to be a powerhouse of an actor, bringing depth of emotion & contrast that you wouldn’t expect to see in a ‘mere sci-fi adventure show’. Yet, like Smith before him, he has been given such awful, inconsistent & boring material to work with. Similar can be said of Coleman’s character, Clara, who first only existed as a mystery to be solved, lacking in any depth or agency of her own. Both Smith & Capaldi were reduced to tropes, one-liners & caricatures whilst their companions enemies & plots only exist in relation to them. By playing to too many differing audiences & ages, Moffat has spread everything too thin, too haphazardly, throwing ideas at walls before disgarding all impact that they might have had -which is seen best in how he dealt (or didn’t deal) with the antagonists known as The Silence.

The utter nadir of this could be seen in the appalling episode Kill The Moon that presents the very worse that Moffat has to offer as showrunner. The plot is nonsensical & the resolution so Beyond the Pale that it actually lowered viewer numbers for the remainder of that season.

Yet even in the face of this, Moffat still reigns supreme on the show & does not look likely to dislodge himself anytime soon.

So, this brings up to his (series 9) 2015 tenure & the moddled tales that he brought us.

The true shame of Moffat’s run is that there are some genuinely good & interesting ideas floating amongst the detritus of the season -such as the Doctor’s speech near the end of Zygon Inversion. Again, this is epitomised with a single episode, stumbling amongst the wilderness: Heaven Sent, which sees Capaldi alone after Clara has died (for the 3rd time on screen). This showcases the strengths of Capaldi’s acting but also highlights the weakness of Moffat’s writing & handling of the show overall.

This is emphasised by the shockingly bad episode Sleep No More, written by Gatiss, who was has enjoyed much fan hatred for previously poor episodes (Cold War & The Crimson Horror), which is such a jumble of tropes mixed with exceptionally bad pacing & shallow characters.

It is this jumbled shallowness that does ultimately mark Moffat’s tenure on the series.

Characters & stories seem disconnected, often contradicting previous Moffat tales (such as stupidly repeated use of The Weeping Angels which lessened their affect & appeal each time they had to be explained, with the worst being The Angels Take Manhattan). More often then not the audience is given rushed stories, 2 dimensional characters & endless to camera gags to cover up the plot holes. This became one of the biggest criticisms of the Smith run as The Doctor but, again, it wasn’t Smith’s fault. He was a good actor doing his best with bad material. Unfortunately, Smith’s talent (& the talents of Tenant & John Hurt in the 50th anniversary episode) really show up the flaws in the series. More so when you have endless contradictions coupled with storylines that never end up going anywhere. More so is the fact that Moffat introduces characters & scenarios that seemingly have deep backstories that are part of some other associated  media, one which doesn’t get played out on screen, so it’s like walking into a conversation between old friends halfway through. Moffat doesn’t give his viewers a grounding point or a common reference, throwing in new idea after new idea without any development or reason other than he thinks it’s pretty cool. This too unfortunately affects how he’s made Capaldi portray The Doctor.

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Peter Capaldi as “cool dad Doctor”

Shifting from series 8 to series 9, the Doctor has seemingly undergone a transformation from grumpy problem solver to the cool dad showing off his mid-life crisis. This is seen in how the Doctor now plays the electric guitar (which Capaldi actually does) & has turned his Sonic Screwdriver into Sonic Sunglasses. Clara has also gone from mystery to be solved, to the ultimate control freak to fun loving friend (with benefits). Whilst the two leads play well on screen together, there is no narrative chemistry there. No reason that the Doctor feels the need to protect Clara above all overs (Before the Flood), even at the cost of other lives. Supposedly it plays into the idea of the old angry Doctor from the Time War as well as the 3 regretful incarnations that came after him who are either looking to escape or find forgiveness in their actions.

It reeks of Moffat trying to make his long term mark on the series, by altering the lore & history of the entire backstory, but also speaks of undermining what Davies did before him. This can be seen in how he changed the outcome of the Time War, brought back characters like Davros & changed The Doctor’s oldest (in story not continuity) enemy, The Master (whom Davies had already reshaped) into Missy –who comes off more as a trope-filled insane exgirlfriend than as someone who wants to bring the universe to its collective knee-like appendages.

Whilst it is perfectly natural for any person to want to leave their legacy, many fans (both long & short term) feel it is as though Moffat is leaving a shite stain on something they love; after rubbing himself all over all those whom came before him (especially Davies).

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Just a basic nostalgia shot. Nothing to see here.

Now, while Doctor Who is a show that has endured a great many ups & downs in terms of production, stories & acting, there is something lingeringly wrong with Moffat’s period. Whilst he has delivered fan beloved characters like River Song & has helped to create many “pop culture moments” the long term feeling towards his work will be one of resentment & confusion –especially at his narrative handwaving & ignoring his on continuities.

Is there a way to repair the damage that Moffat has done?

Probably but right now he just feels like a gangrenous wound to the franchise as a whole: needing to be cut off.

If the BBC would be rid of him & his offsiders, bring in a fresh creative team as well as sanction a stable budget & season structure, maybe Doctor Who can return to the Davies/Tenant era that so many fans want it to hark back to.

Yet, I personally do no feel as though that is the way the series should go.

What Doctor Who needs is an entire shaking up of the formulas of quips, running & single story episodes. Mixing a new formula with the old serial structure would be a giant boon to the franchise as a whole. The main fan demand is for a female Doctor but that doesn’t offer anything really new. As has previously been argued, if you want a strong female Doctor you need someone who can write interesting female characters; otherwise you just have a woman doing all the things that the Doctor has always done. Same as if you changed to a non-white, non-cisgendered character. If you do not have a production team that can bring out the positives & uniqueness of such a character than it is merely tokenism or pandering to the most vocal members of the fan community.

If Moffat is go, so must the philosophy of the BBC Trust of Doctor Who being a kiddie oriented cash cow whilst trying to keep an adult audience as well as the rabid mewling of the fandom -who except everything & so are never happy with what they get. Attitudes to fan pandering & treating them as idiots who will lap up any references like the proverbial dog also has to be destroyed –more so if you want to see something fresh.

So, it remains that Moffat needs to go. His attitude, story & era needs to be mainly forgotten. Not with an a waving of the hand to reboot the entire universe or disregarding all that has come before. More we should remember the good of what Moffat brought –especially from the actors involved– but ignore all the miscues, the fobbing off & sudden changes to the narrative. They should be ignored but not forgotten; so that they mistakes won’t be wrought again.

I could have spend my time in this article an episode by episode breakdown of the issues of the past season but, to be honest, I can barely remember the majority of the episodes. Nothing incredible sticks in my mind. There are the small glimmers of greatness here & there but more oft than not, they are buried under a mountain of nonsensical shite that coats my memories with things that I’d rather forget. There is much redemption still there –especially with Capaldi playing the titular role– but it is not enough for me to revisit it like I would the older, cheesier series that grew up with many of which haven’t aged well at all) but having to watch Clara die yet again & having our emotions manipulate over trite stuff with characters who we’d largely forgotten because of their dullness reeks of manipulativeness. Not to mention bowing to fan demands by bringing UNIT scientist Osgood back after previously being killed by Missy (in the most pathetic way). It is things such as those that leave a bad taste in one’s mouth, leading to resentment & back talk. Whilst the majority of the fans won’t simply switch off, less & less are defending the things that are wrong with the series against even the tiniest criticism (something which marks an ardent fan).

In the end, whilst there has been some good things that Moffat had brought to the franchise, he ultimately feels toxic to the long term future of Doctor Who. If he steps aside to allow a fresh perspective on the show from an entirely new team free from his influence & the interference of the BBC heads then we should see a diminishing of the Law of Diminishing Returns. Yet, I do personally feel that anyone at the BBC is brave enough to cut Moffat from the show right now, nor are they interested in altering the formula in any way.

Maybe it is the formula that is at fault. The eternal rhythm of banter, quip, running, problem solving & endless asides. Maybe the formula is too ingrained in both the series & the audience, with those in charge becoming unwilling to disentangle things to bring a new perspective or construct a new concoction to play around with.

In the end of the end, there is nothing overall wrong with Doctor Who. It does what it is intended to do, which is entertain, but it wears on the good will of the audience & pulls at both the demands of the invested fans & the blase nature of the casual fan. The nexus of so many of these issues does seem to be Steven Moffat, who has done so many good things in the entertainment industry over the years, yet seems to detrimental to Doctor Who as a whole. For this I cannot condemn him but I can still Deny him. & that I shall do. Until either he leaves or he remedies all the ills that he has caused.

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At least we’ll always have the TARDIS

 

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Rant: The Return of the Fett – Star Wars, fanboyism & Boba Fett

This is the kinda of shit fanboys image Boba Fett doing.

Remember: this is just an angry rant from a bitter ex-fan, it doesn’t invalid your own opinion -even if it is wrong, flavoured by false nostalgia or/& goes against your masturbatorial fantasies

When they announced new Star Wars films that I would spew with rage if Boba Fett made a return.

Whelp, images popping up of Boba being back & it’s all because of fan demands.

Boba had the tiniest appearances in 2 films & was killed off like a chump in Return of the Jedi but fans keep sucking on his nuts like he’s got the fattest dick in the room.

I have a hypothesis as to why he’s so popular:
Before the release of The Empire Strikes Back, Boba was revealed in the abomination that was the infamous Star Wars Christmas Special before he was pushed in marketing for the franchise, appearing in shopping malls & other promotional material. When he finally appears in the films, he doesn’t really do anything.

My hypothesis is that because Boba is a Tabula Rasa -in that he doesn’t do anything of substance in the films (pretty much stand around until he gets dropped into the Sarlacc’s Pit & I’m not including the bastardised updated versions of the original films) & has a mask concealing his face- fans (mainly just pubescent boys) use him as a self insertion character.

That means that since he does nothing they (the fans) can make him do what they want. They can give him the most badarse backstory there ever was, have him fuck the hottest alien babes (why are they always Twi’leks, other than one was a dancer in Jabba’s palace?) & have him slaughter any enemy that he faces.

He was repeatedly resurrected in fan fiction but officially brought back for the comics & Extended Universe novels, being spat out by the Sarlacc because it couldn’t digest his armour. He than has contradictory adventures, either to get revenge on Solo or work with him or just go about banging chicks & scoring bounties (banging bounties & scoring chicks, one or the other).

Yet this Christ-like resurrection of the fanboy favourite wasn’t enough. The uber fanboys cried out for more of him & when we do get ,oe, it’s the utterly munted story of Boba being a clone & then how he wanted revenge against Mace Windu for beheading his “dad“.

The uber fanboys weren’t really happy with this, so Lucasfilms/Disney announced that he gets his own film -set between Revenge of the Sith & A New Hope– as well as appearances in the upcoming trilogy.

I get that people love him & that Boba is based on the Western archetype of the stoic, silent bounty hunter who never rests until he’s got his mark but there is such thing as too much fan investment in a character. The imagination exceeds the reality & when they do make him more fleshed, no one can be satisfied because that can’t beat what they already have in their minds.

Once again it seems that fanboyism & nostalgia have grabbed any chance of getting fresh ideas into a stagnating franchise by the nuts & have twisted them until Lucasarts/Disney screamed for mercy.

What Boba Fett realy does best: dying.

This Ain’t Your Grandpa’s Muppets – TV Critique & Devil’s Advocate: The [Modern] Muppets.

The modernised Muppets
The modernised Muppets

From my earliest memories I have been a fan of The Muppets & the works of Jim Henson. I have almost annual viewings of The Dark Crystal & Labyrinth as well as watch other Muppet movies whenever the mood takes me.

Like so many of my generation, my love of The Muppets started with the children’s educational show Sesame Street as well as regular repeats of The Muppet Show. I endured the saccharine nature of Fraggle Rock but fell in love with Jim’s more mature works, such as the incredible first series of The Storyteller (which gave me a love of the actor John Hurt‘s amazing voice & mish-mash of tales in The Jim Henson Hour.

Jim has been dead for 25 years now, so there are a few generations that have missed out on the raw, wild & fertile imagination of Jim Henson & his loyal crew.

His work has been carried on, for the most part, & the Jim Henson Company & Creature Workshop have been involved in pushing the limits of technology to create fantastical creatures for the screen -both big & small.

Through all this, The Muppets have endured -mostly through a strong sense of nostalgia- yet have been tainted by some of the cheap (both cost & emotionally) feeling productions that Disney have pumped out.

The nadir of this was the gods awful Muppets Tonight (1996-1998) as well as some of the straight to DVD stuff that Disney pumped out in order to hold onto the franchise.

Yet the memory of The Muppets -especially the stoicism of Kermit The Frog– has endured. People quietly asked for a new Muppets show, much like the old one (& unlike Muppets Tonight), so Disney & (US) ABC have given us one.

But it’s not the one that people remember.

It’s not like it at all.

& this upsets people & makes them put words into Jim’s mouth like he is one of his own puppets.

I’ve heard people saying “oh, an adult Muppets! It’s not what Jim would have wanted!” & they are both utterly wrong & ignorant of what The Muppets are.

Jim loved adult humour. He loved subversive, risky & dark jokes. He loved innuendo & word plays. You only have to see the original Muppet Show & Muppet movies to realise that fact.

The reason most people take the assumption that Jim wouldn’t like a more adult & mature Muppet show is because they primarily grew up with either The Muppet Babies or the pap that Disney & other companies pushed out after Jim’s death.

Yes, I am assuming that Jim would love that his Muppets have returned to their more adult roots based upon previous evidence of his works & writings. It’s just I’m not sure that he would have enjoyed what the current mature Muppets is.

The premise of the new Muppet show (simply called The Muppets in bad type writer font as you see in the picture at the top of the article) is a show much in the vein of many recent “trage-comedies” like The Office (the awful US version) or Parks And Recreation where there is a supposed documentary crew following characters around. This allows the characters to make asides to the camera, break the 4th wall or intercut the dissonance between words & actions. They’ve also made many changes to the characters, such as having Kermit more bitter & cynics, worn up by his break up to Miss Piggy (which news media & the interwebs went mental over despite it obviously being info released to help hype the show’s premiere).

It’s these changes to well established characters & roles that seems to have many people upset. I can see their points but it wasn’t this new, darker tone to Kermit, Piggy & others that got me. For me it was the miscues of the actual characterisation of the individual Muppets.

The aspects are all there –Fozzie is stll failing at his jokes, Gonzo is still weird, Statler & Waldorf are still heckling, Kermit is trying to be a calm island in a sea of panic- but how they are portrayed feels wrong.

To me, it’s the change in voices. They seems off. Like they are doing bad impressions of the original cast.

I mean, Jim hasn’t voiced any of his creations in 25 years but the new crew just don’t seem to have the vocal cues or forms right -giving it all an askew angle.

Maybe this is good. Maybe it will help break older people like me from nostalgia’s teat. I don’t know.

The thing that really got to me was the lack of spark.

The change of style & setting means that they can do things differently yet they still want to keep the individual characters in their little pigeonholes -such as Sam Eagle still trying to make everyone moral & wholesome & the Electric Mayhem being utterly out of it at the best of times. The same goes with trying to wedge in special human guest stars each week. If they dropped the celebrity aspect or polished it up a bit, it would work wonders for the new formula.

It’s also very cynical & bleak in it’s outlook -which does go very much against Jim’s positivist outlook on life. He believed that people should love each other & get along, where as this new formula relies on keeping the dysfunction going without any resolution or nicety about it.

But let’s not get things wrong, when the show is funny it’s bloody funny.

It still has some incredible wit & the more mature tone allows them to fit in some wonderful little entendre throughout. Great ones being Fozzie talking about online dating & his reaction to meeting his girlfriend’s bigoted parents to Zoot crossing lines of ethics & taste.

Unfortunately, having such moments of brilliance against the mundane formula & plot of Kermit trying to run a show & deal with Piggy post breakup whilst an unseen documentary crew wander around shows how unbalanced it is.

I want to see them work on the core strengths of the Muppets & the humour that they bring. I want this show to succeed & go on. I don’t want another Muppets Tonight situation.

I really do encourage people to watch & give it a go. Don’t let the new formula & mature outlook get to you. If you can look past them to what makes The Muppets awesome, then you’re sure to get a laugh out of it all.


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Devil’s Advocate – Defend: Nintendo Wii U

Wii_U_Console_and_Gamepad    I don’t tend to frame myself as a fanboy of things because I just don’t have that level of obsession or energy to argue that pathetically about something. Although, to be fair, I can get passionate over various preferences that I have but not to the drooling psychotic levels that others do that is lacking both Rhyme & Reason.

    Console fanboys are pretty particular to this.

    Zealously defending that which does not need to be defended whilst it sucks their wallets dry -like some hideous electronic leech.

    Personally, when it comes to the more recent console releases, I tend to -if & when I have the money- either buy the two paragon systems to get the greater range of games (because of all the cross-platform releases) or, in the case of the previous generation when I had a staff discount from a big retail chain- I brought all 3 major releases.

Being the Wii, Xbox 360 & the Playstation 3.

    Although, to be honest, that wasn’t all at once.

    I got the Wii 1st, then the 360 after the Red Ring of Death issue had been solved & the PS3 after I’d broken up with my then fiancee & brought a big LCD TV with the money I was going to spend on a holiday together, so needed to upgrade things so could watch my DVDs on the larger screen.

    That brings us to the current gen -which is still called “Next Gen” for some reason.

    A console generation that I haven’t really bothered to get excited about because of my experiences with the previous/current gen console releases.

    That being: lack of interesting games, no ability to actually take advantage of the hardware’s capabilities & high prices.

    That being said: I did make a single exception for a release day purchase & that was Nintendo’s Wii U.

    Nintendo consoles are the only ones that I get really interested in. Something I think stems from being denied an NES when I was a kid & being made by my father to call up every retailer in town to find a SNES just after it was released in Australia (finally managing to snag the last one that David Jones in Belconnen had after 3 days of phone calls to every retailer in the city). My younger brother & I also shared an original Gameboy from the days when you needed to play them under a lamp to see anything & they took so many bloody batteries! So, so many.

    At any rate, that all pretty much cemented my preference for Nintendo consoles & games & I have owned every major home release every since (& most of the handhelds other than the Gameboy Advance). To this day I maintain that the GameCube was a thoroughly underrated system that had the most comfy controller ever made!

nintendo-gamecube

    Yet, at the same time I was indulging in my Nintendo preferences, I always had other systems to compare it to.

    I played games on the old Apple Macintosh at home as well classic PC games at my next door neighbour’s house.

    At the same time I had my SNES, my best friend (who is still my best friend to this day) flitted between owning a SNES of his own & a Sega Mega Drive (known as a Genesis in the US). He also purchased a Mega-CD but that some massively awful FMV games outside of the (then) amazing Sonic CD. He also later got a Playstation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayStation when I had a Nintendo 64, so I always had a balance with games. I also owned a GameCube & Playstation 2 simultaneously, because of the exclusive titles that both systems had.

    Anyway, bring on 2013 & the release of the much touted Wii U.

    I was a Day 1 Adopter, which was brought down by 2 factors.

    1: the mandatory update that took several hours to complete but could be done with the TV turned off due to the unique GamePad controller.

    & 2: a massive screw-up at my local JB HiFi where a good chunk of the staff weren’t there, so all consoles & games were stuck out back for ages (though the staff who were there did their best to get things sorted as quick as they could, so no blame on the good ones who did more than their job’s worth).

    But one HUGE bonus for being at Day 1 Adopter was that every game was only $40 for me. This was due to a screw up with JB head office where they offered all Wii U games for $40 with console purchase but then changed it to selected titles. Despite that, they never rescinded the original offer, leaving it open to staff, so: exploit achieved. Plus they ended up price matching with a rival store, which saved me about $100 on the console. Big score on that on too.

    I picked up New Super Mario Bros Wii U, ZombiU, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 & Assassin’s Creed 3 -the bonus mini-game compilation that game packed with the console Nintendo Land. Would’ve gotten a couple more but didn’t have the cash on me at the time & nothing interested me in what they had (some games were delayed due to shipping errors nation wide). Did order Tekken Tag 2 online when I had the cash but that arrived a while later.

    So, with two cross platform games & two exclusive titles (not including the mini game compilation), will do a quick review of each.

gaming_new_super_mario_bros_u_1_1New Super Mario Bros Wii U: not much can be said for this other then is your basic Mario Bros. Side-scrolling platformer but based more upon the Super Mario World vein. It’s fun & challenging but nothing really new if you played the 2 previous New Super Mario Bros. games. Still haven’t finished it because got a bit miffed by the sudden difficulty spike & having other titles across all my platforms to play.

zombiU coverZombiU: a 1st person zombie survival game with perma-death, meaning that if your character dies, they get turned into a zombie & you have to hunt them down to get back all the stuff you’ve collected. Still haven’t played much of it because not really my sort of game, just got it for something to play really. Will get back to is sometime soon.

blops 2 cover

COD: BLOPs 2: Mein Gott!! This is one of the worst games I’ve ever played! Nothing to do with the Wii U version (also had a go on the 360 one & pretty much the same). This game is the reason why I avoid the whole military shooter genre (or Spunk-gargle-wee-wee to give it its proper title). The only reason I got it was because it was cheap. Finished it in a couple of hours, without doing the annoying side missions (which turns out you have to do to get the good ending). The game’s story was pretty much stupid Americans fucking over poor countries with a team of white weaponised Übermensch; with only two non-white heroes, one of which gets killed, the other wounded. All other non-whites betray or attempt to murder our Übermensch protagonist. Funnelled, frustrating gunfights & completely shitty plot. Pretty much the perfect game for Seppo paranoid gun-wank enthusiasts.

Assassins-Creed-III-Wii-UAssCreed 3: Honestly don’t know why I bothered with this game. Was boring, frustrating, tediously long with terrible controls & worse characters. Not to mention the shitty missions. I almost broke the GamePad because of the last mission, where you have to chase the last Templar down but if you make the slightest mistake or get knocked back or distracted by an enemy, it’s an automatic fail. I wasn’t invested in the AssCreed franchise much after the frustration of the 1st game & the bad, cut ending of the 2nd (got both because were very cheap & never bothered with 2.5 or 2.75) but AssCreed 3 pretty much killed any chance of me playing the rest of the franchise -despite the praises that the 4th title has received.

    Anyway, that’s enough waxing lyric on the early days of the Wii U & my personally gaming history,  onto why I think it should be defended & why it’s worth the investment of your time & money.

    Here is where many other self-appointed internet critics & pundits would go all fanboi over Nintendo or rant about how the company is basically dead & producing the same thing over & over again.

    Which side you fall on has pretty much been decided by which consoles & companies raised you as a child. I grew up with Nintendo, so my Cognitive Bias sides more with them but is mitigated marginally by the fact I’ve pretty much played ever console ever released in my country (apart from the Atari Jaguar but, let’s be honest: no one really played that system).

    To start with: The Wii U isn’t a processing or graphical powerhouse like the Xbone or PS4 but does have better graphics then the PS3 & 360. Nintendo have a history of being able to produce exceptionally pretty games, which Mario Kart 8 (as reviewed here) has proved. I personally haven’t seen anything as spectacular on the new rival consoles, despite being early days & the boosts of power that both Sony * Microsoft throw about.

    Also, despite what the many uber-fans of the other companies/consoles claim, Nintendo is still the market paradigm when it comes to home & handheld consoles. What they do, the other two companies are soon to try to copy. Whereas before it was the motion control of the Wii, now it’s the touch capacity of the GamePad. The instant that Nintendo announced that it would be making a system with an inbuilt touchscreen, the other Big 2 rushed out their versions. Being Xbox Glass & the PSVita remote play function -neither of which really worked due to the lack of 3rd party support or titles with which to use them with.

    Which does lead into Nintendo’s biggest failing: the lack of high end 3rd Party support from the big companies like Ubisoft, Capcom & EA. The former & the later have already stated that they won’t be producing more exclusives for the Wii U or porting other cross-platform titles. The main claim is that it is because of lack of sales of the system but it’s more to do with designing or altering something for the GamePad & its built-in screen.

    Bringing us to the Wii U’s biggest feature, draw back & selling point: the GamePad with touchscreen.

    FINALLY: we have a controller bigger & chunkier than the Dreamcast’s one.

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    The entire controller is about the size of an iPad but the screen itself is only 15.7 cm (diagonally across) & made from the same material as the DS/3DS touchscreens (about the same size as a DSi XL unit as well). So no Gorilla Glass or multi-gesture on it yet it still manages to produce a high quality image (nowhere near 1080p or even 720p unfortunately). The controller also features twin sticks which sit up high on the unit -which can be a little vexing for some games but feels natural with others. There are also 6 buttons: 4 configured like the SNES on the front & 4 shoulders buttons. Even with the spread of buttons & the width of the controller, it’s still fairly comfortable to hold & you don’t have to mess around much fiddling with the various buttons (unless, like me, you often get shit mixed up when doing Quick Time Events). The GamePad also features a NFC zone, which is & will be used with collectable figurines that unlock in game bonuses (more on that later), pseudo-surround sound (which actually does sound impressive) & a front facing camera used for the chat app (which I’m yet to use). There is also a DS-like stylus hidden in the top of the unit, each to get out one-handed when you need it for some games.

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    The GamePad is lighter than you expect but also feels cheap & fragile at times. The buttons tend to make plastic clicking noises. There is also a rattle when you shake it but that might be mine. Still, the lightness of the controller makes it surprisingly easy to use & you can play some games with it resting in its two cradles (the charging one or the display only one) or lie it flat on a table without any hassle. This is no GameCube controller mind (although an adaptor for them will be available with the release of Super Smash Bros. Wii U), so it does crick your wrists & fingers after a while. More so with how stiff the buttons can be; their lack of give hurting your thumb after too much use.

    The other major drawback of it is how quickly it chews through battery life but you can leave it plugged in without hassle because the charger cable is very long. You can also rest it in the charging cradle if you go for the Premium pack (which is black, means bigger. . . internal memory); which is handy if you are watching cut scene heavy games. You can also play some games with a Wii U Pro Controller, which looks like a 360 one, or your old Wiimote+ if you managed to keep hold of your Wii.

    The real strength & selling point of the GamePad is its ability for what Nintendo calls “Off-TV Play”. That is: the ability to play a full game on the controller rather than use the TV (if other family members are using it is the most touted example as to why it exists). Unfortunately, games like New Mario Bros. leaves this function on all the time, which becomes fairly distracting but games such as Rayman Legends use the touchscreen & remote play exceptionally well for some puzzles & levels. I also find the remote play function handy because my TV is pretty dodgy at the moment, so easier to play on the GamePad as I wait for the TV to come good. Best games for this so far have been Mario Kart 8, Wind Waker HD & Lego Batman 2 but it’s also great for the Virtual Console games that get over-pixilated on a screen as big as mine (46 inches of goodness, baby!). The distance that the remote play can go is pretty far as well; I could go to the kitchen in my old house without losing the signal but have heard tell of people who take it into the toilet like they did their old Gameboys.

    The OS is similar to the Wii & 3DS ones, with a tile/window based menu. Upon launch it was slow as fuck! Taking up to a minute to start up some titles but subsequent updates have seen that time cut down to under 20 seconds. The latest update brought a quick start function, which loads the game as the system boots, which saves a heap of time fiddling through the menus when you want to play your favourite titles ASAP. The menu is also divide across the GamePad & the TV; with the controller usually having the menu options & the TV projecting the current discourses within the Miiverse around popular games & apps.

    The Miiverse, which is Nintendo’s version of a combined social network, information system & promotional hub, is frankly one of the greatest things on the Wii U. It’s limited & highly monitored in what it can be posted (no rude or threatening language, et cetera) but has produced some amazing jokes as well as art. Because you can use the touchscreen to free hand message, so people use them to produce amazing little black & white artworks. You can also use it to capture in-game screenshots to ask the community for help (hidden behind spoiler posts). Games like Wind Waker HD also integrate it into the game, by allowing you to pick up bottles filled with random messages & pictographs taken by other players. It’s also very handy for Virtual Console games, where you find random silly things or get stuck because you’re too young to have played a game that doesn’t hold your hand for you all of the time.

    Like the Miiverse, you also control the eShop & options from the touchscreen, which is handy because it means that you can browse & buy titles without having to turn on the TV. Nintendo are releasing a lot of their SNES & GB Advance range on the system but the Australia eShop is sadly lacking many great SNES titles that other countries have -such as The Secret of Mana– but they have some good unexpected releases, like Breath of Fire II (a massive underrated & basically forgotten RPG from Capcom). Unfortunate all titles are subject to the dreaded Australia tax. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why! As an Aussie gamer, it’s something I should be used to be still annoys me monstrously. You can also store downloads on approved high capacity SD cards or external hard drives but it’s not something I’ve needed to do yet.

    The highlight of the Nintendo eShop has to be the release of the cult SNES J-RPG classic EarthBound. This never saw an official PAL region release, so it quickly became the most purchased title on the eShop. I got it as soon as I was able, after playing it on an Emulator years ago but screwed up, so have to start again. Which is the problem with old titles but also part of their charm -in that they can be as hard as a paedo near a preschool. Nintendo acknowledged this & included the official walkthrough with the game & online -all for free.

    The other biggest current drawback with the Wii U is the lack of titles at the moment; both 1st & 3rd party. There are some excellent games out, such as Lego City Undercover (which I enjoyed more than GTA V in certain aspects), Donkey Kong Tropic Freeze, Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, Rayman Legends & the previously reviewed Mario Kart 8 to name a few.

    Unfortunately all the long awaited titles are either due later this year, like Super Smash Bros. Wii U, or next year with the new Legend of Zelda game -which is set to be more of a Skyrim style open world. You also have duel-company developed like Hyrule Warriors, which is made by Team Ninja, so expect massively amounts of hypersexualisation & copious jiggle-physics in all the female characters. There is also an entirely new IP called Splatoon, which is an online multiplayer shooter where players have to splatter as much of the map in goop as they can to win -so follows Nintendo’s limited violence ideology. Which is countered by the uber-hypersexualised release of Bayonetta 2, which brings a whole new level to the fetishisation of female characters within a video game; they’re also releasing it with the original game bundled in, so double the perversion. At least this is countered by Yoshi’s Woolly World, which I want because AWMYFUCKINGAWDITSOKOOOOOOOOOOTE!!!! There are more exclusive titles due but will talk about them in a later article.

    Unfortunately no news on any new Wii U only Pokémon titles, that you can use with your 3DS, because that is the long awaited dream. Either an open world MMORPG or another tournament style battle game where you can use your own pokémon on your own 3DS system. Fans have been chewing walls waiting for such a game & it could really move so many consoles in a tiny amount of time -especially with how Nintendo allow free online multiplayer on all their games.

    One interesting future release that Nintendo announced via their Direct video is their new line of amiibo figure which work with the NFC system in the GamePad to allow for the transfer of data as well as a limited form of DLC. They work in a similar way to Activision’s Skylanders game, where you buy figures to bring new characters into games. The amiibo are set to work as customisable fighters in Super Smash Bros. Wii U but Nintendo have hinted that it will bring non-Mario franchise characters (like Link or Samus) into games like Mario Kart 8 (which was a desire expressed in my Mario Kart 8 review; I wonder if Nintendo read it?). If they integrate it into a new Pokémon game or other such franchise & they’ll become a licence to print money. When Nintendo reveals what they’ll be used for, how & the cost, I’ll probably end up collecting a few of them because they do look really cool. Perfect design, if the promo versions are anything to go by.

    It’s truly unfortunately that Nintendo has taken so long to release so many top tier & highly demanded games but seems to be the trend with development cycles of late; always several steps behind rushed releases.

    At any rate, the brand recognition games from Nintendo as well as their bevy of exclusive titles will be on shelves before Sony & Microsoft’s ones; plus the Big N doesn’t have to worry about the cross-platform glut as much as the other two (with some exceptions on franchises such as the Lego games, which come out on EVERY console, home & handheld).

    Whether or not you decide to buy a Wii U &/or support Nintendo is ultimately up to you. There are some good deals going on with them & the price is sure to drop in the near future. You can afford to wait if you do want one & aren’t so much interested in the other new-current systems.

    It all falls into the glut of gaming that we currently suffer, more so if you factor in all the more Indie PC games & mods out there. Yet I find again & again that my gaming time is spent more & more with Nintendo’s two current flagship consoles -the Wii U & 3DS- because they have the games that I want & the gimmicks that I prefer. You can spin it off as another example of Cognitive Bias but I am not preaching that the Wii U is in anyway the superior system. It is just the most preferable for me at the moment & it may become your’s if you give it half a chance.reggie & iwata