Wii U JRPGs dared to be different

The Wii U is a system that will hopefully be remembered for a some great first-party games that were willing to take conventional ideas and add a little something special that makes them shine. After all, Nintendo is known for being rather rigorous when it comes to its official games. Especially when you think about the RPGs that were part of its library. We may have only gotten Paper Mario: Color Splash, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE and Xenoblade Chronicles X, but each one was an example of Nintendo trying to do something special for those people that did decide to support the Wii U.

Let’s start off with Paper Mario: Color Splash. I’m not going to try and argue that it is the best Paper Mario game. (That would be the original Paper Mario or Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.) I will say that it attempted to use some clever mechanics to make the experience more interesting. Namely, I’m talking about the use of paint. Color is being sucked from the world. Appropriately enough, it’s often a result of Shy Guys using straws to literally suck it out of people, places and things. How does Mario fix things? With a Paint Hammer! You slam things that have color to “refill” your tool, then smack things that are colorless to restore them. This allows you to progress through areas, solve puzzles and naturally acquire coins.

While Paper Mario: Color Splash’s battle system is… a thing, the fact that it continues to commit to the whole coloring bit is admirable. Most cards are blank, requiring you to expend your precious paint to use them. Okay, fine. That’s cool. What sets it apart is that the amount of paint applied determines its strength. When going against standard Goombas or Koopas, you can get away with applying as little color as possible. Should you come across some bigger bad, then by all means fill in those blanks! This was an unusual mechanic that was unconventional, yet also fit well within the bounds of a world made up of various sorts of paper products. This RPG stood out.

As does Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. It might be easy to look at it and think this could be another JRPG. After all, it’s an Atlus product that draws inspiration from the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona and Fire Emblem series. There are the standard dungeons, turn-based battles, colorful characters and modern setting. Here, it’s the focus on the music industry that makes this game so special. Every character isn’t just a hero or heroine attempting to save the world, they’re also a member of the Fortuna Entertainment production company. The enemies, hostile Mirages, are targeting other figures in the entertainment industry to steal Performa energy.

The dedication to incorporating the entertainment industry into Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE sets it apart. Your characters aren’t just fighting through dungeons. They’ll occasionally go through training sessions. The event scenes play out like music videos, complete with the characters performing original songs. Not to mention the side-stories often have to do with characters’ professional goals and expanding their ranges. It absolutely embraces the idea of idols saving the world and does everything possible to make that seem plausible.

Then, there’s Xenoblade Chronicles X. Nintendo’s first open-world game. How does a title that’s doing something most RPGs are striving for set itself apart? By making the point of the game exploring the planet Mira and using mechs, known as Skells, to traverse its enormous area. The people on the planet are there because they’ve crash landed. They’re completely unfamiliar with the territory. This means you’re actively searching these expanses by installing data probes to expand your intelligence network, find lost stasis pods and accomplish other major and minor goals that make living on this new world a little more comfortable. Everything is not only new to us as players, but to the characters we’re playing as and working with too.

By allowing us to build ourselves up and eventually earn a Skell for exploration, Xenoblade Chronicles X is making what could otherwise be a tedious task seem more interesting and inviting. I mean, one possible pitfall with an open-world game is making it too open. With a Skell, players are able to more easily travel and accomplish goals, as well as deal with enemies. You get this suit at exactly the right point, when you’ve just gotten comfortable with the game, and it expands your horizons even further. I guess you could say it helps the open-world really open up.

The Wii U didn’t get many RPGs. It’s sad, but true. Yet, Nintendo made sure its games each stood out. They attempted to do something different. Not only that, they committed to these concepts and ideas. When it came to applying paint in unusual ways, sending out pop stars to save the world and settling an alien frontier with mechs, this console had us covered.

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