Mass Effect 3: Special Edition is a Wii U launch title because there are Nintendo faithful who have never experienced BioWare’s sci-fi RPG. That’s the message sent by the functionally identical port that Australian developer Straight Right assembled for the console’s launch. There’s nothing wrong with this, but if you were among the masses howling for blood over the trilogy’s conclusion earlier in 2012 — whether for or against — then there’s nothing new for you to find here. If you want to know if the game is worth your time, look no further than our original Mass Effect 3 review.
The quick and easy answer for total newcomers: yes, definitely worth your time.
The most noticeable feature that separates Mass Effect 3 for Wii U from its predecessors is, of course, the GamePad. Nintendo’s second screen interface is outfitted with only minimal enhanced functionality, in the form of an area map and any of eight touch-based hotkeys that you can assign. Creating a shortcut to a particular ability or piece of gear is as simple as dragging a small icon over to the desired location at either side of the GamePad screen. You’ll still end up using face buttons for Commander Shepard’s own combat abilities, but the touchscreen shortcuts offer quick and relatively easy access to squad skills once you get the hang of tapping one without having to look for it.
Mass Effect 3: Special Edition also adds a newly reformulated version of the Genesis motion comic included with the PlayStation 3 release of Mass Effect 2. The comic allowed players who hadn’t experienced the first game to see the story and make any critical choices they had missed. Genesis 2 is largely the same thing, with the events and choices of ME2 added in as well. The idea is to introduce newcomers to the Mass Effect universe while setting up a basic foundation for the state Shepard’s interpersonal relationships as ME3 opens.
That’s the idea. The problem is that the first two Mass Effect games both feature long, elaborate stories that are very difficult to distill down into a motion comic with a reasonable running time. Corners are cut and details are glossed over, particularly in the new portions of Genesis 2 that cover the events of the second game. Elaborate, multi-hour story arcs that unfold as Shepard assembles his team are swept into broad yes/no responses that do the dirty work of setting up the pawns for Mass Effect 3 but with none of the nuance that makes the end result so fulfilling. It’s an unfortunate issue, and perhaps an impossible one to avoid unless (until?) the previous two games come to Wii U.
Also included as part of this “special edition” package is some of the previously released downloadable content for Mass Effect 3, including the day-one From Ashes add-on, the Extended Cut DLC that brings additional context to the story’s conclusion, and the Resurgence, Rebellion, and Earth content packs for the game’s Galaxy at War co-op mode. The lone all-new addition is one heavy weapon, a cluster-fire rocket launcher with lock-on capabilities. No one’s going to argue against the idea of a multi-fire rocket launcher, but it probably doesn’t merit another trip through the campaign.
Galaxy at War is completely intact, though the absence of more recent DLC releases means that previous versions of the game enjoy several additional maps plus new features like challenges and hazards that aren’t (yet) available on Wii U. The micro-transaction component of the mode’s booster pack-driven economy is also gone, with the various weapons/gear/character packs now only purchasable with credits earned in-game. Prices unfortunately remain at their micropayment-encouraging highs, which only serves to highlight the mode’s chief flaw: the fact that supporting for-pay content comes before nailing the right drip-feed of gear to keep players feeling invested. Without microtransactions Galaxy at War’s grind mentality is laid bare, and with none of the enhancements offered by more recent DLC updates.
Mass Effect 3 for Wii U does manage to impress on a technical level. This sharp-looking game loses nothing in the transition to Nintendo’s platform. There may even be some slight improvements in the realm of lighting and shadows. Load times definitely take a hit, though it’s likely just as much the console as it is the game. As our own review notes, the Wii U suffers from inexplicably long load times for even the most basic tasks, such as jumping between the various main menus. That said, the hardware is most certainly up to the task of doing the BioWare art team proud.
Mass Effect 3: Special Edition for Wii U is a clear-cut frontrunner among the new console’s strongest launch titles, though that’s hardly surprising given the critical success of the original game. It is most definitely not a journey that returning players need to experience, not unless there’s some burning desire to play through the same game again. The minimal amount of new content coupled with the gimped co-op and surface-level GamePad enhancements ultimately cast this new version of Mass Effect 3 as a lesser sibling to the earlier releases. It’s still Mass Effect 3 though, and it’s not a game to be missed.
Score: 9 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the Wii U using a copy provided by the publisher)