What to do when porting Wii U games to Nintendo Switch — and what not to do

The Nintendo Switch is off to a fantastic start, with consoles sold out across the country and players engrossed in the amazing world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A number of other exclusive games are planned for 2017 like Arms and Splatoon 2, but, to help bolster the fledgling system’s game library in the interim, Nintendo would be wise to port its best Wii U games over to the new system.

However, the company must make the right decisions when doing so – the Switch isn’t the Wii U, and failing to recognize their differences during development could lead to disaster. Here are the things Nintendo needs to do – and not do – when moving the Wii U library over to the Nintendo Switch.

Do: Use simple motion controls

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Motion control wasn’t the star of the touchscreen-centric Wii U, but the console’s ability to support Wii controllers allowed for fine-tuned aiming and other unique gameplay opportunities that weren’t possible on competing platforms. With the Switch, the console itself can be placed in the dock without disabling motion functionality, which is found in both the included Joy-Con controllers as well as the more traditional Pro Controller setup. In Breath of the Wild, this means that Link can line up the perfect shot with is bow regardless of whether or not the system is docked. We see potential in these motion controls to help replicate some of the touchscreen functionality originally seen on Wii U games. Bayonetta 2, for instance, made use of the touchscreen for special attacks, which could be mapped to particular controller movements on the Switch Joy-Cons or Pro Controller, instead.

Don’t: Recreate gimmicky mechanics

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The Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen, gyroscope, and microphone, when coupled with a traditional television set, allowed for games to not only feature multiple control inputs, but also allowed for twice the screen real-estate, as different images could be displayed on the television and GamePad screen. Unfortunately, this concept was not used successfully very often. Developers rarely deviated from the basics use-cases for a second screen, such as maps and menus. While it might be tempting for developers to jam all this information on the Switch’s screen at once, it may be too much for players to take in at once. Instead, Nintendo and its teams shouldn’t be afraid to relegate much of this information to a pause menu, as we saw with the Switch and Breath of the Wild. It’s a small concession, but it’s one that ultimately makes the majority of the game easier to navigate.

The Wii U also made use of a built-in microphone for controlling games, particularly 2013’s Super Mario 3D World. While motion could arguably replicate the act of blowing into the Gamepad’s microphone — as is required at certain points in the game — simply switching to a traditional button press would suffice.

Do: Prioritize traditional control schemes

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The Switch might look like the strangest console Nintendo has ever produced, with its built-in screen and removable controllers, but its control schemes are all remarkably “traditional.” Face buttons, a d-pad, dual analog sticks, and shoulder buttons allow for games to be played much like they would be on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 — but unlike those systems, these games can be taken on the go. Acclaimed Wii U games like Pikmin 3 and ZombiU would lose a small amount of functionality when played with a traditional control scheme, but the transition wouldn’t be impossible — in fact, ZombiU successfully made its way to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as Zombi, though it no longer featured the Wii U’s tense dual-screen gameplay.

Don’t: Port games that can only work on Wii U

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The majority of the Wii U’s first-party library would function perfectly well on a more traditional console, but there are a few games that use the system’s unique features in such a fundamental way that the games simply will not work if they are ported to the Switch. Launch title Nintendo Land, for instance, uses the touchscreen and motion functionality in tandem at times, along with asymmetrical multiplayer that would be impossible in the Switch’s docked configuration. Star Fox Zero, meanwhile, uses a constant dual-screen control scheme as its main gameplay hook, forcing players to quickly switch their attention between the television and the Wii U GamePad. This likely could be changed to a setup more reminiscent of Star Fox 64 to accommodate for the differences on the Switch, but as Zero is essentially a remake of that classic game, it would offer very little new to players.

Do: Support local multiplayer

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The Nintendo Switch supports online multiplayer, but the system really shines when a few friends are playing together in the same room. In addition to the traditional “couch” setup, with each player looking at the television as they hold either a Joy-Con controller or a Pro Controller, multiple players can share the console’s built-in screen to play multiplayer games on the go, and if each player has their own Switch, up to eight can be connected together so that each player can still have their own screen. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe supports this feature, but if Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is ported to the Switch as well, it’s absolutely critical that local multiplayer matches can use more than one system. Though the action in Smash all takes place essentially on one screen, the Switch is simply too small for more than a couple of people to use it simultaneously. The same goes for New Super Mario Bros. U, a game that would technically function with multiple players viewing the same Switch , but also one that would benefit greatly by giving players their own screens to view.

Don’t: Bring the shovelware along for the ride

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Super Mario Maker, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, and Bayonetta 2 are classic games that will go down as some of the best Nintendo has ever published, but the Wii U still had its share of shovelware during its short lifespan — not just from third parties looking to cash in on the new console, but also from Nintendo itself. Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, Pokémon Rumble U, and Game & Wario simply aren’t up to the high quality standard that Nintendo has been known for over the years, and bolstering the Switch’s limited library with a selection of games that are outdated or downright bad won’t do the young console any favors. We’re confident that the developers who struggled on the Wii U — particularly Intelligent Systems — will have an easier time developing exclusives for the Switch, as they’ll be able to focus on classic game design rather than making sure that each game makes use of the console’s unique features. We’re sure there is a small group of players disappointed that they won’t be able to play Rabbids Land on the Switch, but that’s why you should keep your Wii U around.


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