Whilst the past nine months have proved a rather tumultuous period for the Wii U, it has been Miiverse that can be easily recognised as the console’s greatest success story.
Users have shared joy, tears, but, more significantly, carefully hand-drawn illustrations which has become a somewhat progressive craze through the service. Nintendo have observed from afar, realised the limitations of the black and white colour palette, and have expertly responded by delivering more vibrant options through Art Academy: SketchPad.
For anyone who’s ever played around with similar digital art suites, there’s little to say that most wouldn’t already be able to predict. The Nintendo eShop download divides itself between its main Studio mode and a Portfolio for you to store your work, with additional Lessons and a Gallery locked away until an as yet unknown future date. In that sense, it’s a fairly light offering that’s matched by a reasonable £3.59 (€3.99/$3.99) price point.
Those looking for assistance in sparking their own creativity will be disappointed, however. As a smaller portion of a larger planned release, there’s a distinct lack of guidance here that could discourage those with less confidence in their artistic skill. Tutorials are non-existent, whereas Lessons, a staple of the handheld instalments, are entirely absent and will presumably come at additional cost down the line.
That said, the painting toolset is a well-varied concoction and the player is provided with some striking real-life subject images to use for inspiration if desired. Differing coloured surfaces must be initially chosen, between Smooth, Cartridge or Pastel, and then you’re left to your own devices.
Delve into your tools and you’ll find pastel palettes, coloured crayons, smudge sticks, putty eraser, and a Scratchpad for testing before you put them to use. There’s an zoom option allowing you to flit between two magnifications, whilst a grid option will allow you to tidy up any pixel art you may be planning.
It doesn’t end there though, with the opportunity to post your efforts on Miiverse – the software’s community having already built a loyal following of 47,869 active users just over a week after launch, with intricately drawn artwork already pouring in by budding artists from all around the world.
That paintings are frequently appearing mere minutes apart is impressive in itself and whilst inspiration is largely drawn from Nintendo’s gaming catalogue, exceptionally talented users have already tackled portraits of Satoru Iwata, Shigeru Miyamoto, and Reggie Fils-Aime in Mona Lisa garb.
Those fearing ridicule of their more basic creations by those capable of displaying more artistic flair needn’t worry either. Whether it’s Nintendo’s careful moderation or not, words of encouragement are plentiful throughout and with the wealth of talent on display it isn’t uncommon to find multiple users having placed their approving “Yeah!” on each post.
It’s this extended Miiverse connection that proves Art Academy: Sketchpad such a worthy purchase, even if the download itself feels fairly sparse in its current form. Needless to say this is a unique experience that remains unmatched by competitors, and for that many will find much to enjoy.
Alex Seedhouse+ Alex's early adoration for Nintendo began with a Yellow Game Boy and a copy of Donkey Kong Land. This developed over the years, later peaking when he hid in his room to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time one Christmas. Nowadays, his enthusiasm is shared through Nintendo Insider, a place in which he can document his thoughts regarding the big N.