Wii U

Wii U

A couple years ago I picked up a Nintendo 3DS XL. It was the first Nintendo console I had owned since the N64, and it made me fall in love with video games again. Review Here. I’ve wanted a Wii U for awhile, but it wasn’t a realistic option  considering I had tons of games still to play on the 3DS and more gaming would just take more of my time. Long story short, I needed a Wii U for my work (no really) and I didn’t want to use reference photos so I made the perfect excuse and got one. So far I love it. It’s really refreshing to see Nintendo Games in 1080P. Feels weird, in fact. Of course, Nintendo isn’t about realistic graphics – and I’m happy about that, a “realistic” Mario game wouldn’t make sense. But having more polygons and more pixels in a Mario game is a welcome improvement. It adds to the surreal environment of most Ninendo games. It almost feels like your interacting with some magical toys or claymation.

So far I’ve played:

  • Super Mario 3D World
  • Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
  • Mario Kart 8
  • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

I’ll give a brief review of each here, since it’s important to get an idea of the games available on the system. Super Mario 3D World is basically an HD version of Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS. Of course, I loved 3D land and I also love 3D World. Its some of the finest platforming I’ve played. I just wish the Wii U had the 3d screen like my 3DS – one of the things that made Super Mario 3D Land so great. Also, some might argue that this is the epitome of Mario game design. I found the following video and it blew my mind:

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is actually a spin-off game of a mini game inside Super Mario 3D World. Nintendo really took the idea and ran with it. It uses the same engine as 3D world, but the level design is much more polished. It’s primarily a puzzle game, so the platforming is more relaxing than 3D World or DKC:Tropic Freeze. In fact, Toad (or Toadette!) can’t even jump! There is some action though, whether it’s dodging flames or killing shy-guys with turnips. Overall the game is easy, and not for the hardcore group. But it’s perfect for me. Something nice to relax with, and rather trippy to play. Mario Kart 8: is … Mario Kart. New tracks, new power ups, and… DLC. It kinda shocked me to see a product placement for Mercedes Karts in Mario Kart… also DLC advertising for Zelda and Animal Crossing add-ons. I think DLC is whack, but I guess I can’t argue too much – Animal Crossing and Zelda were NEVER part of Mario Kart, so they really do deserve to be extra content. But Mercedes product placement really rubs me the wrong way. Other than that, though, another great Mario Kart. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is wonderful. It’s amazing to see a classic-style platformer imagined in 1080P with beautiful assets and animations. It’s also tough like the classic DKC games, but looks so, so, amazing on the Wii U.

You might be able to tell from the first four games I purchased for it that my taste in games is classic platformers and Nintendo first party titles. If you like these, then the Wii U is an absolute must buy. But if you like 3rd party games, or darker games, you would fare better with another console. Personally I strongly dislike “dark” games or games that try to be adult – I’d rather trip-out in bright colorful surreal games.

Amiibos

These little action figures are a hot-topic right now.

Amiibos

Some people love them, some hate them. The basic jist is that these figurines have NFC (Near Feild Communications) built into them, and they can communicate with the Wii U or the New 3DS XL simply by placing them on the controller. They have a small amount of memory in them, and can save data. They each have a unique character identifier built into their NFC / RFID code, so certain amiibos will unlock various stuff in different games. For instance, you can only get the Yoshi gameboard in Mario Party 10 if you have the Yoshi Amiibo. In Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker my Kirby Amiibo gives me 2 extra lives per day if I remember to swipe it.

The figures themselves aren’t terribly expensive, but they’re definitely at the limit. At $12 each, it’s not practical to buy more than few – which means some games you’ll never unlock everything in. It’s basically like a form of DLC except you get something physical too. The benefit of this, though, is that one Amiibo will work across multiple games, including future titles. So, it’s also like investing in future DLC with a one-time fee. Since they also work on the New 3DS, buying one will work for both systems if you have both.

One thing that sucks about the Amiibos is their availability. Nintendo is trying to market them as a collectible, and scalpers are buying up entire stores inventory’s so they can flip them on ebay or craigslist. It’s really sad. You hear horror stories about honest parents who lose to the scalpers and they’re children can get the Amiibos they want – unless they pay an artificial premium. If you have the collectors bug like I do, it will be very expensive to get complete sets of these – not really even worth it to try. Despite my collectors instincts, I’m not buying into it. I don’t have the patience, time, money or storage space to put them all.

Controllers

The controller situation with Nintendo is pretty annoying right now, just take a look:

3manycontrollers5me

  • A: The Wii U Control Pad. This has a build in touch screen which some games require. The nice thing about this controller, though, is that you can play most (but not all) Wii U titles without a TV. Though they tend to look better on a TV, at least I think. It does have a Wiimote sensor bar built into the top which is neat. Unfortunately, you can only have one of these per console.
  • B: Wii U Pro Controller. This feels like a current generation controller, primarily the xBox. However unlike the xBox it’s analog sticks are not kitty-corner, which I prefer. It feels really nice. If you get a Wii U and want to play local multi-player with Mario Kart 8, for example, you will definitely need to pick up 3 of these.
  • C: Hori Battle Pad. Nope, this isn’t actually a GameCube controller, but rather it’s a GC Style controller that plugs into a Wiimote and is strictly meant for Wii/Wii U. It wont work on a real GameCube. It’s not made by Nintendo (Hori), but it’s packaging looks so convincing you would think that it is. Apparently Nintendo struck gold when they made the GC controller because many people still love it and demand it for Smash Bros. Hori, capitalizing on this, made this controller to appeal to Smash Bros fans – hence the name, Battle Pad.
  • D: Wiimote (classic). This was the original Wiimote that shipped with the Nintendo Wii. The Wii U can play Wii Games, and some Wii U games may support the Wiimote – so it’s essnetial to have a few of these… EXCEPT… (read on).
  • E: Wiimote Plus. About half way through the Wii’s life-span developers demanded better precision for their motion control. Nintendo made an add-on for the wii-mote as an upgrade. Eventually Nintendo released the Wiimote Plus which had the additional motion control built in. These days there’s no real point in having the classic Wiimotes, so if you have a Wii U and want to play classic wii games, you will probably want four Wiimote Plusses.
  • F: Classic Controller Pro. This was originally made for the Wii, but many Wii U games that support the Wii U Pro Controller will also support the Classic Controller Pro. It’s no longer being sold in stores, but still works if you have one. Not all Wii U games may support it. One additional bummer: If you want to play Wii Games, the new Wii U Pro Controller will not work in Wii Mode, so you will need one of these for classic Wii titles.
  • G: Classic Controller. This was eventually replaced by the Classic Controller Pro and is no longer sold. I’m not sure if any Wii U titles support this controller, but it will still work in Wii Mode if you want to play classic Wii titles.

Wow, I feel like I’ve been typing about Nintendo controllers for a half hour. The situation is pretty complicated and lop-sided at this time. To have a full set up with the Wii U, you would want:

  • 1 Wii U Controll pad (comes with the system, and only one can be used at a time)
  • 3 or 4 Pro Controllers. Sometimes player 1 must use the Controll pad, other time, all other plays can have a Pro Controller.
  • 4 Wiimotes. There really is some great software on the Wii (like Wario Ware: Smooth Moves), and having Wiimotes is essential.
  • 1 or more Classic Controller Pro, if you play on playing classic platforming Wii games (not Wii U, just Wii)
  • Optional: 4 Hori Battle-Pads if you want to appeal to the Smash crowd, since the Battle-Pad would be more desirable than the Pro Controller for Smash.

Oh, I forgot to mention: if you’re lucky, you can get your hands on a GameCube-to-WiiU adapter, and use your real GameCube controllers on the Wii U.

I recommend getting the economy unit from public storage to keep all your controllers when not in use. The Wii U Controller situation is slightly ridiculous.

Final Thought

Despite the weird controller situation, and despite the hate-it-or-love-it Amiibos, I still love my Wii U. Though I recognize that the type of game I prefer is different than the mainstream. Most mainstream war games or sports games are a turn off for me, but the Wii U’s limited library suits me nicely. I’ve enjoyed my Wii U so far, and hope to build a nice collection of games for it. If you have a love for Nintendo First party titles, you should first get a 3DS. If you already have a 3DS, then a Wii U is a sweet complement!

March 30, 2015 at 3:36 am | Technology Reviews

 

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© Greg Miller, 2009-2019
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