Review: Super Mario Maker

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I know that the site has been focused on other things lately, but I wanted to take a step to the side for a moment to provide my review of Nintendo’s latest sandbox craze; Super Mario Maker. So what is this title? Is it a toolkit, a game, or both? The answer: both – and it is glorious. If you listened to the RetroSensei Podcast before the hiatus started, you’ll know how excited I was for this title. I’m happy to say I have not been disappointed. Super Mario Maker is really a fresh and exciting release from Nintendo, and one I hope that opens the door for other “designer-type” games in the future.

To start with, the way the game is handled is quite clever. Upon first loading the disc, you are brought to tutorial of sorts. Essentially, you are plopped in front of the famous World 1-1 from the original Super Mario Bros and told to play the game as you normally would. However, after a few moments you reach a part of the level that hasn’t been finished. The game then guides you through the process of completing the level so that it can be conquered.

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When first starting out, you only have access to a limited amount of objects/assets, but as you continue to build and use the tools provided to you, you will eventually receive “deliveries” that essentially unlock more and more things to play with. The more you build, the faster you’ll unlock things. But no matter what, you’ll have everything unlocked after seven-consecutive days of playing.

You can design levels in a number of “Super Mario” styles. There’s the classic look and feel of the original Super Mario Bros. There’s also tools to design levels in the art-style of Super Mario 3 and Super Mario Wii U. To an extent, once you choose a look and feel, the level is locked to that style, but it is possible to incorporate certain elements from one style to the other. This makes for a very diverse palette of game options.

Once you have designed a level, you can save it or even upload to Nintendo’s servers so that other players can give it a go. However, in order to share the level, you first have to demonstrate the ability to complete it yourself. This serves as sort of a check-point to let other players know that any-given level is indeed winnable. Using Nintendo’s Miiverse service, you are able to “like” and comment on certain levels. This really provides a community feel to the game that is absent from many games available on Nintendo’s various platforms.

When it comes to player-created content, some of the levels that are out there are absolutely mind-blowing. The possibilities that exist here are really nearly limitless. This has led to some pretty ingenious content. But as expected, there’s also a fair share of silly and pointless content out there as well.

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When enjoying player-created content, there’s a number of ways to do it. If you have a friend who designs, or if you know the “code word” to a specific level, you can plug it in and play that way. Alternately, there are also lists of ranked levels that you can browse. But if you want to randomize things a bit, you can always take the 10-Mario or 100-Mario challenge. These “challenge” options gives you a bank of lives, either ten or one-hundred, and put you in front of random player-created levels. Successfully completing the challenge rewards you with special power-up that you cannot unlock through other means.

That brings me to another topic. Super Mario Maker does include Amiibo support. Amiibos are something I’ve actually not talked much about on this blog yet. Amiibos are small plastic little figurines embedded with a NFC chip. These figures can be scanned into certain games to unlock special content. In many games, these unlocks are often trivial. But Super Mario Maker has really done a nice job with Amiibo integration. When scanning an Amiibo, you unlock a special costume-based power-up that can be inserted into the level you are designing. For example, scanning a Link or Princess Zelda Amiibo will allow you to load a special mushroom that, when activated, will turn the player into either Link or Zelda. This has no advantages outside of being simply cosmetic, but it can end up being really quite fun and entertaining.

All in all, when it comes to this game – you’ll get out of it what you put in. My whole family has enjoyed this title. It’s a common occurrence in my household to try to make the trickiest, most punishing levels possible. Then sit and watch as the others try to plow their way through.  My youngest son is a HUGE fan of tossing Bullet Bills on top of bouncy Note Blocks and giggling with delight as his mother tries to navigate the endless sea of heat-seeking bullets. In the near future, I will post some codes for some of the personally created levels for those of you that might want to give them a try.

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Difficulty: Variable–  Mastering the actual process of designing a level in Super Mario Maker is simple. If you can hold a stylus and point, you can build levels in Super Mario Maker. Building a GOOD level, well that’s entirely up to your own artistic vision and abilities. When playing player-created content you’ll often come across many cake-walk levels or short, playful proof-of-concept style stages. But, beware. There are PLENTY if torturous and downright difficult levels out there as well. Luckily, Nintendo does give you the option to skip certain levels altogether if they are too difficult.

Story: There really no story here aside from the standard “rescue the princess” trope. But really, Super Mario Maker is a sandbox, not an actual story-driven game.

Originality: Sandbox style games are not new. But typically, these user-created style games are restricted to the PC platform. Nintendo has finally found a way to give a complete toolkit to fans in a way that has never been seen before on home consoles. This is mostly possible due to the design on Wii U touchpad itself. It is my hope that we soon see other similar games from both Nintendo and other developers. Who wouldn’t want a Zelda Dungeon Maker??

Soundtrack: The soundtrack for Mario Maker contains familiar Mario tunes. But the game itself is filled with cute little touches that actually made me smile. When designing a level, the background music is subtle. But, placing a brick or object treats you to a little “pop” noise that is actually harmonized with the background music. This is a really neat little effect that’s difficult to explain in writing. But it’s another example of the type of thoughtfulness and quality that fans have come to expect from Nintendo.

Fun: I can say without a doubt that this game is one of the best purchases I’ve made for the Wii U. Perhaps even one of the best games I’ve encountered all year. It is truly fun for the whole family.

Graphics: The graphics vary here, but do so by design. You can create levels in an 8-bit Nintendo style or take advantage of the Wii U’s modern graphics and build a Super Mario Wii U level that is as gorgeous as anything else from the current generation.

Playcontrol: Building content with the Stylus and Wii U pad is a cinch. It feels natural and is easy to master. When playing through your levels, you can use optional game pads if you choose, but to be honest the Wii U gamepad also serves just fine for this purpose. I had no play control issues at all.

Mature Content: None. However, with any user-created content there is always the possibility that another player may create something questionable. But Nintendo does a pretty good job of policing this.

Value:  $60 is a lot of money for a game. But, these days that seems to be the standard for a current generation release. Regardless, considering the endless sea of content available online, this game, even at full price is well worth the money. I have no regrets whatsoever for spending my $60 on this title.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – This game represents the best of what makes Nintendo great. It is a bold step for any developer to release a title like this. Not only did Nintendo do that, but they succeeded. There are hours and hours of fun to be found here already. Not to mention the future patches that Nintendo has promised that will only add more options in the future.

Available on: Wii U

Review: Bayonetta 2

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Just in time to end the month, here’s my review for the second half of the Wii U bundle, Bayonetta 2. This game is a prime example of a true-sequel if I’ve ever seen one. The game is certainly more modern and polished, but has a feel very reminiscent of the original. In fact, if you played the original title, you know exactly what to expect here.

The game begins with a very entertaining cutscene in which we see Bayonetta’s best friend Jeanne, carried away by angels. Following them, Bayonetta learns that Jeanne is being kept in the depths of Hell for unknown reasons. During her journey to the gates of Hell itself, she encounters a strange young man. Together they make the journey to rescue her friend, all the while shedding light on some very important plot points. I know I’m risking a spoiler here, but at the end of the game, everything from both this title and the original game finally come full-circle. You’ll see what I mean if you play the game to completion.

 

It’s difficult to even summarize the story without giving much away, so I’ll stop there. Lore-lovers will have a field day with this game though. At the end of the first title, I admit to being a bit confused by the outcome. I understood the game plot, but certain details were a bit muddy. Thankfully, this game solved all that, at least for me.

One of the first things you might notice is Bayonetta has a bit of makeover in this game. This time around, she sports a more modern hairstyle, which personally, I think looks fantastic. But characters aside, the whole game has a much nicer art-direction. The enemy designs seem to have a bit more detail as do the environments. The graphics on this game are  simply stunning. This title really shows what the Wii U is capable of. Despite the breathtaking visuals, I never experienced any stuttering or visual slow-down at all. The game performed smooth as silk from start to finish.

The gameplay itself is very similar to the original title. Button-mashing chain-combos are the name of the game here. This time around, there’s also a new gauge to fill up. Once it’s maxed, Bayonetta can execute a series of special attacks. As in the first game, there’s a few alternate-play levels, but for the most part it’s standard combat.

 

This time around, there’s also a multiplayer feature. This “Tag Climax” mode teams you with another player. The goal is to defeat a specific battle from the game. The person who manages to score the highest in a series of battles wins. Upon starting the multiplayer session, you are able to bet “halos”, thus making the battles either very profitable or a big punch to your pocketbook. This mode is best experienced after the end of the game, once all or most of the content is clear. The reason being, is this time around the optional boss fight is unlocked by spending the max number of halos in the in-game virtual store.

Also, upon beating the game you unlock the ability to play as Jeanne. Thus giving a bit of replay value to the title itself.

In many way, Bayonetta 2 is very similar to the original, but it’s also enough of an upgrade to feel new. Nothing about the charm of the original title is lost in this new chapter. If anything, it’s polished to perfection.

 

Difficulty: Variable –  This time around, there are three levels of difficulty. For most players, I would recommend the middle of road approach. The easy setting makes the game a little too simplistic in my opinion. I suppose it might be good for young children, but then again this is not a game made for kids.

Story: The storyline here is much improved from that of the first game in my opinion. In fact, it actually serves to clarify things from the first game quite a bit. While also carving out a new scenario. I was very surprised by this. So much so, that I would almost say that playing these games together, back-to-back is a must.

Originality: There’s not much new here when compared to the first game, or even other games of the type. But, where the game falls short in breaking ground, it makes up for with its great visuals and over the top action.

Soundtrack: The soundtrack here is very much like the original title. Funky dance music mixed with an epic score. This time around, the underlying theme is “Moon River”. Overall, the music here is very listenable. The voice acting is also again, superb.

Fun: Unless you’re a prude, what’s not to like about “stripper witches”? I admit that I enjoyed this game probably a lot more than I should – both thanks to it’s non-stop action and risqué moments. Players who like button mashing fighters and action titles will find a lot to like in Bayonetta 2.

Graphics: The Wii U really shines here. This game really packs a punch visually and also (as I noted) with no slowdown. The whole game is a solid 60fps.

Playcontrol: Again, we have multiple controller options. I played thru this game using the Wii U gamepad for about half of the game, and then I switched to the Wii U Pro Controller for the other half. Both ways handled about the same, but the controller does feel a bit more natural for this type of game. Admittedly, after a while, the only time I really used the Gamepad was when I wanted to play the game away from the TV, viewing the action on the gamepad itself.

Mature Content: Yes – Strong language, occult references, partial nudity, sexually suggestive content.

Value:  Currently, purchasing this title gets you both Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 for one price. So it’s really a no-brainer. But even if, Bayonetta 2 is certainly worth full price in my opinion. The multiplayer content helps to add a bit to value as well.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I give Bayonetta 2 top marks. I was genuinely impressed with the title. It featured all of the good aspects of the original game as well patching some of the holes I felt existed in the original. I know I keep comparing it to its predecessor, but even on its own Bayonetta 2 is a solid Must-Have for any Wii U owner.

Currently available on: Wii U

Review: Bayonetta

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I know October has come and gone, but I’m still working on my Spooky Autumn game list with a review of Bayonetta. Granted, there’s pretty much nothing spooky about this game, but it is about witches! (Very sexy witches)…. I figure that’s close enough to count.

For this review, I played the new Wii U version of Bayonetta. This game was original available on PS3 and Xbox 360, but I never managed to find the time to check it out during its original release. Recently, Nintendo landed a Wii U exclusive with Bayonetta 2. All first printing copies of that game come with an On-Disc version of the original. The game is also available for sale digitally from the Nintendo eShop.

For the most part, there is very little different between the Wii U version and the original. The graphics are a bit sharper, but nothing that is too noticeable. The biggest difference here seems to the inclusion of a few cosmetic (Nintendo-themed) costumes for the character, and a new control scheme that takes advantage of the Wii U gamepad.

 

In this game, you play a witch known as Bayonetta who has recently been awakened from a 500 year slumber. Bayonetta has very little memory of her former self but still has all of her magical abilities. Bayonetta is able to slip between the material world and a sort of Astral Plane. This allows her to interact with angels and demons and see things that the mortal eye is unable to detect. The beginning of the game finds Bayonetta working as a paranormal bounty hunter of sorts, while trying to piece together her past. Her search takes her to a luxurious European city of Vigrid, a place that teeters on the brink between both the normal world and heaven itself. From here, Bayonetta will slowly unravel the secrets of her past.

Bayonetta is action game unlike any other that I have every played. Although, I understand that it is not the first of its kind, this is the first time I have ever experienced a game with combat of this sort. In a nutshell, I would define this title as “non-stop action fighting”. You control Bayonetta as she fights wave after wave of angelic and demonic monsters. Combos are the name of the game here. Various attacks can be chained together to unleash powerful assaults. Occasionally, you will be able to use a “torture” move on your opponents. This includes a special cinematic followed by rapid button mashing.

The better you perform in combat, the greater the rewards. The game uses a form of currency known as Halos. From time to time, Bayonetta can visit a shady bar on the outskirts of hell to cash these halos in for new weapons or abilities. There’s also a number of collectible and consumable items to be found throughout the game.

Regular enemies actually seem to be somewhat rare. Most battles are quite unique and tend to have an almost “boss-like” feel to them. Once an encounter is over, your performance is scored and there’s a little exploration before the next big encounter pops up.

From time to time, the action shifts to almost mini-game like events: racing down the highway on a motorcycle, combat while surfing, riding rockets as they rip through the sky. There’s never a dull moment. There’s even a shooting-gallery style mini-game after each level that can allow you to earn power-ups and consumables.

When I first popped this game in, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I purposefully stayed away from spoilers and I have to admit I was quite impressed. If you’re a fan of fast-paced action games, this is certainly a title that should be on your list. Just be aware that it’s very mature.

 

Difficulty: Variable –  Bayonetta features multiple difficulty levels that suit just about all types of players. It’s important to note that both the Very Easy and Easy mode of the game REALLY simplify things. These settings make executing combos automatic and really reduces the amount of skill required to complete the game. For most players, I would recommend playing at least in Normal mode to get the most out of your experience. There’s also secret levels and secret bosses that can be uncovered by meeting certain requirements in the game. I found these to be much more challenging than anything in the main scenario.

Story: The storyline has a lot of potential to be interesting, but I found it over all to be a bit confusing. There’s very little set up to game, so at the beginning things are very chaotic. As you play through the game more and more pieces start to fit together and eventually the whole scenario is all but handed to you. But even at the end of the title, I was still left scratching my head a bit. The presentation needed a bit of polish.

Originality: I understand that in many ways the gameplay here is a homage to Devil May Cry. This is a game that I have actually never played, so to me, Bayonetta was a very unique experience. However, I’ve heard from others that even if the formula is similar, Bayonetta really refined and enhanced the combat action of DMC. Taking it into a level all its own.

Soundtrack: This game has a very quirky soundtrack. A recurring song in this title is the classic “Fly Me To The Moon”, but performed with an almost J-Pop style twist. The whole score has a very over-the-top feel to it, but for some reason it actually manages to suit the game instead of seeming ridiculous. The voice acting is very well done and adds quite a bit to the characters.

Fun: I had a total blast with this game. It was much more fun that I actually expected. Usually, I’m not all that good at these beat-em-up type of titles. And this one certainly had its share of challenges. But I never once felt stuck or frustrated. All in all, Bayonetta was a very enjoyable experience.

Graphics: Regardless of which system you may play this game on, the graphics are going to look great. Wii U players may notice a slight bit of clarity here, but it’s really nothing worthy of mention. This game is gloriously beautiful. I love angel/demon type fantasy art. This game has plenty.

Playcontrol: I can only speak for the Wii U version here, as I have not actually played it on any other system. But I can tell that either PS3 or Xbox will probably feel just a tad more natural that the Wii U port. The Wii U gamepad is quite a large device, and not really suited for this type of game. That being said, I played this title on the Gamepad and really have no complaints. The game is playable using either the traditional buttons or with the touch screen. Also, Wii U users are welcome to use either Wii or Wii U classic gamepad. I did find using the classic controller to feel a bit more natural and comfortable. But all in all, there’s not much difference here. The game plays great using any of the control schemes I tried.

Mature Content: Yes – Strong language, occult references, partial nudity, sexually suggestive content.

Value:  If you act fast, and can manage to a get first-run copy of Bayonetta 2, you can get this game for free with your purchase. Alternately, Wii U owners can snag this title for full price from the eShop. If you’re not interested in in the Wii U version, finding a used copy of either PS3 or 360 version is the way to go here. There’s not really anything of value offered by the Wii U version that just screams “gotta have it”. The main game is just short of about 10 hours of play, but you can get a lot more out of it if you’re going for some of the hidden levels, etc.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – As fan of unusual games, this is certainly one that caught my eye. I had been meaning to check out this title for years and this recent re-release was the perfect reason to finally take the plunge. Bayonetta makes no bones about what it is: an over-the-top, action packed, fighting game. If that is your thing, then by all means grab a copy of this game. I had a great time with it. I did feel that the main scenario was a little short, and the story was rather odd and unsatisfying. But the Bayonetta more than made up for these shortcomings with it’s exciting gameplay.

Currently available on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U (eShop)

Review: ZombiU

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Finally, the first Halloween review is here! We start off with ZombiU. This a title that has intrigued me for a while. I grabbed this back when the Wii U was released but I never got around to playing it until now. First, let me start by saying that I really had no idea what this game was actually going to be like. For some reason, I had it in my mind that this was actually some type of on-rails shooter like those House of the Dead games you see in the arcades. I was very very wrong.

ZombiU is actually one of the most true-to-type survival horror games I have ever played. Here we have your typical zombie apocalypse scenario. You play as a survivor in a zombie-infested London. At the beginning of the game, you are rescued by a mysterious individual known only as “The Prepper”. The Prepper has taken meticulous steps to prepare and defend against this very scenario. From a fortified safe house, The Prepper doles out various tasks to you. For example: retrieve X item, scan X area, etc. As the game progresses, more backstory details begin to unfold, ultimately revealing a surprisingly detailed plot.

Naturally, as you undertake these tasks you have to try to survive the infected (zombies) lurking about. This amounts to a great deal of sneaking around, and carefully planned attacks against the roaming ghouls. Where the game gets interesting is when you actually fail and are killed by one of the zombies. In this game, you do not simply start over from a previously saved checkpoint. Instead, you begin the game over as a totally new survivor. All progress made by your previous character remains, and you now have to undertake whatever task they were working on when they were slain. The twist is, they are now one of the roaming dead… This means that you can and mostly likely will encounter your previous characters as your proceed in the game. When you manage to defeat one of your former incarnations, you can loot their body to retrieve your previous possessions.

To make your task easier, The Prepper has provided you with a special tool called the “Prepper Pad”. The Wii U gamepad actually becomes the Prepper Pad as you play. It serves as your map, there’s also a radar (used for detecting nearby zombies). You also use the pad to accomplish certain goals such as scanning objects, hacking keypads, etc. All of this is done with the Gamepad itself. You can raise the pad and move it around in the real world to scan the in-game environment, in augmented reality. This provided a level of immersion I was not expecting.

The game also takes advantage of the Nintendo Network. This functionality is somewhat basic, but is actually pretty well done. In ZombiU, you have the ability to leave markers/notes in the environment as you play. When you spraypaint a marker on the wall, it can also be seen by other players. This means as you play, you’ll encounter plenty of notes left by others. Some of them are helpful, some of them may be tricks. Also, along with encountering the zombies of your own previous characters, you may encounter the walking corpse of another player who met an untimely death…

Needless to say, this game really takes full advantage of the Wii U hardware. I think it is a shining example of what a Wii U game can be when the developer uses the unique benefits of the system to their advantage. Gamepad aside, the game itself looks great. As expected, it’s a very dark game. As a result, it can sometimes it can be difficult to see what’s in front of you as you play, this is by design. For this reason, I do recommend playing the game in a dark or low light setting. Not only does it help you see things better, but it also helps set the appropriate atmosphere.

Yes, this game is scary. There are jump scares, sure. But most of the what makes the game frightening is your own apprehension. You never know what’s around the corner, and you expect to be terrified at any time. This game managed to keep me on edge, expecting encounters that often never came. In a nutshell, this game psyches you out and makes you into your own worst enemy. Also, I should mention, this game is tough. It is no walk in the park. I died frequently. Sometimes frustratingly so. Be warned!

Difficulty: Very Hard –  There are two modes in ZombiU – Normal and Survival mode. Both difficulty settings are the same in terms of actually game-difficulty. But in Normal mode, if you die you get to start over as a new character. In Survival mode, if you die it’s game over. – That being said, either way you play is going to be difficult. This is a pretty tough game. Other players that I’ve talked to on the Miiverse community have likened it to being on par with Dark Souls.  I tend to agree with this.

Story: Yes, this is your typical zombie apocalypse survival horror game. But there’s actually a surprising bit of backstory included as well. A lot of this is given to by The Prepper as you play, but there are some other characters that pop up later on that shed even more light on the scenario.

Originality: It is true that the zombie genre has been done to death, but ZombiU manages to keep it fresh by taking full advantage of the special Wii U hardware. The gamepad combined with the unique online experience really makes this title feel brand new..

Soundtrack: The score for this game is brilliantly done. The music is very dynamic. It ebbs and flows with the events of the game resulting a great amount of apprehension. The ambient noises and everything else is pretty much top notch as well.

Fun: If you enjoy horror/survival games, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had here. If scary games are not your thing or you are easily frustrated you might not have a very good time with ZombiU.

Graphics: Ubisoft has done a wonderful job visually here. The graphics are as crisp and sharp as any other current-gen title. The lighting and particle effects are excellent for this type of game and do a great job creating a sense of foreboding. Like many games of this type, ZombiU is very dark and can sometimes be difficult to see if playing in a bright room.

Playcontrol: The playcontrol is a real mixed bag here. Because of the unique nature of the game, the gamepad plays a special role. Actual game-responsiveness is not much of an issue. But menu navigation the overall control scheme takes a little getting used to. My biggest problem with this game was deciding what to pay attention to. The main game takes place on your TV screen, but there’s a lot to do with the gamepad screen as well. I’d find myself watching the gamepad and ignoring what was on the main screen. This resulted in a lot of accidental deaths. I suppose on one hand you could look at this as a bit of a flaw. But on the other, it’s also very realistic. The gamepad exists in the game, as a tool used by your character. When you are looking at the pad, for the most part so are they… so despite being annoying it actually works.

Mature Content: YES- Gruesome violence. Language. Horror elements.

Value:  This game originally retailed for $40 when it was released. A fair price in my opinion. Especially if you like zombie/horror games. These days, it can often be found new for $20 or less. A good bargain.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – There’s a lot to like here if this genre is one that appeals to you. Even if it is not, this game is a great example of what the Wii U is capable of. In all honesty, I was impressed by ZombiU, but a little put off by the difficulty. This is an example of a game that “is what it is”, and makes no excuses about it. When you play it, you’re either going to love it or hate it. But it’s very easy to appreciate what it brings to the table.

Currently available on: Wii U

First Impressions: Wii U

Well, I’ve had some time now to sit down and really dig into the depths of the Wii U. Overall, the verdict is still out. Let me begin with some of the first things I noticed.

First, the controller. I was very skeptical about the design on the new control pad. It looks bulky and impractical. However, once I actually got my hands on it I was pleasantly surprised. It is quite comfortable to hold, and the back sides of it are actually very ergonomic. The hidden stylus is included in the top. I call it hidden, because it took me three days to notice it… perhaps I should have read the instruction manual. No more batteries. The controller is charged via power outlet. Sadly, it seems the life of the controller is not as good as I hoped.

Second, the graphics are much improved. The Wii U comes with an HDMI cable. This allows for both surround sound and HD resolutions. Personally, I ran into an issue because all the available HDMI ports on my TV were already taken. Luckily, I had an old Wii component cable (the blue, green and red cable). This also allows for HD video. However, it removes the option for surround sound.  –  With three gaming systems, a Blu-ray player, and an HD satellite receiver all plugged into one tv and surround box, I’ve found myself running out of options. But that’s no fault of Nintendo’s.

One quirky thing I noticed is that even with the right aspect ratio and tv resolution selected, it seems that the edges of the screen are still not being displayed. Like the border of the tv is cutting off the picture. Puzzled by this, I did some research online and I discovered a post stating that you need to tweak the settings on your tv to correct this issue… I’m not sure about this. I don’t experience this issue with any other system or device. Weird and annoying.

You are able to transfer your virtual console purchases and saved games from your existing Wii system. I can’t help but feel this is a bit more complicated than it needs to be. First you have to install an app on both your Wii and Wii U. Then you need to perform a back up of sorts on the Wii. Once complete, you can import via the Wii U. Doing so will erase the data from your Wii. An SD card is required for the transfer. While basic in theory, it’s feels a bit more convoluted in practice. But all in all, it works well and is complimented by some very cool animations – note to hackers: any unauthorized software will not be carried over. Also, if your SD has ever been hacked or “bannerbombed” your Wii U will more than likely crash when attempting to read the card.

The Wii U set up is pretty straightforward. Finally, Nintendo has a created a user-based system that allows you to multiple “logins” for members of your household. Also, if you have a Club Nintendo account, you can link it to your logon. Upon first start, your Wii U will have to perform a day-one update. This is pretty much a necessity as it unlocks many of the Wii U’s advertised features. However, it takes quite a while to perform. It actually took almost 2 hours for me on a fiber optic connection.

Once the update is complete and your Wii U is all booted and ready to play, you’re greeted with a weird looking home screen on the TV. I still haven’t quite figured it out… in the center of the screen are any Miis you’ve created. Surrounding them are hundreds of random Miis, all popping up various speech bubbles. Apparently, these are other Wii U owners and they are displayed through the Wii U’s internet connection. I’m sure there’s a way to turn this off, but it’s not immediately apparent. There’s really no navigating this screen that I’ve discovered. It’s just there.

The actual system menu appears on the screen in the middle of the gamepad. This resembles the layout you would find on a 3DS system. Pretty easy to navigate.

Now, I expected my VC and WiiWare titles to appear somewhere on the Wii U homescreen. However, they do not. You must first go to the Wii Channel to access this. Which means, you still need to keep a Wii Remote on hand. I found this to be a bit annoying. But apparently, even today, new VC titles are still only being sold on the Wii Shop and not the Nintendo Store. This seems a little odd.

The first thing I did was remove a few of the channels I knew I was not going to use. I’m not a Hulu user or a fan of Amazon Video, so goodbye to these. I tinkered a bit with the Netflix app – a huge improvement over the Wii version. Next, I set up the Wii U gamepad to control my TV and satellite box. It worked surprisingly well. It will be nice to just pick up the gamepad and be able to switch the TV over to the proper input without having to hunt down three different remote controls.

Next, I poked around the TiiV application. This allows you to connect to your cable or satellite provider to route your favorite shows to the Wii U. I set this up, but I have not actually used it yet. I’m not sure I really see the point in it yet. Why do this and take up bandwidth? Why not just…. watch tv?

Finally, I browsed the new eShop. Several retail games were available for download at full price. But at this time, very few shop titles are available. I was a bit surprised by the lack of selection. I think I’ll stick with physical game discs. The basic Wii U has very limited disc space and I’m not too keep on the idea of slapping on an external HD anytime soon.

So far, my impressions of the system are hard to determine. I see a lot of potential here, and it is still VERY early in the life of the product. The game selection in stores is not yet very good. I feel the system is pretty solid and defiantly an improvement over the original Wii. However, at this particular moment I can’t exactly recommend it to everyone. But, I have no doubt at all that in time, the system will mature. If you can afford it, the deluxe version is probably the way to go.

I have only spent a few hours poking around the system. So I’ll dedicate more time to various ins and outs in the coming days and report back.

Enter the Wii U

This Christmas, my son will unwrap a brand spanking new Wii U. He has absolutely no clue he will getting one.

For those of you not in the know, the Wii U is Nintendo’s successor to the highly popular Wii. It is backwards compatible with Wii games and controllers and will also retain Virtual Console functionality. Aside from a nice upgrade in graphic and processor power, the Wii U also features a new touchscreen style game pad. Sadly, this device is not compatible with Gamecube discs. However, Nintendo has hinted that GC games will soon be available for purchase from the eShop.

I have to admit, the first time I saw the device I was a little less than enthused. It seemed very gimmicky to me. In fact, I had all but decided to wait this one out a bit. However, my son started dropping hints, and well, I kinda wanted one too so the choice was easy.

The hardest part will be waiting for Christmas to drop it on him. Expect a full post-Christmas report on my thoughts and also his experiences with the system.