By MooseyMcMan 61 Comments
So, it's been two weeks now since I bought my shiny new Wii U. And while I certainly could wait longer before writing this blog, I feel like I've spent enough time with it to have enough to say about it, and the games I have for it. I'll start with the system itself.
I knew the Wii U was going to be smaller than the current gen consoles, and the last gen consoles (not counting the Wii), but I was still a little surprised by how small. Specifically, how narrow it is. I was thinking that I might have to remove my 360 from its spot in my "entertainment center" to make room for the Wii U (not that I use my 360 at all these days). But lo and behold, I was able to get it to fit between the PS4 and 360 without any trouble at all. If I ever get an Xbox One and try to fit it in there, then I may have to do some creative organizing, but for the time being, everything fits. (Except for the PS3 I have on a thing that's supposed to be a little lap table for laptops, but never mind that). In terms of looks, I think it's fine. It's not rad looking like the PS4, but not dumb looking like the Xbox One. I do the the all shiny nature of it makes dust more apparent than it would be if it was more matte (I should add, I have a black Wii U), and my house tends to get really dusty.
The interface of the console definitely feels like it is continuing the Wii tradition of big squares in a grid. It's not a bad interface by any means, but it's more like the Wii than I was expecting. I do think it's odd that when on the Wii U's main menu, you can swap between two menus, the Wii-looking one, and a Miiverse-y one where you can go into different parts of the Miiverse and do stuff (but more on the Miiverse later). The part that I think is weird is that you swap the two between the TV screen, and the Gamepad screen (more on that as well later), but you can only interact with the one on the Gamepad. At least so far as I can tell, there isn't any way to do stuff with the TV screen. Maybe if I was using a different type of controller, like a Pro controller, or a Wiimote, this wouldn't be the case. But I don't have a Pro controller yet (I plan on getting one), and I'm not using Wiimotes unless I have no other options.
I will say this about the interface: It's easy to navigate, and easy to rearrange stuff. I can drag things around with the touchscreen on the Gamepad, to my heart's desire. It's a feature that would be nice to have on something like my PS4, where I have a bunch of downloaded games, but no way to sort them. It also has some neat features like a log that keeps track of time spent in games and other things like the Miiverse, on either a daily or monthly basis. The Wii had a similar feature, and I'm told that the 3DS and Xbox One (of all things) also have similar features. It's nice to know how many hours I've spent in games, after all.
The only other thing worth noting about the main menu stuff on the Wii U is that there's a Quick Start menu on the Gamepad when the Wii U is turned on, which allows for faster access to stuff. It's a nice feature, but one that I'll probably quickly forget about once I get a Pro controller and stop using the Gamepad.
Which brings me to my next topic: The Gamepad. I don't think it's a very good controller. It's not comfortable to hold for long periods of time, some of the button placement is a little awkward, the screen is not great, the camera is crappy, the rumble is so bad I just turned it off, the battery life is poor, the range is poor, and I'm pretty sure the headphone jack is literally broken on mine. But let me tackle these things one at a time.
Despite having a couple of "bumps" on the back that could be considered "grips," this this is basically just a large rectangle, and it feels awkward to hold. Never mind that it's larger and heavier than other controllers, which doesn't help either.
This controller uses a "symmetrical" design with the buttons and sticks like PlayStation controllers, and unlock Xbox Ones. But unlike PlayStation controllers, here the sticks are above the buttons, rather than below. That's fine, but the Start and Select (which are oddly also labeled + and -) are so low relative to the sticks (which is where my thumbs naturally rest when using it) that it feels a little awkward to reach down and hit them. Same with the Power button, and I practically have to remove my hand from the controller to hit the Home button in the center bottom of the controller. These aren't terrible things, by any stretch, but they don't improve the experience either.
For a controller where the main selling point is that there's a screen in it, the screen certainly isn't very good. Both in terms of the quality of the picture, and the touchscreen itself. It's a touch-ass-touch screen, when means pressure, not however it is that capacitive iPhone type touch screens works. I don't really mind that aspect of it, because I'd rather use a stylus than my greasy fingers and have to be wiping off the screen all the time. Then again, this house is so dusty that I've been putting a thing over the controller when I'm not using it to keep dust from collecting anyway, so I dunno. Maybe I should do something about all the dust in this house, but that would require effort!
The only thing I've used the camera for thus far is the Mii Maker, which resulted in comically bad Miis. This one's not that big of a deal, because it's not like I was going to take selfies with it or anything (not that I think I can).
Rumble, on the other hand, is a bigger bummer. Then again, I'm used to playing without rumble, whether it was the old SIXAXIS in the early days of the PS3, or using the DualShock 4 with my PS3 in these late days of the PS3. Conversely, I'm sure it saves on battery, so it helps there.
The battery died in my controller on the very first day. Granted, maybe it would have been smart to just keep it plugged in the first day, but why would I do the smart thing? Since then I turned the brightness all the way down, turned the rumble off, and try to keep it in the charging cradle thing when not being used. I haven't had any issues since then, but I also haven't really tested it to see how long the battery lasts. Long enough, though. And if worst comes to worst, I can just play with it plugged into the AC Adapter.
One of the advertised features of the controller is the ability to play (most) games on the controller, like it was a giant Game Boy. So, I decided to test the range of the controller by taking it around my house. I wasn't able to even get into my bathroom before it lost the connection, so what's even the point? You may think I'm joking (and I partly am), but hey, wouldn't it be nice if it worked in the bathroom?
CORRECTION! While I thought my headphone jack in the controller was broken, I ended up writing several paragraphs about that. But then I decided to make sure...And it turns out I'm just an idiot. It just needs to be FORCED in, much harder than with most things. And after talking with someone (fellow mod Ross, Hi Ross!), it sounds like there still might be something wrong with mine, just not what I thought was wrong. Anyway, I now know that it does work, I get audio out of it, and really I could have cut all of this to make me look less stupid, but where's the fun in that?
Anyway, it's a real shame that the controller isn't better to use overall, because I do like aspects of it, conceptually. Like the touch screen. I've used that to draw some really awful pictures in the Miiverse! Like this one, for example!
Anyway, I really like the Miiverse. It's a silly thing in the way that I want Nintendo things to be. But I'm pretty sure that once I get a Pro controller and start using it, my Miiverse drawings are going to grind to a halt. I'll probably keep putting text and screen shots there, but I don't see why I would go to the trouble to get out the big Gamepad just to draw something silly. I know that people have, in recent months, complained about how stamps have ruined the Miiverse, because it's gotten rid of a lot of the drawings. And that's definitely true for Miiverse pages for games with stamps. But there's still some really "good" art on the Miiverse, and some actually good art, to the point where I really hope that some of these people have other outlets for their talents. Because they deserve better.
Is there anything else I want to cover before I get to the actual games? I think the Netflix app on the Wii U has a really terrible design choice, in that it is not possible to select sub accounts. That wouldn't be a problem if I only had one, but I don't. Both my dad and I share the same Netflix account, and we each have a sub account. And because my dad is the one with the credit card who pays for Netflix (which I can thank my lack of a job for), his is the default one, I guess. That means I can't watch Star Trek on my Wii U because it doesn't know which episode of Enterprise I left off on, and I'm too lazy to remember! I literally had a moment the other day where I went from playing a game on my Wii U, to wanting to use Netflix, and I realized this when I had to turn off a machine with Netflix in it to use another machine with Netflix in it. Hopefully Nintendo fixes that at some point, but it doesn't really matter when my PS4 does Netflix as well (and better).
Okay, now I think I can get to the games! My Wii U came bundled with New Super Mario Bros U/New Super Luigi U on a disc, and I bought Mario Kart 8. On top of that, I got Wind Waker HD free through that Club Nintendo thing (which has since expired, for those out there that hadn't taken advantage of it).
New Super Mario Bros. U
I had a realization the other day, as I was playing this game. I had never actually finished a side scrolling Mario game. I had played the Game Boy Color version of Super Mario Bros 1 up to World 8, but never finished it. I think I got about halfway through SMB 2 (GBA version) before I stopped, and I got about halfway into New Super Mario Bros (the first one on DS) before I stopped. The real tragedy, though, is Super Mario World (GBA again). I'm pretty sure that I actually made it to the final boss, but never beat it, because I couldn't figure out what to do. I had finished all the 3D ones that I had played. Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy, but none of the sidescrollers.
So there I was, wondering if I really wanted New Super Mario Bros. U to be the first sidescrolling Mario game that I ever finished in my entire life. Then I stopped worrying about it because no one cares about stuff like that and beat the game. Well, it wasn't quite that easy, because I am apparently the world's worst NSMBU player.
Seriously, I had gotten the vibe before playing this game that it was easy. And maybe it is if you are better than I am, but I was having a fair amount of trouble with some parts of this game. I even game overed at some point. And the thing that people don't tell you, because I guess no one else ever game overed in this game, but the game over system in NSMBU is MESSED UP. You lose all of your progress since the last time the game did a save after one of the castles. I'm not kidding. After that happened to me, I looked up a spot to get hell of lives, and then I got 70-something lives. It was a little overkill, but I ended with my life count in the 50s, and that was with normal 1up attainment throughout the course of the game.
Now, I don't mind when games are hard, usually. And I beat the game without too much trouble, so I'm not saying it was Ninja Gaiden II hard, or anything. (NG II being the game so ridiculously hard that even on easy, it was still the hardest game I ever finished.) But I prefer when games are hard in good ways, not in bad ways. If I die and I feel like I messed up, that's fine. The problem with NSMBU is that most of the time when I died, I felt like it wasn't my fault.
In a lot of ways, this game is the anti-Super Meat Boy. Now, I only ever played the first world of Super Meat Boy, because I was doing it on my friend's computer, etc. But I know enough about the game to talk about it. The controls in that game are super tight, and when you die, it restarts almost instantly. NSMBU is so slidy and loose that it feels like every level is an ice level (never mind the actual ice levels). If the game had tighter movement, I would have been able to get through it much more easily.
And it's a shame, too, because I really like a lot of things in the game. It doesn't really do many new things, or carve out an identity of its own, but it does play with a lot of the traditional Mario tropes in some interesting ways, mostly in the level design. Like, there's one level where a Lakitu is throwing piranha plants. There's baby Yoshis that can eat ghosts. EAT GHOSTS. There's a lot of neat little things in this game, and if it played better, it could have been something really cool and special. Even so, I did enjoy it overall, and I'm glad I played it.
I also really love the background art in this level.
New Super Luigi U
Now, I know what you're thinking. If I was complaining about the feel in the main game, then I must HATE this. Well, you're wrong! While I would still like it more if it was a tighter feeling game, I think the faster paced and shorter levels on NSLU makes it a much more enjoyable game. Now, I should be clear, I haven't finished it yet. Maybe I'll absolutely hate it by the end, I dunno. You'll have to wait until I finish it and follow this up in a future blog. But until then, I'm enjoying it more than the main game.
Wind Waker HD
Like New Super Luigi U, I haven't finished this yet, but I did play the game to completion on the GameCube, so I don't really have to. I'm mostly writing about my thoughts on this new version, I can do some big retrospective thing on my thoughts on all the older Zelda games at some point in the future.
But for this version specifically...I'm a little torn. It definitely looks better than the GameCube version, but it still looks like an uprezzed GameCube game. Not that I should have expected anything more than that, but you know. It still looks really nice, don't get me wrong. For the most part, the art style more than makes up for the relatively simple geometry in the environments, characters, etc. But there's times when this game looks pretty GameCube-y.
Really, though, my biggest complaint is with the controls. While this game has an option to invert x-axis for third person view, and an option to invert y-axis for first person view, that's it. No option to invert y-axis for third person, no option to invert x-axis for first person. Now, I don't invert x-axis at all (because I'm not a monster), but come on Nintendo! What kind of person would invert one for one point of view, but not for the other? And why is it a different axis for both options?! ARGH! So, I'm left in this awkward situation where I have it properly inverted in first person, but not in third, and I'm constantly moving the camera the wrong way. And I refuse to change, because it's a part of me, and I can't change. It's like asking me to stop being bi, it just won't happen.
Okay, that's a lie, if I really wanted to, I could force myself to stop playing inverted, but I'm not going to do that. Not when I can continually annoy people by playing with my y-axis inverted like I should. But it is hampering my enjoyment of the game, and that's too bad, because it's still a really good game, overall!
Aside from the graphics, the other "big" additions are a magic sail that changes the wind direction automatically (which is useful, but would be really hard to find if you don't already know from the internet), and the ability to take selfies and put pictures of them on Miiverse. Seriously, Link takes selfies. Oh, and you can put the pictures, or just plain messages, into little Tingle bottles, and throw them out to sea for others to find. And you can find them too, and see stupid things other people have done.
I'm going to keep playing it, of course. It's still a great game, after all.
Also, I took a funeral selfie.
Mario Kart 8.
The last Mario Kart game that I had played was Mario Kart DS. Which I liked quite a lot. And I like this Mario Kart quite a lot. I think it looks really nice, and it's a fun Mario Kart game. Maybe the best Mario Kart game, overall. Not the best kart racer, that's still Diddy Kong Racing. But this is a really good one, and I really like the online stuff. Especially with a full twelve racers, it gets chaotic in a way that I love.
It's not perfect, though. The game doesn't really have a ton of options for changing things, like the number of laps in a race. I think that's partly because two of the tracks, Mount Wario and Rainbow Road 64, aren't done in the traditional 3 lap style. Instead, it's just one long lap that has two checkpoints along it, but when you pass one, it says you've gone to the next lap. There are some options that can be set for regular races against the AI, or online races with friends, like what items to have, but not much else.
But back to those two tracks, Mount Wario and Rainbow Road 64. I really like Mount Wario, because it's this long trek down a mountain that involves going through a big cave, and across a dam. It's a cool race, and I wish there were more like it. But I don't like what was done to Rainbow Road 64. See, the thing I liked most about Rainbow Road in Mario Kart 64 was that it was super long. Way longer than it probably should have been, really. But I liked that. By Mario Kart standards, it was an endurance race. Sure, there were weird shortcuts you could take, but the intended route took a long time for one lap, and you had to do three of them. But in this one, one lap has been made into the entire three laps of the race. I wouldn't mind if there was an option to set it to be like in Mario Kart 64, but so far as I can tell, there isn't.
About the only other thing I can think of worth mentioning is the music. I think it's really great, which is a little unfortunate, for me, because I've been mostly playing this whilst listening to stuff on my computer, and not the in game music. But that's just me.
That was supposed to be the Luigi Death Stare.
So, that's about it for the Wii U stuff. Overall I'm happy with it. I definitely want a Pro controller, but I am enjoying the games I have for it. I'd like to play Super Mario 3D World, and Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, and I plan on downloading Shovel Knight once I'm done with the stuff I have. Aside from that, I'm mostly looking to the future for my Wii U stuff. Bayonetta 2, and Super Smash Bros. For Wii U are games that I will get. And knowing my luck, I'll get that dumb Hyrule Warriors game too, because I bet Ross won't stop talking about it. Ever.
What else has been going on? Well, I continue to make no progress on my third novel. If anything, I'm feeling like I might have to completely start from scratch. Again. And I had already gotten about a third of the way into it. I dunno, I'm thinking this book might be cursed. I'll get it, or something done eventually, though.
Oh, and I became a mod on Giant Bomb too. That was pretty cool. It's more work than I expected, actually. Not a whole lot more, but still a bit more. I still really like it though. I mean, if nothing else, it's nice to just be able to give back to this incredible website that I've been visiting for years. To know that I'm a respected enough member of the community to be given this level of responsibility! It's great! And I haven't managed to screw it up yet, so it's probably going to last for a while. Probably.
I can't really say much else about it, so I can keep the shroud of mystery around the mods intact (if I don't, I have to make a blood sacrifice to the puppy gods to appease Rorie). Instead, I'll just leave you with more silly things I've put on the Miiverse.