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Mario's New Pad: Toonzone's Official Wii U Review

Wii U is not Wii. It plays Wii GAMES, and new games that are a lot like Wii games, but it is not a simple rehash of the gimmicky waggle-fest the last six years have been. While it’s stuffed with gyroscopes and speakers and motion sensors, the Wii U’s signature controller represents what may be a return to more traditional forms of gaming — one can hope.

First off, the rumors are true about that update. Anyone who’s about to buy this console should be warned they aren’t going to get to play it right away — a massive, over-1-gig update downloads first, and can take anywhere from one to four hours depending on your wi-fi speed and how much traffic Nintendo’s servers are handling. It’s not over once that’s finished, either: every game also requires its own update when played for the first time. This is a familiar experience for PS3 or 360 owners, but it’s the first time Nintendo fans have had to deal with it on this scale. Hence the whining all over the Internet. The game updates, however, can be downloaded in the background.

Nintendo seems to cycle between comfortable and cumbersome when designing their controllers. NES: square with sharp edges. SNES: round and curvy. N64: weird and pokey. Gamecube: melted right into your hands. Wiimote: OUCH!

Now here we are again, with the Gamepad arguably the most comfortable controller Big N has ever designed. It’s remarkably lightweight for something with a tablet stuck in it, and the grooves in the back slip between your fingers perfectly. But the biggest miracle by far? This is the very first controller of Nintendo’s I’ve ever held where both the stick and the crosspad both felt natural and I didn’t have to strain to reach one or the other. They finally cracked that nut!

One of the touted advantages of this controller is that you can still play your game while the TV is off or while someone is watching another program. This, more than any previous console, assumes heavily that you installed this box in the living room. I set it up in my bedroom, hooked up to a TV I fully own, and thought this function was useless to me. Then I got bored watching Arrow and wished I could just play Mario while listening to the stilted dialogue. …Hey, wait a minute, I COULD!

Like its competitors’ machines, the Wii U is being sold in two formats: the white-colored “basic” model and the black-colored “deluxe” model. The only reason the white model exists is to have something out there that they can price with a “2″ as the first number. It’s purely for sales and has no advantages whatsoever — in fact, buying the basic model results in your paying MORE. The deluxe version at $350 comes with a $60 game, while the basic model doesn’t. Already a $10 difference, but that’s not all of it. Data storage space in the basic model is so miniscule that by the time the aforementioned update is done, it’ll have taken over half of the available space. You will very quickly run out of room and have to purchase a separate hard drive, driving the overall price up further. Let me repeat: the basic version is a SALES TRICK. Don’t fall for it, and tell as many others as possible.

The deluxe Wii U comes with Nintendo Land. On the surface this title appears to be a repeat of the simplistic “Wii Sports” pack-in game…but it’s more varied and diverse than that. Each attraction in the Nintendo Land theme park is a completely different experience focusing on one capability of the Wii U: Yoshi’s Fruit Cart involves drawing on the Gamepad, Ninja Castle has you holding it sideways and swiping ninja stars at the screen, while Metroid Blast takes advantage of motion tracking sensors to create a 360-degree area of movement you can physically turn the pad around to see. They’re impressive tech, but they’re still casual mini-games meant to be played with other people, and they mean physically in the room — you can’t play the attractions online. I’m sure for most social butterflies Nintendo Land is a blast, but all it did for me was remind me how alone I am. ….Moving on.

For the first time since the heyday of Smashing Pumpkins, a Nintendo console has launched with a Mario game on Day 1. The Mario series was known for delivering innovation and defining its genre with every sequel. Then New Super Mario Bros. Wii sold over nine million copies. It was too much of a cash cow to ignore, so you have no one to blame but yourselves.¬† And it makes sense for a certain demographic. The younger generation may not sit still for a 4’3′ 8-bit game, but an updated HD version might entice them, and going through childhood without Mario would just be wrong. What the New Super Mario series lacks in new ideas, it makes up in old-school fun. I’ve had a blast with it so far. I’m not gonna lie here and say it isn’t very similar to Super Mario World, but I like Super Mario World. Of course, it helps that I haven’t played a title in the New series since the original DS version.

There will no doubt be a 3D Mario in the future just as innovative as Galaxy was. But those things take time.


A pre-release press shot, but the messages displayed here are not far off from real ones I’ve seen.

We’ve been waiting for Nintendo to join the 21st century and try this “internet” thing for generations now, and the Miiverse was worth the wait. Watching little people assemble onscreen and then “say” weird statements and crazy drawings is my favorite opening screen of any console to date. The fun continues in several of Nintendo’s first-party offerings, where Miiverse posts are integrated into the experience — Miis walk around Nintendo Land’s lobby and say things to you; the maps on SMBU are filled with players’ tips, quips and doodles.


Yes, you can turn off the Miiverse messages, but why would you?

It’s brilliant and addictive, and my favorite thing about the entire console. Quite often, I don’t even get to the game I turned the thing on to play. I see something interesting being said in Miiverse and join the conversation instead. “Someone drew Marina! I have to comment on Mischief Makers!” Now, if I could only write something that wouldn’t get moderated….

It’s not all Peaches and plumbers, though. If they never caught the hint with the original Wii, there’s one other thing newcomers need to know: Nintendo is a very conservative, very set-in-their-ways Japanese company that constantly orders you to like what they tell you to, rather than grant demands you actually have. I see no reason why they would suddenly change now.

It can be difficult to be a Nintendo fan, but it pays off as they still create some of the greatest, most innovative video games in the world. It really pains me to say anything negative, because in many ways the Wii U reminds me of the (you know what I’m about to say) Sega Dreamcast, one of the greatest consoles ever made. The Dreamcast got squashed by the impending release of the Playstation 2. It wasn’t a fair fight and I don’t want to see it happen again. I realize Nintendo is a stable company that only releases things that turn a profit, whereas Sega in the 90′s was burning cash left and right on disaster after disaster and the Dreamcast was their last chance. It still makes me nervous, though, especially since Nintendo hasn’t been properly supported by third parties since about 1995. It’s getting Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty NOW, but there’s no guarantee those publishers will still care once the competition upgrades their own hardware.

But Nintendo hasn’t really cared about the demands of third parties in a long time, because they don’t need to. Their self-published titles sell great, they have the 3DS, which is doing fine, and they could probably live off Pokemon alone. Pundits have been predicting time after time that their insular way of doing things is going to eventually bite them, but it still hasn’t happened. For all the weird decisions and blatant mistakes the company makes, Nintendo still remains a vital part of the video game industry in that they’re one of the few not afraid to take gigantic chances and truly innovate. To lose that influence would be a disaster. Buy a Wii U!

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