Wii U

Photo Finish: Spring 2014

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I must say, these last few months have been quite lovely!  You’ll notice my brother, Joey, plays a pivotal role in many of the above photo highlights, which is apt to happen as he’s one of my favorite humans. Since today marks the start of summer, I’m taking a moment now to recognize all the fun things spring brought to me.  Summer, keep the good times coming!

{1} my brother’s Christmas present, WWE Smackdown at TD Bank {2} sunny Mother’s Day in Boston Public Garden {3} dinner in the North End on my brother’s graduation weekend {4} with the Boston College graduate himself at Alumni Stadium! {5} with lifelong friend Stacie, the most beautiful bride, at her wedding reception at Stonehill College {6} Mario Kart 8 was released and I played for hours, unlocking all the characters that day! {7} in the Ocean State enjoying the most Rhode Island shandy where Narragansett beer meets Del’s lemonade {8} Rhode Island again for Father’s Day weekend, having firework fun with Amanda {9} day off Museum of Fine Arts trip

Mario Kart GR8

I bought a Wii U because I knew the day would come when there would be a game I couldn’t live without.  That day was last Friday and that game was Mario Kart 8.

Mario Kart 8 incited something in me that I didn’t remember.  We’ve all played a lot of racing games.  I am no exception.  I had one for my original gray Game Boy that I played more than freakin’ Tetris… unfortunately I can’t remember its name.  Super Mario Kart was one of the most played games of my childhood, most of my memories involving yelling while racing my brother.  Aws.  Despite my love of Super Mario Kart, I never thought of myself as a fan of racing games.  I didn’t even own MK64… which I know is weird.  But really, because my brother and I were so close in age and our parents always wanted us to play together, we did play a lot of racing games in our formative N64 days.  The first two games we got were Wave Race and Diddy Kong Racing.  I absolutely love both of them.  So why then, did I not realize how much I would love MK8?  Maybe because DoubleDash was ehh, or because I enjoyed MK7 but not enough to create any sort of fanfare.

I knew I wanted MK8.  I was excited about it, but it far exceeded my expectations.  The courses literally made my jaw drop.  I play alone, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the way I talk to my TV while playing.  I’m Peach, as always, and I audibly cheer on my dear Pesca.  This game is so, so fun!  And I’m happy to report I don’t suck!

Wendy was the last character I unlocked; they come at random.

Wendy was the last character I unlocked.

I was able to unlock all 14 unlockable characters on Friday.  All you have to do is win a grand prix in any class or cup to get a new character at random.  Combined with the 16 you start with, the game has 30 characters total. Some of the unlockables include the adorable Rosalina, your Mii, and all 7 Koopalings!  Another new unlockable is quickly becoming a favorite: Pink Gold Peach!  Her voice sounds like Peach underwater; think: the female form of Metal Mario (also an unlocakble!).  I like the rose gold color of this character and that she’s the only other metal character, whereas you’d think Luigi might have beat her to the punch.  I think pink, gold, and peach might be my new color combo of the summer.  Pretty, no?

Other unlockables include vehicle customizations.  You earn coins to unlock these.  I’m not noticing a whole lot of differences in vehicles other than visually; handling seems great in general.  I happen to love to motorcycle (or “standard bike,” I believe it’s called) because it’s easy to maneuver on my favorite courses, such as Toad’s Turnpike.

Another feature I never realized I’d love is the online play.  I tested my skills on a regional scale, which is I guess, the US and Canada.  I did way better than I expected here, able to place in the top few positions for most races.  The only time I tried the worldwide races I was stuck spectating.  It was nice to be able to play against people at will– you don’t need additional controllers or like, friends who want to play.  After a lifetime of forcing my girlfriends to play Nintendo with me, I’ve given up on them.

In short: Mario Kart 8 puts me in a total state of euphoria.  You should buy a Wii U for this game.  It’s excellent, and I love it!

Wii U Wednesday: E-Shop, or How I Learned to Love the Gamepad

I’ve frequented the Nintendo e-shop on my 3DS, but I prefer a physical game. I got a digital copy of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons thanks to preordering A Link Between Worlds. The other digital game I have is Four Swords Anniversary Edition, which undoubtedly was another fortunate free download for the Zelda fan.

I got an email a week or so ago notifying me that my Club Nintendo rewards points were about to expire. (Um, what? What good are they if they expire? This is the same reaction I had to finding out my plastic Charlie card, my subway pass I’ve had for the past 8 years, was about to expire.) I had to pick a reward in order to use up the points instead of losing them.

My pick came out of the Wii U e-shop. I selected my ultimate nostalgia game from my Super NES days: Super Mario World!  I was so pleased that it was in its original form with no edited text.

The DS remake said "crazed Iggy Koopa," but the SNES version differs.

The DS remake said “crazed Iggy Koopa,” but the SNES version differs.

is it weird that I always thought these were teeth, not clouds?

is it weird that I always thought these were teeth, not clouds?

Not only did I now have an old favorite that I could play on my newest system, but I found a whole new appreciation for the game pad. I complained about Super Mario Bros. Wii U having the same thing on screen and on the game pad, but there is a definite advantage to this: I can play exclusively on the game pad! I’ve played with the TV off, in another room, walking around, and while streaming Netflix on the screen. It’s like a giant game boy, and I freakin’ love it. It’s been a huge game changer for me, and I hope to make more use of the retro game selection in Wii U’s e-shop soon!  I’m hoping Super Mario Kart makes an appearance for Wii U as well.

Wii U Wednesday: Games!

When I brought my Wii U home, I brought 5 games along with it.  These games are: New Super Mario Bros. U, New Super Luigi U, Pikmin 3, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, and Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze.

Because life gets busy, I’ve only played 3 of these games so far.  I wanted to leave a little fun for later, anyway!

The first game I tried out was New Super Mario Bros. U.  If you’ve read my other Wii U posts, you may have noticed I’ve been leaving off the “New” part of the title, perhaps out of stubborn refuses to recognize this as part of the title.  Since this was the first game I ever played for Wii U, I was expecting obstacles with the new gamepad.  It was, however, surprisingly comfortable to use and easy to master.  The thing that was difficult for me was that what shows on your TV screen also shows on your gamepad.  With my bad eyesight, I tended to keep my eyes on the gamepad instead of the screen farther away from me.  I can see how this would be a perk, because you can literally walk around and keep playing this!  I did think that it was an underutilization of the gamepad though.  You literally don’t need both screens.  Gameplay itself gives you a heavy dose of nostalgia.  There are some fun new features like the acorn power-up that gives you the ability to fly– not like Superman, but like Knuckles Sega’s in Sonic & Knuckles.

I also mentioned before that I was feeling a little ripped off by the fact that the two games that came with my deluxe set seemed like one game.  New Super Luigi U came on the same disc as New Super Mario Bros. U.  Admittedly, it took me a while to find how to access this other game.  When I did, I was again slightly disappointed that the intro was exactly the same.  It’s basically the same game minus Mario.  As promised, all the levels are different.  However, they’re kind of half levels?  Each time you start one, you get that hurry up! music indicating you have 100 seconds left.  This kind of made the levels easier to beat once you got used to it.  This music actually gives me anxiety so that was a bit obstacle to overcome.

The game I’ve played most, and obsessively at first, has been Pikmin 3.  I’ve never played either of the first two Pikmin, but I just knew this game was for me… and was I ever right!  I’m in love with the adorable little Pikmin army you command, but feel March of the Penguins sad when a couple guys get left behind or eaten in battle.  It’s so hard to watch those little guys get hurt!  All and all, I find the puzzle-solving quests for fruit super fun, and best of all, the game is on the TV screen while your gamepad becomes a map you must use to get around.  This is the first time I’ve had to use both, and it took a little practice to sync my eyes and hands up.  Once you’ve mastered it, the gamepad’s screen serves a real, important purpose and feels necessary, finally.  I’m super into Pikmin now, and would love to get my hands on the previous two GameCube incarnations!

So, based on my love of Pikmin, any recommendations for me?  It doesn’t have to be Wii U– I’ve still got Wind Waker HD and DK Country Tropical Freeze to test out!

Wii U Wednesday: Bringing Home Baby

I bought a Wii U.  Here’s what happened next.

I already mentioned: it had been a particularly heinous week.  It was 5 PM on a Friday, and I was so ready to go home.  My reward, my Wii U, was charged, bagged, and in hand… erm, arms.

Let’s back track.   I take the T (Boston’s public transportation system) to work.  I prefer to walk home, weather permitting.  At this particular moment in time, I was even farther away from home, having gone to buy said Wii U.  This box was super unwieldy for me– I had to clasp my hands together to create a cradle in the crook of my arm to hold it– and the farther I walked, the heavier it felt.  Oh, and the weather was threatening to turn.

I didn’t want to bring my big box on a rush hour train, so I decided to try to beat the rain.  It was warm, but dark and overcast.  By the time I reached the bridge maybe a third of the way home, rain began to fall.  It was too hot for the jacket I was wearing and my arms were getting sore.  I gripped tighter and powered onward.

By the time I reached my neighborhood, it was umbrellas-up weather.  Both myself and the box were soaked.  My arms were spaghetti, but hey that cardboard was thicker than I thought!

With my exercise for the week completed, it was on to the next scary task: setting it up!  I’m afraid of breaking electronic things and I cried when trying to set my Xbox 360 up… but I’d come a long way since then!  I’d set up the TV I’d be hooking it up to, so I was confident.  Ish.

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Protip: This is the “up” side of the box.  Open this side up.  I didn’t do that.

The good news is, the deluxe set comes with everything you could ever need, including an HDMI cable!  That’s the real hero for me, since Radio Shack ripped me off big time last time I needed one.  The set up is super straight forward.  Fairly detailed instructions are included, so follow them and you’re good to go!

But are you?  You haven’t even played yet and it’s time for a system update.

I needed the system update to link my Nintendo account.  Time Remaining: 3:20.  I thought, no problem, I’ve got a few minutes, and busied myself with a phone call.  Oh no, they didn’t mean 3 minutes.  They meant 3 hours.  With my less-than-awesome signal strength, this took a really, really long time.  It was a blessing in disguise, though, because I used the time to clean my entire apartment.

It was late by the time I actually got to play, but I had the whole weekend ahead of me to do go!  We’ll get into the games next week.

 

I heart streaming television

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On Thursday, amidst the Amazon Fire TV buzz, I read this Mashable piece about its 8 Greatest Competitors. If you didn’t know, I kicked DirecTV to the curb last year and now rely entirely on the internet for TV. My building isn’t wired for cable, so my options are limited. I get by with Netflix, Hulu, and a few select things on my iTunes and Amazon Instant. I also benefit from a Comcast subscription (thanks, Dad!) but am limited to its streaming content only. I have a lot of interest in products like Amazon Fire TV, so I thought I’d share with you how this cable-less girl is still a TV-freak.

 

Roku 2

My brother bought me my Roku 2 for Christmas last year, and I love it. I got the accompanying TV for my birthday, and thus have a new set up in my bedroom that’s basically changed my life. Roku streams Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, and a selection of channels. For example, Lifetime has a channel on Roku, so instead of watching Dance Moms on my laptop, I can watch it on a TV! The Roku itself is not a monthly subscription, you just register and account and you’re off. Some channels are free (like Lifetime, PBS, stuff like that) and some you need a subscription for— Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go. Unfortunately, HBO Go doesn’t steam on my Roku… it’s backed by Comcast and Comcast HBO accounts are not good to go for Roku.

Xbox 360

My original TV machine and the reason I felt confident enough to get rid of cable, Xbox Live Gold keeps me watching Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and Youtube! My Xbox sits in my living room on my big TV and thus acts as my main source of visual content. My internet connection is a bit rough (I have Clear as a service, because again, no wires in my building) so it tends to blink off occasionally interrupting my shows. That’s a bummer, and the reason I don’t play Xbox Live ever— I’d be impossible to get through a game! Xbox Live Gold service is necessary to stream and it’s a costly service itself.

iPad

I’m slightly in love with my iPad. I’m still in the market for a portable keyboard so I can take it to the beach house for blogging purposes this summer— the touch screen doesn’t make for easy typing! I bring my iPad most places in lieu of a laptop. It is everything I need for an overnight trip to my parents’ or a weekend stay at a friend’s. The following apps make this a lovable machine: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon Instant Video, Comcast Xfinity, and Viki. The great thing is that every service has an app, so the iPad is the most universal of my devices. While there are some things I can watch only on certain devices/TVs, I can watch pretty much everything on the iPad! I sleep with it. It’s normal.

Wii/Wii U

I mention these because the article mentions Wii U. You all know that I just bought a Wii U, and I could certainly steam Netflix and such on this guy. It sits on the shelf below my Roku, so I don’t need it for those purposes. The same goes with my Wii, which sits in my living room next to the Xbox. I’m pretty sure it streams Netflix too, but I’ve never used it as such. My Nintendo devices are only for gaming, I guess. Does anybody know if there’s a subscription services to be able to stream on these babies? Perhaps it’s something to consider.

 

So it’s obvious why I’m interested in devices like Amazon Fire TV, but it’s also pretty evident that I don’t need any more TV streaming devices! As an Apple user, I am, however, still pretty interested in the Apple TV… we have them at work and they seem awesome. I don’t see an Amazon Fire TV in my future, but the price is low and the product does great things. Has anybody picked one up yet? I’d love to hear what you think about it!

I bought a Wii U

We all knew it was coming.  I even warned you.  After a particularly heinous week at work, bolstered by the sweetness of a tax return, I decided to treat myself and give into the Nintendo gods. I bought a Wii U.

I have never claimed to be a person of sound judgment.

I will proudly state that I am a Nintendo enthusiast.

Having officially made the decision a couple weeks back, I had been researching the best method of purchase.  Because I’m the kind of person who makes decisions based on which color I like, I knew I was going with the deluxe version, not the basic. The basic Wii U is white, 8 GB, and about $50 cheaper.  The deluxe version is black, 32 GB, and comes in a variety of bundles which include a game.

There is a Best Buy near where I work, and I happen to spy the Mario & Luigi Deluxe set.  It advertises 2 games included— Super Mario Bros. U and Super Luigi U.  Super Mario Bros. U is pretty much a given, right?  It’s like new Nintendo system 101.  I was additionally intrigued by Super Luigi U because I’ve been played Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon lately, which has kind of made me fall in love with Luigi!  At $299, this is the price of any deluxe set, and considering games run $40-$60 apiece, I thought two games sounded like a great deal.  To me, this put the system itself around $200, which I what I wanted to pay anyway.

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I went ahead and picked up this bundle and, because I’m clearly not about saving money, a bunch of games.  Why not go for broke?  I got:

  • Pikmin 3 — a game I’m super excited to play! I haven’t played any Pikmin titles before, but I’ve heard great things about this one, and from reading about them, it seems to be my type of game.
  • Wind Waker HD — because Zelda! I didn’t want to get the Wind Waker bundle because I already owned Hyrule Historia and I didn’t know what I’d need two copies for.  Buying this was a no brainer, though!
  • Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze — admittedly, I’m a little scared of this game.  I heard it was hard and I’m sure I’m going to suck. But I absolutely love DK and crew; I especially can’t wait to use Dixie again!  This might have been the game that pushed me over the edge to buy.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be having Wii U Wednesdays in which I’ll talk about my experience with this new system and games!

Oh, I also happen to be completely afraid of setting up electronics because I’m positive I’ll break them immediately.  I cried setting up my XBox 360.  No, I don’t know what is wrong with me.  Since I installed my TV and Roku in my room, I was pretty confident I could set up the Wii U tear free… but my friend was on standby incase I called him crying.  See how I did next week when I talk about bringing this baby home!