In a bit of news that is unlikely to interest anyone but myself (but I like telling you about this stuff regardless), last Monday Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced her abdication from the throne as per next April.
Beatrix addressing the nation last Monday
On April 30th, “Koninginnedag” (“Queen’s Day”), she will hand over her royal duties to the current crown prince Willem-Alexander, who will become the first king of the Netherlands in over 120 years. (The husband of the queen is called a “prince”, assumedly to emphasize that the queen is the monarch rather than her husband). His wife Máxima, who won the hearts of the Dutch people at an extraordinary rate back in 2001 (it was the smile), will become queen but will not have any official duties like Beatrix had. Their first-born daughter, princess Catharina-Amalia, will become crown princess. Finally, as of next year Queen’s Day will be redated and redubbed “King’s Day”.
It’s a strange thing to see Beatrix go. See has been on the throne for exactly 33 years when her abdication date comes around, so she has literally longer been queen than I have been alive. Since we are a constitutional monarchy, the queen holds little political power (note that I say “little”, not “no”, she does do a few important things), but to me she is a symbol, and a valuable one at that. She has been there for us through good times and bad, has always had a good head on her shoulders and unites us in a way that a President could never hope to match. Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau is the Netherlands. She’s the Dutch people and the Dutch culture. She’s all of us.
Fortunately, she chose the best possible date to abdicate. Today was her 75th birthday, and on top of that 2013 marks the 200-year anniversary of the Netherlands becoming a kingdom after gaining our independence from Napoleon’s France. Finally, I have all the faith that our new king will perform his duties, both political and symbolic, admirably. So to close this topic off I’m going to say a line that I don’t believe any of you have ever heard said legitimately. You’ll have heard it in fantasy movies or video games, and perhaps you have said it ironically to your boss or your parents at one point or another. But I’m going to say it now in all seriousness:
Long live the king.
Okay, so it’s not actually anywhere near this awesome.
With that little tidbit of news out of the way: video games. The past week I’ve been spending lots of time with my WiiU, and we’re quickly becoming the best of friends. Whereas last week my options were limited to demos and Nintendo Land, now I’ve been able to play some actual games, which is good. To be fair though, those demos were all fantastic and Nintendo Land is surprisingly fun in short bursts.
The two games I got with my WiiU are New Super Mario Bros. U and Darksiders II, both of which I’ve been playing quite a lot of. What I find most interesting about these games is the different ways they make me feel about the GamePad. Both can be played off-TV, but I’ve found that it doesn’t really work for Darksiders. And yet I actually prefer playing Mario on the controller, because you’re much closer to the action and can judge jumps more accurately. Which, to my surprise, you actually need. It’s not the most difficult game I’ve ever seen, but it still offers a decent challenge, and having the game in your hands actually gives you a nice little advantage. Props to Nintendo for that. There’s some clever level design in here too, as well as nice new powerups, and it says something about the strengths of WiiU that, in a sense, they’re best experienced on the controller.
Thomas knows what he’s talking about
Darksiders on the controller doesn’t work as well, I find. It’s a more mature game, and much more epic in scale, and I don’t feel that translates very well to the GamePad. You do lose out a little bit of you can’t play this on a TV. Luckily, I don’t share my TV with anyone, so playing it on the GamePad was more of an experiment than anything in the first place. I do like that it gives you the option to keep it simple. You can opt to have some of the more important menus on the GamePad, and honestly that’s all I need, although I do wish you could turn off the on-screen minimap. For some reason that’s still there despite the fact that you have the option of having the map on the controller; not sure what that’s about.
Other than that I’ve been really enjoying the game. Death’s a nice character, there’s good exploration (to the point that from the get-go I could already reach an optional boss I had no chance of beating yet; haven’t seen that since Xenoblade), the item system is a neat little addition to the formula and the combat is at the very least decent. As far as graphics go, my roommate tells me that it’s not all that, but I honestly wouldn’t know, because “graphics” do little for me. The game’s got good character design and art direction, and I don’t give a shit about anything else. It could’ve run on Gamecube and I would’ve been fine with it. But for what it’s worth, the game does look good to me. Finally, so far I’m getting the sneaking suspicion that Darksiders II won’t feature the angels and stuff, which would be a huge shame because I loved them in the original. Hopefully I’m wrong and they’ll show up later somehow. At least I hope to see other characters than the Makers, because all the cool races and characters and the design on these guys is definitely where the Darksiders IP shines.
Pictured: Character design. But mostly boobs.
So that’s it for my time with the WiiU. My belief that it’s a very solid console stands more than ever. Right now I’m still considering buying a few more games, either retail or smaller downloadable games on the eShop: mostly, I’m thinking about Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed, ZombiU, Mighty Switch Force and Trine 2: Director’s Cut. I’m especially surprised by how much I like the Sonic demo. SEGA characters have never been my bread and butter, but the racing actually feels much more fun to me than Mario Kart has in a long time. I think it’s really the emphasis on actual racing, rather than hoping that you get lucky with items, that serves to make this game much more fun than I thought it’d be. The fact that you get to play as Vyse and Wreck-it Ralph may very well be the final nudge I need for the purchase (although what the hell is up with including Danica Patrick? Oh. Right. Well never mind then). If anyone’s got opinions on this game, by all means share them, because I’m still a little on the fence. The same goes for the other titles, actually. Shoot!