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5:48 PM on 01.01.2014

A year of Wii U (and a half of 3DS) Part 2

This one took a bit more time to come out than I would've liked, but here it is finally.

Part 1, which explains the premise of the articles, can be found here.

June 2013

3DS(bought 3DS XL):

Mario Kart 7 10:08
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages 8:19
Street Pass 2:54

Wii U:

Darksiders II 15:43
Rayman Challenges App 2:28
Runner 2 2:03

Ah, my first Nintendo handheld. Not sure what kept me away for so long, I have fiddled with most of them in stores and expos,
but somehow before the 3DS XL none of them really clicked for me.

Infact, few weeks after the original 3DS released I went to a store and tried it,
but I found my fingers very cramped on it and the 3D effect actually gave me nausea, however with the 3DS XL I experienced none of these problems.

On the games front I got Mario Kart 7 pre-installed and picked up Oracle of Ages from an eshop discount.
Mario Kart is really all about iteration at this point, and I think 7 iterated the formula well. The online functionality is best in the series to date, and I thought the progressive unlocks did a nice job of extending the single player.

Street Pass games caught me completely of guard. Initially I thought I wouldn't much care for this aspect of the 3DS, but it turned out, even now I find myself coming back to the Streetpass Quest in particular.

On the Wii U side of things I finally brought Darksiders II to a close, what a fantastic, if flawed game. It is truly a shame it is very likely we'll never see a sequel, as Darksiders II really captured some of my favourite bits of gaming and one was one of the truly epic games I played all year, both in terms of setting and the gameplay experience itself.

July 2013


Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story 28:13
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros 14:47
Mario Kart 7 5:34

Wii U:

Batman: Arkham City 13:59
Runner 2 1:29
Donkey Kong (VC) 0:52

Got myself into some M&L games in July. I had always wanted to try Bowser's Inside Story and it didn't dissapoint. M&L games definitely feature one of the more interesting and nuanced representations of Nintendo characters as well as loads of gameplay.

I started Dream Team Bros basically the next day from finishing Bowsers Inside Story. Dream Team Bros seems to be a lot less loved of the 2, but playing them back to back I really didn't sense a massive drop in quality.

The way I'd put it is that Dream Team Bros is mechanically more interesting of the 2, while Bowsers Inside Story has perhaps the better overall story.
Both feature crushing levels of repetition, which I consider pretty much the only flaw in either.

Also got a bargain bin copy of Arkham City, which I had not played at this point. The 14 hours I spent on it in July were pretty much the only time I played the game. I can see why people would love it, but for me the game just doesn't quite click. At first it seems there is a great amount to do and see, but after a point I started finding the combat tiresome and the fact that riddler puzzles in no way affect the main game makes the secrets feel kind of pointless.

Donkey Kong is the 2nd time a Virtual Console game makes an appearance on this list of top3s.
What can be said about it, it was 30cents and despite the fact that I kind of suck at it, it is just about the perfect thing for lying on the couch with the Gamepad.

August 2013


Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros 10:27
Mario Kart 7 1:44
Street Pass 1:21

Wii U:

Wonderful 101 Demo 1:45
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 1:20
Nintendoland 1:20

It seems that my playtimes sort of go up and down from month to month, and I do admit Dream Team Bros middle-slog particulary takes its toll on you.
Wii U times in August came almost exclusively from a game night I hosted. I think Wonderful 101 might've been the first game I saw turning people's heads on the system.

September 2013


Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros 24:27
Shantae: Risky's Revenge 2:30
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages 2:25

Wii U:

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 0:14

Dream Team Bros really kept on giving, fortunately it gets better and better towards the end, as the challenge ramps up towards the epic final battle. Truly felt like I had climbed a mountain when the end credits rolled.

Also got Risky's Revenge as I was looking into DS titles I had missed out on. Have to say it turned out be a classic and just the kind of game I enjoy.

October 2013


Super Street Fighter IV 3D edition 39:39
Shantae: Risky's Revenge 5:55
Steamworld Dig 4:47

Wii U:

Wind Waker HD 21:58
Zen Pinball 2 0:17

You know what I've never liked about fighting games? The memorization and execution of all the fiddly special moves. Well did the bargain bin have a game for me then! It is so easy to play SSFIV3D ridicilous amounts on your 3DS. The online features work perfectly and the touch screen controls retain all the strategy and thinking involved in fighting games, whilst eliminating the muscle-memory related aspects. Perfect.

Steamworld Dig is a beautiful little game. The atmosphere is perfect. Some say it is too short, but I think it understand how many tricks it has and never attempts to pad out the game with trivialities.

Wind Waker HD is the first time I've played Wind Waker (the Gamecube is the only home console from Nintendo I've never had). I tried to keep myself relatively spoiler free even if the internet was treating the game as something known to everyone. After many nights of doing familiar and new Zelda stuff, I came out of the game thinking that it is quite incredible how fresh a 10 year old game can feel today. Also I think it has one of the better stories in Zelda games, with some particulary thought-provoking dialogue here and there.

November 2013


Super Street Fighter IV 3D edition 30:35
Bravely Default Demo 18:39
Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds 12:20

Wii U:

Wind Waker HD 10:56
Pikmin 3 5:20
Super Mario 3D World 3:27

This is where the lineups on Nintendo systems started ramping up to a rather exhausting amount of things to play. Which was great!

Bravely Default Demo gave me about 18 hours of play, making it probably one of the most generous demos ever. For me JRPGs are really hit and miss. I love Xenoblade, but many of the more "oldschool" ones don't really do it for me. Bravely Default's combat-mechanics on the other hand are right up my alley. I loved finding new combos of abilities and I think it was a master stroke to have objectives in the demo to help you with the main game.

When I preordered A Link Between Worlds I was aware it might be "just" a new 2d Zelda game treading familiar paths, which I would've been fine with.
Instead it was quickly apparent it would be my favourite 2d Zelda game, period. I just find the gameplay so intrisically enjoyable in ALBW.

I think it is the first game where the 3D proposition truly becomes apparent, and a game that I played with 3D turned on from start to finish. Also while it seems many people didn't notice, the music in Zelda games can never be the same now. The tunes may be old, but the presentation had power and style unlike any other game in the series. A modern classic and a reason to own a 3DS.

Finally, almost exactly a year from Wii U's release, Super Mario 3D World arrived. I have to confess I was a bit worried when it was first announced.
It did not look like the game that would top Super Mario Galaxy 2, but the closer the release date drew and the more I saw from the game, the more exciting it started to look.

Playing it for the first time was an interesting experience. I have to say the first few stages didn't quite do it for me, also the controls felt a bit stiff after the all-powerful gymnastics champion mario from the Galaxy games. However I didn't have to wait too long, by the end of the first world it was clear things would not be ordinary and neat arrangements of themed stages, instead the game has a very strong air of its namesake Super Mario World. And it looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous.

Closing thoughts and my best 3 games from a year of Wii U (and a half of 3DS):

Looking back at the year I have to say Wii U's lineup didn't really start coming together before the end of the year.
This however was not such a big problem for me, as many of the ports from 360/PS3 were new games for me and the Wii U ports were in general of good quality.

For example I don't think I would've picked up Darksiders II if the system would've been flooded with great new games from the start, which would've meant missing out on one of the better gaming events I had all year.

The Gamepad for me quickly became a thing I don't want to live without. The convenience and comfort of playing so many games while my girlfriend was watching TV or I just didn't feel like sitting upright in front of it, meant that I probably did way more gaming than I would've otherwise.
I don't think at this point I would be happy with a console *without* such an option, so profound and delightful are the ways the Gamepad has changed my gaming habits.

A white 3DS XL became my first handheld Nintendo console, and it too provided me with unexpected amounts of entertainment and some truly great games. If I had to pick a high point for the system I'd go with A Link Between Worlds, the game shows all the reasons why you should have a dedicated handheld console and why it should have a 3D screen.

Playing something like A Link Between Worlds makes mobile games on phones and tablets seem crude and unpolished as a wooden stick is to finely crafted sword. It does not surprise me Nintendo does not want to make mobile games, as what they do in their better days with handheld gaming is in a completely different universe than what is currently being achieved on phones and tablets.

Now for the 3 games I played between November 30th 2012 and November 30th 2013 on both systems (in no particular order):

Wii U:

Darksiders II
Super Mario 3D World
Wind Waker HD


Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros
Steamworld Dig

I won't go into the reasons why I chose these games, since I've said plenty about each. For me they were all memorable highlights of 2013 and games I'd recommend to anyone in a heartbeat. I hope my retrospective musings have been somewhat entertaining. It looks at this point the coming year will be very different for the Wii U and that the 3DS is anything but losing steam.

Both systems have already exceeded my capacity to acquire and play all the new games coming out, which I guess is a good problem to have.   read

5:10 PM on 11.23.2013

A year of Wii U (and a half of 3DS) Part 1

On November 30th it will be exactly 1 year since I picked up my Wii U.
For this occasion I decided to do a little retrospective based on my playing statistics, as recorded by the box.

I will list the 3 most played titles for each month and try to offer some commentary on them. Many games I bought, liked, loved and hated will be left out with this methodology, but then that is part of the excercise.

When I conclude these musings I'll also do picks on what I thought were the best games I played on Wii U and 3DS respectively (3DS doesn't enter the picture until Part 2 though).

Now, on with the show!

December 2012

Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed 24:28
New Super Mario Bros U 21:16
Nintendo Land 11:03

Sonic: ASRT really helped with spending the first month with the Wii U,
a very solid launch title, that despite being multiplayer made quite confident use of Wii U's power.

I also genuinely liked NSMBU a lot. The Wii iteration left me quite cold, but this new incarnation felt more in line with
SMB3 and Super Mario World. And it was, after all the first time you could see Mario in HD (720p which makes it now, a year later look a bit drab compared to Nintendo's current outings).

Nintendo Land I also found to have quite meaty single player arcade content for a pack-in minigame collection.
It also had an unexpected vibe of mystery as the minigames would reveal new levels and sections that weren't cued in any way initially. This game still shines when you have 5 players to play it with.

January 2013

Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed 10:10
New Super Mario Bros U 4:02
Trine 2 1:41

January, the month of Christmas gaming hangover. Also did a trip abroad.

Mostly it seems, I was tying the loose ends of SASRT and NSMBU.

Trine 2 got the honor of being my first Eshop purchase, unfortunately I could never really get into the game no matter how pretty it looked. The floaty physics just didn't add up to enjoyable gameplay for me.

February 2013

Zen Pinball 2 22:26
Darksiders II 18:27
Little Inferno 4:53

This is when I got big into pinball in general. ZP2+Gamepad is a match made in heaven, the triggers, big sturdy pad and the rumble seem to be born to simulate pinball.

Got Darksiders II for 25eur, it was one of the first games to hit the bargain bins over here.

It turned out it would one of the best games for me all year. The aesthetic, the combat, the music, the bosses and all the things it so smartly lifts from Metroid and Zelda games, I loved it.

Gamepad also seemed to make a big difference for DII as it features constant inventory management and map navigation, which I'd believe were made quite a bit easier by having them displayed constantly.

Little Inferno has basically only one complicated satirical joke, but I laughed.

March 2013

Zen Pinball 2 17:09
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 7:12
Darksiders II 3:45

Pinball, allday, everyday!

TT2 was another bargain bin purchase. I've never been a Tekken-guy and this game didn't really change that.

Darksiders II is a long fucking game.

April 2013

Need for Speed Most Wanted U 24:46
Zen Pinball 2 5:22
Rayman Legends Demo / Challenges App 3:34

NfSMWU may be just another port for the Wii U, but a very good port, that could clearly supercede its 360 and PS3 versions.
The game is also damn fun and has an awesome soundtrack. The multiplayer was somehow rather 'meh'.

Pinball fatigue started setting in too.

Rayman Challenges App was fantastically compelling entertainment, considering it was basically a "sorry" for delaying the actual game on Wii U in order to do a multiplatform release later.

May 2013

Rayman Legends Demo / Challenges App 20:06
Super Metroid 15:49
Zen Pinball 2 9:42

Did I mention Challenges App was really compelling?

I got all of the 30cent Virtual Console games, but the shining star of the lot was of course Super Metroid.
This is the first time I've played Super Metroid from start to finish, despite dipping into it several times over the years and having completed both GBA installments.

It is a true classic.

Super Metroid does not need words like "retro" to justify its presence, you could release it today and it would be not only competing, but surpassing its modern rivals.

Pinball is fun again.

And those were the first 6 months of Wii U.

Had I not excluded it, Netflix would've held the top spot most months. Wii U is the only device I want to use Netflix on anymore.
Also Youtube via the Internet Browser finally realized for me the dream of enjoying YT shows on the couch without hassle and trying to type on tv remotes.

In July I would get my 3DS XL, my first foray into Nintendo's handhelds.
This purchase was directly inspired by how much I liked using the Gamepad.

After being exposed for 6 months to the subtle and not so subtle gameplay tweaks added by a second screen and a stylus, I found myself wanting a 3DS.

The rest is for part 2, as Link, pikmins and a few others are still competing for my attention before November closes.   read

5:33 AM on 09.23.2013

3 Things GTA V's billion can tell us about gaming

The success of GTA V is what you call proof.
It proves the GTA concept not only works, but is desired by the consumer.
It also proves that the GTA formulahas not peaked yet.

GTA V also sold for a billion dollars at launch.

That number will of course be scrutinized, analyzed and taken apart later, but none of it matters for the already born myth of the billion dollar game.

Inevitably other publishers will look upon GTA V as their new benchmark to reach and tune their strategies and future games accordingly.

Here are 3 interesting things, I think will catch their attention.

#1 You don't need women to win

It turns out you don't need deep female characters to win big, it turns you don't even need female characters at all, unless they are strippers or prostitutes.

Whether or not GTA V excludes female gamers can't be said for sure. Still my hunch is that in percentages female gamers are less present in GTA V numbers, than in say Skyrim.

I'm not saying "GTA isn't for girls" or that women couldn't and wouldn't play it. What I am saying is that it takes all the recent arguments about diversifying audiences and taking gaming to new territories, and lights them on fire with a flamethrower.

#2 Hardcore is not the only game in town, but it is the best

So called "hardcore gaming" has been in at least, what is a perceptional decline since the advent of mobile gaming for the masses.
There has been valid concern for the longevity of big-budget, massive epics for the hardcore crowd, as growth in gaming seems to be happening mostly in the casual mobile gaming end of things.

However if you pit GTA V's success against (arguably) the worlds best known mobile game franchise Angry Birds, you will find that Rovio's entire year revenue (~150m ) against Take-Two's effort makes the birds' galaxy seem far away indeed.

#3 Gaming's Titanic/Avatar/Avengers is carnage in a moral vacuum!

Even at this point, I feel confident in stating that GTA V has caught some unprecented mainstream media coverage, equivalent to big hollywood film openings.
Want it or not, GTA V represents gaming culture in 2013.
And what we find in the limelight is bitter and sweet.

I think many (myself included) see the situation as a validation of hardcore gaming. Gaming, where you shoot people, things explode and blood splatters..splatter.
Because it is not an MMO that we find smashing records at the end of 2013, nor is it a game about building or crafting, nor is it new and revolutionary game mechanics.
Instead we have single player videogaming, the fifth installment of a series, that from its inception has dwelled in the moral uproar brought on by its visceral sandboxes of mayhem.

And so, with GTA V, gaming, the industry and us, find themselves with a rather clear message on the state of gaming and what we as a collective want for our gaming money.
Gaming might be art, but it is definitely business, and no voice talks louders in it than a billion dollars.

*Didn't play any GTA V so far as the PC version isn't around yet.
*Did try not make claims about the content I have not seen on videos/read about in reviews
*First time I try this blogging thing, so it probably blows to an extent.   read

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