Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Pros and Cons of the Wii U: From A New Owner's Perspective

I have now officially owned a Wii U for three days. It has been an eventful and arduous journey, but my wounds have healed and my hands are free of blisters.

In all seriousness, the Wii U is the first home console of the eighth generation of gaming hardware, and it is the newest gaming hardware edition to the SuperPhillip family. There are many aspects of the Wii U that I adore, but at that same token, there are many aspects of the Wii U that I abhor. This written piece is a pro and con list from the viewpoint of someone who is new to the Wii U. From the innovative controller to the future lineup, this is what I like and dislike about my shining new Deluxe Wii U.


-CONS-

- Initial Update: Or, Update Me on When I Can Finally Play, Nintendo

Let's start with the bad first, shall we? I hate to end on a negative note, after all. We begin with what all new Wii U owners will most likely have to deal with after hooking up their system-- the initial update. Now, the length of the update varies depending on connection speed and other factors. It personally took me just under two hours, and I have a satisfactory connection. However, I have heard horror stories of updates taking up to five hours. Throw in the idea of unknowing users powering off their systems mid-update, which is an absolute no-no in firmware updating, and the problem becomes even more troubling.


The update that every Wii U owner needs to install does a myriad of online functions such as the ability to create a Nintendo Network ID, installing new features like Miiverse (more on that later), the Nintendo eShop, the friends list, Wii U Chat, the Internet Browser, and there's a lot more where that comes from. Thus, it is a necessary evil that all of that gets installed. It's apparent that the Wii U systems were manufactured long before these aforementioned features were fully realized, so that is why the update is so large.

- Hardware Problems: Or, Problems With the Hardware

Someone actually, with a straight face, said to me that the Wii U was so weak that Nintendo should scrap the console in two years and release a successor. I didn't call the person stupid or anything, but I gave him that look. You know, the one where you look like you're squinting at the guy and your mouth is open. Your face is basically saying it cannot believe he just said that either.

Anyway, the modest graphical power of the Wii U does not really bother me. I mean, I am amazed that current generation games can run on a little GamePad's screen. That is really cool to me. It doesn't make sense for Nintendo to try to go head to head in power with Microsoft or Sony either. It tried that with the GameCube, and it failed (it wasn't the only reason, but you know what I mean). Nintendo has successfully carved out its own niche, and I think it needs to continue to do that.

Regardless, there were other problems associated with the hardware from a technical perspective-- countless reports of hardware freezes, and the operating system of the console is still rather slow. I am uncertain whether the former issue has been resolved yet or not. If someone who has experienced such issues in the past would let me know, I would really appreciate it. In any case, the hardware as a whole is a somewhat troublesome issue.

2013 Is Barren: Or, How Nintendo Is Keeping Its Cards Too Close To Its Chest

Nintendo has opted for an altered strategy concerning their release dates and the announcements of new games. To avoid incidents like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, it has decided to not announce a game until it is far enough in development-- sometimes near completion. This can be a good thing in the sense that a given game is not subject to over-hype by the gaming populace and turns out to be a disappoint. It is a bad thing because it makes the future of Nintendo's systems look barren and uncertain.

Nintendo is happy to give us a bone now and then with the official announcement of Pikmin 3 at last E3. This game goes against that strategy I was talking about, as it is in the further future. Another title that goes against that strategy is The Wonderful 101. Meanwhile, games like LEGO City Undercover, Wii Fit U, and Game & Wario are coming out rather soon.


This strategy bit Nintendo in the butt rather hard. The company said it was building up strong relations with many third-parties. When little word was coming out of future games for the Wii U, many believed it was because of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). However, when the sizzle reel was released of upcoming third-party titles, a bitter pill was swallowed by fans claiming Nintendo was hiding the good stuff with all of its secrecy. There basically was no good stuff to be found.

Now don't get me wrong. I am sure there is plenty of "good stuff" coming for myself and others as Wii U owners. I jumped in (forgive me for stealing the Xbox brand slogan there) to the Wii U full well knowing that the release list was dry after launch. I have Rayman Legends and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate to look forward to and hopefully Nintendo has a lot more that they are getting ready to astound the gaming world with, as they are wont to do. Let's just hope that stuff comes down the pipeline sooner rather than later.

- Sixty Dollar Games: Or, What Am I, Donald Trump Here?

Well, no, because my hair isn't that questionable. Regardless, while I am on the subject of games, it was an inevitability that Wii U games would get the "next gen" selling price of sixty smackeroons. Why would Nintendo want to isolate third-parties even more by keeping its game prices at a solid fifty? All it means to me is that I cannot buy as many games as I did on the Wii, which was admittedly a lot (underrated system, that was). It also means that I have to much more careful on my purchases. Getting burned by a sixty dollar game hurts far more than getting burned by a forty or fifty dollar one. I get a moment of repose, however, by seeing Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed have a forty dollar price tag at release. (By the by, if you have not checked out that game out, you are doing a disservice to yourself.) Could we see more budget-priced software on Wii U? I certainly hope so!

-PROS-

- The Controller

My first experience with the Wii U GamePad was at my local Best Buy. (You folks in the industry don't have your product demos at Best Buys? Well, I'll be.) I did not think that much of the GamePad in a gameplay sense. Sure, the resolution and visuals were sharp on the GamePad's big screen, but I had trouble with the gyro-controlled sections of the Rayman Legends demo. Now that I have the GamePad in my possession and have spent a good amount of time with it, I can say that it does impress. In fact, it impresses big time.

I love the ergonomics of the controller. It is not overly hefty as one might expect. I have piano player fingers, and mine can easily fit around the good-sized GamePad. Holding the controller just feels right. It feels great in my hands.

I feared that sense the GamePad was glossy, it would get a lot of unsightly fingerprints on it, especially with my Deluxe Black Wii U GamePad. This, however, isn't as bad as I thought it would be. You can see fingerprints on it, but only on the front and only from close range. The back of the controller is entirely a matte finish. Now, where was this on my Nintendo 3DS, I wonder.


The GamePad's touch screen can only read one mark, swipe, touch, etc. at a time. This is a bummer as I know Apple and other tablet designers have made the thought of such technology seem prehistoric. Still, the screen is clear, crisp, and it looks exquisite. I love just wasting time doodling gibberish words and ugly stick figure men/women.

Without a doubt one of the coolest features is the ability of some games to be played entirely on the GamePad while the television screen is used for something else entirely. Perhaps you could run through the Soda Jungle world of New Super Mario Bros. U while keeping up to date on the big game. Yes, the big game-- that pinochle world championship. ...That isn't what you guys watch? Never mind.

Regardless, the Wii U GamePad offers something that I didn't feel was really explained well by Nintendo-- asymmetrical gameplay. This is most prevalent in Nintendo Land, a title that has truly surpassed my rather high expectations. One great example of this is in the Animal Crossing: Sweet Day attraction of the game. In this, one side of the game is trying to retrieve 15 fruits and take them to a safe spot. These players use Wii Remotes and look at the TV screen. Meanwhile, the player using the Wii U GamePad controls two armed guards, and his or her job is to utilize both analog sticks (one controlling each guard) to tackle the fruit gatherers three times. Two different vantage points are being seen, one on the TV screen and one of the Wii U GamePad. This is what asymmetrical gameplay is all about, and Nintendo Land showcases it brilliantly. It's something that the Wii U does the best, and it should do it the best when the console's focus is built on the GamePad's unique features.


- Fun Launch Lineup

I talked about how the future release schedule looked barren and uncertain. Maybe that is a good thing as the Wii U had so many titles at launch that it is an impossibility to have gotten through them all.

We have Nintendo's home-developed software such as New Super Mario Bros. U, the first new Mario game to launch with hardware in seemingly ages, and Nintendo Land, which comes automatically with Deluxe systems.

New Super Mario Bros. U takes the tried and true 2D Mario series to new heights-- high-definition heights, to be exact. It is the second 2D Mario to allow four players to run and jump through levels together, and the first to allow five players. The fifth player can use the Wii U GamePad to place blocks for everyone else. The GamePad player can even play the entire game by their lonesome on the controller's screen, offering a chance to play NSMBU in the luxury of their bed while watching a Roseanne marathon, for instance. Maybe a certain writer has done that...


Meanwhile, Nintendo Land has seriously astounded me by how good and clever it is. While it is fun in doses by one's self, the game is truly meant to be played in multiplayer. Even with only two people, it is a blast. However, when you can get five friends or family members around the Wii U for some Metroid Blast, Luigi's Ghost Mansion, or Mario Chase, then the true fun begins. I've mentioned a brilliant use of the GamePad above, but it really cannot be emphasized enough.

Then there are third-party offerings like the intense and terrifying ZombiU. There's Batman: Arkham City - Armored Edtion, featuring Wii U-exclusive features and all the DLC from the other versions on the disc for free. There's Assassin's Creed III, Darksiders II, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, Skylanders Giants, and Scribblenauts: Unlimited. Don't forget the download-only games (all retail games can be purchased digitally from eShop) like the gorgeous Trine 2: Director's Cut.


I found myself flabbergasted when I went to the store to pick a game for my new Wii U. The choices are really amazing, offline or on.


- Miiverse and Nintendo's Improved Online

I am absolutely in love with Miiverse. It is so simple of a concept and very Twitter-like. It gives users the opportunity to share all sorts of things-- comments, completed goals, and even old school handwritten notes with any game's community. A game can be suspended while a message is posted (messages are swiftly moderated for appropriateness) and then the player can jump back into their game. Not only is Miiverse available in many games (at least those that are supported), it is of great prominence in the Wii U's system menu.


What I adore about Miiverse is the capability of seeing what other players just like myself (and those completely not like myself) are doing in the games I am playing-- what they're struggling with, what challenge they just overcame, etc. It is also fun to see users express themselves through art, and boy, might I tell you that a lot of that art is amazing. Jeremy Perish has a lot of doodles he has done through Miiverse messages.


Miiverse goes along with the Wii U's online. Compared to the Wii, it is a night and day difference. Gone are those miserable, ill-conceived friend codes that plagued each and every game, and what has replaced them is the NNID, or Nintendo Network ID. You can choose a name, six characters or more, and assign a Mii to it. There the fun ensues. I must admit that I don't ask for the world when it comes to online gaming, but even with that said, the Wii U and Nintendo have gone a long way to impress me with their efforts.

- Fast Internet Browser


Following the online, let's go into something from a similar category. I know what you're thinking-- "So what. I have a computer that already can browse the Internet, and it can do so faster. I use a gaming console for games." Well, yes, Mr. Scrooge, you can. However, I am not like you-- I am a simpleton who gets amazed by the simplest things. For one, being able to browse the Internet on the Wii U GamePad and the TV screen is just stupendous to me. I can view my favorite sites (SuperPhillip Central, SuperPhillip Central, SuperPhillip Central, Amazon, SuperPhillip Central), select and manage bookmarks, and effortlessly zoom and scroll to my heart's content. If you have ever dealt with the Wii or Nintendo 3DS Internet Browser apps, you know how horribly slow and how much they were wastes of time. Now you can get a browser on a Nintendo system that actually works and works well. That is the definition of progress.

===

For you new Wii U owners, are you liking the system? What are your likes and peeves regarding everything Wii U? Let me know in the comments section.

Also, if you wish to add me as a friend, hit me up with a message to my email account, seen in the sidebar.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fantasy Life (3DS) Overview Trailer

A game that I would love to reach North American shores (along with the rest of the West, of course) is Fantasy Life, a grand title by Level-5. Rather than tell you what this overview trailer features, how about you take a look with this seven minute video and see for yourself? Even if you don't speak the language of the Land of the Rising Sun, you can at least drool at the footage like I did!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2 Fast 4 Gnomz (3DSWare) Review

Once again, Merry Christmas to those of you celebrating, and if you aren't, have a wonderful holiday season. If you don't celebrate the holidays at all, then you're simply making this difficult for me on purpose, aren't you? Just kidding.

Regardless, that review I was alluding to earlier is for a downloadable 3DS game that you can try out via demo first on the Nintendo eShop. It is 2 Fast 4 Gnomz from QubicGames.

Sock It to These Gnomz


It is Christmas day, and you know, when many people associate Christmas with Santa, they associate elves with jolly old St. Nick. What about those lesser heralded small-in-stature folks? They decorate lawns across the world, and some of them-- unlike elves-- actually work all year long! I am talking about gnomes, and QubicGames is once again paying them their due respect with 2 Fast 4 Gnomz on the Nintendo 3DS's eShop marketplace. Wii owners might be familiar with this title as it originally appeared on the WiiWare service. Is this second helping of "gnomz" good or is it 2 bad 4 words?

2 Fast 4 Gnomz is a runner-type game. Your gnome is perpetually in motion, and it is your job to dash, jump, and duck your way through progressively more fiendish levels while gathering socks and avoiding hazards like pits, walls, spikes, tornadoes, and other devious traps.


At the start of 2 Fast 4 Gnomz, you are limited to simply jumping, but as you make your way through the game, you obtain new powers. These are activated via the direction pad. Holding up opens up a glider, perfect for crossing large chasms. Holding down activates Berserk mode, where your gnome can channel his anger and smash and crash his way through obstacles and stay grounded during tornadoes. Holding right gives a burst of speed, necessary to jet past falling icicles, for instance. The last power allows you to turn back time as you pass a clock. This is performed by pressing the left direction on the d-pad.

Starting out, 2 Fast 4 Gnomz possesses a relatively relaxed difficulty, but as new powers are introduced, your reflexes will get put to the test in a mighty fine fashion. It is commonplace for levels to have you switching between pressing d-pad directions with split-second timing. One second you're gliding up a wind tunnel while the next you are wanting to quickly fall to the ground and enter Berserk mode so you don't get blown away by the upcoming tornado.

Therein lies a problem with 2 Fast 4 Gnomz. A significant portion of successfully completing levels is left to pure memorization. Sure, that aforementioned split-second timing comes in at the occasional point, but the game mostly relies on having the player have the level ingrained in their memory to beat it. If you simply want to beat the game, then you need not worry about memorizing much. Dying simply takes you back to the last checkpoint you crossed, and you have an unlimited number of tries. However, if you wish to 100% the game, you will need to memorize each level and always be thinking one step (or several steps) ahead.


Speaking of which, there is a good amount of replay value in the game. Each level has three different ratings depending on how you do. There is one for collecting the socks sprinkled around the levels, one for how fast you complete a given level, and one for not dying much (if at all). You can earn up to three stars for each category for a total of  nine stars. Thankfully, you need not get all nine stars in a given run. You can go for the sock stars first, then try not dying a lot, and lastly try to get a great time. It makes for a less frustrating experience.

An issue many had with the WiiWare version of 2 Fast 4 Gnomz was that it was hard telling the background from the playing area. This issue has been cleared up with the 3DS iteration of the game. Not only does the stereoscopic 3D of the Nintendo 3DS do wonders, but there is a greater separation between both backgrounds and the playing space. The music is appropriate for the game, and even after you've died dozens of times on the same level, you won't grow weary of the soundtrack.


While there are many free alternatives on the iOS market to 2 Fast 4 Gnomz, 3DS owners looking for a competent runner game will most likely enjoy the game. It has a cute charm to it, it is engaging, and it is generally a rather fun time. The focus on memorization for completionists will no doubt put some players off, but overall, 2 Fast 4 Gnomz delivers a good challenge and plenty of enjoyment.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.0/10]

Merry Christmas from SuperPhillip Central!

It's that special time of year where we spend time with our families and friends. I hope your Christmas is wonderful, and if you don't celebrate, may your day still be fantastic regardless. Even though today is a holiday, I have a review planned for the day. It's a short one, so it isn't taking much time away from the family. The best to you and yours this holiday season.

Monday, December 24, 2012

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Christmas Eve 2012 Edition

Much like the yearly SuperPhillip Central Best of Awards, selecting songs for the holiday season is a tradition too-- albeit not a tradition that is as long as my awards ceremony. Today on SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs, I have a special edition to share with you. Think of it as your Christmas bonus from yours truly. It is ten winter-themed video game tracks from games like Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie, Kirby's Epic Yarn, and even some Final Fantasy IX for you RPG buffs out there.

While you enjoy the holidays with your friends and family this season, join the SuperPhillip Central family as we celebrate the season with some SuperPhillip-approved video game songs. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year to you and yours! May your season be merry and bright. With that said, let's get to the music!

v271. Donkey Kong Country (SNES) - Ice Cave Chant


The oldest song on this list of ten VGM volumes is from Donkey Kong Country, and it sounds just as good as many of the themes on this list. Although the theme only plays once during Donkey and Diddy Kong's first platforming adventure, the Slipslide Ride level, its impact is astounding. It's an extremely catchy piece full of winter wonder.

v272. Banjo-Kazooie (N64) - Freezeey Peak


A winter wonderland full of angry snowball-chucking snowmen, a family of polar bears in crisis, a bear-hating walrus, cozy cabins, a bright Christmas tree, and a giant snowman with corn cob pipe and yellow and red scarf resting in the center of the level, Freezeey Peak already has that wintry feel to it. The piece that accompanies the level furthers the feeling. Even though a lot of the level wants to see Banjo and Kazooie dead, you can't help but sit back and enjoy Freezeey Peak.

v273. Final Fantasy IX (PS1) - Ice Cavern


Nobuo Uematsu probably composes music in his sleep. That's how much I feel he has mastered his art. Final Fantasy IX features some of my favorite music from the series, and I admire most of the pieces the game uses, despite never having completed the game. Ice Cavern is one of the early dungeons of Final Fantasy IX, and this xylophone-filled piece is what is played during the duration of it.

v274. Tales of Symphonia (GCN) - A Snow Light


The beautiful city of Flanoir is covered in feet of snow. It is a veritable winter wonderland. I cannot help but feel warm and cozy sitting in my room and traversing through the town. With Motoi Sakuraba's A Snow Light playing, the ambiance of Flanoir is only accentuated further. I especially love the piano that plays its descending melodic phrases.

v275. Diddy Kong Racing (N64) - Frosty Village


David Wise should be a familiar fan to Rare fans. He has composed a plethora of soundtracks for the developer such as the Donkey Kong Country trilogy. Frosty Village is a rockin' Christmas-sounding tune, perfect for the wintry village that Diddy and the gang speed through. I have many great memories of Diddy Kong Racing. It's only my favorite kart racer of all time, after all!

v276. Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN) - Sherbet Land


From one kart racer to another, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is one of my most cherished entries in the Mario Kart franchise. Its dual racer mechanic was fresh and innovative, I loved the track design, and the soundtrack is one of the series's best. Kenta Nagata (who did work on Mario Kart 64 and most recently Mario Kart 7) and Shinobu Tanaka teamed up to compose the cheery music for this game. The end result is tracks like Sherbet Land, that make you hum along and then curse the game for that one blue shell at the final stretch on the final lap.

v277. Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii) - Snowy Fields


Everything about the Snowy Fields track yells "Christmas." We have sleigh bells, regular bells, and a happy disposition. Kirby's Epic Yarn's soundtrack is a terrific one, and it's one of the Wii's best. If you were a music love this generation, you had plenty of opportunities for fantastic music. Kirby's Epic Yarn was just another example of this statement.

v278. Mega Man 8 (PS1, SAT) - Frost Man Stage


The first thing that you generally associate with a level is its aesthetics-- its music, its background, its visuals, and so forth. With Frost Man's level from Mega Man 8, players who go through the level will probably just associate it with one thing, "Jump. Jump. Slide. Slide." The pace of the snowboard sections only quickens, making the computer voice instructing Mega Man on what to do speak even more swiftly.

v279. Paper Mario (N64) - Cold Reception in Shiver City


Two Mario games on the same Favorite VGMs edition? Craziness! Paper Mario was a departure from Squaresoft's Mario RPG, and many consider the game all the better for it. The Paper Mario series is known for its grand humor and timing-based battles. Cold Reception in Shiver City unsurprisingly plays during Shiver City, a frosty town full of talkative penguins.

v280. Viewtiful Joe 2 (PS2, GCN) - Ice Edge (The Polar Movie Land)


If I had but one video game-related wish for this Christmas season, it would be for Capcom to somehow, someway create a new Viewtiful Joe-- a Viewtiful Joe 3. Sure, there was a third game in the series in the form of Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble on the Nintendo DS, but that wasn't of the original's quality. Ice Edge has all the makings of a holiday tune-- sleigh bells and a frosty piano to enjoy.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Announcing the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2012 Awards!


The annual tradition at SuperPhillip Central continues where I look back on a year in gaming and honor the best and boldest with awards in various categories. This is the fifth annual award show, so I'm going to make it even more special. Unlike previous years, the SuperPhillip Central Best of Awards will be starting at the beginning of the new year instead of simply leading up to the new year. There are more categories than ever for the Best of 2012 Awards, so please look forward to a fun ride!

Here is the schedule of awards:

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Best Original Soundtrack
Best Multiplayer
Best Presentation
Best Box Art (new category)

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Best New Franchise
Most Unexpected Surprise
Most Innovative (new category)
Most Disappointing

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Most Overlooked
Developer of the Year
Multiplatform Game of the Year

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Best Nintendo 3DS Game
Best PlayStation Vita Game
Best Wii U Game
Best Wii Game
Best PlayStation 3 Game
Best Xbox 360 Game

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

System of the Year 2012
Game of the Year 2012

This time of year is always so bittersweet. It's amazingly fun to share my choices for best games of the year, but it comes at a price-- it is a severe workload. I hope you are pleased with the work I put into this year's awards ceremony!

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