Wii U Games You Need in Your Library

Wii U Games You Need in Your Library 9

Ever since the late Satoru Iwata announced the NX’s development way back in 2015, it was clear that we were in the twilight period of the Wii U.  Yet, even before that statement, Nintendo’s dual-screened home console struggled to gain any real footing with casual or hardcore gamers, leaving it without any real demographic. Still, sales aside, the Wii U managed to be an exclusive home for some truly fun titles. Don’t let the release date of a new console make you trigger shy, because the Wii U acquired quite the exclusive line up in its five year life cycle, and here are just a few—in no particular order.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Wii U Games You Need in Your Library 10

Set in the distant future, the last beacon of hope for humanity sits on a ship floating aimlessly through space. Unfortunately, it’s shot down by an alien race, crashing on an unknown planet. Now, humans fight to survive on an increasingly hostile planet they’re trying to explore. Making matters worse, the native creatures—along with other aliens the humans run into—are out to kill them. Players take control of a nameless soldier found inside a pod with no real recollection of who they are. Still, their character appears to be pretty good with a gun, and quickly moves up through the military ranks in a division of their choosing, each of which focuses on different aspects of the game and offers different upgrades.

This is the biggest title on the Wii U in terms of size, and it’s a great RPG in its own right. As a sequel to the highly rated Wii title that fans fought tooth and nail to bring to North American shores, it does everything and more to live up to the legacy of its predecessor. While it can feel a little too open ended, and even overwhelming at times, RPG fans should not miss out on the best title in the genre on the Wii U.

Mario Maker

Wii U Games You Need in Your Library 7

Mario’s showings on the Wii U are mixed at best. While people tend to enjoy New Super Mario Bros. U and Super Mario 3D Land, they won’t go down as some of the greatest Mario games for a variety of reasons. Mario Maker on the other hand, changed the game—literally.

By playing into the do it yourself culture the videogame world has been moving into for the past generation and a half, Mario Maker lets players build and share their own levels.  They choose an aesthetic ranging from the original game to Super Mario World  (excluding number two), which actually determines the abilities Mario has. Aside from that, builders can choose the location and even extras like character skins Mario can wear. The creativity is community driven, and their presence is still going strong even a year after its release, meaning it’s still a good time to hop on board the Mario Maker Train.

Splatoon

Wii U Games You Need in Your Library

This is easily the online powerhouse for the Wii U. Obviously this console has weak support from franchises like Call of Duty, meaning if gamers crave a traditional online shooter experience, then the Wii U isn’t their console. Still, Nintendo put their own spin on the genre with this, colourful, vibrant, personality filled shooter where the main goal isn’t to kill the opponent, but ink as much of the map as possible within the time limit.

It’s addictive, and receives consistent support from Nintendo in terms of updates, special events, and Amiibos, which makes Splatoon one of the most played titles on the Wii U.

Super Smash Bros. Wii U

Wii U Games You Need in Your Library 6

This wouldn’t be a top Nintendo list if Smash Bros. wasn’t included. In many ways, this cross over king of the hill style fighter isn’t just a celebration of Nintendo and its rich history; it’s a celebration of gaming as a whole with characters from companies that have roots in gaming just as deep as the Big N. This time around, fans were treated to Pac-Man, Ryu from Street Fighter, Sonic the Hedgehog, Bayonetta, and even the blue bomber himself, Mega Man.

In many game circles the term “settle it in Smash” is used as a way to determine a winner of any given argument, and that tradition lives on the Wii U. With some of the best couch multiplayer on any console, a pretty lively online population, and even a dedicated eSports scene, this is a title that both casual and hardcore gamers young and old will enjoy.

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

Okay, this one isn’t fair, but since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild doesn’t release until after the holiday season, I’m calling this one a draw. Trying to choose between Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD is like trying to choose which grandparent you’d rather die first. Yeah, you probably know deep down inside, but you’d never say it out loud.  They’re also so different that it makes choosing one over the other nearly impossible.

On one hand, you have Wind Waker. To many this is the Zelda title of their childhood. With bright colours, a cute art style, and a flooded Hyrule, this game captures the childlike wonder of the world around you. It also has pirates and players can stab Ganon in the face, so that’s pretty cool as well. With some of the most memorable moments in the series, and a strong focus on exploration, Wind Waker is considered by many to be the best in the series.

Then we have Twilight Princess, Windwaker’s angry little brother who listens to Marilyn Manson and watches Tim Burton movies like they’re religious experiences. This title stands in direct contrast to its predecessor, tapping into a darker side Nintendo tried to escape from post-Majora’s Mask. While its plot is very simple, and it is the definition of “the Zelda formula”, its realistic art direction mixed with a wolf Link make for an experience unlike anything seen in The Legend of Zelda franchise.  It also features some of the most frightening, unnerving scenes ever seen in the series, making this a must have for those looking for a more grown up Legend of Zelda.

Bayonetta 2

Wii U Games You Need in Your Library 1

The fact that we got a sequel to the cult classic developed by Platinum Games still feels surreal even two years later. With the original title—published by Sega—meeting lackluster sales despite high praise from critics and players alike, it seemed like this Devil May Cry inspired brawler wouldn’t see the light of day ever again.  Enter Nintendo.  Somehow, Nintendo managed to get the exclusive rights to the franchise and here we go.

With smooth, fast-paced combat, an empowered female lead, and a whole lot of angel fighting, Bayonetta 2 is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the Wii U library. Not only that, it was originally packaged with the first title that released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 in 2011, so you can experience the entire Bayonetta story on the Wii U.

Obviously, there are more titles than just what is listed here, but if players get their hands on these, they have a pretty good start to their Wii U collection. This won’t be a console that goes down in history as Nintendo’s strongest, but it is still a fun device, with a unique control scheme that was home to some very fun games. And at the end of its life, that is good enough.

Pixels & Ink #228 – Batman and Building

Pixels & Ink #228 - Batman and Building

This week on the Pixels and Ink podcast, everyone is back after a weeks hiatus and Phil Brendan and Cody go over all the latest news items from the week. Phil talks about Mario Maker 3DS and the 4th chapter of Telltale Batman series. Cody manages to enlighten everyone why Final Fantasy XV is an exciting release, and Brendan once again has had no time to dig into games.

Read morePixels & Ink #228 – Batman and Building

Mario Maker Preview

Mario Maker Preview  - 2014-08-07 12:14:45

There are many unsavory things that the games press have said about Nintendo in the last few years. The most common comments revolve around the theory that the Japanese platform holder has completely run out of ideas.  That said, no one ever asked Nintendo if they were cool with what they do. We just assume that anyone who employs more than 500 people is somehow evil and out to get us, but what if Nintendo is equally as tired of franchise recycling? That could explain the existence of Mario Maker, an application for the Wii U that lets you make and play your own Super Mario Bros. levels.

Mario Maker looks like Nintendo gave you a big piece of virtual graph paper and a bunch of “stamps” that will punch out the blocks and sprites that populate levels of various Super Mario Bros. games. Every grid space on the map can hold one item (be it block, or sprite, or power up), and you simply pick any item (by using the Wii-U tablet controller screen) and then you drag that item into the graph paper square of your choice. Trust me when I say that it is unbelievably easy for anyone to create levels.

mariomakerinsert1Now that’s the basic idea of Mario Maker, and once you get past it everything else is just a modifier. Mario Maker has most of the pieces that you would expect, including:  coin blocks, the brick blocks you can break, and the regular old blocks that you can’t break. There are also Koopa Troopa, Goombas, Hammer Brothers, Piranha Plants, and more. The modifiers come into play when you shake the item that you’ve picked up, but before you place it. For example, the Koopa Troopas in the menu appear to be green, but shaking them will turn their shells Red. You could also shake Goombas to change them into the smaller Goombas that appear from time to time.

In the case of placing the green pipes, and other items that come in various sizes, you also have the ability to scale those items bigger or smaller once they’re placed. Add in the fact you can make the forces of Bowser spawn inside the green pipes, bounce on spring boards, or double stack and you quickly realize that Nintendo wants Mario Maker creators to go all the way with their home made maps.

The biggest trick up Mario Maker’s sleeve is the fact that the graphics can go from NES style graphics to Wii U style graphics at the touch of a button. Everything will stay the same in terms of your placement of items, but all of the art assets will change. I’ve seen this same trick performed before by the Xbox360 remake of the original Halo game, called Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. The secret of that game’s dual graphic system is that the game stays the same, but a second graphics engine is built on top of the game to handle the new art assets. Nintendo is very strict about who does what job, and so developers will develop and marketing staff members will market. As a result, no one demoing what I saw actually worked on the game, and for the most part learned what they did about each game from some internal memo. To make a short story long, the person showing me the game couldn’t answer this question for sure, but it appears that Mario Maker uses a similar graphical engine trick as the one that Halo Anniversary uses. One game operating two graphical engines is significant because Mario games of today have slightly different game-play and physics when compared to NES era Mario games. Basically, you can change the graphics back and forth, but don’t be surprised when the game doesn’t play in the exact way it looks like it should play.

The idea of Mario Maker is a cool prospect, but I am not sure if the masses will be pleased with Nintendo’s efforts. This is because everyone has had very unique and personal experiences with Super Mario Bros. games over the years. I, for example, started to lose a lot of interest when I was told that no pipe in the game could be configured to take you to another area of the maps you’ll make. Many of the common power-ups in franchise were also missing in the software I saw, so can Nintendo make a Mario Maker game that will appeal to the majority of people before the game comes out in 2015? If Nintendo leaves out many common mechanics from the franchise, will enough people care? We will only know for sure in 2015, but keep an eye out. Mario Maker looks like game that Wii U owners will be talking about for a while.

The Worst of the E3 2014 Conferences

The Worst of the E3 2014 Conferences - 2014-06-13 15:54:17

OK, so, I may not be in Los Angeles for this year’s E3, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to talk about what’s happening at the press conferences anyway. It’s the digital age, after all, and the miracle of streaming video allows all of us to enjoy the game announcements, scripted demonstrations, and awkward moments that make E3 worth paying attention to in the first place. Without further preamble, here’s a rundown of my least favourite parts of the E3 2014 conferences.

1. Known Quantities

As great as it was to see more gameplay footage from titles like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Assassin’s Creed: Unity, we all knew that these games were getting ready for release before E3 2014 started. One of my favourite parts of the E3 conferences is the excitement that comes with debuting a previously unheard of title in (a definitely unnecessarily) grand fashion. Aside from a handful of exceptions, most of this year’s Expo was dominated by new information regarding known quantities. That’s fine, but I was hoping for a few surprises.

2. Appealing to the Fans

A common refrain, from Microsoft to Electronic Arts, was “we asked the fans what they wanted.” Rather than adhere to an internal vision, many of the industry’s biggest publishers and developers instead sought to defer to customers. While this self-effacing tact was probably to be expected from Microsoft—still looking to come back from the somewhat rough Xbox One launch—it was more disturbing to hear developers making this claim. Bioware, perhaps gunshy after being the target of so much fan backlash in recent years, seems to have lost a degree of confidence in its own artistic goals. The new Mass Effect was revealed not so much as a clearly defined concept, but rather as a work-in-progress that will be designed in accordance with consumer desires. The ultimate game may be better polished or at least closer to what the developer’s most ardent fans want to play, but I’d rather see studios working to fulfill their own unique visions.

3. Too Many Concept Announcements

The EA conference was filled to the brim with videogame “reveals” that were actually little more than the discussion of design concepts. Mirror’s Edge 2 and the new Star Wars: Battlefront and Mass Effect games were given “reveals” that were actually little more than acknowledgements that these titles actually exist. Sony’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End reveal was similarly disappointing, providing a minute of footage, a bit of Nolan North voiceover, and a title card. Even Nintendo, despite devoting the bulk of its pre-recorded conference to gameplay demos, teased a new Zelda without showing much more than a extremely pretty) screenshot and brief cinematic. As much as I enjoy seeing new game announcements, it seems a shame to spend time that could have gone to underexposed titles on what amounts to little more than featuring concepts.

4. Third-Party Exclusives

Recent years have seen third-party exclusives becoming less prominent, likely as a side-effect of Sony and Microsoft allocating more money to hardware development than to buying up rights. This E3 made it clear that this trend is coming to a close, though. Third-party titles like Scalebound and Sunset Overdrive will be exclusive to Xbox One while Dark Souls-successor Bloodborne can only be played by PlayStation 4 owners. Even Nintendo has bought Bayonetta 2, the sequel to a game that was available on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Despite understanding the logic behind third-party exclusives—a few good exclusive games will sell consoles—it doesn’t mean that binding interesting titles to a single system is a practice I like seeing more of.

5. Waiting for 2015

It’s good to know that there are a lot of interesting-looking game releases in the pipeline, but this E3 really drove home the point that 2014 won’t be the year that sees the Wii U, PS4, and Xbox One come into their own. Mario Maker, The Order: 1886, Bloodborne, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Batman: Arkham Knight, Dying Light, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and many, many other promising games have been either delayed into 2015 or given release dates next year. There will still be good titles between now and the new year, but E3 confirmed that the majority of the most interesting games are still a ways out.

 

The Best of the E3 2014 Conferences

The Best of the E3 2014 Conferences - 2014-06-11 13:20:44

OK, so, I may not be in Los Angeles for this year’s E3, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to talk about what’s happening at the press conferences anyway. It’s the digital age, after all, and the miracle of streaming video allows all of us to enjoy the game announcements, scripted demonstrations, and awkward moments that make E3 worth paying attention to in the first place. Without further preamble, here’s a rundown of my favourite parts of the E3 2014 conferences.

1. Concentrating on New Games

The most exciting part of E3, for me, has always been seeing new games. 2014’s conferences were pretty heavily focused on showing titles we already knew existed but, just the same, consisted of a number of great, in-depth looks at upcoming releases. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft all largely eschewed hardware and sales announcements to bring viewers a nearly constant roll-out of game trailers and announcements. From the fantastic-looking The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s griffin-hunting demonstration to Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Far Cry 4’s colourful gameplay clips, the conferences were full of in-engine footage of titles we’d only seen glimpses of beforehand.

2. Instant Availability

One of the nicer trends from this year’s conference was the one-two punch of announcing and immediately releasing newly displayed games. Microsoft detailed new Dead Rising 3 downloadable content right before telling interested viewers to go ahead and download it, Sony offered a quick demo of indie game Entwined then went on to release it straightaway, and Electronic Arts capped off its (lengthy) look at Battlefield: Hardline by opening up its public beta. Not only is this sales tactic a great surprise, but it’s also a nice change of pace from the interminable gap between announcing and releasing titles that the game industry is so prone to.

3. A Bit of Levity

Trailers for games like Dead Island 2, Sunset Overdrive, Magicka 2, the new Dead Rising 3 DLC, and LittleBigPlanet 3 replaced the typical melodrama of E3 conference demonstrations with a refreshingly light-hearted tone. While there were still blood, guts, and scowling faces enough to satisfy viewers with a taste for darker games, E3 2014 was largely defined by a sense of fun. Nintendo’s entire pre-recorded presentation best typified this. It was filled with bizarre humour that saw black-suited CEOs fighting wire-fu battles, yarn-crafted Yoshis traipsing through sunlit game levels, and gags where the (really neat-looking) Mario Maker gameplay demonstration ended with the moustachioed character stuck in an endless running animation. Sure, the different conference jokes didn’t always land, but the departure from the self-serious form that usually characterizes these events was very much appreciated.

4. Genuine Surprise

Every E3 has the potential to reveal something that viewers honestly were not expecting. It’s been harder in recent years for developers and publishers to maintain secrecy, but even a handful of zero hour announcement leaks didn’t represent every surprise. Regardless of whether or not these games turn out to be worthwhile, it was still exciting to see titles like Suda51’s Let It Die, Rainbow Six: Siege, Splatoon, Rise of the Tomb Raider (ugh, that name), LittleBigPlanet 3, a new, apparently open-world Zelda, and Playdead’s Inside make their debuts on an E3 stage rather than an unceremonious blog trailer. A few more unexpected releases would have been appreciated, but even having a handful of genuine surprises helped to make the conferences more interesting than they would have been otherwise.

5. Nintendo Hits Hard

Big entertainment companies try the hardest to impress potential consumers when their backs are against the wall. Considering Nintendo’s current difficulty in selling Wii U consoles, no other publisher was as concerned with impressing conference viewers than the House of Mario. Luckily, their pre-recorded Tuesday morning event was full of game announcements and footage that, for perhaps the first time, made picking up a Wii U seem like a good idea. Nintendo showed off not only new entries to well-established franchises starring Link, Yoshi, and Kirby, but also a more inventive side with its level-builder Mario Maker and new multiplayer title Splatoon.