My first few months with a Wii U: Mario Maker, Mario Kart 8 and more!

I’m sitting here enjoying the cool breeze and the soft, afternoon sun listening to the upbeat tunes of Sirius XMU and sipping a bland dining facility coffee (made tolerable by irish creme creamer). I’m waiting for Mario Kart 8’s DLC to finish downloading on my Wii U inside the tent, and I’ve decided it’s finally time to reflect on my late October 2015 purchase of the Wii U.

Wii U downloading screen

Super Mario Maker

As I’ve said before, Super Mario Maker was the most significant factor in my purchase of the Wii U, however I’m happy to say I’ve had many other great experiences with the system. It would be hard to justify a $300 purchase just to play one game, but it’s worth noting that Mario Maker is not just any video game. It’s one of the most innovative, yet simple and incredibly enjoyable video games ever released. If the only thing you did with the game was play people’s creations, you’d still have innumerable hours of content at your fingertips. The variety you come across in the Course World (the mode in which you can browse and play people’s levels) is astonishing. I’ve come across a new concept every single time I’ve booted up the game, which goes to show that creative people can take a finite tool set and create just about anything with it. It’s through playing the most creative of levels that you’re able to expand your understanding of what is possible, and you’ll become a better creator every day.


I haven’t made very many levels yet, as I’ve found myself addicted to trying to become the first to beat levels as they appear on the ‘new arrivals’ list. If you’re the first to clear a level you’re rewarded with a ‘first clear’ badge and you’ll also be the world record holder for fastest completion. Of course this record won’t last long, and it’s a wonderful challenge to try to master a level and maintain the fastest time.

Mario Kart 8

Some of my most memorable multiplayer gaming experiences have come from playing Mario Kart 64, and Super Mario Kart before that. Racing three other friends through a wide variety of courses was fun enough on its own, but the Mario Kart games made sure that everyone could have fun by providing random items ranging from boosts to weapons in order to give everyone an even chance (and hey, even if you didn’t win it was a blast to ruin a friend’s chances with a red shell).

Despite having so much fun with the early Mario Kart games, I never really spent much time with any of the others. Mario Kart 7 came with my 2DS, however I didn’t have much fun racing the AI, and every time I tried playing online the lack of interaction didn’t make for a very fun experience. Everything changed yesterday. I played Mario Kart 7 locally with five other players, and it was the most fun multiplayer experience I’ve had in years! We did endless 3 vs 3 battles, and the experience was as close to the couch multiplayer of the N64 as anything’s ever come. There was yelling, smack talking and hilarity every step of the way. Even the map voting process was enjoyable, as half of us constantly voted for the N64 classic, ‘Big Donut’. The battles were frenetic and they reminded me of how expertly crafted Nintendo games can be.

This experience drove me to finally pick up Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. I had planned to wait until I return home this spring, however after having so much fun with Mario Kart 7 I decided I couldn’t wait.

Mario Kart 8 menu

Once Mario Kart 8 finished downloading, I jumped straight into the online multiplayer. The process was smooth and I was in my first race within minutes. I was immediately amazed at just how good the game looks. The vibrant colors are crisp and everything is stunningly beautiful. The racing is what you’d expect from a Mario Kart game, and I enjoyed it, even though I couldn’t finish better than 5th place.

Mario Kart 8

I like how it shows the flags of the people you’re racing against, even within the race you’ll see them next to their names, which gives a more human feel to the other racers. Unfortunately, there’s still not much interaction with the other players. The most you can do is select from a few text responses between races.

Mario kart 8 chat

After trying my hand at a few races I jumped into my favorite Mario Kart mode, Battle. It was enjoyable, especially because I won my very first match, but I can imagine the real fun will be had when there are three other players sitting on a couch next to me (which probably won’t be until after I get home).

I hadn’t even played an hour of Mario Kart 8, but I already knew I would want the DLC that’s available, and I was surprised to find just how cheap it was. It’s only $11.99 if you purchase the two packs together, which seemed too good to pass up.

Mario kart 8 dlc

I’m excited to check out the new content once it finishes downloading (it should be done by now), even though I haven’t even experienced all that is available within the base game yet. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the new characters and courses and can’t wait to take them for a spin!

Mario Kart 8 dlc

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Last week I picked up Xenoblade Chronicles X after watching a few videos that intrigued me. I know absolutely nothing about Xenoblade, but it looked like it would be something fun to check out on the Wii U so I decided I should try it out.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Yes, I have LEGO sheets…I’m deployed and sleeping on a twin bed in a tent. Why not have fun?

I’ve only played about 30 minutes of Xenoblade Chronicles X, but I can already say it’s unlike anything I’ve played before. I generally don’t get into Japanese RPG’s, yet I wanted to experience a variety of content on the Wii U and figured it’d be worth trying out. I can’t say for sure whether I’m going to like the game, but I hope to spend some more time with it this evening. I’ll try to post a more detailed impression after I get a few hours in, but all I can really say right now is the game looks pleasant graphically (though the characters seem a little dated) and the combat has been smooth.

Storage issues

When I decided I wanted to check out Xenoblade Chronicles X, I went to purchase it in the eShop only to find I didn’t have enough space on my 32gb Wii U to download it. I’m not a fan of buying disc based games (I prefer all my media to be digital), but I ended up having to buy the physical copy. Since then I picked up a 64gb thumb drive which turned out to be an easy enough method to expand the Wii U’s storage (it was formatted and ready to use by the Wii U within seconds). It’s unfortunate that the Wii U has such little internal hard drive space, but external storage is cheap enough these days to remedy the problem.

What’s to come?

It’s been strongly hinted lately that the Wii U’s successor (known as the NX) will release sometime this year. Hardware manufacturer’s have revealed that the console is already being manufactured, which has lead most people to expect a release date as early as 2016’s E3. This most certainly means that there will be very few games released for the Wii U before it is made obsolete. This is a shame, because I’d certainly like to see Mario Maker make its way into the hands of more players. It seems reasonable to expect a Wii U price drop this year, which should help, but will many more people buy the system once the NX hits? It’s doubtful.

If the NX is a hybrid handheld / home console, as many suggest, I can’t say I’d be too disappointed about my Wii U purchase. I’d already be looking to upgrade to the next Nintendo handheld, so if it’s a two in one system I’d get access to the future Nintendo console releases and their handheld games with one purchase. A hybrid system would be the only way I’d consider upgrading from the Wii U so soon. A stand alone console would not make me want to purchase it, especially after seeing so few releases for the Wii U since its release.

It’ll certainly be an interesting year for Nintendo, as hype for the NX builds alongside Nintendo’s foray into the mobile gaming market with Miitomo’s release this spring. Until then I’ll be enjoying countless hours of unique content with Super Mario Maker, Mario Kart 8 and Xenoblade Chronicles (I’m saving Super Mario 3D World until I get home).


Playing Super Mario World for the first time

Super Mario World WiiU

It may come as a shock that as someone who played his first video game on the NES I’ve never played Super Mario World. Not once. Not even on an emulator. The game that is known by many as one of the best games in the Mario series (even still today), never ended up in my hands through the early 90’s. After the NES I became a Genesis gamer, where you could play more mature games such as the unedited Mortal Kombat or Zero Tolerance.

Although I enjoyed Super Mario Bros. on the NES, I was never very good at it (I’m still not). Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3 mostly passed me by as well, but at least I can say I’ve played them. I love the music and look of the third game, however I’ve never been able to make it past the second world. I’d always get frustrated and quit for good, never to pick up the controller again.

My frustrating experiences with the Super Mario Bros. series led me to mostly ignore the series, at least up until the release of Mario 64 (which I also was, and am, terrible at). I’d often hear people express their love for the Super Nintendo’s Super Mario World, but I never really wanted to try it out as I knew I’d just get mad at it. However, I started to get a taste of Mario World via the Wii U’s Super Mario Maker. I rode Yoshi for the first time, and also experienced the game’s joyful music for the first time. My time with Mario Maker got me interested in checking out World, so tonight I bought it on the Wii U.

The $7.99 price tag on the Virtual Console seemed a little steep for a 25 year old game, especially when much newer games sell for less than $5 on Steam, but I decided experiencing it on a Nintendo console would be better than an emulated experience.

Super Mario World virtual console

When I first booted up Super Mario World, I felt already familiar with the world, thanks to Super Mario Maker. In fact, for awhile I kept expecting to see the evil red x’s that mark a player’s death in Mario Maker to pop up on the screen each time I died an embarrassing death.

Yoshis Island

The hour I spent with Mario World so far was filled with numerous frustrating deaths, as always seems to happen when I pick up a Mario game. I’d jump into the same enemy over and over again, or I’d fall to my death trying to avoid an incoming enemy. Once I got a handle on the controls I didn’t have much trouble completing Yoshi’s Island, however Donut Plains was another story.


Much like level 2-1 in Super Mario Bros. 3, Donut Plains 1 almost made me quit the game for good before I’d ever made much progress. I kept dying over and over again at the hands of the Super Koopas. In fact the very first one you encounter in the level killed me at least 7 times as I tried to get the cape feather. I eventually gave up on getting the cape and tried to storm through the level, only to meet my fate at the hands of Chargin’ Chuck and his obnoxious baseballs. It took a frustrating 30 minutes to finish Donut Plains 1 (and two continues), but eventually I managed it. At this point I had to turn the Wii U off before my frustration and anger at the game got any worse. I’m dreading losing all of my lives and having to play through Donut Plains 1 again at some point.

I’m looking forward to experiencing more of Super Mario World, yet at the same time I’m afraid of the challenges ahead. Hopefully I can make it through Mario World with my Wii U gamepad intact!


How Super Mario Maker got me to purchase a Wii U


Just over a week ago I did something I thought I never would. I bought a Wii U. Ever since the Wii U’s launch in the Fall of 2012 I had thought of the system as little more than a bad joke. The gamepad looked goofy, the system was woefully underpowered, and it had a terrible name. If that weren’t enough, the system’s game library was lacking at launch and the Wii U’s catalog has been sparse ever since.

It didn’t take long for most people to refer to the Wii U as a failure. Sure, it had some great games, but that was never enough to make me want to purchase one. I haven’t really been into Nintendo since the N64, and even then I played more third party games on the system than core Nintendo games. I bought a Wii second hand, long after the system’s prime, mostly to play around with Wii Sports and to check out the Zelda games (which I couldn’t get into). I’ve probably logged less than ten hours of game time on my Wii. Last Christmas I got a 2DS, my first handheld system since the original Game Boy, and finally started getting interested in the world of Nintendo again.

Like many gamers in their late twenties and early thirties, Mario on the NES first introduced me to video games. There was nothing more fun than passing around a controller, attempting to see who could get furthest into Super Mario Bros. When I first learned of the warp pipes (through a friend, there was no Google) it blew my mind. There was something incredibly special about Super Mario Bros. and I couldn’t get enough of it. I remember watching my cousins play Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3, however for whatever reason I never played those games myself. It would be several years until I would dive into the world of Mario again (outside of Super Mario Kart).

1996’s Super Mario 64 became one of the most influential video games of all time, and I remember it fondly. I found it astonishing that you could run around the castle just goofing off instead of diving into the game’s levels. Eventually one of my cousin’s showed me how you could grab Mario’s face on the title screen, and again a Mario game blew my mind. Things like the warp pipes and the silly title screen illustrated the incredible charm and dedication Nintendo’s developers are known for today. When playing a Nintendo game you know you’re getting something more than a product. You’re getting an experience delicately crafted, down to every last detail.

When I first heard about the concept of Super Mario Maker I was intrigued, but as exciting as it sounded I still had no intention to purchase a Wii U. It wasn’t until I actually watched someone playing it that I knew I needed to experience it for myself. Not only would it be a blast to create my own personal Mario levels, but the game has an irresistible charm. I was going to buy a Wii U.

Just over a week ago I bought a Super Mario 3D World Wii U bundle. I had heard horror stories about the initial console update process, but to my relief there was a note inside the box advising me to insert the 3D World disc to install the update before connecting the console to the internet.


The initial setup process was rather painless, though more cumbersome than other modern consoles. Before too long the Wii U was up and running and I was ready to ‘make some Mario’. I was immediately surprised at just how easy it was to begin creating. The gamepad and stylus make for intuitive click and drag process that you can master in seconds. It took only a few minutes to make a simple level with the basic set of items available at the start of the game.


After making and uploading my first level I jumped into the 10 Mario Challenge mode, and made my way through ten levels of varying difficulty. It was exciting to see a variety of concepts between the different levels, and it was exhilarating to complete each one. From there I jumped into the wild west that is the Course World mode. I encountered some unimaginably creative levels alongside some especially difficult levels. Despite dying over and over again, I couldn’t help but continue on trying to get inside the head of the levels’ creators, attempting to figure out the ‘trick’ to complete difficult segments. In the long run I learned that a large number of Mario creators are simply sadistic, and don’t want you to be able to complete their levels at all. Although frustrating, I could never stop having fun.

I’ve loved owning a Wii U so far, even though I’ve only played one game. I’m saving Super Mario 3D World for when I get back home so that I can play with Vanessa. I’ve been tempted to download Mario Kart, but I feel like that will also be a title best experienced alongside her. I’m not sure what Wii U game I should play next. I’ve pondered purchasing New Super Mario Bros. U, however I have New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 2DS and haven’t spent a lot of time with it.

The wonderful thing about Super Mario Maker is that with the never ending variety of levels, the game should never feel old. Would I recommend buying a Wii U solely for Super Mario Maker? Absolutely, however I’d recommend waiting until Black Friday as it’ll probably be the best time yet to pick up a Wii U.