Playing Breath of the Wild on the Wii U

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I’ve never been a huge Zelda fan, but with the release of the Switch and the huge amount of hype leading up to the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I figured I needed to see what all the excitement was about. I never did get into Ocarina of Time on the N64. I rented it a few times, but as an impatient eleven year old I never could figure out what I was supposed to be doing. Even in recent years I’ve tried to give it another shot, but often found myself running in circles trying to figure out what to do, or if I did find myself headed in the right direction I would repeatedly die at the hands of the enemies I’d encounter.

My time with Breath of the Wild so far has been pretty positive. First off it looks great, with a beautifully unique art style and it runs relatively smoothly even on the Wii U. I absolutely love the way they handle the map in the game, where you do all of the icon placement yourself. This keeps the map from becoming overwhelming early on, as you can climb a tower, mark a few things on your map and then set out to see what you’ll find there. That doesn’t mean you won’t get sidetracked along the way, however. I’ve found myself headed toward a tower or shrine, only to veer off in a different direction when a camp of enemies catches my eye.

The game has a reputation for being a little difficult, and that may prove to push me away from the game eventually. I’ve died a handful of times in my first hour or so with the game, but the quick reloads into a recent autosave make it more bearable. Oftentimes I’ve found that I died because I’m rushing into combat with multiple enemies and missing a way to use the environment to my advantage.

One other minor gripe, is that the Wii U version completely ignores the gamepad. I assume it’s because Nintendo has basically abandoned the Wii U at this point, which is a shame, because there are many ways they could have effectively used the gamepad, and therefore justified its existence one last time. Of course you can play the game on the gamepad (though I’ve found this seriously detracts from the game’s beauty), but otherwise you’ll just get a black screen with a message telling you that you can play on the gamepad.

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I’m looking forward to spending more time with Breath of the Wild, but at the same time Horizon Zero Dawn is also calling my name (and Mass Effect Andromeda is quickly approaching). If you have a Wii U and want to dust it off one last time, I can definitely recommend picking up Breath of the Wild for it.

Been a busy November

I’ve been neglecting my blog again, but November was a busy month and December hasn’t been much slower so far. I got married last month, which was a pretty awesome time!

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Also around the same time I started a new position at work and then sewed on my new rank, so that’s all been exciting and terrifying at the same time. I’ve been working longer than usual hours and have spent less time playing video games and even less time writing about them.

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I’m trying to catch up on a back log of video games, and hopefully I’ll finally start getting some stuff done. I’ve played a few hours of Final Fantasy XV and still haven’t decided if it’s something I’m going to be into or not. It just feels weird, and somewhat thrown together in a way that’s just not doing much for me right now. Also I want to check out Dead Rising 4, but I still need to finish Titanfall 2’s campaign. So much to do, so little time, so for now I’m going to head off to the gym and then hopefully have something worth writing about later tonight.

Can’t get a NES Classic?

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The $59.99 30 in one NES system that Nintendo released this week is already incredibly difficult to find. Most retail locations have reported getting fewer than ten units, and most sold all ten within hours of its release. One local game store here has reported that they ordered 12, received 6 and will not be receiving any more units for the rest of this year.

The scarcity of the NES Classic Edition, and the fact that there’s sure to be ever increasing demand as the holiday season nears, has driven scalpers to jack up the prices on the systems on Craigslist and eBay (selling for $100+). Instead of paying extra for this system, however, I have another idea. How about you head down to your local video game store (mom and pop store, not GameStop) and check out their stock of used and refurbished NES systems. Sure it won’t have 30 games pre-installed, but maybe the real thing might just be more of a nostalgia rush than the simulated product. You’ll also be helping out a local business, which is always great during the holidays.

You might end up spending a bit more for a real NES and a couple of cartridges, but I honestly think you’re better off that way. First of all, you’ll avoid being stuck with a two foot long controller cord that the Classic Edition comes with. Furthermore, you’ll be able to play many more games. The Classic Edition has no way to expand its library (except for a presumed future release for another $60 with another 30 games installed), while with the real thing you’ll be able to scope out pawn shops, flea markets and local game stores for good deals on old cartridges.

Most of the cartridges I’ve gotten recently have been between $10 and $30, but it’s much more fun actually clicking a cartridge down into the thing and firing it up for the first time (rather than simply hitting a button on a menu in the Classic Edition).

Don’t get me wrong, the Classic Edition is certainly a nifty item, and sometime down the road I might actually pick one up, but I enjoy the community of interacting with my local mom and pop game store whenever I’m looking for a new NES cartridge to add to my collection. Give it a try, you might too!

In a great year for shooters, Infinite Warfare disappoints.

It’s been one of the most exciting years for fans of first person shooters in the history of video games. So many great AAA shooters have released this year, and for the most part they’ve all been hits. We’ve had Overwatch, DOOM, Gears of War 4, Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2 and now Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. The last 30 days alone have seen the rapid fire releases of Gears (Oct 11), Battlefield (Oct 21), Titanfall (Oct 28) and Call of Duty (Nov 4).

It’s been an unbelievably good year for those who enjoy first person shooters. There’s an incredible amount of variety in the games released this year, and there’s something for everyone.

I’ve been trying to check out all of the shooters that have released recently, however I think the ones that I’ll continue to play over the next year will certainly be Overwatch, Battlefield and Titanfall. That said, last night I rented Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare from Redbox and played for a few hours and wanted to share my experience so far.

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One of the first things I noticed once I started the campaign was that Infinite Warfare is certainly unlike any Call of Duty that came before it. The view of Jupiter above was not something I expected to see less than five minutes into a Call of Duty game, but it was certainly refreshing.

I had a good time picking up a variety of guns during the first few missions, and found the variety of enemies to be refreshing as well. Most of the guys are just random soldiers, but it’s interesting to see robots thrown into the mix, and even some larger bots that take a little more effort to bring down. I also enjoyed the hacking mechanic a great deal once it was introduced. Basically you can take control of an enemy robot while you’re tucked away safely in cover, and use it to take out as many bad guys as you can and even initiate a self destruct mechanism (it’s fun to run into a group of enemies and explode D.Va style) before you lose the signal during the hack.

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The space combat featured in Infinite Warfare was certainly interesting. The first time you ascend from a planet and transition into space I got an eerie No Man’s Sky vibe, but you certainly have less control over your spaceship. You’re sort of guided along a set path as you ascend, and in all reality you don’t have that much control, which isn’t necessarily a complaint, it just felt weird. The same goes for landing sequences. I could basically land my ship with hardly any input, as the game guides you along a highlighted path onto the carrier. Besides all that, the space combat was a nice diversion, but I felt that it dragged on a little longer than I would’ve liked.

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Some of the cutscenes look really nice in Infinite Warfare, and one of the things that stood out was the quality of the character’s hair. It looks quite realistic, especially as you can see individual strands, but unfortunately once the cutscene ends it transitions back to being more of a blob than realistic looking hair. Someday video games will give us good looking hair! Again, this isn’t a complaint and it’s something I wouldn’t have even noticed had I not been blown away by just how good it looked during the cutscene above and had it contrasted with the gameplay sequence to follow.

Overall I’ve mostly enjoyed the campaign (I have a handful of missions left), but I did have some difficulty with it at times which made it more frustrating than it should be. After breezing through much of the campaigns of Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2, I’ve died more than I have in both games combined during Infinite Warfare. During some sections I died as many as six times before reaching a checkpoint and getting past a particularly hairy section. I tried turning the difficulty down, but even that didn’t help and it became annoying to replay the same section over and over again just to avoid dying by a grenade or exploding car I didn’t happen to see quick enough.

How does the campaign compare to Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2? I don’t think it’s on the same level. Call of Duty campaigns have gotten more and more stale over the years, while its competitors have really stepped up their game. Titanfall 2 features easily the most enjoyable FPS campaign since Halo: Reach. The writing is excellent (mostly the dialogue of BT), the platforming in-between shooting sections has a Portal level of polish and the shooting feels great, whether on foot or in a titan. Infinite Warfare definitely tries to do things a bit differently, and at times it felt like I was playing more of a sci-fi shooter, but during its most routine moments it feels like everything we’ve done again and again during Call of Duty campaigns. I feel no drive to finish off the last four missions, and if I do it’ll only be for the achievements, not because I’m necessarily enjoying the game.

The multiplayer doesn’t fare much better. I haven’t enjoyed Call of Duty multiplayer since Black Ops II (MW3 is still my favorite) and Infinite Warfare feels like more of the same. It’s eerily similar to Black Ops III, and most of the time it’s just felt like a skin and some new maps over that gameplay. It just hasn’t been enjoyable for me at all. I just want to go back and play some more Battlefield or Titanfall. In fact, if you tend to enjoy the futuristic combat of Black Ops III but haven’t checked out Titanfall, I would highly recommend Titanfall 2 over Infinite Warfare. Even Jeff Gerstmann, a long time Call of Duty enthusiast over at Giant Bomb, has seemed to have drifted away from Call of Duty. Instead, he has been overly enthusiastic about Titanfall 2, which he scored a perfect 5 in his review.

What made the Infinite Warfare experience even worse for me yesterday, was its community. I experienced behavior that I haven’t experienced since the Xbox 360 days during my time with the game yesterday. During one of my first matches I happened to die a lot (I didn’t play a lot of Black Ops III or Advanced Warfare and needed to get used to it), and mid match I got an all caps message instructing me to “STOP DYING!!!!!!111!!”. I took the time to respond that I certainly wasn’t dying on purpose, to which I received a series of insults and a note saying they recorded my gameplay and will be reporting me for dying too much. Good to know.

But it didn’t stop there. It seems like so much of the Call of Duty community is so concerned about their K/D and winning that they’ll get violently angry at anyone who isn’t playing to their standards. I never experience this with Battlefield or Titanfall. Maybe it’s just the day one players who are the most hardcore, but I played Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 a lot on day one and everyone I encountered was all about having fun.

Overall, I don’t think I can recommend Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare to anyone but the most hardcore of Call of Duty fans. To even those fans I would recommend checking out Titanfall 2 if you haven’t. It’ll provide a similar experience with a much better and more refreshing execution, and I think the games industry would benefit from the increased success of the other shooters on the market.

My continuing adventure in Fallout 4

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I’m still slowly working my way through Fallout 4, and every venture out into the wasteland continues to surprise me. I’ve come across several things in my travels that made me stop and scratch my head, laugh or simply smile, and it’s crazy to think these are things that people could entirely miss if they’re not keeping their eyes peeled. These little things have no impact on the gameplay, but they certainly make me appreciate the world of Fallout 4 even more.

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I came across the scene above after accidentally strolling into a subway station. I didn’t intend to enter the station at all, I just got too close to the entrance and the game automatically transitioned me into the station. At first I was a little annoyed, knowing I’d have to face additional loading time to get back into the Commonwealth, however once inside I figured I’d at least see if there was anything worth grabbing. I didn’t find much, and the skeleton and teddy bear above didn’t even catch my eye at first. I just saw another dead body as I looked around for any interesting loot. As I was preparing to leave the area I just happened to glance down at the two and could not help but laugh out loud once I saw them sitting there. I could just imagine the man saying “screw it”, throwing shades and a hat on himself and the bear and lighting a cigar as the world collapsed around him. What a way to go. I couldn’t even bring myself to loot their sunglasses, I had to leave them be.

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It wouldn’t be a day of Fallout if I didn’t die in some stupid way. Today’s silly death came via the forge. I had read the terminal inside that featured a list of names, most of which met their fate by being fed to the forge, but when I saw got outside and saw the forge the fact that I was looking at a stairway to death didn’t even cross my mind. I figured there had to be loot up there, and even though I looked right at it, I failed to notice that the gap in the floor that would lead to my agonizing death. As I fell into the forge I couldn’t even be mad.

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Just before I finished playing for the day I finally came across the railroad, and the characters that I’ve met so far are some of the most interesting I’ve come across recently. I’m excited to dive into the quest line and see what adventure awaits me next.

Lesson of the day: Save often in Fallout 4

While playing Bethesda RPG’s most people know you should be saving often. You never know what will confront you around the next turn or anytime you enter a building or new area. Everyone knows this. Right?

Unfortunately, too many times I’ve found myself becoming complacent while playing Fallout 4. I’m currently working on my Xbox One playthrough (I’ve started on PC, but would prefer to finish it on Xbox first) and I learned a lesson the hard way today.

I was exploring the satellite array, as part of the ‘Lost Patrol’ questline and I struggled several times to clear the area. There are quite a few difficult enemies in the area, and I kept getting overwhelmed. I didn’t have any artillery in range, so I called in a vertibird hoping to use the minigun to my advantage. Unfortunately, I got myself killed again and again, usually by an exploding vertibird as I tried to take down some of the brutes.

Eventually I got the area clear and took down the legendary super mutant with the help of all three of my mini nukes and several missiles. I was working on checking out the area and gathering up all of the useful loot when I eyed a set of steep stairs that seemed to be hiding something good!

Fallout 4 satellite array stairs

As I approached the stairs I thought to myself maybe I should save, but figured I’d wait until I got to the top. Well it turns out I’m quite terrible at walking up narrow stairs, as I plunged to my agonizing death seconds later. What a terrible feeling! The worst part was that my most recent save was before I took on the legendary mutant, and I failed three more times before I finally downed him again. As I approached the deadly stairs again I made sure to save before I took the above screenshot, and then I carefully crawled up the stairs to see what awaited above. Would it be worth the horrific death?

As it turns out, what lied above wasn’t really worth it. There was some ammo and some power armor, but I never even use power armor. I find it too much of a hassle to track it down and equip it, even though wearing a suit probably would have made clearing out the satellite arrays much easier.

I learned a hard lesson today, and with that I sort of lost the desire to play more Fallout today. Dying over and over again got a little frustrating, so I’m putting Fallout aside in favor of some more Rocket League, a game that’s much easier on my blood pressure!

 

First week home

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Hey there, I’ve been home for just over a week and it’s been great, but it’s time I stop ignoring my blog! There’s so much I should be writing about, so I need to make myself sit down and start writing again. I figured I’d start with a brief check in, but I’ll write about much more in the weeks to come.

Since being home I’ve enjoyed all the great food I’ve missed out on, especially my first trip to Boise Fry Company, which I intend to write about over at ABoiseLife.com.

Boise Fry Company

The food was great, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Boise!

I picked up a Samsung Gear VR which has been a pretty cool experience. One of the first things I did was boot up Minecraft VR and it’s a mind-blowing experience for sure!

Gear VR

I’ve enjoyed messing around with my new gaming PC, and tried my hand at Dark Souls III. It took a few days but I finally beat the first boss (technically just the tutorial boss) but am once again finding it difficult to progress past the very first section of the game.

I’m contemplating downloading Battleborn today (for the Xbox One), because I’ve been wanting a shooter I can fire up when I just want to play something casually. Rocket League is a great game to fire up and waste some time with, but I just want to shoot things!

Thanks, as always, for reading what I have to say, and I hope to bring some significant content back to the blog within a day or two! Until then I’m going to keep relaxing and enjoying America!

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Nearly home

I’ll be back in the states in a matter of days and I couldn’t be more excited! Things have been slow here, but I’ll be getting back into the rhythm of blogging once I settle in back home. I’m looking forward to putting my new gaming PC to the test with Fallout 4, Quantum Break and Dark Souls III during my two weeks of R&R. I’ll certainly be streaming once I get everything set up, so you can look forward to me getting incredibly frustrated with Dark Souls III.

I’m also looking forward to finally checking out the new Apple TV, and setting up the Amazon Echo. I’ll probably take some video of the setup process of the Echo along with some first impressions, so there’s that to look forward to as well.

It’s been depressing to watch my daily site visits drop by at least 100 visits a day, but that’s what happens when you only post once or twice a month. I’m incredibly excited for this deployment to be over, and can’t wait to get back to a normal life!

Thanks, as always, for stopping by! I’ll be back soon!

Feeling nostaligic? Check out Man Crates!

I can’t quite remember the first time I touched a video game controller, but I’m fairly confident that the very first buttons I pushed were on an NES controller. There was a NES at my grandparent’s house that all of us grandkids gravitated toward every time we visited. We’d play around with Duck Hunt before getting serious into Super Mario Bros., each of us trying to make it further into the game than the other. I never made it very far.

Some of my favorite memories of the NES come from sitting around the TV with four or five people, all either playing a game or rooting for the others in hopes of finally seeing the end of a game. There was no YouTube or Twitch to allow you to simply watch someone complete a game or defeat a difficult boss. You had to do it all yourself, or know a friend who could make it past the difficult parts. Of course, there was the Konami code in Contra which allowed terrible players such as myself to make it through the game in its entirety without too much trouble (I seem to remember still exhausting all 30 lives quite often). Then there was the magic little cartridge of Game Genie which allowed you even more opportunities to cheat your way through a game.

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I had many favorite NES games, including Vegas Dream, Platoon and Micro Machines.

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However, the game I sunk the most time into on the NES was Tecmo Super Bowl. There was nothing more exciting than sitting around the living room having tournaments. The game was incredibly fun to play, and the overall presentation was amazing! The cut scenes for touchdowns, field goals, interceptions, all of it was unlike anything else. What’s more, the music was epic, especially during the Super Bowl. The ability to play entire seasons was something very few games had, yet it was just as exciting to simulate to the playoffs and place “bets” on what teams you thought would make it there.

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There are so many more memories I could share, but I’d be writing all day. If a look back at the NES era of gaming has you feeling nostalgic, the guys over at Man Crates have something just for you! If you haven’t heard of Man Crates, you should definitely check them out. They offer an incredibly unique gift experience for just about any type of person you could think of. Whether they be into the outdoors, survival, grilling or gaming, Man Crates has something fun and unique that the recipient will love. Their signature crates are just that, wooden crates that require a crow bar (included to open) filled with plenty of goodies.

Man Crates wants gift giving to be fun and they want to create a unique experience that you won’t get with any sort of traditional gift package. Just reading the descriptions of some of their crates made me laugh, and it’s nice to see a company that doesn’t take themselves too seriously (yet they’re certainly serious about providing a quality gift experience).

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Man Crates offers a retro gamer crate that includes a console that can play NES games, in addition to two randomly selected NES cartridges and an assortment of candy to compliment a late night classic gaming session. Any gamer in your life would certainly be delighted to receive this package. I know I would!

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If Man Crates were to create more retro gaming crates I think it would be neat to see crates centered around certain franchises, such as Mario, maybe featuring figurines, posters and similar items in a addition to a game or two.

I was contacted by a member of the Man Crates staff who asked if I wouldn’t mind creating a post talking about gaming nostalgia. After checking out the Man Crates website I knew that I couldn’t resist sharing this company with anyone who might happen to read this. I wasn’t offered anything to write this, I simply thought Man Crates was too cool not to share with you! 

How Super Mario Maker got me to purchase a Wii U

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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.

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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.

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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.