Wii U Holiday Buyer’s Guide

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Looking to get a new gaming experience for Christmas? Or perhaps gifting it someone else? Look no further than Nintendo’s new HD console, the Wii U. Despite being out for just over a month now, it sports a bunch of titles that show off what the console is capable of and is sure to tide newcomers over well into the New Year. Just be sure to have the console connected to the internet upon the initial setup to download the firmware update. Protip: hit “cancel” when it asks to update, because that will actually download in the background and not cancel it entirely as you might think (yeah, I think it’s absolutely bonkers, too).

The Console

The first step to buying a Wii U is knowing which version you want. The white one (Basic, $300) comes with just the system, the GamePad (new tablet controller), power cables, an HDMI cable, Wii Remote sensor bar and 8GB of internal storage. The black one, on the other hand (Deluxe, $350), comes with all of these plus a charging cradle for the GamePad, a general holding cradle for the GamePad, a pair of stand brackets for the console itself, 32GB of internal storage, the ability to enjoy the benefits of up to 10% off online purchases of eShop games thanks to the Nintendo Network Deluxe programme, and a copy of Nintendo Land.

Wii Remotes are not packaged in with either console version deliberately, as Nintendo believes there are plenty of controllers out in the wild anyway. However, should the need for one arise, they are available at retail with the Wii U brand on them. Just don’t forget to grab a Nunchuk with that, too!

Retail Games

Nintendo Land
More than just a “tech demo” as many labeled Wii Sports when it launched with the Wii back in 2006, Nintendo Land celebrates many games that helped make Nintendo the powerhouse it is today. Featuring mini-games set in the worlds of big name franchises such as Metroid, Donkey Kong, Pikmin and Animal Crossing, there’s quite a lot here for people to jump in on over the holiday break. And with the functionality of the new GamePad, Nintendo Land is sure to get non-gamers involved or at least intrigued in the Big N’s new offerings.

New Super Mario Bros. U
If you enjoyed running and jumping along the Mushroom Kingdom with three of your friends back on the Wii, then be sure to rope one more player in for some 5-player sidescrolling mayhem. NSMBU doesn’t deviate too far from the formula of the Mario games of old–and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?–but it does make a huge leap into the HD realm, which is complemented by the ability to play the game away from the television and in the palm of your hands thanks to the GamePad. Alternatively, with 5-player gaming in full swing, one player takes control of the GamePad and touches the screen to provide platforms/help friends, while the others share the TV and try to rescue Princess Peach (again!). In addition, there are also a bunch of challenge modes for those looking for a little more than just their typical platforming experience.

Sonic & All-Stars Transformed
With no news as yet with regard to a Mario Kart game for the Wii U, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a great alternative that really sets itself apart from Nintendo’s racer. Featuring the likes of many beloved Sega mascots (and Disney’s Ralph from the new film Wreck-It-Ralph, exclusive to the Wii U version) players will drive, fly and speedboat their way through many new tracks inspired by classic franchises. SASRT also incorporates 5-player multiplayer with the GamePad and (surprisingly responsive) steering gestures with the Wii Remotes’ motion capabilities. Don’t let this title fool you into thinking it’s just some cash-grab–it’ll pleasantly surprise you.

Zombi U
If you’re someone who’s looking for a more mature experience–like killing some monsters while the kids are in bed–then look no further than Zombi U. This is a brutal take on a zombie-infested London in both sight and challenge; one surely not for the faintest of hearts (though it might be fine to watch them struggle!). Zombi U requires very strategic thinking and resource management, especially when you are juggling two sets of screens showing separate pieces of information to deal with. To make matters trickier, the game features a perma-death mechanic, meaning that once you die, that character is forever gone. And if you lost some great weapons and ammunition, then you only have one chance to make your way back to that last character and kill their now-zombified self to get your loot back, otherwise it, too, is gone. The game shows no mercy while you try to survive a zombie apocalypse, and so it shouldn’t: the struggle for survival shouldn’t be easy while trying to outlive the dead. Pick this one up if you’re looking for a fair challenge, and bring some diapers and a pillow to scream into as well.


Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Now that Nintendo’s joined the HD battlefield, it finally gets to enjoy a fully furbished Call of Duty experience. If you’re a fan of the series, than you know what to expect. If not, then this is as good a time as any to jump into some first-person shooter military action. Set in the not-too-distant future of military warfare, this entry in the series is a direct sequel to 2010′s CoD: Black Ops which saw praise for its story-telling, and most especially, the engaging online multiplayer that the series is highly regarded for. If shooting zombies isn’t your thing, but shooting enemies on the battlefield is, then grab yourself a copy of Black Ops II.

Scribblenauts Unlimited
Alternatively, if a simple, fun puzzle-platforming experience is more the experience you’re looking for, then than Scribblenauts Unlimited may be the game for you. Players control Maxwell, a boy with an unbound imagination powered by his magical notepad, which, when presented with the name of any object, can fabricate said object out of thin air. The game is rife with all sorts of challenges that allow the player to tackle them in any way they see fit. See one of the collectable starites up a tree? Equip a jetpack to fly up and take it down. Or summon a lumberjack to chop the tree. Or create a ladder to climb up. The possibilities are almost endless, and this time around, if the game doesn’t have an object you want, then you can make it yourself using the object editor. Don’t overlook this title by thinking it’s just some cutesy throw-away game, because if you’ve never played a Scribblenauts game before then you’re really missing out.

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Having been an avid gamer for twenty-two years now, I've come to appreciate all facets of gaming (music, culture, development, etc). I originally started out with a Sega Master System II, then moved onto a Nintendo 64 and the rest is history. Though my focus is all things Nintendo, I still love having a taste of everything. No one console is perfect, and that's the way I like it.