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Archive for November, 2012

Review of Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013 for Wii U

Your Shape: Fitness Evolved by
Platform: Wii U
4 stars – Good but not earth-shatteringly great, first “pure fitness game” for the Wii U with features that range from mediocre to revolutionary.
by ,
Written on November 28, 2012

your shape wii u reviewThe Your Shape franchise is one of those franchises that’s been either hit or miss over the years. The original Your Shape for the Wii in 2009 was quite dreadful; Ubisoft tried to beat Microsoft to the punch by introduce a Kinect-like tracking system to the Wii, with unspectacular results (and the cartoon Jenny McCarthy still haunts me in my dreams). On the other hand, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved for the Xbox, introduced in 2010, was one of the better workout games for any system.

Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013 sort of falls in the middle. There are parts of it that are brilliant, even revolutionary, but there are also some glaring weaknesses.You start out with a video of people having fun with the game. While the video was your typical fluff piece with people who are a little too beautiful having a little too much fun, what struck me was the crisp, high definition video quality. This is not your grandfather’s Wii.You start by creating your profile. I’ve played many, many Wii fitness games, and by far this was the most pleasant profile creation I’ve ever done, as it’s all done on the GamePad. So, for example, instead of clicking an eternity to get to my weight and age (which is always a very humbling process for me in both cases), I just had to swipe my finger to enter information about myself. You can also choose your fitness level: couch potato, aspiring gymnast, semi-professional, and Olympic legend. Not sure why they couldn’t have just said “light, moderate, hard, and advanced”, but I got the gist of it.

As much as I liked the setup process, there were already some less-than-optimal things. First, you can’t use the Balance Board to input your weight, which is one of the things the Wii can do that no other system can do. Second, they ask for your height in inches. Why not ask for my age in months? Finally, they have you take a picture with your GamePad camera, but don’t tell you until later that your face will be plastered all over the world if you sign up for online access.

You then get to the main menu, where your options are “Play”, “Profile”, “Medals”, “Store”, “Options”, and “Fitness Pal”. When you press “Play”, you’re immediately asked if you want to sign up to use online features; once you do this you can work out together with friends by comparing your records to theirs. I do like that Ubisoft is embracing social features in their games; one can only hope that they don’t end up abandoning it like EA Sports did.

The Play menu itself has a few choices:

1) Activities – There are two types of activities you can choose here.

The first is dancing to hit tunes. Your initial choices are Born This Way (Lady Gaga), Party Rock Anthem (LMFAO), She Wants to Move (NERD), and SOS (Rihanna). Each song has two versions: an easy “rehearsal” mode and a more challenging “performance” mode. As you earn coins (the internal currency of the game) you can unlock more songs. This part of the game seemed awful familiar and for good reason: it’s almost identical to Just Dance. I’d accuse Ubisoft of ripping them off, but since Ubisoft publishes both I suppose they get a pass. As with Just Dance, you hold the Wii remote in your right hand and have to mirror the on-screen dancer’s moves, and you’ll get points and accolades if you do. The main difference is that the choreography here is much more carefully designed to provide you a full aerobic workout vs. the dances of Just Dance that balance style and exercise. As with Just Dance, you’re pretty much on the “honor system” in terms of whether you move any body part outside of your right hand. But those who are tempted to “cheat” to get a high score probably should be buying this game in the first place.

The second activity is a really interesting one. It’s called “Zen Flow“, and provides some fascinating relaxation exercises. I tried the first one “Lotus Seat Position”. You’re told to sit on the floor crossing your legs, and then to hold the GamePad up to the screen. Then, while soothing music plays you move the GamePad to follow a pattern of light that’s displayed on both the GamePad and the TV. The whole time, a voice will instruct you on how to breathe and relax. I admit I was skeptical at first, but at the end of one session I really did feel relaxed.

2) Classes – These are your typical calisthenics-type workouts, with an aerobics instructor talking you through classes which range from about 7 minutes to upwards of 30 minutes for advanced classes. There are different styles of exercise, including “Be Groovin'” (Aerobic dance), Kickboxing, Cardio dance, Zen Zone, Zen Arena (martial arts), Cardio, and Power Training (strength and conditioning).

Motion controls are a little suspect. They’re not as bad as in the original Your Shape for Wii, but when I waved my Wii remote randomly, I got just as good a score (or in some cases better) as when I tried to match the on-screen instructor perfectly. If you’re content to work out to the classes (which are excellent) and don’t really care too much about your score, you’ll be fine.

One very cool thing was that the GamePad gave a continual readout of the time remaining and the calories burned. I like how the main screen wasn’t cluttered with that stuff, but anytime I wanted to see how much time was left in a workout I’d just need to glance at the GamePad.

3) News – This section is oddly named, as there’s no “News” here, there are just reports of your progress and your friends’ progresses if applicable. You can view high scores and achievements you’ve unlocked.

4) To Dos – There are many features throughout the game that try to incentivize you to play the game every day, including earning medals (achievements), earning coins (which can be used to “buy” things in the Store). This is one of the better motivations. Every day, the system will give you three “challenges” to play (such as scoring at least 90% in a kickboxing workout, completing a specific song with a certain number of points, etc). If you complete all the challenges you’ll be rewarded with a lot of coins.

5) Program – This is another cool feature that lets you set up a recurring workout for up to four weeks. You use the GamePad to set a fitness goal (just for fun, lose weight, reduce stress, improve stamina, build muscles, tone upper body, and tone lower body). You can set the number of weeks (1, 2, or 4), the number of sessions per week (2-4), and your “favorite style” (e.g., dancing, fighting, zen). A training plan will be put together. They kept it pretty simple, which I actually liked; instead of setting up a calendar with dates they just show you a chart of workouts you’ve completed and workouts you have left for the week, and its up to you to do them as convenient for you.

Back at the main menu, you have the option of going to the “Store” where you can “buy” dance songs, new workouts, and trainer outfits. I appreciated the fact that they used all in-game currency that you need to earn by working out rather than charging real money.

Now, I’ve always felt that the single silliest feature of Wii fitness games from the past were when they gave recipes; did they really expect you to take your Wii into the kitchen? But with the Wii U it makes all the sense in the world, as . In the main menu, their recipes are under an option called “Fitness Pal”. You can choose a goal (build muscles, child-friendly cooking, lose weight, improve stamina, reduce stress), and you’ll be served up menus of very tasty-looking food that you can cook. And because you have the GamePad, you can bring it into the kitchen (and even play some Wii games as you’re waiting for your water to boil).

Overall, I was very impressed by the Wii U features of Your Shape, such as the use of the GamePad to set up profiles, to display status, and to use as a cookbook. As for the workouts themselves, I was impressed by some things but not so impressed with others. On the positive side, the relaxation exercises are definitely groundbreaking and make good use of the GamePad. On the not-as-positive side, the workouts themselves didn’t seem to be much more revolutionary than what we saw even in the original My Fitness Coach, and the only real “fun” part of the game was a copy of Just Dance (which begs the question, why not just get that instead?). I was hoping to see the kinds of “activities so fun you don’t realize you’re working out” types of activities they built for the Kinect version, but I didn’t see any of that.

If you have a new Wii U and don’t already have a workout game with great cardio and fitness exercise, I’d say this is a worthwhile purchase. For me, I’d probably wait for the price to drop a little before buying this one, or at least wait to see if the upcoming Wii Fit U moves the bar any better than this one.

Review of Zumba Fitness Core for the Wii

Zumba Fitness Core by
Platform: Wii
4.5 stars – An excellent and worthwhile upgrade to Zumba Fitness and Zumba Fitness 2 for the Wii.
by ,
Written on November 27, 2012

The first thing to know about Zumba Fitness Core for the Wii is that it’s really “Zumba Fitness 3”. Supposedly, the word “Core” in the title connotes that this version of the game focuses on your abs, but the choreography seemed to me no different than what you’ll find in earlier versions or standard Zumba classes. My impression is that the name was probably more of a marketing move than anything else; they could have called it “Zumba Fitness Cardio” and no one would have known the difference.

In any case, just as with the previous versions of Zumba Fitness for Wii, you’ll need a belt to hold your Wii remote as you dance. There is a belt that comes packaged in the box, but if you want to play with multiple players (the game supports up to 4), each player will need their own belt. You really don’t need to buy additional belts from Majesco; any belt will do as long as you can tighten it enough to securely hold your Wii remote at your waist level.

One very, very important thing to remember is that the Wii remote needs to be positioned with the buttons facing out (towards the TV) and the remote right-side up vs. upside-down (i.e., with the A button on top). If you stick your remote in the belt the intuitive way (upside down), the game won’t track you at all. There was so much confusion about this in past versions that this time they’ve included a little video on it to show the right way to do it.

The first thing you do is set up your profile. Strangely, it doesn’t let you use your balance board to detect your weight. Worse, you input your weight in the most painful way possible–by starting at about 100 pounds and pressing the button for what feel like an eternity (in my case at least) to get to your actual weight.

The first thing I tried were the tutorials, which aim to teach you some of the basic steps you’ll use throughout your workouts. One reason why Zumba in general is so popular is you’re doing what look like pretty elaborate dance routines, but at their core (no pun intended) are basic classic dance steps that you learn and find yourself using over and over. In this case, you’ll learn four basic steps for Salsa, Merengue, Samba, Bollywood, Reggaeton, and Cumbia respectively. Mastering these 24 basic steps will serve you well as you play the game. The tutorial is done very well–you start off by watching Beto break down the steps in slow motion, and once you get those steps down you can see and try them at actual speed. I like how when you view the dance steps at full speed, the animated Beto will throw in flourishes that take the dance step beyond the mechanical and show you how to put some artistry into them.

One of the key things I look for in any Wii game is how good the motion detection is. In the first version of Zumba Fitness this was not good at all. The second version improved it. I think it’s safe to say that this third version is probably as good as it’s going to get on the Wii’s technology. I tried to deliberately “fake” the system out by sitting on the couch and waving the Wii remote in my hand, but the game would have none of it. It was only when I stood up and danced with the Wii remote strapped to my waist that I started getting points.

Having said that, the game is pretty lenient with scoring. When I danced to the same song on the Xbox version and the Wii version, the Xbox version gave me 3 stars out of 5 vs. the Wii version which gave me 4s and even 5s out of the gate. As much as I’d love to think I’m a dancing machine, I think it’s more a reflection of the Wii’s not being able to detect certain kinds of movements as well as the Kinect, such as intricate foot movements or any kind of arm movements, and so none of those things are reflected in the Wii’s scoring. At the end of the day, all it can really do is judge where your hips are at any given point, and assume that if it’s in the right place the rest of your body must be too. So while it’s still pretty accurate (you still need to dance a pretty spot-on performance to get 5 stars), for a lot of things you’re pretty much on the “honor system” to do them right. Incidentally, while the Xbox excels at accurate tracking, the Wii version does have something that the Xbox version doesn’t do and probably will never do: allow for 4-person simultaneous play.

There are 33 songs to play, 17 of which are licensed tracks from artists such as Carlinhos Brown, Enrique Iglesias, Sean Paul, Kat DeLuna, and Karmin. They span a huge number of genres from African to Bollywood to Polynesian Rhythm to Reggae to the more traditional Latin dance moves such as salsa and samba. The songs range from low intensity to high intensity (where some of them will literally have you grasping for breath if you’re not in shape).

The graphics were improved with Zumba Fitness 2 and this version improves on them even more. You can choose from eight venues to dance in, such as a nightclub scene to an amphitheater to exotic locations such as Las Vegas and Hawaii. Each song is presented by a different Zumba personality, such as Kass Martin, Tanya Beardsley, Nick Logrea, Loretta Bates, Gina Grant, and Beto. As with the previous games, you mirror the moves of your onscreen trainer as precisely as you can.

You can play virtual Zumba classes, which basically string together a number of individual songs for short classes (about 20 minutes), mid-length classes (about 45 minutes) and full-length classes (about an hour). One thing new to this version is that as with real Zumba classes, you start off and end your sessions with lower intensity songs to properly warm up and cool down respectively.

There are a lot of great features of the game which inspire you to play over and over again, something you need to do in order to see your workouts result in weight loss and better health. The Progress Tracker is much improved in that you can visually see graphs of your score, time played, accuracy, and calories burned by day, week, or month; it’s definitely a good feeling and pretty good motivation to see those graphs filling up. There’s also a lot of a great unlockable video content and achievements that’ll incentivize you to keep working out.

Zumba Fitness Core doesn’t quite take the place of a real Zumba class; there’s only so much technique you can learn from a two-dimensional video game, and of course you don’t get the social component of taking classes with a real instructor and a real class. Having said that, it’s a great introduction for those new to Zumba, and it’s also great to use if circumstances (e.g., the weather, your work schedule, your wallet, etc.) don’t allow you to take as many real classes as you’d like. While Zumba exercise is not for everyone, if it’s for you, I think you’re going to enjoy this game.

Copying Wii Data to Wii U, including Miis, Saved Game Data, and Wii Shop Points

Transferring data from your Wii to your Wii U is a step you do after setup, again a poor choice of timing because they force you to create a new Mii from scratch before you have a chance to port your old Mii over from your Wii. I just set up a dummy player which I later deleted, knowing that I’d be able to use good ol’ Stii-Wii later down the road.

During the conversion process from the Wii to the Wii U, a LOT of data gets transferred, including your Miis, saved game data, downloaded software, and Wii points. I’m not sure if it’s for technical or security reasons or both, but Nintendo is VERY careful about making sure that data is transferred from the Wii to an SD card (and subsequently erasing all the data from the Wii), and then transferred from the SD card to the Wii U (again, deleting all data from the SD card). The most important thing to remember before starting the update process is to make SURE you don’t accidentally kick the power cord or otherwise interrupt the process, or you may lose all your data.

The process is pretty painful and time-consuming, but the results are pretty good.

You need to start by making sure both your Wii U and Wii are plugged in, connected to the Internet. The process is convoluted enough to begin with, but if you’re sharing a single Wii remote or video connection between both machines, the process will be nearly unbearable. For me, I made things a little easier on myself by plugging the Wii U into the HDMI port of my TV, plugging the Wii into the component (YPbPr) port of a monitor, and viewing both screens using two TV screens (you can also use Picture-By-Picture mode on your TV).

You start out by going to the Wii menu on your Wii U (you’ll need your Wii remote for this), and then clicking the “Wii System Transfer” icon. You’d think that this would start the process of transferring your system data, but no–it takes you to the  Wii Shop Channel where you download the Wii System Transfer Channel. Seems like it’s adding some unnecessary steps, but okay.

After installing the channel you’ll see the real icon to start the process. You’ll need an SD card that has at least 512 MB on it to get started.

wii system transfer

Once you start up the channel you’ll see a welcome message.

wii u transfer channel first screen

There are three steps to completing the transfer, which you can read about on your TV screen. They are:

Step 1: Prepare the Wii U console.

prepare the wii console

The first step is taking your SD card and putting it into the Wii U. Data used to prepare for the transfer is written to the SD card in the Wii U. Once it’s done you’ll see this message. Pop the SD card out of the Wii U and set it aside.
prepare to transfer to wii u

Step 2: Transfer from the Wii console.

Next, you’ll go to your old Wii. You have to go to the Wii Shop Channel on your Wii to download the Wii System Transfer Channel there. Annoyingly, I was first prompted to perform a Wii System Update to update the Wii Shop Channel.

perform a system update on wii u

By this time it was about 1 AM and I was tired. Thanks Nintendo.

Once the update is complete you have to select Wii Shop Channel and once in click “Start Shopping”.

wii shop channel on wii

On the main screen, you need to select “Wii Channels”

wii shop channel

And the finally, select Wii U Transfer Tool.

wii u transfer tool

Install it, and then go back to the Wii menu. At this point, you need to select the new Wii U Transfer Tool from the top menu (It may be on the second page or later depending on how many channels you already have)

select wii transfer tool from top menu

You’re asked if you’ve finished the preparations on the Wii U.

confirmation of wii u preparation

It’ll then connect to the Internet to verify that you can do the transfer, and then FINALLY get to a screen asking you to insert the SD card from the Wii U.

insert sd card into wii

There was a confusing message about Miis that kind of freaked me out.

confusing message about miis

When I first read this, I thought it meant that all my Miis would be deleted, which was kind of the main reason I did this whole transfer in the first place. But after examining more closely, I realized that they meant that Miis stored in the Mii Channel under “Mii Parade” (basically a section of the Check Mii Out Channel that stores a lot of different Mii’s you download from online) would be deleted, while Mii’s stored under “Mii Plaza” (the main section of the Check Mii Out Channel (would be converted). If you’re not sure, cancel out of the process and double-check that all the Miis you want to transfer are in the Mii Plaza. Since Mii Parade was a short-lived and failed feature that few people used, chances are you’re not affected.

There may be more warning screens after this informing you which software cannot be transferred to the Wii U; in some cases updated versions of these Channels are available on the Wii U; in other cases the functionality is being deprecated.

confirmation of channels being ported

If you have software stored on SD cards, those also will not be transferred to the Wii U, but the system will recognize and remember that you are eligible to re-download them for free from the Wii Shop Channel on the Wii U’s Wii menu (got that?). Any software stored in main system memory will be transferred over.

confirmation of software being transferred

You’ll see more scary red letters and a big blue Transfer button. Push now or forever hold your peace.

transfer begins

Next, you have to endure yet another update process that depending on the amount of data you have on your Wii may take upwards of another hour or more to finish. But this time Nintendo did something interesting–they have a mesmerizing animation of little Pikmin characters gathered around an icon of your Wii console.

pikmins helping out with wii u transfer

Then, the little Pikmins start collecting icons…

pickmins picking up icons

…and then start carrying them through winding paths that put me in the mind of the  world of Tron. A percentage meter will appear in the lower right-hand corner, while status text will scroll on a marquee on top of the page telling you what’s being transferred.

pikmins starting their long journey to the wii

more pikmins

pikmins following the signs from the wii to the wii u

pikmins rounding a corner

pikmins hard at work

Finally, they all get to a rocket ship.

pikmins on rocket ship heading to wii u

And then blast off towards a sun that says “Wii U”. At that point, you’re told how many Wii Points (if any) you had in your balance that have been transferred over, as well as that your Wii Shop Channel purchase history has been transferred along with a list of games you’re eligible to download on your Wii U.

Finally, you’re told to take the SD card out and move it back to your Wii U.

take out sd card

move sd card back to wii u

Meanwhile, back on the Wii U, the message that’s been sitting your screen since you took the SD card out tells you to put it back in.

back on the wii u

The animation continues from where it left off on the Wii, with your ship of Pikmins continuing towards the Wii U sun.

the pikmins again on the wii u

The Pikmins disembark and start carrying stuff to the Wii U.

pikmins start working again

pikmins in the wii u

They finally get to a large icon representing your Wii U and GamePad and start dropping their icons back.

pikmins dropping icons

And then they all celebrate.

pikmins celebrating

All your games, save data, and credits should be transferred over now. Note that there’s still a little work you need to do to get your Mii. You have to go back to the Mii Maker application and use the “Send Mii/Receive Mii” option to get the Mii available for you to register. Happily, I saw both Stii-Wii and Wiisa in their full glory on my Wii U.

my mii on the wii u

Once this is done, go into User Account and either replace your already-created character’s Mii with your Mii, or create a new character.

While I applaud Nintendo for making this long (again, over an hour) process at least a little entertaining, I really would have liked to see a more friendly approach, such as the ability to do the transfer completely online instead of dealing with an SD card, or better yet, the ability to just turn on both systems connected to the Internet and have everything done for you while you sleep.

Sadly, on the Wii U Deluxe I encountered another issue that is being widely reported–the phenomenon of taking a long, long time for the system to go back to the Wii U Menu after being in another channel or game. At some points I was literally waiting  five minutes while the GamePad screen appeared to be hung. This is a major, major flaw that I’m shocked that Nintendo allowed to go into the final production product, and if they don’t fix it soon, they’re going to deal with a whole lot of returns.

Review of Just Dance 4 for Wii U

Just Dance 4 by
Platform: Wii U
5 of 5 stars – The Wii U version of Just Dance 4 is an excellent upgrade that showcases some of the unique features of the Wii U
by ,
Written on November 26, 2012

In 2009, Just Dance for the Wii pioneered a new genre of dance games where you danced using real dance moves vs. just jumping on a mat or pattern-matching with a game controller. After some early fits and starts, they’ve since sold over 30 million units in its three year history. That’s enough to get every man, woman, and child in Canada dancing away.

Of course, success has spawned dozens and dozens of spin-off and knock-off games of varying quality. But each title in the original series of Just Dance, Just Dance 2, and Just Dance 3 have been excellent and have moved the franchise forward with great new songs and technical innovation. I’m happy to say that Just Dance 4 for the Wii U continues that tradition.

As with previous Just Dance games, the opening menu is delightfully simple and has just two options: Just Dance and Just Sweat. One thing I liked right away about Just Dance 4 was that you can use either the Wii remote or the GamePad to make your selection for all the menus throughout the game. Right away, I much preferred using the GamePad to scroll through dozens of songs rather than the Wii remote.

Selecting “Just Dance” shows you a cover flow where you can flip through songs to dance to. Each song has an icon showing how many separate players the song has unique choreography for. For example, for Solo songs, whether it’s one player or four, everyone is dancing to the same moves. For Quartet songs, four players will each be dancing to his or her own moves, making for entertaining dance routines. Here’s a video of choreography for One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”, a song my nieces were especially happy to see.

When I played during Thanksgiving with my sister-in-law, my sister, and my wife, my brother who was videotaping the whole thing was laughing so hard he was in tears. I’m guessing it’s because we weren’t exactly coordinated, but with practice I think we could have looked like Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry, and Louis themselves.

You’ll also see a difficulty rating of 1 to 3. A song with a rating of 1 can be picked up and played by just about anyone right away. Songs with 2s or 3s have more intricate moves and require practice to master. Interestingly, they decided to do away with the “intensity” rating of the song which had been there from the first Just Dance.

As with previous versions of Just Dance, the songlist is great and contains many current hits. There are a few cover versions, but for the most part the songs are licensed tracks from the original stars.

Ain’t No Other Man – The Girly Team – Solo – 2 of 3
Asereje (The Ketchup Song) – Las Ketchup – Duo – 1 of 3
Beauty and a Beat – Justin Bieber featuring Nicki Minaj – Solo – 3 of 3
Beware Of The Boys (Mundian To Bach Ke) – Panjabi MC – Quartet – 2 of 3
Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen – Solo – 1 of 3
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Boys Town Gang – Duo – 1 of 3
Crazy Little Thing – Anja – Solo – 3 of 3
Crucified – Army of Lovers – Quartet – 3 of 3
Disturbia – Rihanna – Solo – 3 of 3
Domino – Jessie J – Solo – 1 of 3 (exclusive to Wii U)
Everybody Needs Somebody To Love – Dancing Bros. – Duo – 2 of 3
Good Feeling – Flo Rida – Solo – 2 of 3
Good Girl – Carrie Underwood – Solo – 1 of 3
Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!)” – Blu Cantrell – Solo – 1 of 3
Hot For Me – A.K.A – Solo – 2 of 3
I Like It – The Blackout Allstars – Duo – 3 of 3
(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life – Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes – Duet – 3 of 3
Istanbul – They Might Be Giants – Quartet – 1 of 3
Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley – Quartet – 1 of 3
Livin’ la Vida Loca” – Ricky Martin – Solo – 3 of 3
Love You Like A Love Song – Selena Gomez and the Scene – Solo – 1 of 3
Make The Party (Don’t Stop) – Bunny Beatz – Solo – 2 of 3
Maneater – Nelly Furtado – Solo – 2 of 3
Mas Que Nada – Sergio Mendes featuring The Black Eyed Peas – Solo – 1 of 3
Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera – Solo – 2 of 3
Mr. Saxobeat – Alexandra Stan – Solo – 1 of 3
Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley – Solo – 1 of 3
Oh No! – Marina and The Diamonds – Solo – 3 of 3
On The Floor – Jennifer Lopez featuring Pitbull – 1 of 3
Oops!… I Did It Again” – The Girly Team – Quartet – 2 of 3
Rock N’Roll (Will Take You To The Mountain) – Skrillex – Solo – 2 of 3
Rock Lobster – The B-52’s – Duo – 2 of 3
Run The Show – Kat DeLuna featuring Busta Rhymes – Duo – 3 of 3
So What – Pink – Solo – 1 of 3
Some Catchin’ Up To Do- Sammy – Solo – 1 of 3
Super Bass – Nicki Minaj – Solo – 3 of 3
Superstition – Stevie Wonder – Solo – 1 of 3
The Final Countdown – Europe – Duo – 3 of 3
Time Warp” – Halloween Thrills – Quartet – 3 of 3
Tribal Dance – 2 Unlimited – Duo – 3 of 3
Umbrella – Rihanna featuring Jay-Z – Solo – 1 of 3
Want U Back – Cher Lloyd featuring Astro – Solo – 1 of 3 (exclusive to Wii U)
We No Speak Americano – Hit The Electro Beat – Solo – 2 of 3
What Makes You Beautiful – One Direction – Quartet – 1 of 3
Wild Wild West – Will Smith – Quartet – 3 of 3
You’re The First, The Last, My Everything” – Barry White – Quartet – 1 of 3

Something else that’s new to Just Dance 4 are “Dance Quests”, basically a checklist of five goals to hit for each song (for example, getting 5 stars on the song, hitting all the “Gold” moves properly, and so on).

Game play works pretty much like it did in earlier versions of Just Dance–you mirror the moves of your on-screen counterpart, and as you hit moves correctly you’ll be rewarded with positive messages and up to five stars. Pictographs will scroll along the bottom of the screen to cue you to upcoming moves, and occasionally you’ll see a “Gold move” that will get you extra points if you hit it correctly.

The motion control problems that plagued earlier versions of Just Dance are virtually non-existent. Of course, the system doesn’t detect precise hand, arm, and foot movement like the Xbox Kinect does, but it’s still surprisingly accurate–you’ll get more points dancing using your whole body than you will if you just phone it in and sit on the couch with the Wii remote.

The better your performance, the more “Mojo Points” you collect. Once you’ve collected a certain amount of Mojo points you can jump to the next level, at which point you can randomly select a new feature to unlock.

Something else to Just Dance 4 is “Battle Mode”, where you can play against another player (or against the computer). You start by choosing a character that corresponds to a song. Then, you basically compete in a dance-off. It’s an interesting twist on fighting games like Street Fighter, where the player that dances the most precise dance steps will score “hits” on the other. Whoever has the most life left at the end of a round wins that round and their song will be imposed on the next round. At the beginning your only song choices are Rock N Roll Will Take You To The Mountain or Livin’ La Vida Loca, but presumably as you collect Mojo Points, other songs will be available for Battle Mode.

Something else new to the Wii U version is the ability to create “Dancer Cards” (which are basically user profiles). You can select an icon to represent you or use the GamePad camera to take your photo. You then select whether you’re a girl or a boy, and select an age range (in a Logan’s Run-esque kind of move, there are 6 age groupings: 0-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, and 30+…which makes some of us who might be in our 40s or beyond feel awful sheepish :P). Finally, you enter a nickname, a welcome improvement after years of being stuck with the name “Happy” in previous versions.

From that point on, anytime you dance you can select your dance card and all your stats will be recorded. Your card will show the total time you’ve danced, the average star rating, your preferred dance style, and favorite songs.

“Just Sweat” mode lets you play several songs in a row for a set amount of time, either 10 minutes (burning around 50 Kcals), 25 minutes (about 100 Kcals), or 45 minutes (about 200 Kcals). Instead of choosing individual songs to work out to, you choose from the following four genres of music:

Aerobics in Space (Dynamic Fitness Steps / 80’s Pop Music)
Sweat Around the World (Latin Dance Practice / World Music)
Electro Body Combat (Cardio Fighting Exercise / Electro Music)
Cheerleader’s Boot Camp (Extreme Training / Punk Rock Music)

The routines start out with a slower warm up routine and end with a cool down routine. Your energy level from song to song is tracked in real time through a running graph at the top of the page, and will determine whether the next song is “COOL” or “INTENSE”, effective customizing your workout based on your individual level of energy. That they’re using a little artificial intelligence to give you a personalized workout is a nice improvement that’s definitely more sophisticated than in previous versions of Just Dance.

The number of Kcals you burn is displayed in the upper left hand of the screen. Take the calories with a grain of salt, as it’s an average number that’s likely to be understated for heavier players and overstated for lighter players. I would have liked to see the ability to measure weight using the Balance Board for a more precise calorie calculation.

One of the things I was most looking forward to was seeing how the Wii U GamePad was integrated into the game. At first, what the person holding the GamePad to do is limited; he or she can be the DJ, selecting the next song the group dances to, and he or she can also draw or write messages that are displayed to the players as they’re dancing (and can have a lot of fun trying to throw dancers off by making them laugh). It’s a nice way to involve someone who may for whatever reason be unwilling or unable to participate as one of the four players dancing with the Wii remotes.

One of the features Ubisoft advertised a lot was “Puppet Master Mode”, where a player could control some of the action using the GamePad. Inexplicably, they decided to lock this mode until you collect enough Mojo Points to move up a level, and then happen to choose it when you’re asked to randomly select which bonus feature to unlock. While I appreciate the use of Mojo points as incentive you to keep coming back to the the game, I found this a rather odd decision on the developers’ part. A lot of people will buy this game for use at parties or family gatherings, and may not realize that they have to play for a few hours before being able to lock one of the most anticipated multi-player features in the game.

I finally did unlock Puppet Master Mode (once you do, every song will have a “Puppet Master Mode” option if you select the song icon and click the “Up” arrow on the GamePad), and it was definitely an innovative use of the GamePad. One to four players can dance using their Wii remotes, and a fifth person holding the GamePad will periodically see four icons of dancing Just Dance characters on the screen. By tapping the icon, he or she can determine what the next dance move the players have to dance is. I was happy to see some classic and some silly dance steps from past Just Dance games (some icons even had the original characters performing them). From time to time, the person with the GamePad can also select a “Strike a Pose” position and assign bonus points to players.

I’ve been impressed with every version of Just Dance starting with the original, and I’m just as impressed with the Wii U version. Ubisoft has once again done a great job in moving the franchise forward in this new version. Just Dance may not be the most precise dance game in the world, but for my money it’s still the most fun one, both individually and in a group (which neither the PS3 nor the Xbox do as well). The two- and four-person choreography is better than it’s ever been and after a few sessions will make you and your friends feel like professionals. The improvements to the Just Sweat mode help make it a viable replacement to a fitness and exercise game. And the new GamePad features are a great way to involve those who may not be able or willing to dance.

Unboxing the Wii U Black (Deluxe) Version

Well, Thanksgiving at my brother’s house went very well. As predicted, the kids were very happy with their uncle’s somewhat extravagant gift of a Wii U Basic, and we had a lot of fun playing Super Mario Bros for the Wii U. What I really liked about the game were the mini games that involved both the Wii remote and the GamePad which introduced a whole new level of cooperation to game playing. It was cool watching my older brother and my little nephew bonding by working together to achieve goals and then celebrating when they completed them.

The surprise hit of the evening was Just Dance 4, which I’d rented from GameFly. It turns out all the grown-ups in the room had a blast playing it (with participants ranging in age from about 35 to 65). The kids at first felt a little self-conscious playing with the adults, but when we unlocked “Puppet Master Mode” they had a blast controlling the grown-up’s every move (I’ll be posting a full review of Just Dance 4 for Wii U shortly).

Since my nephew and second niece both have a DS, they took to the GamePad almost immediately. We did encounter the bug that many people are reporting with the Wii U taking a ridiculously long time to load menus (particularly the Wii U menu). More on this below, as I’m encountering the same problem multiple times on the Deluxe to the point of ridiculousness.

So, about the Deluxe. I’d placed a pre-order at Wal-Mart a few weeks ago and it finally arrived on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The box looks identical except for the obvious difference in the colors of the units pictured on the box, as well as two stickers in the corner, one that says that the NintendoLand game is bundled in the box, and the other with a URL to something called “Deluxe Digital Promotion” at ddp.nintendo.com. I found out later that this was a promotion where buyers of the Wii U Deluxe can earn 10% of their digital purchases on the Nintendo eShop back in the form of points that can be used to make other digital purchases.

wii u deluxe box

Opening the box revealed the same impeccably packaging as the Basic.

inside the wii u deluxe

For those of you wondering, only a few parts pictured below (plus an additional 24 GB of internal memory and the aforementioned 10% discount on digital downloads) mark the only differences between the $349 Deluxe and the $299 Basic. As you can see below, this includes the NintendoLand game, a charging cradle for the GamePad, a stand for the GamePad (for when you don’t want to charge it), and two cheap pieces of plastic which they’re calling the “Wii U Console Stand” which lets you stand the console on its edge without worrying too much about it tipping over.

difference between wii u deluxe and wii u basic

Since the system is pretty much identical to the Wii U Basic, I won’t talk through through the entire setup process again. In short, once again I found the hardware to be impressive both in technology and design (the black console looks especially sleek). But once again, the process of setting up the system was painful, if not in complexity then in sheer time. Again, it took me over an hour on a fairly fast Internet connection to download the update.

This time I did do two things that I skipped the last time. The first thing I did was to set up TV control during setup. This step was ridiculously smooth, at least for me. It just asked me to type in the make of my TV (Westinghouse), and then test out a few buttons to make sure they worked. They did for me on the first try.

set up wii u to control tv

Voila, suddenly the GamePad could turn my TV on and off and adjust the volume.

The second thing I did was to convert my data from my Wii to my Wii U. This was a long and arduous process, so I’ll dedicate a future post to it.

I’ll be posting reviews for Just Dance 4, Your Shape 2013, and ESPN Sports Connection for the Wii U shortly. And not to worry fans of the original Wii, I’ll still be posting reviews of Wii fitness games and maintaining the Wii top 10 separately from the Wii U top 10. And don’t worry fans of the original Wii–as fitness and exercise games become available, I’ll still be writing reviews. In fact, one of the great things about the Wii U coming out is that Wii’s are going to get a lot cheaper to buy; in some cases I’m seeing them for under $90 for a whole set. A Wii and an old TV set would make a great addition to any exercise room.

By the way, the elusive Wii U is still hard to find, but not impossible. GameStop has had fresh stocks of Wii U Basics and Wii U Deluxes the past few days. And word is that my mid-December, a whole new shipment will be coming in. So don’t panic and pay a ridiculous amount for yours at Amazon or eBay.


Unboxing the Wii U White (Basic) Version

So, I pre-ordered a Wii U Deluxe from Walmart, which should be arriving sometime before the end of the week. But in the meantime, I was in Toys R Us yesterday and saw a big stack of Basic systems in stock. I figured I’d go for the title of World’s Greatest Uncle, so I bought my nephew and nieces a brand new Wii U Basic. My nephew’s birthday happens to fall on Thanksgiving, and I’ll be going to my brother’s house in a few days to celebrate.

I wasn’t originally planning to be so extravagant (especially since the wedding pretty much blew away a healthy chunk of my savings), so I guess I’ll just have to start bringing healthy home cooked to work instead of eating out for lunch every day for a few months. It’s all part of the great Nutwiisystem weight loss plan.

But I figured they’re the perfect ages for a Wii U (9, 11, and 14) and it won’t be long before they’re all growed up, so I figured I should seize the day. I actually got them the Wii five years ago, and it brought a ton of joy to almost every family gathering. My nephew Michael has a penchant for jumping around wildly whenever he plays the Wii, which was one of my inspirations for starting up Nutwiisystem.com. He can beat anyone on the planet on Super Mario Kart, so it’s worked out well for him.

Anyway, the box sat here in my living room unopened for about a day when it stuck me, I really should test out the system, right? After all, I don’t want the system to be DOA when I give it to the kids, and if there’s any updating to be done, I should really do it first, right? (Okay, I really wanted to play, but we’ll keep that between us :P)

So today’s post will be all about the unboxing of the Basic (White) Set of the Wii U. When the Deluxe system comes, I’ll plan on unboxing that as well.

And so, without further adieu, the Wii U (Basic):

The Wii U Basic comes in a blue box marked “Basic Set – 8G”

Wii U Basic Box

The 8G stands for 8 gigabytes of built-in memory (as opposed to the Deluxe set which has 32G). At the beginning this will be plenty of memory for anyone who wants to just play games and store save data in the memory. But as you download games and downloadable content, chances are this 8G will fill up eventually. The good news is, you can easily expand the memory just by using SD cards, USB drives, or even external hard drives.

Opening the box reveals everything very nicely packed.

insides of wii u box

There’s a couple of quick start guides in Spanish, French, and English, as well as an Owners Manual you’ll never read (which is a testament to how intuitive Nintendo makes their hardware and their on-screen setup instructions). There’s also a card inviting you to join Club Nintendo. If you haven’t joined, it’s a fun little site where you can register your console and any Nintendo-produced games and earn points to buy Nintendo-branded schwag. If you earn 300 points in a year you’ll get Gold Status, while 600 points will earn you Platinum Status where you can get a crappy gift the year you earn platinum. Linking your Wii U will get you 160 points, or more than halfway to Gold. They used to extend warranties by a couple months for registering a console, but unfortunately they’ve discontinued that practice with the Wii U. I’d suggest buying the system with an American Express or Discover card to get the extended warranty benefits.

manuals for the wii u

Next, of course, there are lots of wires. There are two AC adapters, one to power the Wii U console and the other to charge the GamePad controller.

ac adapters for new wii u basic

There’s also a standard HDMI cable that (finally) lets you view the Wii’s improved graphics on your big 1080i HDTV.

I liked the fact that they also included an old style component cable (yPbPr) in the box, as well as a Sensor Bar. I especially like the fact that both of these are 100% compatible with the old Wii (if you like, you can keep the new Sensor Bar in the box, and just plug in the old from from your old Wii without taking it down from the TV).

The next things to come out of the box were the things I anticipated the most. First, the Wii U console.

wii u white console

This looked like a sleeker, rounder, more modern version of the Wii. It’s only slightly longer and about the same thickness. On the front is a power button, an eject button, a sync button, and a door revealing two USB ports and an SD card slot. On the back are two more USB ports, as well as connections for HDMI monitor, component TV, and power.

Finally, the moment I’ve been waiting for–the GamePad.

Wii U game pad

This is the part of the Wii U I wasn’t sure what to expect. Half the reports I’ve heard are people complaining how big it is. For me, it felt great. The joysticks to the left and right corners were very comfortable for my hands, as were the arrow keys and buttons. There’s a camera on top, and a microphone on bottom which has the potential to revolutionize social gaming and chat, if developers make good use out of them.  Two tiny holes to the left and right produce surprising loud and clear stereo sound. There’s an orange LED that turns dark when the battery is fully charged, as well as a TV control button for using the GamePad as a remote for your TV and the Power button.

The whole unit is recharegable, and doesn’t use AA batteries, but a battery pack that’s meant to stay inside the unit all the time (until a few years later when presumably it’ll lose its charge, but by then the Wii U Plus will be out, I’m sure).

Connecting the units was a piece of cake. I plugged the console AC adapter into the wall, unplugged my old Wii Sensor Bar from my Wii and into the Wii U, and plugged the HDMI cable from the Wii to the TV. The unit powered on, with the familiar blue LED light telling me it was working.

Next, I plugged in the GamePad controller, which I found was charged.

On the TV screen was a big, beautiful Wii U logo, and then a screen telling me I needed to sync the Wii U console with the GamePad. This was ridiculously simple–you just press the red “sync” button on the console (to the right of the on/off button), and then you go to your GamePad and press the red “sync” button on the back of it (to the lower left under the serial number barcode–you’ll need a paperclip or toothpick or something to press it).

Then, it’ll come time for you to play your first “game”. It’s actually a little step to make sure the sync between the console and the GamePad is complete, but they made it a little challenge where you have to match symbols you see on the TV screen by using your finger on the touchpad.

first challenge on the wii u

Once you successfully key in the right combination of symbols, you’re brought through the setup provcess. You then see a Nintendo logo and then the message that “Your Wii GamePad is ready. Tap the screen to set up the console. Instructions will appear on the TV screen”.

What follows is your first experience at two-screen gaming. The TV screen will provide detailed instructions, while the GamePad screen will show you options to select. I found myself ignoring the TV screen and just looking at the GamePad, which worked fine. But I think it’ll take a while for me to learn how to properly look at the TV at the right times and look at the GamePad screen at the right time.

1) You first go through a series of steps where you set the display language of your GamePad (I set mine to English), select your country (I selected United States). Then, a screen showed up telling me that moving forward, I can power the console on and off by using the GamePad power button. Which is pretty cool, although the next thing I need them to invent for me is a way to get a game CD to pop out of the box and into the console without me getting off the sofa.

wii u to control console

2) Next, you set the date and time. It felt a bit old-fashioned for me to have to set these manually. I wish Nintendo had put the WiFi setup first, so the system could pull the date and time from the Web.

set the date

3) In the next step, the system detects your TV resolution. 1080i on a Wii, who would have ever thought?

4) The next step lets you set up the GamePad to control your TV be using the “TV Remote Function”. At this point I felt like I didn’t want to deal with this, so I told it to skip it for later.

5) In the next step, just like on the original Wii you have to specify where your sensor bar is located (if you want to use your Wiimotes). I put mine above the TV.

sensor bar setup

6) The next screens are courtesy of the Nintendo lawyers. It’s health and safety information and and End-User License Agreement where you basically say you won’t sue Nintendo if you end up throwing your Wii remote out the window into traffic.

7) Next, you set up the console’s Internet connection. While there will be ways to connect an Ethernet cable through USB, most people will opt to use their WiFi network. You just choose your network, enter your WEP password, and you’re connected.

wifi on wii u

8) The next step, the Wii U will innocuously as if you want to connect to Nintendo to download updates. Sure, I thought.

check for updates wii u long time

Little did I suspect that the update would take a LONG time; over my WiFi connection it took almost exactly an hour to download the update and install it. At this point I was really happy that I opened the box and didn’t subject my nieces and nephew to an hour of watching a blue bar.

At long last, the update was downloaded and installed and the TV screen said “The update is complete. Check the Wii U GamePad screen.”. The GamePad screen said “the update is complete and the console will now restart”.

After the system restarted, the GamePad screen had a button that said “Add New User (for first time user). There’s another button that says “Add User From an Existing Nintendo Network ID”. I actually got a little confused at this point, as I wasn’t sure if my Club Nintendo login counted as a “Nintendo Network ID” (it doesn’t).

I chose “Add a New User”. The first thing you see on the TV screen is a message that tells you that you will create your Mii. As someone who has a Wii, I was mainly interested in seeing if I could copy my Mii from my Wii to my Wii U (say that 10 times fast).

There are two options: “Create or Receive” or “Choose a Look Alike”. “Create or Receive” lets you create your Mii from scratch (the same way it was done on the Wii), from a photo, by connecting to a Nintendo 3DS, or by scanning a QR code. I found out that this is done through what they call a System Transfer, which allows you to transfer data from a Wii console to a Wii U console. This is done from the classic Wii menu (see below).

I did try the photo feature to see if I liked the new Mii it would create for me. Here, you first choose your gender, skin tone, eye color, hair color, and hairstyle, and then take a picture of your face. While it was a little bit of a pain to go through the process of creating my Mii all over again, I have to admit that doing it using the GamePad was a load of fun. As you form the features of your Mii on the GamePad, a large version will appear on the TV screen. At the last step, you take a photo using the GamePad, and the Wii U will capture your facial features with surprising precision. You can then fine-tune the Mii to your delight–you’ll see a split screen on the TV that shows your real face and your Mii face. My photo Mii turned out to be a little too close to reality for my tastes, so I went through and recreated something similar to my original Mii fairly quickly.

my mii

Once you Register your new Mii, you’ll be asked if you want to link it to a Nintendo Network ID, which gives you access to Miiverse (an online service where people from across the world meet up using their Mii characters), Nintendo eShop (View information and videos for all kinds of software, much of which you can purchase directly), Wii U Chat (make video calls to friends over the Internet), a Friend List (so you can see online status of friends and what games they’re playing), and online features of Wii U games where you can compete with others around the world.

If you choose Yes, you’ll need to enter a lot more information, including a Nintendo Network ID (not necessarily the same as your Mii nickname), as well as your full date of birth, email address and whether you want to receive commercial email from Nintendo. You’ll be sent a confirmation email containing a 6-digit code that you’ll need to enter.

At this point I understood what it meant in the beginning–I’m guessing that now that I have a Nintendo Network ID I can take it to any other Wii U by creating a new Mii and choosing “Add User From an Existing Nintendo Network ID”. Your Mii and your Nintendo Network ID will be linked at this point, and you’ll be able to access online features.

There are, of course, parental controls so that parents can restrict kids from using certain software, visiting Web sites, etc.

A screen appeared which said that the Wii U is set to power down automatically if left unused for 1-hour. You can change this setting in System Settings.

Another screen explained that the five colored icons on the bottom of the screen were software you can use by connecting to the Internet. It inclues the Miiverse, the eShop, an Internet Browser, the upcoming Nintendo  TVii, and Notifications.

Finally, about two hours after I got started, I got to the Wii U menu, which looks like this on the GamePad. There are pre-set icons for things like NetFlix, Hulu, Amazon Online Video, and YouTube.

wii u main menu

On the TV, it’s a rather confusing screen where you see a bunch of icons, flashing tips, and a bunch of Mii characters roaming around. I guess Nintendo is trying to drive home the fact that the Wii U is meant to connect with others.

You can insert a CD and start playing. You can also access the Wii menu. At this point you’ll be promted to pair your Wii remote with the console. To do this, you click a button that says “pair Wii remote”, and then you’ll press the “sync” button on the controller you want to pair (located in the battery compartment). It took me one shot to pair my MotionPlus controller, a much different story than my old Wii when trying to pair Wiimotes became a futile exercise in button mashing.

pair wii remote

At this point the menu showed up on the TV screen, and the random scene of Miis went to the GamePad. You can press X to swap the menu between the TV and the GamePad.

menu on the TV

You can select Wii menu again, and see the old style Wii menu. While I liked the GamePad, there was something nice about being able to use the Wii remote to navigate again and seeing the old familiar screen, albeit much more sparse than on my Wii. You can fill up the menus with Wii channels again from the Wii Shop Channel, or you can go back to the Wii U menu.

wii menu

Note if you try to access any online features without having linked to a Nintendo Network ID, you’ll get a cryptic error message saying you can’t access that feature. To fix this, simply go back to the Wii U menu and make sure to link your account to a Nintendo Network ID.

At this point I’d been setting up the Wii U for a full three hours. Granted, the time flew by as I was getting acclimated to the Wii U. But if you get one, be prepared to spend a lot of time setting it up before you play your first game.

My first impressions are mostly positive, with a few reservations. First of all, the GamePad is going to be an amazing device. I can see myself playing Wii games on it (freeing up the TV for my wife), and I’m hoping that game developers really make great innovative use out of the second screen. I think it’s actually a bonus that the camera is built into the GamePad versus sitting all the way on the TV like the Xbox and PS3; again, good game developers will figure out very clever things to do with this. The GamePad is a pleasure to use; it’s comfortable to hold and has a beautiful bright picture. I’m hoping that when TVii comes out, it’ll also allow for watching movies from the GamePad.

As you can probably tell from the above, the setup was a bit more grueling than I’d hoped. There are some things that should have been a lot simpler than they were. I’m not exactly sure why they decided to have a separate Wii U menu than Wii menu; presumably they’re setting up the Wii U to be more than just a gaming machine (i.e., the Wii menu) and hoping that we’ll use it as our entertainment hub (i.e., the Wii U menu), but the way they’re going about it just makes it confusing. Also, I suspect a lot of people are not going to figure out how to port their old Miis from their Wiis using System Transfer and will waste a lot of time trying to recreate their beloved Miis.

Of course, the real test will be once I finally start playing games, which I hope will be soon. 🙂


Wii U Launch Date is Today!

Well, Wii U’s have launched as of midnight today. I just got my e-mail notice from Walmart that my pre-order will be coming in a few days, at which point I’ll give you my take from it (of course the Internet is all abuzz with other people reviewing the system, but of course I’ll be doing it from a workout and exercise perspective).

Here again are links to various online retailers selling it. Most are sold out online, but some stores that have in-store stock such as Target and Walmart are showing the systems in-stock or available for pickup sometime this week.

Best Buy: Wii U Basic – White – Wii U Deluxe – Blackicon

GameStop: Wii U Basic – Whiteicon – Wii U Deluxe – Black

K-Mart: Wii U Deluxe – Black

Walmart: Wii U Basic – White – Wii U Deluxe – Black

Sears: Wii U Deluxe – Black

As I wrote earlier, my prediction is that you won’t see the same craziness we say five years ago with the Wii, that we’ll see more supply before Christmas than we did then, and that a lot of these people snapping up systems thinking they’re going to strike it rich are going to be left trying to get rid of them. So if you find one, grab it, but I wouldn’t necessarily advise buying several thinking you’ll make a fortune. I still have a closet full of Zhu Zhu pets that were supposed to make me rich 😛
UPDATE: I’m noticing right away that the white (Basic) set is readily available at a lot of retailers (there were a bunch in stock at a local Toys R Us and Walmart when I was there today). While everyone is clamoring for the black (Deluxe) model, the basic model essentially does everything the Deluxe model does, just with less memory and without the NintendoLand game included.

How I did on my wedding weight loss challenge

So, a lot of you have been asking how I did on my wedding weight loss challenge / ultimatum. For those of you who may not be up on the story, you can read about it from a post I made last June. Long story short, the lovely Lisa (my then-fiancee) gave me a challenge to lose 25 pounds before the wedding. In June, I weighed in at a ridiculous 228 pounds. This was after getting all the way down to 195 after my first Nutrisystem adventure (which took place when this blog started).

If you recall, in June I decided to sign up for Medifast. After about a week or two I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was absolutely, positively disgusting. I had chicken soup that tasted like water with crayons in it (fans of Linus and Lucy will get the reference), I had chocolate brownies were I was literally gnawing off dried chunks of chocolate dust off a paper cup, and I had crunchy bars that tasted like styrofoam with a little sugar on them. Even the best parts of the diet, the shakes, got really old really fast. Needless to say, I tossed what was left of the Medifast.

The one good thing I took away from Medifast (and Nutrisystem) was to set an eating schedule. Now back in my bachelor days it wasn’t uncommon for me to skip breakfast, sometimes skip lunch, and gorge on dinner. In my mind, I figured that skipping two meals would mean I’d lose weight 2/3 faster. But that logic just doesn’t work for a couple reasons. First, my skipping meals I was ruining my body’s metabolism. It was counterintuitive, but by eating less my body would be less efficient at burning calories. Making matter worse, of course, was that I’d snack throughout the day without even realizing it, plus I’d eat an enormous dinner because I thought I’d “earned it”. What Medifast taught me was to eat many small meals throughout the day. But instead of eating their awful food I replaced it with comparable portions of fresh fruit, salads, and even some healthy snacks.

Something else I did was start to include more exercise in my daily life. Where I work in Manhattan is about a 20 minute walk but a 10 minute subway ride to the train station. But I’d find myself walking 5 minutes in the other direction to the subway, and sometimes I’d have to wait 5 minutes for a subway to come. And sometimes the subways were so full that I’d have to skip the first one and wait another 5 minutes for the second. So ironically, I discovered that walking was often faster. Not only that, I realized how cool it was to walk through Manhattan; sometimes I’d take 5th Avenue and pretend I was one of the beautiful people, sometimes I’d walk down 6th and get a fantastic view of the Empire State Building, sometimes I’d walk down 7th and enjoy the hustle and bustle (and occasional free stuff) of Times Square. All the while I’d listen to my favorite podcasts. In other words, I turned what I’d normally think of as a chore to a really fun experience. And of course on weekends and evenings I’d do some NFL Fitness Camp, some Zumba, some Just Dance, and just relax by playing video games and “fooling myself” into getting exercise.

And so the burning question is…did I make it? For the answer, check out a video from my wedding (fast forward to the 17:45 mark)

Video streaming by Ustream

Now those of you who read my blog know that I don’t like posting pictures of myself (on XboxFitness.Org reviews of those annoying Kinect games where they take your picture, I always hide my face by wearing a Ninja outfit). But just for loyal Nutwiisystem readers, I’m showing you my wedding dance, something I would not have pulled off at 228 pounds 🙂

I didn’t get to the target 203, but I came close, at least close enough for Lisa to say “yes” 🙂 And more importantly, I think I learned a lot about diet and exercise. “Fake food diets” are a lot like Dumbo’s “magic feather”. As Timothy The Mouse would say, “the magic feather was just a gag”. What these diets do is “force” you into behavior that you could well be doing on your own. The reason why people go off those diets and gain all the weight back is that they didn’t build their experiences into real habits.

Our grandparents who worked with their hands and worked in the fields needed huge meals, and so they fed them to our parents who fed them to us. Our portion sizes have gotten larger, but our lifestyles have gotten more and more sedentary. It’s no wonder that obesity is so rampant. The media likes to treat obesity as if it’s a medical disease, and in fact it is for a very small percentage of people. But for the vast number of people, it’s just a result of a series of choices of eating more and moving less. Change that equation, and you’ll find yourself losing weight, feeling healthier, and living longer.

I’m still not done with trying to lose weight, and rest assured I’m not done with the Wii either. As new Wii games comes out, I’ll keep reviewing them, and as the Wii U comes out I’ll review that and games for that as well. I have yet to find the “perfect” video game workout, where the workout is so engrossing, fun, and effective that you want to come back every day to play and that you can’t help but get great exercise.

Thanks to all who’ve come on the journey with me, and I hope this has been some inspiration to some of you out there who are struggling with weight loss just like me. Here’s to many more adventures down the road with working out on the Wii!


Where to Get (and Where Not to Get) a Wii U

So like I’m sure a lot of you did, I got an email from Nintendo today announcing that they’ll have a midnight unveiling of the Wii U on Saturday, November 17.

wii u launch

So, I decided to take a walk past the Nintendo Store in New York City. The outside of the store is eerily quiet, sort of like the calm before the storm (and New Yorkers know a thing or two about storms these days).

nintendo store new york city

In front of the store there were a ton of policemen. At first, I wondered if this was because people were actually lining up for the Wii U unveiling already. But I soon realized they were there because One Direction had just left the Today Show stage at Rockefeller Center about two hour earlier.

Still, I did see three guys set up in front of the store, one of whom I assume is Isaiah Triforce-Johnson, who’s become a bit of a minor celebrity in himself by being the first to buy a Wii, a 3DS, and now is going for being the first to get a Wii U. Triforce made a little news lately when all kinds of games press deliberated on whether he’d attempt to ride out Hurricane Sandy (spoiler alert: he didn’t). But good for him, he seems to be back now.

lining up at the Nintendo store

I walked inside the store, which was also eerily empty, but I noticed that they were already setting up for Saturday. There are actual Wii U units (along with GamePad controllers) set up.

wii u set up in nintendo store

The systems were mostly not playable, mainly displaying video demos of launch title games. The exception was a demo version of Rayman Legends (which ironically is no longer a launch title). I was immediately struck by how clear the HDMI video quality was. This is not your old Wii.

The coolest thing was getting a feel for the GamePad controller. It’s going to take a little getting used to in terms of something to use for everyday play, as it’s not small; it’s about the size of a small tissue box. You hold it in two hands, and control the left joystick and arrow keys with one hand and the right joystick and the buttons with the other hand. The picture quality on the GamePad was phenomenal, and the latency seemed almost non-existent. I get the sense that it’ll take a little time before game developers figure out how to develop for it (it was doing stuff during gameplay of Rayman, but in all honesty I didn’t pay much attention to it).

It looks like motion games will be alive and well on the Wii U. As I’ve written in past posts, the launch titles will include Your Shape 2013 and Just Dance 4. Wii Fit U’s launch date is a little later (sometime before March 2013), presumably a decision by the marketing department to keep interest in the Wii U high after the initial flurry of activity.

And now the burning question: how do YOU get your hands on a Wii U? Unless you’re feeling like coming to the City and standing on line, at this point my best advice is to just keep checking online to see when the one you want comes back in stock. Here are direct links to the product pages for each version of the Wii U:

Best Buy: Wii U Basic – WhiteWii U Deluxe – Blackicon

GameStop: Wii U Basic – Whiteicon – Wii U Deluxe – Black

K-Mart: Wii U Deluxe – Black

Walmart: Wii U Basic – WhiteWii U Deluxe – Black

Sears: Wii U Deluxe – Black

As I’ve mentioned in several previous posts, all pre-orders of the Wii U have sold out and don’t look like they’re coming back before launch day. But I have a prediction…I have a feeling that a LOT of the units that were sold were bought by people who don’t intend to use them, but who think they’re going to get rich by reselling theirs. And furthermore, I dont think Nintendo is about to repeat the same mistakes they made in the initial launch of the Wii where stores went for months without units.
Right now, you can supposedly find the Wii U “in stock” on eBay and on Amazon. There are a couple reasons you do NOT want to buy from either, at least right now. The first reason is that these are third-party sellers and not authorized retailers, so chances are they’re waiting on line to get their Wii U’s right along with everyone else.
So my suggestion is to wait it out. Watch the prices on eBay and Amazon–they’re going to start out ridiculously high (and some suckers will bite), but I predict that they’ll drop precipitously as demand starts to lag behind supply, my guess is by Christmas you’ll see units back in stock and by January next year you’ll see store shelves stocked full of them. Just a hunch.