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Archive for September, 2013

Review of Wii Street U, now supporting the Wii Balance Board!

A few days I mentioned the announcement from Nintendo that Wii Street U would be updated to use the Wii Balance Board to let you walk around the streets of anywhere in the world that has been captured on Google Maps Street View using the Wii Balance Board. What I didn’t realize as I was writing this was that the update has already happened!

The updated Wii Street U from the Nintendo eShop is available for download onto your Wii U for $4.99. To find it, just go to the eShop and type “Wii Street” in the upper right-hand corner of your GamePad. You’ll see an option called “Wii Steeet U™ powered by Google™”.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Go to Nintendo eShop and download Wii Street U to your Wii U
  2. Dust off that old Balance Board, and put fresh AA batteries in
  3. Load up Wii Street U. After the intro screen, you’ll be asked if you want to use the GamePad or to use the Balance Board. Press “X” to use the Balance Board.
  4. If you’ve never synced your Balance Board with your Wii U, you’ll need to do that now. Just power the Balance Board on, press the small red button in the battery compartment of the Balance Board, press the small red button in the front of the Wii U, and wait until the blue power light on the Balance Board stops flashing and becomes solid
  5. You’ll be asked to set up the Balance Board. Thankfully, they’ve made the process a lot faster than it’s been in the past. Just press “A”, step on the board when it tells you to, and you’re done.

You’ll then be dropped on the streets of Paris your first time using this software. You can literally “walk” on the Balance Board to start walking on the street. Happily, the software isn’t as picky as it’s been in the past at warning you not to “run” on the Balance Board…I was able to walk and even do some light jogging without getting the annoying “don’t run on the Balance Board” message.

Having said that, the Balance Board is still fragile equipment, so I’d still exercise some caution.  If you want to walk quickly or even do some light jogging, I’d strong suggest you don’t wear shoes of any kind and never jump on the Board–instead, lightly place the ball of your foot on the surface and gently place pressure with your heel. You’ll still get some great exercise, and you’ll ensure the Balance Board stays functional for a long, long time.

Granted, the experience is a bit herky-jerky, as the images are pulled from Google Maps Street View, and because Google didn’t take continuous video of the streets it won’t feel exactly like virtual reality. But if you’d said to someone even five years ago that you could tour streets in Europe, North America, and Asia by walking in your living room, they’d have had you committed.

What’s even cooler is that on the Wii U Gamepad, you can view a street map of the area you’re “visiting”. You can also use the left joystick to look around, up, down, left or right.

map view of wii street u

When you reach an intersection, you can lean left or right to change your direction. I couldn’t get this to work all the time, but happily, you can also turn using the cross directional keys on the Gamepad as well.

The fun starts when you access the menu by pressing “Y”

wii street u menu

The first menu option (Recommended) provides a number of “recommended” areas to try:

  1. Waikiki, Hawaii, United States
  2. Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan
  3. Monte Carlo, Monaco
  4. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  5. The White House, Washington DC, United States
  6. Livingston Island, Antarctica
  7. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, United States
  8. Daigo-ji, Kyoto, Japan
  9. Florence, Italy
  10. Yosemite National Park, California, United States
  11. Dubrovnik, Croatia
  12. New Delhi, India
  13. Jigokudani Hot Springs, Japan
  14. Stonehenge, Wiltshire, United Kingdom
  15. Sydney, Australia
  16. Manza Beach, Okinawa, Japan
  17. Paris, France
  18. Times Square, New York, United States
  19. Fushimi Inari-Taisha, Kyoto, Japan
  20. Barcelona, Spain
  21. The South Pole, Antarctica
  22. Japan Mint, Osaka, Japan
  23. Los Angeles, California, United States
  24. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  25. Akiyoshido, Yamaguchi, Japan

There are a total of 96 suggested places to go visit.

Furthermore, because it’s powered by Google Maps, you can visit ANYWHERE in the world that Google’s cameras have been to. Want to see your old elementary school? How about the house you lived in as a kid? It’s all there. Just click “Search for a Place” and type in an address. You can also add any place to your Favorites.

“Street View Guide” lets you turn on and off the blue “guide” lines that let you know if a street is covered by Google Maps. You can also select street map view or satellite view for map type. Finally, you can even view the current weather on any street you’re walking on.

I was wondering if there’d be a day when Google Street View would be hooked up to a video game to allow you to virtually walk the streets of the world, and happily, that day has come. While this has been released as a free app without much fanfare, for me it’s one of the most promising examples of video game fitness software out there. I admit, I’m the kind of person who can’t watch TV or read a book while exercising, as my brain just can’t focus on both things. But with the new Wii Street U, you can literally spend hours exploring the streets of the world and getting great exercise all in the comfort of your home.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again–with the trimvurate of Wii Street U supporting the Balance Board, Wii Fit U being released as a free trial and the ability to upgrade to the full version with the purchase of a $19 Fit Meter, and the announcement of Wii Sports Club which will finally modernize Wii Sports for the MotionPlus controller (boxing and tennis are still among the best video game exercises after all these years), it’s clear that Nintendo is still serious about fitness gaming.

I rarely “review” free games, but this one gets a 4 out of 5 for sheer enjoyment and exercise value, and a 10 out of 5 for potential 🙂

Using a Gamecube Controller on the Wii U (tested on DDR Dance Pad, Cyberbike, and Active Life Game Pads)

Here is news I’ve been waiting for for a long time. A company called Mayflash has released a converter that lets you use Gamecube Controllers on the Wii called the Mayflash Nintendo GameCube Controller Adapter for Wii/Wii U.

Gamecube controllers have plugs that look like this, that used to plug into one of four GameCube sockets on the top of the original Wii.

gamecube controller plug

In later versions of the Wii, they quietly took away these sockets, and of course they weren’t in the Wii U when it was released. So if you’re like me and had peripherals that used GameCube plugs, anything from Dance Dance Revolution dance pads to Active Life Outdoor Challenge, Explorer, Carnival, or Extreme action pads, to the Cyberbike bike controller, suddenly you were all out of luck. If you upgraded to a Wii U, you either had to keep your old Wii around to play games that used these, or you had to toss them.

With the Mayflash Adapter, you can supposedly use these controllers with the Wii U.

But does it actually work? I put it to the test.

Installing it is simple. You plug your old Gamecube plug into one end…


…and then you plug the other end into a Wii remote (Note: not the Wii U unit)

plug gamecube adapter into wii remote

The first one I tried it with was my Dance Dance Revolution pad. I popped in my old copy of Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 3 and plugged in the dance pad.

I was hopeful when I saw that the up, left, up, and down arrows seemed to work fine when making menu selections. But dancing itself was a little more spotty. DDR would recognize the “up” and “left” arrows perfectly, but was hit or miss on the “down” and right” arrows. The best I could score on “Ice Ice Baby” was a “C” on Basic. I tried two dance pads and this happened in both cases.

After a little trial and error, I realized that the problem occured most consistently if I had my foot pressed down on another arrow while trying to press “down” or “right”, which of course happens all the time when you play DDR the “right” way. I tried the same dance again, making sure that I always had only one foot down on the dance page at all times. I ended up looking like one of those Irish tap dancers but I did score a AA with a nearly flawless score.

So my experience with DDR was quite mixed. It’s possible and sort of works, but it’s certainly not 100%.

Next, I tried using Active Life: Outdoor Challenge with the Active Life Pad. This didn’t work at all–the game wouldn’t even recgnize the mat at all.

Finally, I tried my Cyberbike. As with Active Life Outdoor Challenge, the Cyberbike Cycling Sports game didn’t even recognize the controller. It only gave the option of playing with the Wii remote and a nunchuk.

But then I put the bike into “Gamecube Mode” and tried Mario Kart Wii. Happily, this worked perfectly. Steering worked great and all the Gamecube buttons worked fine.

Overall, it looks like the Gamecube adapter works pretty well for games and accessories that use the traditional, basic Gamecube controllers. But unfortunately, it looks like the specific functionality was spotty for accessories that were a little more complex. Even more unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like Konami, Namco Bandai, or Big Ben are in any rush to officially update their products, so your only way to keep playing a lot of them is to hold on to your Wii even after you update to the Wii U. As I’ve suggested in past posts, something some people are doing is putting their Wii U in their family rooms or dens, and putting their old TVs and old Wiis into a spare room to serve as an exercise room.

If you have a Cyberbike or want to use an old Gamecube classic controller, I’d say it’s definitely worth getting the Mayflash controller. But with DDR and Active Life, it’s probably not worth it.

The controller is available at Amazon here:

Mayflash Nintendo GameCube Controller Adapter for Wii/Wii U.

Free Trial of Wii Fit U for Wii Balance Board Owners, plus new fitness game developments from Nintendo

Looks like Nintendo really, really wants those of us with a Wii U and a Balance Board to try out Wii Fit U, which FINALLY looks like it has a release date (actually, more like three of them).

On Friday, November 1, Nintendo is going to release a “free digital version” on the Nintendo eShop. The game will be good for 31 days after you download and first play it. It’ll be a limited-feature version of the game; for example, it won’t support the Fit Meter until you unlock it (see below).

The Fit Meter is essentially Nintendo’s version of a Fitbit that will integrate with the Wii to track your calories burned throughout the day and while playing Wii Fit U. The Fit Meter is something you carry around with you that measures your steps, movement intensity, and altitude (i.e., climbing stairs, climbing a mountain, etc.).  It’s available in black, red, and green starting on November 1.


On Friday, December 13, Nintendo will launch the “packaged version”, which will include the Wii Fit U, the Fit Meter, and a Balance Board, for those who don’t already own a Balance Board.


For those who do, and prefer physical software to downloadable, they’ll have a version that includes the software and the Fit Meter.


Here’s a deal that sounds almost too good to be true: if you already have a Balance Board, and install the free version between November 1, 2013 and January 31, 2014, then whenever you purchase the Fit Meter by itself for $19.99 and start using it, that’ll unlock the game you’ll get to continue using it for free forever (it won’t be disabled after 31 days). I presume this means it’ll also unlock the Fit Meter capabilities of the game at that point, turning the free trial version into a full version (the downloadable version of the full game goes for sale at full price on February 1, 2014 once the promotion period is over).

Fit Meter - Like a FitBit for the WIi


Wii Fit U looks really, really promising. There are 77 different activities, including 19 new training activities, some of which take advantage of the Wii U gamepad.


There’s also the ability to set up “gym communities” where you can work out and share goals with friends and family.


The Fit Meter also looks like it’ll be pretty cool. It’s much more than a pedometer. It’ll track your activity through the day, including your level of exertion at any given time, as well as your altitude. When you sync it to Wii Fit U through your Gamepad, you’ll see a graph of your daily activity. There’s a pretty slick demo of it if you watch through Nintendo’s announcement video.

Bottom line, I think anyone with a Wii U and an old Wii Balance Board should jump at the chance to download the Wii Fit U free trial and buy a Fit Meter if they can find one on November 1 (I don’t see preorders yet on any of the usual sites, but I’ll post them once I do).

Nintendo’s press release also mentioned two other cool games that might just help Wii Fit U breathe new life into the Wii U as an fitness platform.

The first game is an updated of Wii Sports called “Wii Sports Club”. This will be exclusively downloadable via the Wii U eShop, and will support not just the higher resolution graphics of the Wii U, but also online multiplayer and much more precise controls than the original Wii Sports. It’s the same set of sports as Wii Sports (bowling, tennis, baseball, foxing, and golf), and you’ll only be able to buy one sport at a time. Only bowling and tennis will be available on launch date (first week of November), and other sports will be coming later. There will be two pricing options: each sport will cost $9.99 to buy permanently, or you can buy a “one-day pass” to unlock all sports for unlimited play for 24 hours for $1.99. While some may scoff at the thought of paying for a 5 year-old game, I have a feeling that the ability to play online against others, as well as the social aspects of joining these virtual “sports clubs”, will breathe new life into these games (which incidentally have always been pretty good for fitness).

The second game isn’t really a game–it’s called “Wii Street Powered by Google”. Basically, Wii Street (which I always misread as “Wall Street”) as it does today will allow you to view Google Maps Street View images It will be improved with Balance Board support so that you can virtually walk any street in the world just by stepping on the Balance Board. It’s a brilliant idea, and here’s hoping that they execute it well. Supposedly, this is only free for download until October 31, 2013–unclear whether they’ll remove it or start charging for it after that, but get in while you can!

Clearly, Nintendo is hoping that Wii Sports Club and Wii Fit U help them recapture the magic of the original Wii Sports and Wii Fit. From an exergaming perspective, I’m very glad to see them back in the game, and have high hopes for all three of these.