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The Apple Watch Series 2 – The top 10 to know for fitness enthusiasts

Fastidious readers of this blog may remember that back when they announced the first Apple Watch two years ago I made myself a resolution to get one and to review it. That resolution sort of went by the wayside. I actually did get one at one point, but amid a fit of buyer’s remorse and some false rumors that they were going to release a new model imminently, I decided to return it never having opened it. I also learned my lesson from decades of buying Apple products to always wait for the Generation 2 model–this practice has served me well with my Apple //e (vs. the Apple ][ Plus), my Mac SE/30 (vs. the Mac Plus), my second-generation iPod, and my first iPhone 4.

Today, Tim Cook, in his usual imitation of Steve Jobs magniloquence, announced the Apple Watch Series 2. It looks like a winner. Here are some of the highlights from an exercise and fitness perspective.

  1. It’s water-resistant up to 50 meters. Yes, now you can dive into the pool wearing your Apple Watch, or even take a shower with it on. While the watch has always been good at tracking calories burned while running, as part of this Watch Apple has developed two swimming workouts which they say will accurately measure your calories burned while swimming. They’ve also designed the speaker hardware to repel water that gets into it.
  2. It’s faster. They’ve upgraded just about every part of the watch, from the CPU to the RAM to the storage, wireless speed, and motion control accuracy. They say that it’s going to be at least 2x faster than the first Apple Watch.
  3. It’s brighter. On those bright sunny days you won’t need to squint as much to see your watch face–the new display is at least 2x brighter than it was before.
  4. apple watch gpsIt has GPS. Unlike the old phone that depending on your iPhone for GPS (which helped run the battery down faster), this new watch will have GPS built-in, meaning that you can track your distance and route without being tethered to your phone or even needing to take your phone out on runs. Apple also claims that the watch’s GPS unit connects to satellites faster than most other devices. Also, Apple announced a hiking app called ViewRanger that will help prevent you from getting lost (assuming that the watch battery doesn’t give out before you do).
  5. nike+ apple watchApple and Nike+ have decided to work together. There’ll be a separate version of the Apple Watch called the Apple Watch Nike Plus which will have some bells and whistles that may be of  interest to runners. The watch will be in the Nike+ style of yellow and black. It’ll have a bold new interface that displays your distance and pace, as well as the current weather and the time since your last run.Nike will also introduce a new feature called “Just Do It Sundays” which will encourage everyone in the world (who has an Apple Watch Nike Plus) to run. Honestly, IMO the watch is a bit of an eyesore, and this all seems a bit more like marketing hype to me than anything particularly innovative, but if you’re a Nike+ fan already or were an avid user of the dearly departed FuelBand, it might be worth it to you to pay the premium to recapture some of that FuelBand magic that FitBit stole.
  6. pokemon go on apple watchWatchOS 3 is coming, and with it–Pokemon GO. I haven’t posted much about Pokemon GO since my review when it first came out, but I will post something in the coming weeks because frankly, it’s changed my life–for the better. According to my iPhone Health app, I’m averaging about 4.54 miles a day walking for the month–when before Pokemon GO came out I maybe averaged a mile a day.The Pokemon GO app will help you play the game without having your head buried in your phone. You’ll be able to see the number of steps you need to hatch an egg, tap and swipe on your watch to collect items from Pokestops, all without having the app on your phone open.
  7. heart rate on apple watchIt has an improved heart rate sensor. As you’re working out you’ll see your heart’s beats-per-minute and they’ll be captured on a graph for you. This will help you determine for any given workout if you’ve entered the so-called “aerobic zone” with a sustained elevated heartrate, and will also let you see the history of your workouts. It’ll also give a continuous history of your heartrate that can help you help your doctor get a more complete view of your health at your next checkup.
  8. apple watch activity ringsThe Activity Rings are back. As with the original Apple Watch, the Watch Series 2 will track all your movement during the day, whether walking, running to the train, at the gym, and yes, working out with your Wii. If you’ve been sitting too long or are behind in your exercise, you can get the Watch to give you a nudge to get you to stand, start moving, or do your daily exercise. What’s cool is that you don’t need to necessarily block out a full half hour to exercise every day–the Watch will tell you cumulatively how much exercise you’ve done all day.
  9. breathe appBreathe! At first I though this was just a bunch of hype, but something we all take for granted, especially as we go through stressful days, is our breathing patterns. This is something that Eastern workout regimens pay close attention to but Western ones seem to ignore. But when you think about it, proper breathing is a key to great exercise–and feeling better in general. Your body needs oxygen, and when you get into the habits of improper breathing (yes, there is such a thing), you can deplete your body of oxygen and make your whole body run less efficiently. This is something even more critical as you’re working out, when every part of your body needs oxygen. This is one I’m looking forward to trying.
  10. The news of the Apple Watch’s demise are greatly exagerrated. Tim Cook mentioned that Apple is now the #2 watch seller, just behind Rolex and in front of companies like Fossil. It’s honestly a bit of a misleading comparison–I don’t think too many people are buying a new Rolex every 2 years because the old one is outdated. Still, it’s a good reminder that Apple has managed to open up a whole new market for watches with Gen X and Gen Yers who haven’t worn a watch since they were kids or Millennials who have no idea what a watch is.

Unfortunately, the most anticipated thing on the Apple Watch Series 2 wishlist–a longer battery life–looks like it’s not happening. Apple didn’t even reference it in their announcement. While the Watch will have a bigger battery, whatever increased capacity will like be eaten up by the new GPS chip. So continue to plan for charging your Watch at least every 18 hours. Forget to plug it in one night before you go to bed, and you’re out of luck for your morning commute.

For my part, I’m going to live up to that promise I made two years ago and try to pre-order my watch on September 9. Whenever it comes, I’ll do the full unboxing here and take you through all the fitness capabilities.

Why I’m going with the Playstation VR for Virtual Reality Gaming

We’ve talked about this a little before, but the next big thing in gaming looks like it’s going to be virtual reality gaming. And like every other big new technology, from Betamax vs. VHS to HD DVD vs. Blu-ray to Mac vs. PC to Playstation vs. Xbox to Android vs. iOS, this is going to be one heck of a fight for supremacy.

Virtual Reality is the next logic step in gaming. As someone who’s used the Xbox 360 and the PS3, I honestly wasn’t super impressed with the Xbox One and the PS4; the specs were certainly much more impressive but the gameplay really wasn’t that different.

Microsoft, in particular, put a ton of eggs in the Kinect basket, hoping to force the same excitement on the masses that Nintendo created with the Wii, but a lot of that egg just ended up on their face. I think the industry made the incorrect conclusion that users just didn’t like motion gaming anymore, but the truth is that game developers just wouldn’t–or couldn’t–put out high quality games that used motion controls to their fullest potential.

VR has the potential to change all that. With console games today, you can roam virtual worlds but you’re still watching that world on a flat screen. Virtual reality is going to let you put on a pair of glasses and stand in the middle of that world, looking up, down, left, and right to see the entire scene around you. I had the opportunity to try a few demos over the years, and

The contenders are Facebook with Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR. And all three are launching this year. The first two are going to require pretty advanced gaming desktop PCs (no laptops), while the third will, of course, require a Playstation 4 (or if the speculation the media’s making is correct, a “Playstation 4.5” with more advanced specs than the currently PS4).

First, let’s get this out of the way. They all look ridiculous. Generations from now kids will look at pictures of grown adults wearing these things and laughing at them, just as they laughed at the guys in the 1970’s with their brick-sized car phones.

But just as those guys in the polyester suits didn’t care how they looked as long as they were talking to someone in a moving car, chances are you won’t mind how ridiculous you look once you experience virtual reality.

 

htc vive headset
By just about all accounts, the HTC Vive has the most impressive technologically. It comes with two base stations called “Lighthouses” which will provide the most immersive experience, as you’ll be able to walk around your room to play (it’ll work within a 15 feet by 15 feet). This probably means that the Vive is going to be the best equipped to handle fitness-style games. Its headset will have a front-facing camera, along with an accelerometer and gyroscope and will come with two wand-like controllers. It’ll have a resolution of 1080 x 1200 per eye and a field of view of about 110 degrees, the widest of all the units. It’ll be launching in May at a price of $799, but the real price is going to be upgrading or buying a new gaming PC, which will be a minimum of about $1000.

oculus_rift2The Oculus Rift is the one that started all the hype. In 2012 they started a Kickstarter campaign to fund their fledgling project and by 2014 the deep pockets of Facebook bought them up. Like many others, the Oculus was the one I wanted at first. It’ll sell for $599, but again you need a powerful gaming PC to run it. Like the Vive it’ll have 1080 x 1200 resolution per eye. Unlike HTC’s two sensors, the Oculus come with just one external sensor.

While it’s been hyped up over time–and the hype will only get bigger given the megaphone that Facebook has–the fact that it only track body movements of the head and upper torso and uses an antediluvian Xbox controller makes it seem almost outdated before it even launches (although it’ll beat everyone to the punch with a launch date of March 28).

playstation-vr-1The Playstation VR is Sony’s entrant into the field. The difference with the PSVR is that it’ll work with the Playstation 4, so if you don’t already have a gaming PC you’d just need to spend $300 or so to get a PS4, and then another $499 to get the PSVR bundle which includes the headset, Move controllers, and a PS4 camera. With resolution of 960 x 1080 per eye PSVR’s specs aren’t as impressive as either of its PC competitors, but on the other hand it’s higher refresh rate will likely make for smoother images, something that might help with motion sickness. From a pricing perspective it’s a clear winner–you’re talking a grand total investment of under $800 to experience VR on the PS4 vs. $1600-$1800 to get a fully equipped PC.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe the VirZoom is going to be the “killer app” for virtual reality fitness, and happily it’ll support all three systems. Pricing is the main reason I’ll be going with a PS4–the slight difference in resolution quality doesn’t justify an extra expense of $1000+ to me. The rumor that the PS4 will reportedly handle 4K Blu-Ray around the time the PSVR launches is another plus (I’ve actually never owned a standalone Blu-Ray player because my trusty PS3 has been able to play regular and 3D Blu-Rays for years). Finally, if this VR thing turns out to be a total dud, at the very least I’ll have a PS4 to play with vs. a gargantuan PC I won’t need, given that I do all my PC work on an old Windows laptop and a MacBook Pro.

So that’s the latest. If you’re looking to order the Oculus Rift, you can do so here. HTC Vive pre-orders are happening right now here. And the PSVR just went up for pre-order at retailers like Amazon and Best Buyicon. Whatever you choose, it’s going to be a great new way to experience gaming, and with apps like VirZoom, a great new way to work out.

Virtual Reality Exergaming is About to Become Very Real @VirZOOM #VirtualReality

We have seen the future of Exergaming, and it is…VirZoom

As promised, I’ll be posting my belated experiences with using the Apple Watch as a FitBit alternative shortly (I did order my Watch on Black Friday but I’ve been so busy at work it’s just been sitting in the box).

But rather than being a laggard in posting stuff about 7 month old technology, I have the extreme pleasure of being one of the first to tell you about the next big thing for exercise fitness and exergaming. It’s something called VirZoom. And having tried it in person a few weeks ago, it is AMAZING (in fact, I’ve been chomping at the bit to share my experience with you, but because the announcement was embargoed I’ve had to stay quiet…until now).

Since I started this blog you’ve heard me say that the best exergames are the ones where you’re having so much fun you don’t even realize you’re getting a workout. We’ve come close over the years. The balance exercises in Wii Fit and Wii Fit U, the live action fighting in Kung Fu Live on the Xbox 360, and of course the dancing in games from DDR to Just Dance.

As you probably know, next year we’re about to see the next big step in gaming. The Oculus Rift, after years of being hyped up, will finally be released. Not far behind is Sony’s Playstation VR which will be an add-on to the PS4 (hopefully managed a little better than the Playstation Move). And the HTC Hive will also be in the mix.

When I tried an Oculus a few years ago at a demo at the US Tennis Open, I honestly wasn’t very impressed. Yes, you could look up, down, left, and right but it seemed more like a gimmick than anything that I’d eventually pay thousands of dollars for when you factor in the console and all the games.

A few weeks ago I was invited to demo something called VirZoom, and as a bonus I got to demo it on a pre-production Playstation VR. And as someone who’s been following exergaming since the days of My Fitness Coach and DDR, I can say that the dream of having a full immersive exercise experience is finally here.

What is VirZoom? Well, on the surface it’s an exercise bike.

virzoom exercise bike

I know what a lot of you are thinking. That looks a heck of a lot like an old a Cyberbike. But that’s like saying that a Lamborghini is like a Model T.

The bike itself feels great. It’s light enough to carry and ship without am army of people to lift it, but it feels solid to ride. Unlike the Cyberbike (which felt like a rock against your posterior and seemed like it was going to fall apart at any second), the VirZoom bike was comfortable and had decent resistance when pedaling.

But what set this experience apart was when I put on the Playstation VR glasses. They ran me through a couple different games, most of which can be seen in this gameplay reel.

What this video doesn’t capture is that you don’t just see the screen in front of you, but you can turn your head up, down, left, and right and be immersed in the scene.

All the games were from a first person POV. In the first game, I felt like I was riding a horse. I could look around the whole scene and see an entire Old West town, and as I pedaled faster the horse I was on would gallop faster. Once I got over the initial “this is cool” factor, I focused in on the task of lassoing the bad guys, which felt incredibly realistic. And yes, by the time I lassoed all of them I didn’t even realize I’d pedaled a decent amount.

The next demo had me driving a racecar. While you might think pedaling at 12 MPH to control a race car at 200 MPH would be disconcerting, it felt strangely natural.

They saved the best game for last–one when you’re on a Pegasus. You start off on a road at the edge of a cliff and then ride your horse off a cliff, at which point you realize you’re flying through the air. The sensation of looking down at the earth far below was stunning.

A few things surprised me. First, I was surprised at how comfortable the glasses felt–they were a bit bulky but certainly stayed on my head securely.

The credentials of the team who developed this system are impressive. The co-founder served as the head tech engineer for Harmonix. One of the developers led the development of the accelerometer that made the WiiMote possible. As brilliant as these guys are technically, their most brilliant move is probably getting in on the ground floor of what will be one of the “killer applications” for VR.

I just had a quick 20 minute look at this, but from my gushing you can probably tell I was impressed. If you want to get in on the ground floor of something big, head on over to their Web site at http://www.virzoom.com/. They’ll be selling the first 300 units at $199.95, which I suspect will go quickly. The regular price will be $249.95, which is an amazing price point for new technology.

Of course, you’ll need to wait until the Oculus, Playstation VR, or HTC Vive to actually use it (the VirZoom will ship in the first half of 2016, presumably after these manufacturers release the products for general availability).

Needless to say, just as exergaming itself is evolving, I’ll be looking forward to providing you with updates as these products go live. To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the death of video game fitness are greatly exaggerated.

More on this in the first half of 2016!

What Watch? 10 Watch! Such Much?

Well, sadly the world of Wii exercise games has all but dried up. The good news is that there’s a very healthy aftermarket, and a lot of the games on our list of best Wii games and best Wii U games are available from Amazon or eBay resellers at very affordable prices.

In looking around for the “next big thing” in fitness gaming, naturally the Apple Watch caught my attention. Now granted there are going to be a huge number of annoying elitist-types who buy the watch just to be seen with it. And Apple is getting just a little annoying with its pretentiousness (really, a 5-minute speech on its space-age “alu-min-ium”?) But looking beyond all that, the one thing I can’t dispute is that Apple’s always helped make my life better, from my first Apple //e in the 1980s to my first Mac SE/30 and Powerbook in the 1990s, to my first iPod in the 2000s to the iPhone I have today. And if spending a ridiculous amount of money on a watch is going to help me track my fitness better and turn my everyday activities into a “video game”, maybe I’ll give it a shot.

apple watch heart rate sensorOne of the more impressive features of the new watch is going to be its heart rate sensor. There’s a reason the doctor uses your wrist to check your pulse. This watch uses different diodes to detect your heart rate and let you view it at a glance on your watch. One of the things I’ve mentioned a lot on this blog is the importance of getting into the “aerobic zone” when working out, and this will help. I’ve held off on Jawbones and Fitbits and Nike+ sensors in the past, but this is one I might finally bite on.

Something else I like about this watch is that it has a built-in GPS. Right now when I’m biking with my phone in my pocket, my favorite apps like Runtastic Road Bike PRO frequently lose their signal, so what should be a nice 3-mile plot of my bike trail ends up being about 20 feet. Hopefully with the open-air watch it should improve the tracking.

The one thing I’m a little skeptical of is the accelerometer. I can see how the Wii Fit U Meter tracks my steps by being on my hip, but will something on my wrist do it as accurately? If and when I get a hold of a watch, I’ll be sure to do a comparison.

apple watch fitnessBut perhaps the most exciting this about this watch how it can “gamify” your life. You can see some examples of this on Apple’s site. Specifically, one of the apps is going to be a bullseye chart with rings called “Move”, “Exercise” and “Stand” that will let you see at glance exactly how sedentary your life is. Simple things like standing up can give you “credits’ that’ll change your profile. Each week, the Watch can suggest a “Move goal” for how much you’ll want to be moving during the week. And if you’re exercising at any pace of a brisk walk or more, that activity will be tracked as “Exercise”, and with 30 minutes of exercise a day you’ll close that ring. Your little watch screen will show things like your goals, updates, and at the end a summary of how much you’ve “worked out” in a day, whether as literal exercise or as part of your daily routine. In other words, your life becomes a video game, with goals, rewards, and statuses right on your wrist.

As much hype as the watch is getting, I also foresee some problems with it. It’s going to be so bulky that you wonder if there’ll be the same backlash against users of the watch that befell Google Glass early adopters. The battery life is going to be woefully short. And of course, a lot of people will find it annoying that you need to have an iPhone 6 to use it. We’ll see if any of that affects its sales.

The Apple Watch goes on sale on April 24, and reportedly goes on pre-sale on April 10. Hopefully by taking orders earlier Apple will be able to avoid the inventory issues it’s had in the past. If I manage to get a hold of one, I’ll of course post the grisly details here about how you can incorporate it into fitness and exercise.

And don’t worry, I still have my Wii and my Wii U, am continuing to play those fitness games, and will continue to do so for the long haul 🙂

The End of Club Nintendo – How to Top Off Points

Sadly, after many years Nintendo has decided to shutter Club Nintendo, at least in North America. This was the club that let you enter those numbers you find on the red inserts inside Nintendo games and trade them in for prizes and downloadable games.

The North America club was always a bit of a disappointment compared to its siblings in Europe and Asia. For example, you often heard of those clubs giving prizes like gold controllers and trophies which quite commonly resell on eBay for hundreds of dollars. In the US, I’ve been qualifying for Platinum status every year given all the Wii fitness games I’ve bought over the years, and yet the best we ever did was a Super Mario statue–the rest of the “prizes” were mostly forgettable calendars and nicknacks.

Perhaps because they realize that their North America fans haven’t gotten the best of treatment, they went all out and have a ton of physical goods and downloadable games to choose from to use up whatever points you have. Of particular interest to this blog is Wii Fit U, which is available for 600 points.

If find yourself short on points, the good folks at Reddit have identified a few demos on the 3DS and Wii U that are free but will still net you points. They are:

  • Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball (3DS) – 5 points for registration, 10 points for post-play survey
  • Pokemon Bank (3DS) – 5 points for registration, 10 points for post-play survey
  • Steel Diver: Sub Wars (3DS) – 5 points for registration, 10 points for post-play survey
  • Lucadian Chronicles (Wii U) – 10 points for post-play survey
  • Zen Pinball 2 (Wii U) – 10 points for post-play survey

Since points earning ends on 3/31 and it takes about a week for the post-play survey to appear after downloading, you need to get in by around 3/20 to get these points locked in before it all ends. If you’re in a 3DS make sure it’s linked to your Club Nintendo account.

Unlike in the past, the physical goods aren’t disappearing right away–they did a smart thing and instead of producing a limited inventory that gets wiped out right away, they let people pre-order the goods so they can manufacture them to demand. What a concept, eh? The good news is that if you’re a fan you’ll definitely get a physical good (I ordered a Mario T-Shirt); the bad news is that if you want to resell it on eBay there’ll probably be a glut of these so the resell value will be lower than the exorbitant resale values of other physical goods.

Sorry to see it go, it was a nice program. But hopefully they’ll replace it with something better.

Confirmed: The Wii U GameCube Controller Adapter will not work on DDR, Active Life, or Cyberbike

Over the past few months, Nintendo has been a little cagey about whether their GameCube Controller Adapter for Super Smash Bros. would work with other games. For purposes of those of us who use the Wii for exercise, that would open up a whole lot of Wii games for our use–the Dance Dance Revolution series, Active Life series, and Cyberbike games.

For a brief period of time they were hinting that it’d work on everything, but in recent months they’ve been very, very careful to say that it would only work with Super Smash Bros. Still a lot of us had been holding out hope that this was just an exercise in “CYA”–that the adapter would still work on other games but they gave us these disclaimers so they didn’t have to support them if they didn’t.

Yesterday, my some miracle I got my hands on one at the Nintendo Store in New York.

gamecube controller adapter box

Sadly, but not surprisingly, I confirmed that it’s true–for the time being at least, it will NOT work on games other than Wii U games that have a GameCube icon, and right now that just applies to one game: Super Smash Bros for Wii U. Officially, here’s what their manual says:

gamecube adapter manual

This accessory is only for use on the Wii U console with Nintendo GameCube or Nintendo GameCube WaveBird wireless controllers. It cannot be used with any other controllers, accessories, or devices such as computers.

You must use Wii U software that supports Nintendo GameCube controllers or the WaveBird wireless controller. Look for this icon on game packaging for games that are designed to be used with this accessory. This accessory is not compatible with Wii software.

So unlike other “adapters” like the one you use to convert, say, HDMI to DVI or USB to Ethernet, it looks like the GameCube adapter isn’t capable of having a simple adapter that just plugs and plays. Support for it needs to be written into the software.

Here’s specifically how I went about testing:

First, the adapter itself looks like it’s really well made. It feels solid and is black with an embossed Wii U logo. On one side are four GameCube controller ports, while the other side consists of two USB plugs, one grey and one black. The additional plug is needed the enable things that need extra power like rumble and WaveBird wireless ability.

wii u gamecube controller adapter

You start by plugging the USB plugs into the Wii U.

gamecube adapter USB plugs

One thing I found interesting was that if you have two GameCube adapters, you can actually plug one of them into the two USB ports in back and the other into the two USB ports in front, and you’ll support up to 8 players for games that support that (which, again, is only Super Smash Bros. for Wii U right now). Of course, that’ll use up all your USB ports, but there is a line in the manual saying that “A standard powered USB hub may be used if there are not enough open USB ports on the Wii U console.” It also points you to their site for more information.

Then, you plug your GameCube controllers into the other end.

gamecube adapter with plugs

I put the Wii U into Wii mode and tested it with Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 2. As expected, there was no response at all when I tried to use the DDR dance pad.

I then tested it with Active Life: Outdoor Challenge. Again, no response at all, just this message:

gamecube controller does not work with active life

And again with Cyberbike. Again, just a greyed out controller.

gamecube adapter doesn't work with cyberbike

Now, it’s obvious by now that they simply didn’t touch the Wii emulation portion of the Wii U system to support this device. It’s a shame, because from a technical point of view it really wouldn’t be that difficult (heck, just a few days after the product was released, some enterprising hackers figured out how to get it to work on PCs). But I’m guessing that the executives at Nintendo didn’t want their customer service department fielding support calls for 20 year-old games and decided to keep support disabled.

What’s ironic is that, judging by the masses of people clamoring to get their hands on one of these (heck, they’re being resold on eBay and Amazon for over $100), Nintendo would have a money-printing machine if they managed to produce enough of them AND build reasons for users to keep using them. As much as building Wii emulation helped Wii users adopt the Wii U, I have to think building support for the GameCube controller into Wii Mode and Virtual Console games would also help win over a good chunk of the 21 million GameCube owners out there.

For my final test, I attempted to use my Cyberbike with Mario Kart 8, a Wii U game. But because Mario Kart didn’t build support for the GameCube controller, this didn’t work either (if you look at the back of the Mario Kart 8 box, you’ll see it supports every other controller out there–the GamePad, the Wii Remote, the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, the Wii Classic Controller, and the Wii U Pro Controller. One can only hope that some day, they’ll release a patch that enables it to support the GameCube Controller.

For a lark, I started up Super Smash Bros and plugged in my DDR dance pad. And there the pad “worked” perfectly–I could use my feet to select menu options by using the directional buttons, and selecting things using the “A” button with my feet–with no lag and amazingly quick and precise responsiveness. Now before you get too excited, remember that the players in the game are controlled by the joystick, so even though Smash Bros allows you to customize your controllers to a certain extent, you can’t map the directional buttons to control your character. Still, it was a small victory seeing that the controllers at least “worked”.

We can only hope Nintendo will get the hint from the huge demand for the GameCube controller and release a patch that’ll allow us to use any GameCube controllers in Wii Mode, and that they’ll release or retrofit new and existing Wii U games like Mario Kart 8 to support the controller.

In the meantime, if you’ve been thinking of buying this adapter in hopes that it’d work with some games other than Super Smash Bros for Wii U, I can tell you unequivocally that it’s not worth it. As for those who do want to use it with Super Smash Bros, I know there have been a lot of rumors lately out of the UK that Nintendo will not be making more of them. This is absolutely untrue–Nintendo is definitely making more of them and everyone who wants one will eventually be able to get one at $19.99…some say by Christmas, others day definitely by February. So unless you absolutely, positively need one before Christmas, I’d resist the urge to go to Amazon or eBay where they’re currently selling for over $100.

 

GameCube controller Adapter will not work with DDR, Cyberbike, or Active Life :(

The good news is that Nintendo has FINALLY confirmed a launch date for Super Smash Bros., November 21.

While I’m certainly a fan of the game, as I’ve mentioned on previous posts, the thing I was most looking for was the release of the GameCube Controller Adapter. Early indications from Nintendo was that this would allow you to use the GameCube controller (and presumably other devices that used the GameCube connector like the Cyberbike, DDR dance pads, and Active Life controllers) with the Wii U. Even as recent as last week, their Web site proclaimed that the adapter would let you use a GameCube controller with “any game that already supports the Wii Classic Controller, Wii Classic Controller Pro, and Wii U Pro Controller”.

Very quickly, Nintendo scrubbed that from all of its Web sites and released an announcement to the media reiterating that the adapter would work only with Super Smash Bros for Wii U, and would NOT allow other games to use GameCube controllers, nor would it enable GameCube controllers to be used on later versions of the Wii that ripped out the GameCube sockets.

Obviously, this puts a damper on all of us who had hoped to breathe new life into their Wii U consoles by playing old Wii games from the golden age of motion control games. I’ll still plan on buying one and testing it with my legacy controllers, just to see if Nintendo’s converter fares any better than Mayflash’s attempt. So still stay tuned…but don’t get your hopes up. 🙁

Wii Fit U Update to Version 1.3.0

For those of you who missed it, 2 weeks ago there was an update to Wii Fit U. There were the typical updates of bug fixes and UX improvements.

For those of you who, like me, use the Fit Meter every day I can, you’ll be happy to know that there are a bunch of new Fit Meter Challenge Courses.

For the walking courses, in addition to the existing courses:

Chicago – 26 miles
New York – 13 miles
London – 26 miles
Hawaii – 133 miles
Tour of Italy – 653 miles
Sydney – 23 miles
Berlin – 26 miles
Tokyo – 26 miles

You’ll have these new trails to conquer as well, complete with new cultural and historical information.

Vancouver Island Trail – 409 miles
John Muir Trail – 211 miles
Appalachian Trail – 2160 miles
Florida Trail – 761 miles
Via Augusta – 1108 miles
Orient Express – 1799 miles
Romantic Road – 228 miles
Tour of Crete – 298 miles
Kyushu – 249 miles
Shikoku – 746 miles
Tokaido – 306 miles
Hokkaido – 511 miles

Similar, in addition to these old Altitude challenges…

Statue of Liberty – 305 feet
Grand Canyon – 7260 feet
Eiffel Tower – 1062 feet
Pyramids – 446 feet
Mont Blanc – 15780 feet
Burj Khalifa – 2716 feet
Mount Everest – 29028 feet
Mount Fuji – 12388 feet

You’ll get these new ones.

Mount McKinley – 20236 feet
Half Dome – 8835 miles
CN Tower – 1814 miles
Machu Picchu – 7972 miles
The Shard – 1017 miles
The Matterhorn – 14692 miles
The Eiger – 13025 miles
Mount Olympus – 9573 miles
Mount Yari – 10433 miles
Yatsugatake – 9511 miles
Tokyo Skytree – 2080 miles
Mount Bandai – 5968 miles

Rather than stuffing everything on one map, they’ve kept the original world map but created new maps by region that you can scroll to. Here are the hiking trails in North America:

wii fit u map of north america

Here’s what the Appalachian Trail looks like. I do like that as you hit each checkpoint, you can read information about the location that can even help you plan a real-live trip. Unfortunately, if you’re doing a lot of miles at once, you won’t see these pop up for each checkout. But if you enter a little bit of data at a time, you can vicariously relive the experience of hiking the long trail. There’s something cool about taking your normal walk and “applying” the miles to a real-life hiking trail.

IMG_1734

It’s been a while since I input my altitude data, so I decided to relive my visit to Tokyo Skytree last December.

tokyo skytree on wii fit u

Lo and behold, I got a new hat out of it!

new hat!

 

The timing of these improvements to Wii Fit U couldn’t be better for me, as I’ve recently started on yet another experimentation in changing daily habits and weight loss. I signed up for New York City’s oft-maligned bike share program. I decided while there’s a lull in fitness video games, I might as well start doing a little blogging about my Citi Bike experiences. Feel free to take a gander if you’re interested…if not, stay tuned for a review of a new Wii U fitness game shortly!

 

Wii Sports Club is coming…again

As I mentioned on this blog before, Wii Sports Club has been available for some time as a downloadable title on the Wii U. Even though only a few sports were available, I did put it on my top ten list of Wii U Fitness games. In particular, boxing can provide a fantastic workout, baseball and tennis can get you some light to moderate exercise, and golf and bowling, well, if you’re like my nephew who jumps wildly up and down every time he crushes me in a game, you’ll get a workout there too.

wii sports u box art

While Nintendo originally announced that Wii Sports Resort would be a download-only game, they’ve wised up and decided to make it an actual physical disc. It’s not free like the original Wii Sports, but at $39.99 it’ll be cheaper than most new Wii U games (as well as cheaper than buying them separately online). And if you have a Wii U, I’d say it’s worth it for the much more detailed graphics, the more precise MotionPlus controller support, and the really good online gameplay.

If you’ve already purchased some titles online, it probably makes sense for you to finish buying the rest online (golf was released in December and baseball/boxing became available today). But otherwise, if you can wait until July 25, you can get all the games for a great price–and have a physical disc you can bring to a friends’ house.

You can pre-order it at Amazon here.

Release Date for Gamecube Adapter for Wii U and Super Smash Bros Bundle

I have the feeling that Mark Twain’s line saying “rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated” will be getting used more and more for Nintendo Corporation.

By most accounts, Nintendo has had a few very good weeks lately. The release of Mario Kart 8 saw 1.2 million copies of the game sold, helping to quadruple sales of the Wii U and put it on line to be on par or even surpass sales of the Xbox One and PS4, at least for the month (although that’s not likely to last).

And during the latest E3 conference, a lot of the buzz was about Super Smash Brothers for the Wii U and the 3DS, which we discussed last time.

They provided more details about the use of GameCube controllers and Super Smash Bros. The adapter by itself will be available for a suggested retail price of $19.99. It’ll allow up to four wired or wireless GameCube controllers to be attached to the Wii U.

gamecube adapter smash bros

The company is keeping mum about whether it’ll just work with the handheld GameCube controller, or whether it’d make all GameCube controllers like the CyberBike, DDR Game Pad, Active Life Game Pad compatible as well. It also hasn’t officially mentioned compatibility with games other than Super Smash Bros (although I’d be shocked if they didn’t make it compatible with Virtual Console games). So far, they’ve only officially announced that it’ll work with one controller and game: the classic GameCube handheld controller playing the new Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.

[UPDATE: as of 7/16/14, a few retailers like Best Buy have published updated product copy that states things like “Play a variety of games on your Wii U using your classic GameCube controller” and “Play your favorite Wii U games with the controller experience you know and love”. Whether this is a little bit of advanced insider knowledge or a low-level copywriters making stuff up, time will tell. It’s a shame we have to play this guessing game, but something tells me that Nintendo themselves are still figuring this stuff out as we speak as well…]

The official launch date for this adapter in North America has still not been confirmed, although they do say to expect it in “4th Quarter 2014”. You can pre-order it at Amazon for $19.99. If the price drops between now and then Amazon will refund the difference.

gamecube controllers on wii u

There will also be a $99.99 bundle that includes a copy of Super Smash Bros, a brand new GameCube controller with the Super Smash Bros. branding, and the adapter.

From the photos it looks like it’ll take up two of your four precious USB ports on the Wii U, so if you have things like a USB drive and an Ethernet adapter installed, you’re going to start feeling a little squeezed. But a good USB Hub should serve you well if you want to add additional things like a keyboard or a microphone.

Fingers still crossed that the GameCube adapter will bring all those old peripherals to life. Nintendo certainly needs all the help it can get to get old Wii users to make the jump to the Wii U, especially since publishers like Namco Bandai, Konami, and Big Ben seem to have all but abandoned the idea of active gaming with the Wii U.