Nintendo has a long, proud history of providing top-quality video game consoles for adults and kids of all ages, dating back to the 1985 release of its defining Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The device wasn’t just the first such machine to command a millions-strong global following in the post-Atari 2600 world. It also helped save the industry from a crippling 1983 crash, single-handedly proved that video games weren’t a fad (actually a cultural question mark at the time), and came to define home gaming for an entire generation. Dozens of popular franchises established during this era – including Super Mario Bros., Metroid and The Legend of Zelda – are still going strong today. Poised at the launch of its latest console, the Wii U (powered by a tablet PC-like touchscreen controller, fully online-/media-enabled, and the first Nintendo system to support high-definition graphics), the company’s legacy bears remembering.
Case in point: Over the past two decades, the much-beloved Japanese giant has brought players a wealth of technological advancements, proving that both innovation and imagination is in its DNA. Granted, not all have been successful: Anyone remember migraine-inducing semi-portable the Virtual Boy or two-hit wonder R.O.B. the robot (essentially included with the NES to con retailers burned by the ’83 crash into thinking it was more high-tech novelty item than game)? But from the original Game Boy tagalong to the 3D graphics-enabled Nintendo 3DS handheld, seminal 16-bit system the Super Nintendo to groundbreaking motion-controlled outing the Wii, you have to applaud the manufacturer. While it’s been prone to both wildly successful and wildly bizarre experiments, its many phenomenal successes have helped drive the industry forward, and the company has never been shy about its commitment to raising the bar. Say what you will about the house that brought us Mario, Donkey Kong and the rest of the supporting cast of Super Smash Bros.: It’s seldom one to follow in the footsteps of competitors.
All of which, of course, brings us to the dawn of the Wii U – the first of the next round of next-generation consoles to arrive, and among its most promising and original. Aimed at taking gamers beyond what they can currently get from rivals the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, it’s also the first shot fired in what promises to be a long and lasting battle for living room domination. Designed to deliver eye-popping 1080p HD graphics; facilitate digital downloads of music, movies, games and more; and allow for differing play experiences on TV vs. tablet controller, hopes for the system currently run high. As the first new set-top video game system in six years, and the long-awaited sequel to the Wii – the bestselling console of its generation, and first to both offer gesture controls and reach near-ubiquitous mainstream awareness – it’s hard not to be excited. But the sweetest news of all surrounding the system may also be a point that many have missed. As the below games illustrate, despite Nintendo’s storied and proud history to date, for both the manufacturer and fans alike, the best may be very well yet to come.
WII U SYSTEMS
The Wii U is available in two configurations: Basic (includes 8GB internal storage) and Deluxe (offers 32GB internal storage + Nintendo Land video game, console stand and a cradle/stand for your GamePad). Systems are defined by a custom 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen-powered tablet GamePad controller which offers secondary perspectives on on-screen action, and lets you view videos separately from the TV. Features allow for gameplay viewing on both your television and the GamePad, and support for controlling your set using the tablet, with benefits also extending to wireless Internet connectivity, online multiplayer and multimedia downloads, and video chat or second-screen viewing experiences. Needless to say, it crams a lot of performance into one small package.
BEST WII U GAMES
Note that you can click the below links to learn more about all Wii U game options, and for online shopping deals.
Classic arcade fun for all ages: Run, jump and stomp on enemies’ heads while collecting coins, nabbing ability-enhancing power-ups and exploring the Mushroom Kingdom’s candy-colored cartoon world. Featuring favorite characters such as Mario, Toad and Luigi, it offers familiar fast-paced thrills that players of every skill level can enjoy, plus a new twist: The ability for GamePad users to try and assist or antagonize others enjoying simultaneous multiplayer challenges. Besides a raft of sweet features – e.g. bonuses like the Flying Squirrel suit, options to import your Mii virtual avatar into various challenges, and more – it’s also the first must-have title for the system. Blending nostalgia with new high-tech tricks, we’d be amazed if it also wasn’t the first bestseller.
An original adventure pairing Mr. M-O-U-S-E himself with less well-known predecessor Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, this gorgeously-appointed action-adventure sends you wandering through a world of forgotten Disney characters and backdrops. Wielding a magical paint brush and high-powered remote control, players must help the twin heroes solve tricky puzzles, overcome fiendish foes and explore an evolving storyline that changes based on your choices. Support for two-man cooperative (co-op) play lets friends and family get in on the excitement, and Wii U owners benefit especially, with the GamePad offering a second view on the action. As much a love letter to Disney’s creations as first-rate gaming experience, its rich storyline, engaging suite of challenges and atmospheric environs make the title a top draw this holiday season.
Rewinding the clock to the Revolutionary War, the latest in the multimillion-selling action-adventure series – wherein discerning adults play a historical hitman – puts you in the shoes of a lethal assassin. From the Battle of Bunker Hill to raging shipboard engagements and the streets of New York, you get a chance to rewrite history by cleverly stalking and eliminating targets, then making daring acrobatic escapes. Set in a living, breathing 3D world of haunting characters and locales, it’s designed to test both your wits and reflexes. The Wii U edition provides added benefits by putting a map of targets’ locations right at-hand, and offers touch commands for easy weapon switching when it’s time to do your patriotic duty.
Among the most original puzzle games of the past decade, Scribblenauts Unlimited provides a clever approach to tackling challenges: With a touch of your finger, you can create objects and summon them on-screen to help hero Maxwell. Literally thousands of combinations are possible as you mix and match parts while moving through a seemingly hand-drawn, open-ended world designed to be traveled at your leisure. Inventions can also be shared online for friends to remix and pass along, making the title among the more creative options out there for kids and adults alike. Anyone who’s ever spent hours idly doodling in a notepad will understand its promise immediately.
EA Sports’ line of popular athletic simulations – other options include FIFA Soccer 13, NHL 13, etc. – has been a longstanding hit with gamers of all ages. But even though, similar to its siblings, Madden NFL 13 is available (and highly recommended) on other systems, you haven’t seen virtual football like this before. Letting you take on the role of player or coach, and play in dazzling HD, the key upside here are touchscreen commands – you can use the GamePad to call plays, make substitutions and more in the most intuitive format yet seen on a gaming console. Backed by online connectivity, authentic game day presentation and commentary, and the same pigskin action millions know and love, it’s clearly among the year’s hottest new MVPs for sporting fans.
Enjoy 3D fighting games? Check out the latest in the long-running martial arts series, which amps up the action with a huge roster of brawlers who can kick, punch and flying uppercut their way through one-on-one, one-on-two, or two-on-two tag team battles. Over 50 bruisers to pick from, extensive multiplayer support (up to four can get in on the action) and loads of extra features – i.e. killer replay videos, numerous game modes, extensive practice options, and an arresting range of international stages to scrap on – add ample replay value. If you’re looking for head-to-head action with a bit of nuance, you’ll find its strategic showdowns demand approaching with a sense of gravity, even as a range of kooky costumes and gonzo characters reflect the title’s unwillingness to take itself too seriously.
Outside of the Resident Evil series, horror-themed games typically aren’t the first thing you’d associate with Nintendo’s traditionally family-friendly systems. But UbiSoft hopes to challenge players’ thinking in this promising new survival horror outing custom-designed for the Wii U that pits you against legions of walking dead. Set in a London overrun by walking cadavers, your goal is simple: Stay alive. But that’s easier said than done when you have to keep glancing between your GamePad controller and the TV, or dealing with competing players in multiplayer modes that let evil-minded pals try and plague friends by becoming an adversarial Zombie Master.
Yes, the critically-acclaimed run-n-gun franchise is available on other systems such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360; an obvious choice for first-person shooter fans; and for Mature audiences only. But if you’re a discerning adult looking for a Hollywood-style gun battle experience that’s sure to make the neighbors’ jaws drop, then pop this neo-futuristic firefight in and watch their eyes bug out of their head. Boasting branching storylines, multiplayer standoffs so immersive you’ll enjoy weeks’ worth of excitement from just these modes alone, and support for second-screen play (i.e. touchscreen controls for picking maps or loadouts), rest assured. For pure, white-knuckle thrills, they don’t make ‘em better than this – or more capable of keeping you glued to the screen, whichever (TV or GamePad) you prefer.
Mass Effect 3 (Role-Playing)
SiNG Party (Music)
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (Action-Adventure)
Pikmin 3 (Strategy)
Ben 10: Omniverse (Action)
Sonic & All-Stars Racing (Racing)
007 Legends (Shooter)
Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 (Simulation)
Darksiders II (Action-Adventure)
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Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.
In a quest to become the main destination for kids online, companies large and small create MMOs and virtual online worlds for kids. These are designed to be place where kids can play games while connecting with their friends, all while staying on one site or location for an extended period of time. Sounds a bit like social networks, no? In essence that’s what they are, just with more emphasis on graphics.
According to research firm KZero, there were nearly 1.2 billion registered users across all virtual worlds in 2011, the largest of which is kids age 10-15.
Most of these virtual worlds are free to access, just like the rest of the Internet. Getting there is as simple as typing the correct address in your web browser, and all of a sudden you’re transported to a medieval land, outer space, or even an island inspired by a fast food restaurant. Many virtual worlds aimed at older kids require a download to play, and run more like a traditional video game, but are still free to play, at least at first.
But as you and your kids will soon discover, not everything in these worlds is free.
What’s proven successful for most online worlds is to provide a “freemium” or free-to-play model. Anyone can access these games free of charge, but in order to access more areas, items and fun stuff within the virtual world, kids need to pay a monthly or even yearly subscription fee.
Major brands spend lots of money and resources to attract players to their own virtual worlds, because it provides a way for them to market themselves and expose their brand to youngsters, all while staying compliant with laws about privacy and collecting information.
Companies and major brands such as McDonald’s, Disney and General Mills provide a place online for kids to spend time, although a few have recently come under fire for their use of a “refer-a-friend” feature which many advocacy groups complained to the FTC was in violation of COPPA laws.
Many of these virtual worlds are aimed at tweens and teens. Games like Wizard 101, FreeRealms, Minecraft and Lord of the Rings Online all strive to be a place where older elementary-aged kids spend their time online, as well as their money.
Other virtual worlds are aimed squarely at younger Internet users. Club Penguin, Animal Jam, Jump Start, Starfall and even Build-A-Bear Workshop are all examples of persistent online destinations created to attract young kids, and many tout their educational benefits.
And there are others that fill in the area between the two. Little Space Heroes, Cartooon Universe, Fantage, Fusion Fall and Moshi Monsters blend elements of traditional video games with the easy access of browser based online games.
There are even virtual worlds for families, like Ohanarama, which allow for family and friends scattered around the globe to connect and play games with each other asynchronously.
The concept of online virtual worlds makes a lot of sense from the perspective of developers, and the proposition can be appealing for parents. Instead of setting kids free in the seemingly wild, wild, west of the Internet, virtual worlds allow kids to spend large chunks of time in one safe environment, where they can find games, activities and chances to interact with others. And that piece of mind is even worth a few bucks a month for some parents.
There are a number of reasons why kids love spending time in these worlds, from feeling like they’re having their own space to being able to interact with friends in a new environment. And here’s where we start to get to some of the potential danger areas.
One of the key features of these virtual worlds is that they allow some sort of contact with others, even if it’s just by comparing scores. But most virtual worlds do include the option for chat with others, and it’s here that the proposition of virtual worlds can start to get dicey for many. While many include some form of moderated or restricted chat, nearly all provide some way to access (with parental permission) chatting with strangers.
We’ll take a closer look at how these virtual worlds manage these types of safety issues, as well as look at some of the other dangers and concerns of virtual networks, in the next part of our series.
We’re a society on the go, which might help explain the smartphone popularity boom. Our phones aren’t exactly a replacement for desktop or laptop computers, but be expect them to be up to the task when we need to get some work done during a commute. Online shopping is a good example: If you’re trundling along on a train, there’s no better time to make some necessary or impulse purchases. That’s why if you own a business, you should make yourself aware of the best ways to make your business mobile.
A website that’s not optimized for mobile viewing will undoubtedly scare away potential customers. We’re no longer surfing the ‘net with number keys and pixel-based screens that are two inches wide: An unpleasant experience will simply drive users elsewhere. Here are five tips to keep in mind when making your business mobile.
Make your site accessible for as many viewers as possible – You’re going to want to make your site visible for as many visitors as possible, which means you have to keep smartphone fragmentation in mind. Flash, for instance, doesn’t work across all smartphones, so HTML 5 is a better option for the interactive portions of your mobile site.
Use QR codes – Quick Read/Quick Response (“QR”) codes can whisk a user straight to a designated webpage when they scan a code using their smartphone. QR codes are ideal for directing visitors to coupons, special deals, or feature items.
Plan for easy data access – If you’re the one building and managing your mobile site, you’re going to want an easy-to-use data storage system that’s ideal for a mobile environment. Dropbox is a good option.
Simplify Navigation – Clarity is key when designing a mobile site. Minimize the need for scrolling, and simplify navigation and purchasing options with big, clearly-marked buttons. When offering transactions, make sure there are as few steps as possible between the user and the purchase.
Think Visibility – Eliminate the need to pinch-zoom whenever possible. Make text large and clear: Not everyone has great eyesight! Make sure there’s contrast between the background and the page text, and ensure your site works as well with a horizontal orientation as it does with a vertical one.
For more tips on taking your business mobile, visit:
How to Go Mobile at Google
5 Mobile Marketing Questions Every Business Owner Needs Answered at Entrepreneur
Tips to Create a Mobile App for Your Business at About.com