I've decided to try to catch up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, so even though I'd checked out the first release on NES just about a month ago, I thought I'd try out its sequel, also on NES, entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game. The sequel is more in line with the bulk of the rest of the series, in that it's a straightforward beat 'em up with what I suppose you'd call a pseudo 3D, isometric perspective.

Anyway, the game features codes that greatly up the number of lives and also provide a stage select, so it didn't take much effort to barrel my way through most of the game. Unlike the first NES title, in this game the Turtles pretty much all have identical abilities. They're limited to just a handful of attacks: a regular attack, a hop + attack (executed by pressing the jump button and then immediately pressing the attack button), and a jump kick. There's not a whole lot of grunt enemy variety, although there are quite a few bosses and sub-bosses. The boss fights are very same-y (and, revealing the game's arcade roots, feel like they were designed to munch quarters), and although the game does introduce new hazards in pretty much every new stage, they're not enough to alleviate the tedium common to the genre and exacerbated here by the lack of enemy variety and player attacks, and the complete absence of power-ups.

All in all although I'm sure at the time players were excited to have a port of an arcade favorite, I found this to be fairly dull. I know I'm in a small minority here, but I would even rank this below the first NES game. At least that game had variety in terms of travelling around the overworld map and moving in directions other than just left to right. The games in the series that I'll be playing next are generally regarded as the pinnacle, so we'll have to see if my interest in the series improves at all.

Stroll through these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game links:
- Complete playthrough on YouTube
- Entry at Wikipedia
- Sydlexia ranked this at #11 on their list of top NES games

I didn't have a game finished for this past week, so I thought now might as well be a good time to post my thoughts on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, especially since the first DLC, in the form of Mewtwo, is coming out in just a week and a half.

I posted my thoughts on the 3DS version right when the Wii U version came out, and I pretty much still feel the same about all my comments in that post re: the character roster. The roster is so huge that I definitely wasn't bored pouring more time into the Wii U version, although it did feel a bit like a drawback to be starting from scratch in terms of completing challenges and collecting trophies and all that. The Wii U specific Events mode was fun to work through, and a step up from Brawl in that each event comes with a challenge, although I preferred the 3DS's simpler take on Classic mode.

A fair amount of the more unique selling points of the Wii U version, namely, the 8-player battles, "Special Orders" mode, level editor, and Amiibo support (which came to 3DS when the New 3DS was released about a month and a half ago) were peripheral and didn't make much of an impact on me at all. The party mode, "Smash Tour", was actually pretty fun, though, and is one that I'm happy to come back to again; I definitely preferred it to the 3DS's Smash Run mode. I like the fast pace of Smash Tour, and although it ends up feeling pretty random it's all in good fun, and I like that you're forced to use a lot of different characters.

Another plus is that the Wii U version includes many more stages and musical tracks than the 3DS version. I forgot to mention this before, but I liked how for competitive matches instead of the barest stage ("Final Destination"), each stage has an "Omega" version that replicates Final Destination but with its own character. The online service works fine, and I only experienced lag with people who had lower bandwidth and were also running something bandwidth-intensive, like Skype.

Re: DLC, the original roster felt complete to me and had some fantastic surprises, so I'm not particularly dying to see any new characters. Mewtwo is nice to have, but I was fine with it being replaced by Lucario. It'll be interesting to see how many more characters they add. Even though I'm by no means a competitive player, it does seem annoying that they keep tweaking the characters and the overall balance, but hopefully they'll leave them be before too much longer.

I suppose I should also mention Amiibo. I found them to be pretty useless in this game, but I definitely have found myself buying more than I'd originally planned. It's great to see such high-quality figures of characters that have never been immortalized in this way before, and although I'm not obsessed enough to be affected too much with their scarcity, I do sympathize with all the fans who haven't been able to get the ones they want. I'm hoping that the big N won't actually make any of them limited and will make supply meet demand eventually, and that they'll just keep reissuing older Amiibo as games that support them come out. It's nice to have them provide minor extras in games over a long period of time instead of taking the Skylanders route, so hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more uses for them in the future.

All in all the Wii U version was a nice step up from the 3DS version, and as usual off-TV play has been a big boon. It's not clear to me how much I'll go back to playing the 3DS version (although I'll still have to pick it up to play it with my nephew), mostly because I'm paranoid about wrecking the control stick on my 3DS XL. But it's nice to have the option. On Wii U, I continued to focus my time on the newer characters, and specifically tried to gain more competence with Rosalina, Wii Fit Trainer, and Palutena. And although I've made progress, I'm definitely far from wholly mastering their movesets. I'm sure the Wii U version (as well as its predecessors) will continue to keep me plenty occupied when I have a Smash Bros. jones until the next version comes out, and that's not even taking into account all the potential for DLC characters. The poll Nintendo opened to let players vote for a character to be added should yield some fascinating results, and will keep the Smash Bros. hype train rolling through the fall and beyond.

Smashing double helping of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U links:
- Miiverse community
- Tier lists are always entertaining. The Smash wikis haven't posted one yet, but here's one based on player votes.

I posted these already on my post about the 3DS version, but here they are again because they're that useful:
- Official site, which includes all the character reveal videos
- Entry at ssbwiki.com
- Entry at supersmashbros.wikia.com

I was a pretty big fan of the original Pushmo, a downloadable title for the 3DS, so much so that it made it to my list of favorite games of all time. That game introduced a great, unique, addictive, and satisfyingly deep puzzle mechanic, with the added bonuses of pixel art and user created stages, not to mention plenty of personality and charm.

Pushmo World, a downloadable title for Wii U, maintains the core experience of the original, so it's still a solid title. It was first announced last May, and even then I was skeptical: I felt that adding a few more types of blocks just didn't seem like enough to warrant a sequel. As with Mario Galaxy 2, rather than a sequel the game feels more like a slightly enhanced version of the original. I'm assuming none of the puzzles are exactly the same as the original, but there are many that felt practically identical. For the most part the puzzles that feature the new mechanics are segregated to a different area within the game, and there are only 50 total compared to the 150 in the main mode, so as a whole they seem under emphasized. Being a vet of the first game it was fairly easy to just brute force my way through the majority of the levels without much thought or effort, and although I enjoyed revisiting the game's mechanics I found that playing through this game less than two and a half years than the original was a little too soon since the bulk of it is more or less the same as the original. Still, it was fun to collect stamps to use on Miiverse and once again see all the cool levels that people have created. For people who haven't played the original this is an easy recommendation, but otherwise this is pretty safe to skip.

Push through these Pushmo World links:
- Review at NintendoLife
- Community on Miiverse
- Page on official Nintendo site
- Review from Polygon
- Complete video walkthrough on YouTube

Now for something completely different. Usually I avoid casual games, but Bandai Namco's We Ski for Wii got my attention for a couple of reasons. One, it's one of the rare Wii titles that features compatibility with the Wii Balance Board. Another is that its sequel, We Ski and Snowboard, was listed among the now-defunct Nintendo Gamer magazine's top games for Wii. I'd also enjoyed the skiing mini-games in Wii Fit, so was somewhat looking forward to more of the same.

I wasn't expecting much, but the game was definitely less active than Wii Fit. Although challenges similar to the skiing activities in that game are mixed in there somewhere, the focus seems to be more on just skiing around a large mountain (with 14 courses), taking in the virtual scenery, and exploring. There are different types of mini-games, but many of them are "fetch quest" like and don't require any thought or much skill. The skiing controls work well and the Balance Board compatibility is good, and the non-Balance Board controls seem polished as well. Performing tricks in the air requires memorizing button presses and motion controls, but for the most part they're pretty intuitive. Winning a mini-game nets you stars which unlock various costumes (who doesn't want to ski around a mountain in a bear suit?), and there are nice Bandai Namco specific references, like Pac-Man theme music occasionally playing over the in-game loudspeakers.

The graphics are very basic, and some of the challenges are obtuse. For example, along with tackling mini-games you can earn a grade by completing each of the game's courses (each of which features some unique feature, like jumps or more powder or a steeper gradient). You're graded on various metrics including time and speed, but also unnecessary metrics such as the number of turns. The exact requirements for fulfilling each of these is hidden and ends up requiring a lot of trial and error. Since you're navigating over these courses many times while fulfilling other objectives you'll eventually earn the top rank in them I suppose, but overall I got bored pretty quickly with the very basic gameplay. Apparently there are some hidden areas and extra events, such as one involving tracking down a Yeti, and the game also supports multiplayer where I think you can roam the mountain and compete in mini-games together.

The overall ambience is fairly relaxing and it does give the feel of being on the slopes, but as a gaming experience this was just too shallow for me. It was nice to dust off my Balance Board, but I'm skeptical that the sequel will have much more to offer. Maybe one day I'll check it out.

Ski over to these We Ski links:
- Apparently the game has sold over 1.2 million copies
- Entry at Metacritic. The review at the now-defunct 1up.com was one of the most complimentary.
- FAQ at GameFAQs

I've been meaning to sit down with the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on NES for a while, because although it gets generally panned these days, some of its sequels (particularly II, the first Game Boy game, and IV) do get regular praise. The game was pretty popular back in the day (Nintendo Power even made it its NES Game of the Year), and although I never caught "Turtle fever" I do remember watching some of the cartoons, seeing the first movie, playing the arcade game, and playing at least part of this, the NES game.

Unlike subsequent games which were classic beat 'em ups, the NES game was more of a straightforward action game. The majority of levels have you alternating between a top-down map of the city sewers and short side-scrolling action segments where you battle enemies and navigate platformer-like challenges.

I found myself disliking the game for many of the same reasons that it seems most people do: the Turtles are completely unbalanced (Donatello is everyone's favorite due to his long reach) and the platforming is very touchy: missing a jump can require you to backtrack a significant amount, leading to tedious trial and error. The enemies do have a fair amount of variety, although not a whole lot of personality, so combat ends up feeling like a chore. The locales (mostly sewers, insides of buildings, and rooftops) are also pretty mundane.

On the plus side, the infamous dam section (in level 2) wasn't as terrible as I expected. The sub-weapons are very useful (although they're pretty much what you'd expect), and in one level you get to drive around in the Turtles' van (apparently called "the Party Wagon") and run over baddies, which was fun. Overall I didn't hate the game, but by the time I'd struggled through and got to Area 4 I'd had enough of the tedium and couldn't bring myself to work my way through the rest of it.

Stab these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles links:
- I hadn't realized it at the time, the Konami code can be used to up the number of continues to four instead of two
- Entry at Wikipedia
- Entry at sydlexia.com's "100 Best NES Games" list (they put it at #45)
- Entry at turtlepedia.wikia.com, which includes info on the single-appearance enemies that were included in the game
- Speed run from SGDQ 2013
- Low-scoring review of the Wii Virtual Console release (which I believe it's no longer available on), at NintendoLife
- Apparently the game was key to the NES's eventual success in Europe
- A look back, at the sadly defunct 1up.com