Memories of the Nintendo World Championships

Posted in News by on Apr 22nd, 2015 2:41 PM

Twenty-five years ago today, I entered the Nintendo World Championships. A lanky, bespectacled 10-year-old, I sought affirmation that these video games I'd already dedicated my short life to would not make me a social pariah — that my skill and dedication to this new digital pastime could earn me some measure of respect.

I may not have walked out of that arena a winner, but it was the first time I had ever been surrounded by so many people who shared my passion for games. I realized I was not alone, that it could be awesome to be a geek. When I walked out of that arena, I left the competition behind: games were no longer about being better, but about being together. Despite what some may think, the health of the art form is encouraged with each new gamer we bring into the fold. Games are for everyone — and when everyone realizes that, we've won.

I've already lengthily shared my memories of that April day in 1990, and I have little more insight to offer today. Instead, I'd like to share some of the physical artifacts of that moment when we were all striving to be The Wizard. For the first time, here are high-resolution scans of what I went home with that weekend — click any thumbnail to get the PDF.

This "Insider's Guide to the NWC" program was distributed to attendees of the Nintendo World Championships in the spring of 1990. It featured previews of upcoming games and tips for titles such as Castlevania III, Lolo 2, Wrath of the Black Manta, Bases Loaded II, Xexyz, and more.

An admission ticket to the first round

A letter of acceptance to the semi-finals

A VIP badge to enter the semi-finals

A certificate signed by Howard Phillips and Mario

A gift certificate — part of my prize package (or a photocopy)

I also found some wearable mementos while digging through my parents' basement:

Gaming competitions, having evolved into e-sports, have come a long way — whereas the gaming community still has a ways to go. Let's try to remember those days when we all knew how to get along.

Super Smash Wars: A Link to the Hope

Posted in News by on Nov 10th, 2013 6:06 PM

A young boy, raised by his uncle, given a ancient sword with which to save a princess…

Is it The Legend of Zelda? Or Star Wars?… How about both?

Behold James Farr's eight-minute animated opus, SUPER SMASH WARS: A LINK TO THE HOPE:

The number of in-jokes, parodies, and references in this short is astounding. Keep your finger over the pause button, lest you miss something — and keep annotations enabled for more surprises.

Farr is no stranger to animated mashups, having previously created the acclaimed series Trainsformers, which was ultimately removed from YouTube due to copyright infringement. So why shouldn't he plunder the iconic characters of Nintendo and LucasFilm Disney? Second time's the charm, right?

Check out his other Nintendo/movie parodies, including Teenage Mutant Koopa Troopas and Super Mario Busters.

(Hat tip to Chris Lackey)

Let's Play The Wonderful 101 demo

Posted in Let's Play by on Aug 15th, 2013 12:14 PM

The Wonderful 101, a Nintendo Wii U action game developed by Platinum Games and published by Nintendo, releases on September 15 — but you can play the demo today! It's a free download from the Nintendo eShop.

Watch as I take the game for a quick spin.

Want some sweet wallpaper? Here's the opening splash screen to The Wonderful 101 at 1372 x 771 resolution.

The Wonderful 101

Let's Play New Super Luigi U

Posted in Let's Play by on Aug 14th, 2013 1:59 PM

I've finally finished New Super Luigi U! This DLC for New Super Mario Bros. U was released online on June 20 and will be available at retail on August 25.

Since the 82 new levels each start with only 100 seconds on the clock, I was able to fit more, shorter levels into each video. Compared to the 24 videos and eight hours it took to complete New Super Mario Bros. U, the Luigi expansion took only 5 hours and 14 videos. I also found all the Star Coins in four of the eight worlds — perhaps I'll continue the series with Rainbow Road. In the meantime, I'm pleased to present you with Let's Play New Super Luigi U:

Let's Play New Super Mario Bros. U

Posted in Let's Play by on Aug 13th, 2013 1:45 PM

Earlier this summer, I completed New Super Mario Bros U for the Nintendo Wii U. It was the first time I'd played a game while recording all my gameplay, providing voice-over narration, and uploading it to YouTube, contributing to the genre known as "Let's Play", introduced to me by former Gamebits contributor kahme.

Since I finished this series more than a half-year after the game came out, during which time Nintendo prohibited LPers from profiting off their games, my motivation was experience and enjoyment more than timeliness and profit. Ideally, future videos will combine all four!

Here's all eight hours and 24 videos of NSMBU:


EarthBound releases on Wii U eShop

Posted in News by on Jul 18th, 2013 5:27 PM

Earlier this year, I delved into the history of the EarthBound franchise and the failed efforts to convince Nintendo to bring the first and third games in the series to the North American market. Many fans have toiled for years without acknowledgement from Nintendo. Instead, they taunt us by holding back the JRPGs we've longed for these past two decades.

But perhaps those pleas did not fall on deaf ears after all. Today on YouTube, Nintendo announced that Mother 2, released for the Super NES as EarthBound in 1995 and not seen since, is now available on the Wii U eShop.

The game is $9.99, and the Player's Guide that came with the original SNES release is available for free online.

The game's SNES incarnation saw only 140,000 units sold in North America, where the console had an installed user base of 23.35 million units. By contrast, the Wii U has sold only 3.45 million units as of March 31. Proportionately, Nintendo should expect to sell only 20,685 units of the virtual EarthBound — but that doesn't take into account the legacy the game has achieved in the intervening 18 years; few games of that vintage have inspired such followings as seen at The game commands eBay prices of $150 – $1000, making the $10 eShop pricetag a steal.

I've always believed in voting with my dollars, so I'm going to buy this game immediately — not only because it's a great game to add to any gamer's collection, but because I want to show Nintendo that I'll buy Mother 3 when and if they finally release that, too.

Congratulations and thanks to Reid Young, Clyde Mandelin, and all the community leaders and fans who have asked for this release for so long! Perhaps there is hope to see the franchise's two previously unreleased titles eventually make their way to our shores.

Can I play the Wii U without the GamePad?

Posted in News by on Jul 15th, 2013 12:00 PM

Eight months after posting my Wii U Frequently Asked Questions video, I continue to respond to YouTube comments asking how the Wii U works. Here are a few standalone blog posts that address some common questions.

Can I use the Wii U without the GamePad controller?

For whatever reason, some gamers want to play the Wii U without its trademark input device. But the two products are not sold separately, and you cannot set up the Wii U without the GamePad.

Once the console is configured, how restricted you are to the GamePad depends on the game or service you are using. New Super Mario Bros. U is pretty flexible, allowing you to use whatever controller you like. If you want to use the GamePad for a one-player game, it'll even stream the audio and video to the GamePad, so you can turn off the television.

New Super Mario Bros. U supported controllers

But navigating the Nintendo eShop without a GamePad is prohibited, as warned by this screenshot:

Nintedo eShop supported controllers

UPDATE (July 22, 2014): The eShop can now be navigated with a variety of controllers.

Can I use the GamePad without the Wii U?

Posted in News by on Jul 15th, 2013 12:00 PM

Eight months after posting my Wii U Frequently Asked Questions video, I continue to respond to YouTube comments asking how the Wii U works. Here are a few standalone blog posts that address some common questions.

Can I use the GamePad without the Wii U? Is the GamePad portable? Can I play it in the car?

The GamePad is not a portable game system like the Nintendo 3DS or Sony Vita. It does not have a media slot with which you can input games, saved data, CDs, movies, or cartridges. All media the GamePad displays is streamed from the Wii U console, which must be within 40–60 feet. If you try to use the GamePad without the Wii U, you will get this error message:

GamePad without Wii U


Can I play the Wii U without a television?

Posted in News by on Jul 15th, 2013 12:00 PM

Eight months after posting my Wii U Frequently Asked Questions video, I continue to respond to YouTube comments asking how the Wii U works. Here are a few standalone blog posts that address some common questions.

Can I play the Wii U without a television?

As previously discussed, the GamePad is not a portable gaming system; it needs to be near the Wii U. But there are plenty of games you can play on your GamePad without needing a television. In fact, this was one of the features that Nintendo hyped prior to the console's launch. It's called "Off-TV Play" and is demonstrated in this commercial video:

However, not all games support this feature. Review Wikipedia's List of Off-TV Play-compatible games. Launch title New Super Mario Bros. U is such a game:


Operation Rainfall vs. EarthBound

Posted in News by on Mar 9th, 2013 1:35 PM

I've been writing video game reviews for nearly two decades. I don't remember at which point the medium moved me to formally express its impression on me, but the first time I did so for a print outlet that wasn't self-published was 1995. The Boston Herald was where I got my start, and in that first year, I reviewed several Super Nintendo games — most notably, EarthBound, a Nintendo RPG set in modern times but featuring aliens, psychic powers, and parodies based on Japan's interpretation of American culture. Part two in Nintendo's Mother trilogy of games, EarthBound is the only entry in the series to have come Stateside, despite gamers' efforts to the contrary.

So imagine my surprise when Operation Rainfall, a recent fan campaign to convince Nintendo to localize three Japanese RPGs for the Wii, was successful. Sure, the market is different now — EarthBound predated Final Fantasy VII, which brought JRPGs to the American mainstream — but it's still a genre aimed more at hardcore gamers, a demographic the Nintendo Wii is not exactly known to target. Why these games? Why now?

We got these three games localized; why not EarthBound? Read on.

When PCWorld gave me the opportunity to investigate Operation Rainfall, I chose to put their success into historical context. The result is a feature story published this week to TechHive: "Operation Rainfall: How a fan campaign brought Nintendo to its knees". I didn't come up with the somewhat adversarial headline, but I am pleased with the final product and the communities who contributed to it. Richard Ross of Operation Rainfall, Reid Young of Fangamer, and Clyde Mandelin of were all enthusiastic subjects who took time out of their day jobs to speak with me about their campaigning strategies, giving me insight into the state of the industry across the eras and the influence that fans can have, not only with publishers but with each other.

And so it was that, eighteen years later, I was writing about EarthBound again. How many more years before we get the rest of the Mother series?

New Super Mario Bros. U Miiverse 50 best drawings

Posted in News by on Feb 9th, 2013 2:15 PM

My slideshow of the 50 best pieces of art from Nintendo Land proved popular, so here's another one. These 50 drawings were taken from the New Super Mario Bros. U community on the Nintendo Wii U's WaraWara Plaza.

See the video's description on YouTube or click individual photos below for credits.