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My WiiU Won’t Recognize My External HD

If you own a WiiU, you might also own an external hard drive to go with it since the system’s internal memory is sorely lacking. This article exists to help those suffering from external hard drive woes, as they can be quite frightening.

The most important fact is that the WiiU does not generate enough power to power an External HD that is charged via USB UNLESS you use a USB Y-Splitter. The way it works is that an External HD that charges via USB must be plugged into the female port of the USB splitter, and then the USB splitter’s two male ends go into the WiiU. (I’ve plugged mine into the vertical USB ports on the back.)

If your external HD is receiving enough power, it should make a whirring noise when the Wii U is turned on and the HD is plugged in. (If things are going well, your Wii U should recognize the external hard drive in its data management screen in Settings.) If things are not going well, you might find that the WiiU suddenly cannot recognize your external HD and all your saved game data is apparently lost.

If you’re like me this could cause a panic, but luckily all may not be lost! There are a few additional things to keep in mind. By default the WiiU puts external HDs to sleep when they are not in use, but you can toggle this function off by going into data management, holding DOWN on the D-Pad for four seconds, then holding the plus and minus buttons. An option will appear to let you turn off the WiiU’s sleep function for external HDs.

If your content still doesn’t appear or your HD still isn’t recognized, try restarting the system once more. Check your connections to make sure they are snug, and after leaving the HD plugged in for a few minutes, reset once more. For whatever reason, my content suddenly appeared after doing all these steps in order. I will warn you not to futz with the external HD while content is running, as it may cause your content to crash.

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Game Review: The Legend of Zelda: The Oracle of Seasons

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It took me many Winters, Springs, Summers and Falls to finally complete The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons. I first owned the game as a child, but Oracle of Seasons‘s often mind-bending puzzles proved too taxing for adolescent me. I put it aside, convinced that I’d eventually come back to Seasons and defeat it. Lo and behold, twenty-some odd years later, my quest is finally complete. Oracle of Seasons was just as tricky as I remembered it to be, but that made beating it all the more satisfying.

Zelda games are known for their puzzle-filled dungeons, often with occasionally mean-spirited tricks and traps. Though the series is a Nintendo staple, Seasons was developed by Capcom, and as a result that mean-spirited trollishness has been amplified to a Mega Man degree. Zelda games could always be difficult, but the developers of Seasons seem to have been hellbent on ensuring that every successive screen had a new and more taxing challenge. Few of the dungeons inspire awe or wonder or kindle the player’s imagination in the way that the dungeons in Ocarina or LTTP did. These are old-school beat-you-up and spit-you-out brawler dungeons with puzzles so occasionally head-scratching that they make the pillars in Eagle’s Tower look like child’s play. At first glance each puzzle is appealing enough, but the path to the solution is generally fraught with back-tracking, health conservation and cursing at your hand-held device.

At times, Seasons feels more like a Master Quest for those who played Link’s Awakening than a standalone story. In terms of narrative, the game is paper thin. Zelda is nowhere to be found. In her stead, Din the Goddess of Seasons plays Damsel-in-Distress, sending our hero on a quest to rescue her from the bulky bruiser General Onox. Onox, like most non-Ganon baddies, is mainly a filler villain with few distinct details. The true focus is on exploration, puzzle solving, and wrapping your head around just what the developers expect you to do next. There’s a great moment late in the game when even the NPC’s don’t feel like telling you where to go, and that sort of “you’re on your own” attitude hums throughout.

Graphically the game is wonderful to look at, even for a dated GBC title. There’s plenty of personality in Seasons, even though the writing is confined to two-line scrolling text boxes. The characters are brimming with funny dialogue and wacky animations. There are even references to Ocarina‘s cast, including Biggoron and The Windmill Musician. Many of the larger characters look better than anything on the NES, specifically Link’s kangaroo friend and the game’s final boss. In spite of all that, the game lacks a sort of coherent focus that gives it any real thematic unity. It’s a melting pot of interesting ideas, but the result is a Dagwood sandwich rather than a meal with the perfect blending of ingredients.

What it lacks in cohesion and originality, Seasons makes up for in gameplay. More could have been done to round out the game’s inventory- no hookshot or bow?- but for the most part, this entry in the Zelda series is a winner. Even when limited by hardware constraints, like the fact that you only have two buttons with which to assign inventory slots, the developers of Oracle of Seasons made a game that carries on the Zelda legacy and manages to play well even today.

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Game Review: Pokemon Ultra Moon

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As a long-time fan of the Pokemon series let me tell you, Pokemon Ultra Moon represents both the highs and lows of being a Poke-fan. The graphical leaps the series has made since Red and Blue in 1996 are impressive, but the 3DS’s limitations become ever more apparent as designers try to push beyond them. Graphically the game looks like a half-step between an N64 and Gamecube game, which sounds alright for a handheld series that began without the ability to display color. (The idea of playing a “black-and-white” game called Pokemon Blue seems a bit ridiculous now, doesn’t it?) The Pokemon are all beautifully rendered in three-dimensions. The environments look alright but somehow feel both confining and empty. You’re not wandering around a big open Pokemon world. You’re still sticking to paths and one-way ledges.

This again feels like a metaphor for the series. Two steps forward, one step back. I remember when Ruby & Sapphire introduced Pokemon Beauty Contests. That always struck me as unnecessarily creative for a series that has eighteen Pokemon types yet still makes you choose from fire, water, or grass types at the beginning every time. Some things are set in stone and some are up for grabs, and it’s never clear which is which or why. For example, the setting of Pokemon Ultra Moon is a surface level riff on Hawaii. This shakes things up on a cursory level, but also removes a diversity of environments from the level design. And in a move that feels like something a stoner might ponder on a pile of pillows at 3 AM- “What if there weren’t even gyms?”- this game does away with Pokemon Gyms in favor of new Island Trials. Ostensibly this was to make things less repetitive, but it ends up being a momentary distraction. The only thing that truly sticks here is the idea of Totem Pokemon, larger than usual boss Pokemon that your team has to take down. These boss battles felt worthy.

Inconsistency seems to be the general theme here. Even the name Pokemon Ultra Moon reveals the truth of the matter. There were two previous versions of this game, Pokemon Sun & Moon, that were considerably less good, and even so this new version isn’t perfect. So what you’re seeing in Ultra Moon is a course correction but not enough of one to really set things straight. It’s not uncommon for each generation of the Pokemon series to have two competing titles, both generally the same except for some version exclusive Pokemon, thus encouraging trading between versions. There is often a third version of the game that follows a year later, adding a few new features, exclusive Pokemon and a new mission or two. There have been variations on this formula, from the full-on story sequels of Black & White 2 to the remastered Alpha Sapphire which acted as a spiritual successor to the well-received X & Y. Ultra Moon is the first ‘third-version’ Pokemon game that I’ve played where it felt like a director’s cut. Plot events and situations are changed to make the story work slightly better. It still has its gaping obvious flaws, but now it feels a bit more polished.

If you were turned off by Sun & Moon their Ultra versions might smooth over some of your problems. Then again, there are plenty of reasons to scratch your head and say, “What?” at these versions too. At some point, the bottom half of your screen becomes dominated by tutorial tips from your talking Pokedex. This is the screen also used for your map and menu information. It is incredibly annoying to glance down at the map only to see the Pokedex rambling about a great place to take photos of your Pokemon. Oh, and by the way, you can only take photos of your Pokemon at the Photo Club, even though your Pokedex clearly has a camera on it for story reasons.

There’s lots of little barbs like this. Lillie and Hau, the game’s insufferable companions, have been toned down a bit but are still load-bearing. The game’s villains seem to be less brutal and are let off the hook a bit easier in this version. The one update the game didn’t get but sorely needed was a line-by-line revision of its dialogue. The awkward phrasing and weird non-sequiturs would be forgivable were any of it funny, but it constantly feels like the localization team is dancing around the idea of jokes without delivering any. The writing in this game makes the writing in Red & Blue sound like Shakespeare, and that includes the little kid who shouts about his love of shorts.

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The biggest let down is how the game mishandles things that were done better in previous entries. The online system is worse than Alpha Sapphire‘s and while Super Training was dull, its replacement in Ultra Moon is a convoluted nightmare. Pokemon fans love to battle and some of them take it very seriously. The game acknowledges the existence of its adult fans. It just refuses to cater to them.

Deriders might say that I am putting too much stock in a children’s property, but Nintendo tentpoles like Mario and Zelda continue to deliver for all ages. Like the best Pixar and Ghibli movies there is a sweet spot where everyone can get a kick out of something, and for a while, Pokemon resided in this spot. To be frank, this sweet spot should be Nintendo’s wheelhouse.

I’ll refrain from my traditional rant in which I beg Nintendo to release a next-gen Pokemon MMO. “Do yourself a favor. It will be like printing money,” etc. Instead I will end this review with a reminder of the inconsistency of Ultra Moon, one that I think will speak to fans of the franchise or even ones that haven’t played it since the old Game Boy versions. What’s the catch phrase associated with Pokemon? “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!” That signature slogan is the battle cry of the trainer. You’re supposed to fill up your Pokedex with all the Pokemon you’ve caught, hoping to one day “catch ’em all.” In Pokemon Ultra Moon there is no national Pokedex, meaning there is no complete list of Pokemon in the game. You literally can’t catch ’em all. “Catch some, why worry? Mahalo for buying this game twice, ya dummies!”