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New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe review: The toad princess cometh
Of all of the Wii U games Nintendo has been porting over to the Switch, New Super Mario Bros. U is arguably the biggest. With Breath of the Wild launching so late in the Wii U’s lifecycle, I think it’s fair to consider New Super Mario Bros. U the flagship Nintendo title for the platform, and it’s one that could certainly benefit from exposure to a larger audience. This port is also another chance for Nintendo to flex its platformer prowess and show us once more why Mario is the reigning king of video games.
Mainline games in the Super Mario series – which has been running for more than 30 years, keep in mind – have never been outright bad. Instead, they tend to fall somewhere within a pretty narrow range of quality that starts at “very good” and ends at “essential.” Have other games done it as well as Mario throughout the years? Yes. Have other games done it as well as Mario as consistently as Mario has? Nope.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, in my opinion, falls a little short of its predecessors, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. It’s unquestionably a good game, even a great game if you’re a fan of 2D Mario titles. We knew that much five years ago, though, so the question now becomes one of what New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe does to stand out from the game that first debuted in late 2012.
Toadette has some abilities that the rest of the cast (with the exception of Nabbit) don’t. She controls better on ice and in water, which takes a degree of difficulty out of a number of levels. While those abilities certainly make some parts of the game easier, Toadette’s true capabilities come from the Super Crown, a power-up that’s exclusive to her. Upon touching one, she’ll transform into Peachette, and with that transformation comes a number of abilities that definitely make the game far easier.
Nabbit makes the game even easier, but those who played the New Super Luigi U expansion for the original game (which is included here as well) already know that. Nabbit can’t be harmed by enemies in any meaningful way, instead walking right past them most of them. He can’t use power ups either, but there’s little point in using them when traps like pits, lava, and those that crush you are the only real danger.
He also has similar movement capabilities to Toadette when on ice and in water, so completing stages as Nabbit is a breeze. In regards to Nabbit, the major differences between Deluxe and the original game is that now he’s no longer limited to the content in New Super Luigi U – you can play him in the base game’s stages as well.
Platforming veterans may scoff at the idea of making a game easier – I did at first, to be honest – but New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe can actually get pretty tough at times. Maybe I’m just losing my touch as a result of getting older, but I don’t remember platformers being this difficult back in the ’90s. Obviously, these days we have games like Celeste and Super Meat Boy where the challenge is part of the appeal, but I don’t usually expect a high degree of difficulty out of a game like Super Mario Bros.
There were times where I would die over and over again in a single stage – sometimes on the same screen – and be greeted with that green Super Assist Block that started appearing in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Instead of hitting that block and letting the computer complete the stage for me, I’d switch over to Toadette, use a Super Crown, and finish the level as Peachette with at least some of my dignity intact. I’m happy Toadette serves as some sort of middle ground between the game’s default difficulty and the ease in which you complete levels by playing Nabbit, because without her, I definitely would have rage quit the game far more often than I did.
I think the platforming in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is solid as always, and the level design is actually really good. There are a lot of very creative levels to be found in this game, and some of the challenges they present are designed well too. On top of that, the game is a joy to look at – colorful and vibrant, with plenty of varying aesthetics to experience as you jump from world to world.
As it is, I think that New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a perfectly good Mario Bros. game, and if you never played the original on Wii U, it’s definitely worth buying on the Switch if you like side-scrolling platformers. Co-op play is fantastic, as it has been throughout the New Super Mario Bros. games that support it. Even playing with just one other person adds a lot to the game, as you’ll need to time movements carefully to make sure one person doesn’t push the other into a pit, trap, or enemy. I haven’t had the chance to play New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe with four players yet, but it’s something I look forward doing as I imagine it’s a very hectic yet enjoyable way to play the game.
My main complaint about New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is that it falls a little flat in this post-Breath of the Wild, post-Super Mario Odyssey world. In both of those games, Nintendo did something it doesn’t often do: it took chances, and in the case of Breath of the Wild, the risks it took were rather dramatic. Nintendo typically operates as a very risk-averse company – it knows what works and it sticks to that, tweaking the formula in each new game slightly to change things up just enough.
It was refreshing to see Nintendo take those chances in Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, and it’s no secret that those risks paid off significantly. Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey were both better games for the chances that Nintendo took, and I want to see that spread to the big N’s other franchises.
Even as a New Super Mario Bros. game launching in 2012, I’d argue NSMBU played it a little too safe. Its main hook, at least until New Super Luigi U launched later on in 2013, was “Super Mario Bros. in HD!” It was the first Mario game to be made in HD, and for some, that was enough reason to be excited.
Don’t get me wrong, the game looks great, especially on the Switch, but I think New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe borrows a bit too much from its predecessors, which can hold it back at times. I don’t necessarily begrudge Nintendo for that, because New Super Mario Bros. U was a launch title for the Wii U, an unproven platform that needed to pull people in. Consumers have shown time and time again that they love 2D Mario games, so it’s hard to fault Nintendo for giving the people what they want as a means of selling a new console, even if the company played it a little safe in the process.
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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review: The return of the king
That I’m sitting here in 2023 and writing a review of Mario Kart 8 definitely seems strange. I have played this game before – a lot – and now I’m revisiting the same game under very different circumstances. Nintendo, recognizing that the original release of Mario Kart 8 likely missed a lot folks because it was released on the Wii U (a console not many people had), has re-released the game on the Nintendo Switch as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, packing in some extra racers, modes, and all the DLC that was released for the original game. Do the extras make Mario Kart 8 Deluxe worth a second purchase?
That’s why I’m happy to see this game releasing for the Switch. Mario Kart 8 deserves so much more than the meager audience the Wii U could provide it. True, Mario Kart 8 was one of the best-selling Wii U titles, but the console only managed to hit 13.5 million units sold worldwide by the time everything was said and done, putting a rather low ceiling on the number of possible Mario Kart 8 players. With the Switch selling well and the Nintendo faithful greeting it with a renewed energy, things look much brighter for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
If you’ve never played Mario Kart 8 and you’ve enjoyed any of the previous installments, then this is an easy decision: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe absolutely deserves a spot in your library. Even if it would be your first introduction to the Mario Kart series in general, this is still a must-have. I’m not even a huge racing fan and I still count Mario Kart 8 among my favorite games. That’s how good it is, and I say without hesitatation that Nintendo has crafted one of the best arcade racers around in Mario Kart 8.
If you still need a little more convincing, allow me to run through everything Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offers. There are a whopping 48 tracks in all, split up into 16 different cups. You’d think that with so many tracks, some of them would be lackluster, but that doesn’t really end up being the case. Considering that roughly one third to one half of them are remakes of tracks from previous Mario Kart games, we can already expect a certain level of quality. The new tracks don’t disappoint either, and I can’t say that I dislike racing on any of them.
Part of that is due to the fact that the game just looks so beautiful. While the original ran at 720p, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe runs at 1080p when you’re playing in TV mode. This is a welcome bump up in resolution, and sometimes it takes a lot of focus to keep your eyes on the road and resist gawking at the environments you’re racing through. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is colorful and vibrant, and serves as a welcome palate cleanser after spending some time with more mature games that have limited color ranges.
There are a total of 42 characters to play as in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, each belonging to a certain weight class that changes the way your vehicle accelerates and handles. Of these, five characters are new, with King Boo, Dry Brones, Bowser Jr., Inking Boy, and Inkling Girl (both from Splatoon) joining the fray. Mario Kart 8’s roster spans more Nintendo franchises than ever before – the usual suspects such as Mario, Donkey Kong, and Yoshi are there, but they’re joined by Link, characters from Animal Crossing, and even the Koopa Kids. Needless to say, most people will have difficult time choosing their favorite racer (though the best is clearly Link).
As if you didn’t already have enough options, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also features dozens of different vehicle parts that allow to form a ton of different combinations. You’ll get to choose your kart’s body, wheels, and glider in an attempt to find a balance between five different vehicle stats: speed, acceleration, weight, traction, and handling. Between characters and kart composition, the number of customization options you have is immense, and it’s fun figuring out which combinations work with your preferred character and which ones don’t.
In the original Mario Kart 8, you had to unlock almost everything in the game. This time around, most of it is unlocked from the first time you boot up the game, save for your vehicle parts and Gold Mario. You need to unlock those through regular play, though vehicle parts unlock quickly enough. As someone who already went through the process of unlocking all of the characters and tracks in the original Mario Kart 8, I think this was a great decision on Nintendo’s part, and new players get the benefit of being able to dive right into (almost) everything Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has to offer.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also changes the original’s formula in a seemingly slight way that actually has some big implications. With this re-release, you can now carry two items as you race – something we haven’t really seen since Mario Kart: Double Dash on the Gamecube. You can’t switch between the items at will, which is kind of a bummer, but this gives you more options when it comes to combating the game’s obvious rubberbanding.
Let’s divert a little bit to cover rubberbanding, as it’s usually the elephant in the room when we’re talking about Mario Kart. For those unfamiliar with the concept, rubberbanding is the game’s way of making sure that one person can’t just dominate the race from start to finish. In other words: those further behind will typically get better items than those who are leading the pack, giving those bringing up the rear a chance to move up in position.
Nowhere is rubberbanding more obvious than in the fabled blue shell (or spiked shell, as Nintendo likes to call it). The blue shell’s only purpose is to seek out the player who is currently in first place and sideline them for a few seconds, allowing others to catch up. Meanwhile, those in first and second tend to find items that noticeably less powerful, like coins, banana peels, or green shells, which can’t be targeted but instead need to be aimed. While some of these are good at staving off incoming threats, coins in particular are useless when it comes to maintaining your lead.
Being able to hold two items helps with this, as it means you can hold onto a second items to help defend your position. While this tweak makes the race more fun for everyone, it ends up seeming like a small buff to those in second or first position, and that’s certainly a great change for anyone who has been on the wrong side of rubberbanding.
Rubberbanding is, perhaps, the biggest argument against Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It can be very, very frustrating to be dominating a race only to be hit by a barrage of shells as you close in on the finish line. While I’ve definitely raged such events before, I keep coming back for more, so I can’t say it ruins the game for me. I won’t excuse it, because honestly trying to justify rubberbanding doesn’t really make much sense, but I won’t say that it diminishes my enjoyment by any significant amount.
Aside from those new racers and the ability to hold two items at once, the biggest addition to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is definitely the revamped battle mode. If you’ve already played Mario Kart 8, this is the biggest reason to buy it again on the Switch. Fans rightly complained about the lackluster battle mode in the original, but here it’s in full form and it’s excellent.
There are five games to play in battle mode. The first is Balloon Battle, which is maybe the most familiar to someone who put a lot of time into Mario Kart 64. The premise is simple: you have five balloons floating behind your kart and getting hit by another player makes you lose one. Destroying other players’ balloons gives you points, and you win if you score the most points during the match.
To me, the most interesting battle game is Renegade Roundup. In this game, players are split into two teams – renegades and authorities. Renegades have to avoid the authorities, which have piranha plants attached to the front of their cars that will capture the renegades if they get to close.
Captured renegades are placed in a cell floating above the arena, though renegades who are still free can release their teammates by driving over a switch. Renegades win if at least one of them is still free by the time the clock runs out, while authorities win if they capture everyone on the opposing team.
Other modes include Bob-omb Blast, which is like a standard Balloon Battle except all the item boxes hold Bob-ombs (this is a particularly hectic mode), and Coin Rush, which tasks players with collecting more coins than their opponents to win. Finally, we have Shine Thief, a keep-away game where the goal is to hold onto a Shine for as long as you can while other players try to take it away from you.
These games are played on a total of 8 arenas, with three of them being recreations of arenas from previous games. All of the modes and arenas are great, and this new battle mode in general really gives Mario Kart 8 Deluxe much more longevity after you tire of playing standard races. The only complaint is that we didn’t have it sooner.
Super Smash Bros is one of those games that you never really forget. So influential was the original series that it shaped an entire niche for itself that few other games have ever been able to gain a foothold in. Though the knockoffs were many, only a mere handful were ever able to capture their own sense of individuality while embracing the same platformer-brawler gameplay that made Super Smash Bros so special. Down below we sifted through the muck to find the few nuggets of gold that are worth a look for anyone looking for a game like Super Smash Bros.
Developer: Blue Mammoth Games
Platform: Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS
Brawlhalla is a massively popular, 2D love letter to all things Smash! It has over 50 playable heroes doing battle on an array of dynamic, platformer arenas and uses the same signature knockback mechanic to KO players off the map. The gameplay is faster, and the arenas even more compact than Super Smash Bros, but is otherwise one of the closest Smash-likes that has managed to carve out its own distinct personality and immense player base. And it’s so good on mobile, too.
Rivals of Aether
Developer: Dan Fornace
Platform: Windows, Xbox One
Something like Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Super Smash Bros, Rivals of Aether employs a 2D style and smaller roster of playable characters, called “Rivals”, but finds depth in the elemental combat system. One of the best features of Rivals of Aether is its unique integration with the Steam Workshop, which allows you to play community-created custom characters.
Related: Best Split Screen And Couch Co-op Action Games
Rivals of Aether also sports one of the most extensive, lesson-based training programs of any game out there. Perfect for fans of Super Smash Bros gameplay but who want more storyline and like the idea of an elemental dimension to the combat system.
Developer: Angry Mob Games
Platform: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Brawlout is a well-balanced, fully rendered platform brawler and one of the better looking of the Smash-likes. There are 25 playable characters to choose from, with a few special guests from other IPs like Dead Cells and Guacamelee.
Related: Best 15 Games for Girls on PC, Xbox, PS3 and PS4
The game is centered heavily around a combo system without any grabs or blocks, changing up combat in some ways while preserving the fun, compact madness of the original Super Smash Bros. Anybody who wants something that feels more polished than a cheap Smash knockoff would do well to check out Brawlout.
Developer: Final Strike Games
Platform: Windows, PS4, Xbox One
Rocket Arena is a hero shooter that borrows elements of games like Overwatch and Paladins and combines them with the Smash Bros knockback gameplay. Instead of a sidelong view, the game is a third-person shooter in which all characters fire rockets of some variety and employ their own distinct playstyles.
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Rocket Arena is an excellent choice for fans of hero shooters like Team Fortress 2 who want to see it merged with Super Smash Bros. Just try to get it on sale, for the current playerbase and content for the newly released game doesn’t live up the price tag just yet.
Super Smash Flash 2
Platform: Windows, Mac
Super Smash Flash 2 is exactly what the name suggests: a flash remake of the original Super Smash Brothers. That might sound outdated to you — I mean, it’s 2023 and the PS5 and Xbox Series X are dropping imminently — but know that every facet of the game was made with love by longtime fans of the project and it sports a healthy playerbase to this day. And heck, it’s got Dragonball Z characters in it, for crying out loud! What more could you want from a faithful Super Smash Bros clone?
Download Super Smash Flash: McleodGaming
Developer: Matt Makes Games
Platform: Windows, Linux, macOS, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
A little bit of Mario, a little bit of Super Smash Bros, and even some Worms come together to make the charming and compact Towerfall Ascension. The game pits a handful of players against each other on a super tiny, pixelated map with a couple arrows each.
Related: 60 Lightweight, Easy, Fun Android and iOS Games to kill the time while you are stuck at home
The most distinct features of gameplay are the instadeath mechanic (no, there’s no knockback here) and super limited ammo system that has you thinking twice about every shot — especially since every missed arrow is one for your opponent to pick up. Towerfall Ascension is perfect for people who want to try a different sort of Platformer brawl with simple but surprisingly deep gameplay.
Developer: Team Reptile
Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
Lethal League is like Super Smash Bros meets Pong. Sounds lame, but it’s hyper-addictive. In Lethal League, you don’t actually attack your opponents directly but rather deflect a ball back at them — with each successive deflection speeding it up, and a single hit causing instant death. It’s a simple gameplay system that feels like crack as soon as the ball is ricocheting all across the arena and both you and your opponents are doing their best to be the last one hit.
Developer: Superbot Entertainment, Bluepoint games
Platform: Playstation 3
Playstation All-Stars was Sony’s attempt to answer the Super Smash Bros niche that the former had carved out for itself, and while the game no longer has the online multiplayer support it once enjoyed, the game can be fun for PS3 owners looking to hearken back to the days of couch co-op.
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Like Super Smash Bros, the aim of the game is to knock everyone else off the map, but it does so with a different combat system that has players collecting “AP” orbs to gain access to more powerful attacks and special moves. It has a bunch of the stars from the Playstation exclusives, like Kratos from God of War and Ratchet from Ratchet and Clank. All around, it’s cheap and worth the ten bucks for some fun local multiplayer.
Download Playstation All-Stars: PS3
Developer: Boneloaf, Coatsink
Platform: Windows, Linux, macOS, Xbox One, PS4
Gang Beasts is a slapstick multiplayer party brawler that’s great fun for friends but can feel a little lame when flying solo. Combat takes place on a colorful set of stages set in the rather conspicuously named Beef City, with the object of the game to use your gelatinous body to beat other players unconscious and then throw off the stage or into one of the numerous hazards present.
The gameplay is silly and a lot of fun with friends, but it’s sort of buggy and a seeming lack of meaningful attention from the developers in the years since its release has turned a lot of players off. If you happen to catch it on sale, definitely go for it. It’s worth it for a couple of laughs at least.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate
Developer: Bandai Namco, Sora
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Well. It’s Super Smash Bros. It’s the original game but remade from scratch using modern capabilities and with a few added features. Gameplay, thankfully, maintains the exact formula that made the series what is and as a result stands as one of the most successful Switch games of all time, outselling even Breath of the Wild in Japan.
The game has received near-universal praise from critics and the millions of fans currently enjoying the online multiplayer feature and anybody with a Switch looking to take a dip in the nostalgia pool would be insane to go with anything but Super Smash Bros’ latest iteration.
Download Super Smash Bros: Switch
Super Smash Bros (Emulated)
Price: Free (technically speaking)
If truly nothing else scratches your Super Smash Bros itch, you could always go with the OG Nintendo 64 or Gamecube versions on an emulator. It is, quite literally, Super Smash Bros, and seems to perform well on both the Dolphin and Project 64 emulators with a substantial and active fan base.
Well, what do you think? Know any other good Super Smash Bros-like games missing from the list? Any here that you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole? Let us know down below. We’re all ears.
HTC U Ultra Review: Flawed Beauty
The fans won’t want to hear it, but HTC has made a misstep with the HTC U Ultra. Flagship follow-up to last year’s HTC 10, it promises high-style and plenty of functionality to go with its premium $749 price tag, and there’s no denying that its high-gloss glass body caught my magpie-like eye. All the same, some questionable hardware decisions have left me frustrated.
You can’t argue with the U Ultra’s style, particularly in this beautiful blue finish. HTC offers white and black versions, but really it’s the deep blue you want: it shows off how the engineers ran color through the molded glass, rather than just underneath it, most effectively. They call it “liquid surface” and it’s stunning.
It’s also more eager for your fingerprints than USCIS at an airport, and if it’s not picking up greasy smudges then it’s breaking your heart with a growing number of tiny scratches. HTC claims you can drop the U Ultra from more than three feet and not have it smash, but it still includes a – not especially premium-feeling – clear plastic case in the box. The front is Gorilla Glass 5.
Dropping it is a reasonable fear to have, too, since the U Ultra is noticeably slippery. It’s a big device as well, and the tapering sides join at a similarly untextured metal frame; neither is especially conducive to a firm grip. Unlike many phones in the price bracket, it’s not waterproof.
HTC has clearly had a shot of whatever strong beverage gave Apple the “courage” to drop the 3.5mm headphone jack, too. Despite the size of the handset, the U Ultra only bears a USB Type-C port, doubling for power and audio. Annoyingly, where you at least get an adapter for regular headphones in the box with the iPhone 7, HTC wants to sell you that separately.
Bizarrely, the bundled USB-C “USonic” headphones – though admittedly sounding pretty decent, particularly if you take the time to tune them to your ears in the settings – only work with HTC’s phone. It’s a baffling and, frankly, ridiculous situation: the whole point of USB-C is that it cuts down what cables we have to carry. At least the built-in audio, which uses the earpiece speaker and a second speaker on the bottom, sounds loud and balanced, even if it’s not quite as punchy a set-up as the original HTC BoomSound.
Behind the Gorilla Glass 5 – or, if you’re super-swish and step up to the $1k, version, sapphire – you find a 5.7-inch Super LCD5 screen. Viewing angles are broad, colors punchy and accurate – if on the cool side, compared to what many are now used to from Super AMOLED; HTC offers options to tweak up the warmth if it’s annoying you – and the 1440p resolution is crisp, and it’s only the vast bezels top and bottom that detract from the whole affair. It seems a little unfair to compare the U Ultra to Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 and S8+ but, honestly, they’re priced in the same bracket, and what Samsung has done with the super-skinny frame around its “Infinity Display” makes HTC’s engineering look archaic.
HTC does try to even the score somehow with how those bezels are used. At the bottom, there’s a fingerprint sensor built into a capacitive home button, flanked by back and app-switcher buttons. I do prefer a fingerprint sensor on the front of a phone rather than the back, since it’s easier to unlock it while it’s sat on a desk or nightstand.
At the top, meanwhile, is the U Ultra’s secondary display. Just as on the LG V20, it runs nearly the full width of the phone – on paper it’s 2-inches, though it’s a wide and shallow rectangle that stops short of the full width of the phone so as to accommodate the front-facing camera – and can be powered on separately from the main panel in the name of frugality. It’s designed to work as a launcher, notification ticker, calendar preview, and media control.
That it does, though there are limits to how useful it actually is. Unlike with Super AMOLED phones, the U Ultra’s secondary display isn’t constantly on: you need to double-tap, lift, or wait for a notification to arrive in order for it to light up. You can swipe left and right to access the different screens.
In HTC’s defense, many of those frustrations could be addressed with a software update. Indeed, for the most part, the software side of the U Ultra is solid. As we’ve seen on other recent HTC devices, the company has taken a surprisingly rational approach to apps, defaulting to Android’s own for the most part. So, you get the Google Photos app rather than HTC’s Gallery, and Chrome rather than the HTC Browser.
The question is whether HTC has the commitment to actually follow that up with regular Android updates, and there the future is a little less certain. The latest firmware available for the phone, for instance, is Android 7.0 with the January 1st 2023 security patch. HTC says Android 7.1 is on the cards, just as you’d hope, but there’s no public timescale for its release.
Otherwise, the big change this time around is the arrival of HTC Sense Companion. It was billed as an artificial intelligence that promises to handle the minutiae of your day, whether that be tracking power management settings to make sure you have enough juice to get through the commute home, or suggesting somewhere nearby for lunch. Part AI, part bot, the idea is that it will add the useful charm to the U Ultra’s clean design, and really give the secondary display something to shout about. In reality, suggestions are few and far between – which does at least mean you don’t suffer an over-chatty assistant – and I suspect most will stick with Google’s similar services.
At least everything runs fast on the Snapdragon 821 chipset with 4GB of RAM and Adreno 530 graphics. Internal storage is a healthy 64GB – the more expensive U Ultra doubles that to 128GB – and there’s a microSD slot for up to 256GB cards. No, it might not be the Snapdragon 835 that the Galaxy S8 is rocking, but it’s plenty swift enough.
Just when I was starting to think I couldn’t fault HTC’s spec decisions, however, you get to the battery. That it’s non-removable isn’t a surprise, but that it’s only 3,000 mAh in size seems bizarre given the scale of the handset overall. You get Fast Charging 3.0 with the supplied charger, which is a plus, but no wireless charging, which is a minus.
The result is a phablet-size device that can last a whole day, but not always. Use that big display for too much video, gaming, or even just browsing the web at reasonable brightness, and you might find you need a top-up come the evening. If you’re not as wedded to your phone as I am – and I admit, I’m a heavy user – you could probably get a day and a half, but it’s still enough to make you wish for at least the 3,500 mAh that Samsung fits in the Galaxy S8+.
As for the camera, it falls somewhere along the same lines: solid, but lacking sparkle. HTC’s strategy of using sensors with big pixels, not to mention its welcome return to optical image stabilization, and the inclusion of both phase-detection and laser autofocus, should make for a top-tier shooter. That’s doubly so when you consider the that the 12-megapixel camera protrudes not-inconsiderably from the back of the phone.
With the right lighting and the right scene, the U Ultra captures great images. These days, of course, that’s table-stakes. Where things begin to stumble is when you throw in occasionally confused exposure settings – which can leave some areas of the frame blown out, despite the HDR mode – or more blur than you’d expect, from it forcing slower shutter speeds in low-light conditions. That’s a bonus if you can supply it with the steadiness of a tripod; unfortunately, the OIS isn’t a miracle worker for handheld shots.
To get the best results you need to switch into Pro mode and adjust things manually, but while I’m glad that’s offered – along with RAW image capture – I wish it wasn’t so necessary. When you can point-and-shoot with an iPhone 7, Galaxy S7, or LG G6 and expect great results in full-auto mode, I don’t see why the U Ultra can’t do the same. It’s good, but it’s not going to stand out of the pack.
Oddly, the front camera is higher resolution than the rear. HTC opted for a 16-megapixel sensor with a fairly wide-angle lens, and you can certainly fit plenty into your selfies. Though there’s no LED flash, the U Ultra can co-opt the display’s backlight for impromptu illumination.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate 3.0 update detailed, Joker DLC out today
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players have been waiting on details for the game’s 3.0 update for a long time. They’ve also been waiting for news on when Joker, who hails from Persona 5 and is the first DLC fighter for Ultimate, would drop. Late last night, Nintendo finally answered all of the questions fans have in a 15-minute video that appeared with no warning at all.
As it turns out, both Joker and the version 3.0 update are going live today. Joker’s moveset is detailed in the video you see embedded below, and it seems that he’s going to be a strong addition to the roster. He can even summon the Persona Arsene in battle, which makes him stronger by augmenting his abilities. Obviously, we’ll need to see how Joker actually performs in-game, but judging from this run down, it seems like he’ll have a lot of tools at his disposal.
Joker is launching as part of Challenger Pack 1, which is included in the $25 Fighters Pass but can also be purchased separately for $5.99. Challenger Pack 1 comes with a Persona-themed stage, Mementos, and a collection of 11 songs from Persona 3, Persona 4, and Persona 5. The color of Mementos even changes depending on the music you have playing, which is an interesting touch.
Nintendo also announced the first round of Mii Fighter Costumes, which are launching today for $0.75 each. Unsurprisingly, a number of these new outfits are themed around Persona, but there are a couple for fans of Sonic the Hedgehog as well. Specifically, Mii Gunner is getting a Tails costume and Mii Brawler is getting a Knuckles costume, so we’re seeing those two famous Sonic characters come to Smash Bros in a rather roundabout way.
As far as the version 3.0 update is concerned, we’ll see the addition of two new modes. The first is the Stage Builder, which does just what it says on the tin. In this mode, you can make your own stages by drawing on the Switch’s touch screen, adding moving or rotating platforms and stage hazards, and by adding background layers for decoration. Stages created through the Stage Builder can be accessed through the new “Custom” tab on the stage select screen, allowing you to battle on them once you’ve finalized your design.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is also getting a new Video Editor today, which allows you to splice clips from different replays together and add music, transitions, and subtitles to them. The Video Editor doesn’t seem to be a super in-depth tool, but it should allow you flex some creative muscle nonetheless.
The videos and stages you create can be uploaded for other players to download, which seems to be handled through a new feature for the Switch Online app called Smash World. With Smash World, you can browse videos and stages when you’re away from your Switch – videos can be viewed directly in the app, but in the case of stages, you’ll be able to queue them up to download to your Switch console so they’re ready to play the next time you boot up the game.
Frederick Blichert / Android Authority
2023 was a phenomenal year for television. Hit shows like Succession, The Expanse, Ted Lasso, Big Mouth, The Great, Servant, and more came back strong with some standout new seasons. Even more impressive, though, was the seemingly endless supply of stellar new series. Virtually every streaming service had a strong offering, including global hits like Squid Game on Netflix, a slate of Marvel shows on Disney Plus, and Apple TV Plus’ continued rise as a premium streamer. So, which were the best new shows of 2023?
Below, you’ll find our picks for the 10 standout new series that dominated in 2023. These include sleeper hits, blockbuster knockouts, and just plain solid entertainment. While a few cable shows like Yellowjackets, Chucky, and The White Lotus were among the very best new shows of 2023, we’ve limited this list to streaming exclusives.
See also: The best streaming services
The top 10 new shows of 2023
Hacks (HBO Max)
HBO Max’s Hacks was a total knockout. When a legendary stand-up comic’s social cachet starts to wane, she works with a younger comic facing her own image issues after an insensitive tweet gets her into hot water. The show offered a thoughtful and hilarious look at generational differences, the often volatile world of stand-up comedy, and the value of punching up.
Hacks was thankfully renewed for a second season. Jean Smart was an absolute treasure in both Hacks and HBO’s higher-profile Mare of Easttown, which aired concurrently for a few weeks.
Midnight Mass (Netflix)
Mike Flanagan proved once again why he’s becoming Netflix’s go-to guy for horror miniseries. Following The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, Midnight Mass tells the story of a small island community. A man returns home to the island after serving time in prison, to be met by a less-than-enthusiastic reception.
His arrival coincides with that of a mysterious new parish priest. The new arrivals bring with them renewed divisions among the townsfolk as mysterious and supernatural occurrences threaten their way of life. Midnight Mass offers a dark and intelligent look at grief, guilt, and faith.
Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
Only Murders in the Building is one of Hulu’s best original series, and certainly one of the best new shows of 2023 too. A hilarious send-up of America’s obsession with true crime, the series follows three huge fans of a Serial-like podcast as they come together to investigate a murder in their own Manhattan apartment complex. As they get closer to the truth, the three realize they all have their own secrets, and even their own ties to the murder they’re investigating.
With pitch-perfect performances from Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, who have undeniable and magnetic chemistry together onscreen, Only Murders in the Building is a binge-worthy treat.
Reservation Dogs (FX on Hulu)
Shot on the Muscogee Nation reservation in Oklahoma, Reservation Dogs follows a group of teens staging minor heists to save up and escape to the near-mythical promise of a better life in California. The show has tremendous heart and is hilarious while still addressing the immense inequality in America.
Co-created by Academy Award winner Taika Waititi, the show boasts all Indigenous writers and directors, as well as a majority Indigenous cast and production team. Renewed for a second season, Reservation Dogs was a critical darling and a hit with audiences. It very much earns its place among the best new shows of 2023.
Squid Game (Netflix)
Death game shows and movies are nothing new, but they still have the power to completely blow us away. That was especially the case with Squid Game, one of the best new shows of 2023, and one of the most impactful. For a few weeks there, you really couldn’t escape its hold on the entire world. It even inspired a playful beef between its creator and NBA superstar LeBron James.
The Korean original was a global hit for Netflix, and for good reason. It follows a group of contestants participating in a series of games for a huge cash prize. There’s a catch though. If you lose one of the games, you die. It’s brutal, bloody, and quite moving, and it offers a clever critique of capitalism and the way heartbreaking inequality and cruelty are baked into how we live.
Sweet Tooth (Netflix)
Based on Jeff Lemire’s groundbreaking Vertigo comic book, Sweet Tooth was a major win for Netflix in 2023. Blending sci-fi with moving family drama in a surreal post-apocalyptic setting, the series takes place after a virus has wiped out much of humanity. The virus — known as the Sick — also somehow kickstarted the birth of animal-human hybrid children.
In season one, we follow the 10-year-old hybrid Gus, who has survived mostly in isolation with his father. When his father dies, Gus tags along with the lone wanderer Jepperd, hoping the man will help him find his mother in a strange new world he’s never known.
The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video)
Amazon’s stunning miniseries, The Underground Railroad, literalizes the historical Underground Railroad. The network of abolitionists who worked to help secure freedom for individuals escaping slavery by providing shelter and access to secret routes here becomes a genuine railroad built underground, tracks and all, for the same purpose.
Creator and director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) adapts the novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead. Using magical realism, breathtaking cinematography, and a beautiful score by Nicholas Brittell, Jenkins and his gifted cast tell a haunting, beautiful, disturbing, dream-like story about America’s shameful past.
WandaVision (Disney Plus)
Disney invested hard in MCU television on its dedicated streamer, Disney Plus, in early 2023. The first MCU original streaming show released on Disney Plus remains one of its best (although Loki and Hawkeye have given it a run for its money). WandaVision explores Wanda’s emotional state following the events of Avengers: Endgame as she copes with the loss of Vision.
Retreating into the illusion of classic sitcoms, she struggles to contain her pain as magical forces conspire against her. It’s a smart and moving addition to the MCU and allows us to spend some quality time with characters who haven’t previously gotten a whole lot of screen time.Honorable mentions
Brand New Cherry Flavor: A young filmmaker trying to sell her movie in Hollywood gets mixed up with predatory producers and gruesome revenge curses in this bizarre and inventive Netflix horror miniseries.
Dr. Death: Based on a true story and the podcast of the same name, Dr. Death tells the story of a star neurosurgeon whose colleagues begin to notice disturbing patterns among his patients’ health outcomes.
Schmigadoon: A couple whose relationship is on the rocks, go on a hike and find themselves trapped in the bizarre town of Schmigadoon, where the rules of old Hollywood musicals apply, and they have to find true love to escape.
Wheel of Time: Every episode of Wheel of Time seems to get more absurd than the last. Amazon’s fantasy epic is admittedly uneven and more than a little silly, but it’s also hard to resist.
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