Getting To Know Nintendo’s Wii U

Photo courtesy Nintendo

Just in time for Christmas, Nintendo just released its much-anticipated Wii U console.

This is the first new home video game system released in six years, and with it Nintendo is aiming to change the landscape of games and entertainment with the new Wii U GamePad controller.

“Wii U is an ‘everyday’ connected device offering a combination of games, entertainment, online connectivity and social activity that will make people want to interact with it daily,” says Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie Fils-Aime. “Never before have so many features been packed into one game console, at any price. Our substantial lineup of games offered at launch has something for everyone on your shopping list.”

For starters, the GamePad is effectively the face of the Wii U. It is a large controller with a 6.2-inch touchscreen, built-in speakers, motion sensor and a front-facing camera. The button layout is fairly standard with two analog sticks, a D-pad, four directional buttons, two shoulder buttons and two triggers. It is also built-in with near Near Field Communication (NFC), but at the moment is completely unused. For those of you unfamiliar with NFC, it’s a different form of two-way radio frequency identification that has a range of about 4 inches and is used for secure applications such as paying for things, or directly transferring photos/contacts between two devices.

The nice thing about using the GamePad is the fact that you can continue playing your game even if you walk away from your TV. The downside is that the charge will only last a few hours, so you need to recharge it frequently if you’ll be doing some heavy gaming. That aspect can be a slight disruption, but will force you to take a break. The Gamepad’s display isn’t the greatest (your iPad is definitely better), but it’s easy to look past that considering its size and functionality. You can move certain games from the TV to be played on the GamePad or use your GamePad as a remote for your TV. Additionally, multiple players can enjoy different experiences within the same game, depending on which controller you opt to use.

Twenty-nine games became available with the Wii U’s launch. To name a few: Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U, Sing Party, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, Just Dance 4, Assassin’s Creed III, Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Madden NFL 13. You can expand the storage of your Wii U with an external USB hard drive. This will give you more space for you to save downloadable content for your games such as additional levels or maps. All your original Wii games and accessories will work on the Wii U as well, since they’re all backward compatible.

For concerned parents, the Wii U’s parental controls let you manage the content your keiki can access. Here you can prevent access to games’ online components, blocking games based on their ratings (and other entertainment other than games), use of the Internet, posting comments, shopping and more. However, if you are using the browser for yourself, you can browse purely on the GamePad while you’re watching TV, or pause your game, launch the browser, do your search, then jump back into the game where you left off.

In addition, you can use the Wii U Chat function to chat (with the built-in camera) with other Wii U users. And, in December, Nintendo will activate the Nintendo TVii feature, which makes your TV-watching experience simple and fun by bringing together a program guide, remote control and social interaction into one seamless second-screen experience on your GamePad.

This will work with your existing TV service and social networks (i.e., Facebook, Twitter and Nintendo’s Miiverse). You’ll also be able to do Video on Demand with Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Netflix and YouTube.

The Wii U Basic Set retails for $299.99 and includes a white Wii U console/white GamePad controller with 8GB of storage, AC adapters for the console and controller, sensor bar and an HDMI cable.

The Wii U Deluxe Set is $349.99 and includes the same components as the Basic Set, but comes in black, and also comes with the Nintendo Land game, 32GB of storage, a console stand, GamePad stand and a GamePad charging cradle.