By Frank Ling
Nintendo’s Wii U video game console launched in mid-November and it is a sure bet that many holiday shoppers will put this game machine at the top of their lists as a possible gift for friends, family or even themselves. But just what is the Wii U and does it really offer a new gaming experience as promised by Nintendo?
Nintendo offers the Wii U in two different versions. The “Deluxe” bundle has 32GB of internal memory, a Wii U game console in black, one Wii U GamePad controller, Wii U GamePad Stand, Wii U console stand, and one copy of Nintendo Land. The Deluxe package retails for $349.
The “Basic version of the Wii U comes with 8GB of internal memory, a white Wii U game console, and one Wii U GamePad controller. The basic Wii U retails for $299.
Both Wii U versions come with built in accelerometers, gyroscope, rumble feedback, camera, microphone, stereo speakers on the GamePad, sensor strip, stylus and touchscreen capabilities on the GamePad controller.
The main thing that differentiates the new Wii U game console from all others is its use of an innovative game controller called the GamePad. This device, which measures 5.3-inches high, 0.9-inches deep, and 10.2-inches wide, resembles a small touchscreen tablet. This controller allows the gamer to view data, interact with the main viewing screen, and perform different actions from the touchscreen display.
Gamers can use the GamePad as a “window” into the game. The traditional “d-pad” and joystick controllers are found on either side of the GamePad.
Nintendo describes the GamePad as:
“The Wii U™ GamePad controller removes the traditional barriers between you, your games, and your TV by creating a second window into the video game world. It incorporates a 6.2-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio LCD touch screen, as well as traditional button controls and two analog sticks.”
Gamers can also play their games by just using the GamePad controller when the main television is used by others. Legacy controllers such as the ones used for the old Wii game console are supported by the Wii U. Previous Wii games can also be played on the new Wii U.
Unlike the previous iteration of the Wii where anyone could pick up a controller and immediately understand the concept of a motion-controlled game device, the Wii U steps away from this easy concept and adds more features to its GamePad but at the expense of user friendliness.
Seasoned gamers should have no problem in adjusting to this new format, but for casual gamers, there may be a bit of a learning curve. Some Wii U owners have also reported that a lengthy and involved process is needed to transfer game data from the old Wii to the new Wii U.
Should you buy it?
The Wii U has had mixed reviews from the gaming community from stellar to disappointment. The new GamePad is an interesting step away from traditional game controller systems, but as to whether this justifies a brand new game console purchase is still up for grabs. Also, as with all new video game console releases, there are a limited amount of new games during the initial launch.
At the moment, since its debut on November 18, there are still many units still available for purchase and the mere fact that it hasn’t sold out yet may be an indication that the public is taking a “wait and see” course before committing to a purchase.
For diehard Nintendo fans, the Wii U presents another evolutionary step for the Wii console for a unique gaming experience. Casual gamers or those who are still on the fence in regards to purchasing one may do better by first trying out a Wii U at their local big box department stores.
Final verdict: The Wii U has a lot of potential and for those who want the latest tech in a video game console or are huge Nintendo fans; it may be just the thing to get. For everyone else, try before you buy.
Frank Ling is the National Technology Examiner for Examiner.com. He is a writer, professional photographer, and video editor. One of his all-time favorite jobs was working at a large video game publisher as a QA trainer for testing game software.