Nintendo's first HD console, the Wii U, is launching today, November 18th. I was lucky enough to score some extended hands-on time with it and came away with some of my burning questions answered, plus a few new ones.
It will be available in two versions, with the $349 Wii U Deluxe including a 32GB black console and Game Pad, plus the Nintendo Land game and extra accessories (console stand, controller stand, etc), while the Basic Wii U will include a 8GB white console and Game Pad.
Build and Design
The Wii U is similar in size and shape to the original Wii, though it's quite a bit longer. Games load from the front, which also has two handy USB ports hidden under a flap. The back of the console has two more USB ports plus the power plug and HDMI port (the cable is included in the box). I was surprised by just how big and heavy the AC adapter is; power brick doesn't even begin to describe it.
The Game Pad is of course the star of the show, with a 7-inch touchscreen that invites you to play games in entirely new ways. You'll also find a camera centered on the front, and tons of buttons plus two joysticks. There's a headphone jack and a volume slider on the top edge, while the charging port is on the bottom.
The tablet controller is quite wide, but the Game Pad feels very good in the hand; it isn't anywhere near as heavy as it looks. After just 20 minutes, it felt quite natural, though there were times that I should have been looking at the TV instead of the Game Pad, and vice versa. Perhaps we're all becoming accustomed to doing two things at once--but I quickly got used to it (surfing on an iPad while watching TV? Guilty as charged.)
Not all features of the Wii U are working yet, so I wasn't able to test the video chat or Miiverse. But I can say that there's plenty of innovation packed into this console, and it will be fun to figure out everything that it can do. The Game Pad doesn't just feature a touchscreen, but also tilt controls. Friend codes are gone, and Nintendo Network IDs will eventually work across the Wii U and the 3DS, plus PCs as well. One of the best features is the ability to play some games entirely on the Game Pad, no TV required, so you can let your spouse watch TV without having to sacrifice all of your gaming time.
I'll admit that I'm something of a Nintendo fangirl, though not in the traditional sense. The NES was my system of choice back in the day, though I never got a Wii -- I've been on the handheld side of things through all of the generations of the Game Boy, Nintendo DS, and now the 3DS.
But there's something about the Wii U that promises much more than the waggling fun and party games of the last generation. It's fresh and new, but doesn't feel gimmicky or cheap, and I can't wait to learn more about it over the next week and a half before launch.
Stay tuned for a comprehensive review here on DesktopReview.
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