Wii U Release Date and Review: New Gamepad Takes Gaming to a New Level

This Sunday, November 17, marks the North American release of the Wii U, the latest videogame console by Nintendo. Already expected to overtake its predecessor in terms of sales, the Wii U is an interesting piece of hardware that pushes the technological advancements in gaming somewhat farther, although whether you wish to immediately buy it depends entirely on how you view Nintendo’s launch line-up of software.

The Wii U primarily consists of two pieces of hardware: the console and the Gamepad. The console is just a traditional operating system, akin to the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. For the first time, however, a Nintendo console will offer full HD graphics (up to 1080p), come equipped with a proper HDMI cable, and offer multiple storage capacity options (8gb and 32gb). The storage will, of course, be extendable using SD memory cards and USB hard drives. 

The more interesting part of the package, however, is the Wii U Gamepad. Being referred to as the system’s primary controller option, the Gamepad is a touchscreen tablet that serves as a second screen for gaming in addition to the television. The peripheral also sports two analog sticks, a directional pad, speakers, microphone, eight buttons (four on the front, two on the bumpers and two triggers), and wireless connection with the console. Essentially, think of this as a traditional gaming controller with more features and a fairly large touchscreen.

Of course, a couple of things that you should be aware of here are the controller’s limitations. While it has been heavily advertised that players will be able to play on the tablet while the TV is on another display, understand that this feature only works on some products because many games require both the tablet and the television screen simultaneously. Also, whereas the traditional Wii controllers ran on their own batteries, the Wii U Gamepad actually needs to be charged via an outlet separate from the console’s, so you will probably need a surge protector or outlet adapter.

The console will also support other controllers, such as the more traditionally designed Wii U Pro controller (two analog sticks, eight buttons, and a directional pad similar to the current Xbox 360 controller), the classic WiiMote with Nunchuk add-on, and the Wii Fit Balance board. Of course, not all of these controllers will be compatible with every game.   

Also, it’s worth noting that you will need an internet connection in order to acquire a special first time downloadable update, without which you will not be able to play or transfer data from your original Wii games, acquire content from the electronic store, or voice chat with friends. In fact, voice chat is a bit problematic because it will be entirely in the hands of individual developers, meaning several games may not offer it, and only the Gamepad has a headphone jack so no matter which controller you’re using, this feature will require that you keep the tablet nearby.

The selling point upon release for the original Wii was undoubtedly Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and it did not disappoint but accompanying titles such as Red Steel and Far Cry: Vengeance unfortunately did. The launch line-up for the Wii U, luckily, is not so single-faceted and players will actually have the option to purchase several major titles.

Original games exclusive the system include New Super Mario Bros. U, ZombiU, and Scibblenauts Unlimited while remakes of already released games include Batman: Arkham City (subtitled “Armored Edition”), Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Tekken Tag Tournament II, Assassin’s Creed III, Madden ’13, FIFA 13 and Ninja Gaiden III. While it remains to be seen how the games fare on the new system, New Super Mario Bros. U is receiving the most widespread critical praise.

Finally, if you simply cannot wait to purchase the console, you should take some precautions.

First, do not buy anything on auction websites; the system is sold out in most online stores and waiting in line is annoying but that does not mean you need to be price-gouged for something you can easily pick up once the heat dies down. Second, if you do decide to wait in line, be very respectful of other people’s places; these waits are often prolonged and people tend to lose their tempers so, for the sake of your safety, follow basic etiquette. Third, decide what system and game (or games) you want to purchase before getting into the store; it will save you some time once you’re actually nearing purchase and prevent any delays for both you and your fellow customers.

And finally, if you do manage to acquire a console, take the time to read the manual and download all proper updates before you start gaming; it will save you from possibly doing any damage to your new gaming system and allow you to get the full experience. Above all else, of course, take this opportunity to enjoy a new experience for we have officially entered the eighth generation of gaming consoles.