Nintendo Wii U stands out with GamePad tablet controller
It may not be as disruptive or innovative as 2006’s Wii, but presales for Nintendo’s next home-entertainment console, the Wii U, were sold out at Canadian retailers more than a week before the November 18 release of the hardware. Nintendo hopes to be able to keep up with demand with weekly shipments throughout the holiday season.
There are two options for those wanting a Wii U. The basic set ($299.99) includes white hardware with eight gigabytes of hard-drive space. The deluxe set ($349.99) is black with a 32-gigabyte hard drive, stands for the console and the GamePad controller, a charging cradle for the GamePad, and a copy of the Nintendo Land game. Both kits include a GamePad, sensor bar, HDMI cable, and the required charging cables. The extra storage space alone makes the deluxe edition the one to get.
The main unit has a low profile but extends further than you’d expect seeing it from the front. There are two USB and one SD card ports on the front. Internet connectivity enables web services like Netflix and YouTube. Nintendo plans on integrating some of those video services into Nintendo TVii, a forthcoming interactive television feature the company has been playing up.
The on-screen interface for the Wii U is familiar to those who have used a Wii. The various programs available appear as tiles that can be either tapped (on the GamePad screen) or selected (using a Wii Remote Plus controller on the TV). The HD functionality of the Wii U is noticeable; Miis and Marios, it seems, do look better with 1080p resolution.
The Wii U can accommodate up to four Wii Remote Plus controllers in addition to the GamePad. Those are available in a range of colours for $44.99. Nintendo’s labelled its more traditional game-controller peripheral the Pro Controller. It’s available in black or white for $49.99. Controllers used for the Wii system are compatible with the Wii U.
But it’s the GamePad that makes the Wii U stand out. The tablet-like controller has a front-facing camera, microphone, and speakers. Controls include two thumb sticks, buttons for the left and right hands, and bumpers and triggers for the index fingers. A stylus is provided to use on the six-inch touch screen—it’s not required, a fingertip will often suffice—though the GamePad is too big for most people to hold one-handed.
Two of the GamePad controllers can be used with a Wii U system, although there won’t be any games that use two of the controllers until next year. The GamePad allows for some interesting asymmetric experiences. In a multiplayer game, for example, the person using the GamePad can have a very different perspective than competitors. And some games can be played entirely on the GamePad, dispensing with the TV entirely. So it’s possible for one person to watch TV while another plays New Super Mario Bros. U. It’s also possible for Internet streaming video to be viewed on the GamePad while the larger screen is being used to watch live television.