REVIEW: The Nintendo Wii was the first game console to use motion sensors and Nintendo sold nearly 100 million Wii units. But the console failed to attract ongoing support from game developers, so few quality games were released - frustrating most Wii owners.
But it seems Nintendo has learnt from its mistake, with the launch of the Nintendo Wii U (which hit New Zealand shop shelves late last month).
Crucially, many top-end game studios like Activision, EA and Ubisoft are on board, so Nintendo fans can finally play fully-realised versions of top-selling franchises including FIFA, Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed.
The Wii U is the first console from Nintendo to support high-definition graphics, capable of producing video output up to the 1080p high-resolution standard. It compares well in both graphical and processing power to that of the current-generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft - and while the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are seven years old now, the Wii U delivers an unique gaming experience over its rivals.
The main drawcard of the Wii U is the wireless Gamepad controller that is included with the console. It features two directional thumbsticks, trigger buttons and the four action button configuration that is common in gaming today. But it also includes a crisp 6.2 inch (15.7cm) LCD touch-screen that allows for extra interactivity, either using your fingers or the included stylus for extra precision.
The screen can also work as a secondary screen to your main TV or monitor. For example it might be used to display an in-game map, a menu of possible actions, or perhaps the rear-mirror view in a driving game. The Wii U Gamepad also includes a front-facing camera and microphone for future video chat functionality. Despite its appearance, the Gamepad is not a portable gaming device and must be within range of the console to function. It has a three to five-hour battery life and can also be used as a motion controller, detecting direction and velocity just like the original Wii controllers.
Just how much waving around of the Gamepad you would want to do is debatable though, as it's heavier - and also a lot more valuable - than the original Wii console remotes. Thankfully though, the original Wii controllers are compatible with the new Wii U, including the Balance Board peripheral. Even your original Wii games are playable on the new Wii U console.
While the line-up of launch games is good, there are still teething problems with the Wii U straight out of the box. Nintendo have always had poor online functionality and annoyingly, there are many system updates and time consuming downloads for those connected to the internet. A lot of the issues are software related though, so hopefully they will be addressed soon via a downloadable update.
Despite Nintendo striving for a mature market with the Wii U, there is no question that this console is for casual gamers and young families. Older players will probably want to hold out for the PS4 or new Xbox consoles, both of which should be announced in June 2013.
The Nintendo Wii U is available now in two models (both include an HDMI cable for connecting it to high-definition TVs):
Nintendo Wii U Basic Pack (White): The cheaper model with a smaller 8 gigabyte hard-drive and minus the sensor bar accessory - which helps with motion sensing. This is an option for owners of the original Wii as the old sensor bar is fully compatible. RRP: $499.99
Nintendo Wii U Premium Pack (Black): The 32GB hard-drive model that includes the sensor bar, charging cradle and an entertaining game for all ages titled Nintendoland to get players started straight out of the box. RRP: $599.99
The success of any new game console relies heavily on the lineup of titles, especially those that have been developed exclusively for it. The Wii U currently has over 20 titles available now, including:
Super Mario Bros. U
It wouldn't be Nintendo without Mario and Luigi. This charming, colourful and action packed game will keep players of all ages entertained for days. It features all of the Nintendo fan-favourite characters, like Yoshi, Bowser and Princess Peach. It could be a lifesaver for the school holidays and even includes a four-player multiplayer mode.
The high-definition graphics of the Wii U have opened the doors for Nintendo to compete in the older, mature gaming market. This gory R18-rated horror fest dumps you in the middle of a terrifying zombie outbreak in London. This game is exclusive to the Wii U and takes full advantage of the Gamepad technology for an unique gameplay experience.
Other Wii U games in the lineup include:
Out Now: Batman Arkham City: Armoured Edition, FIFA 13, Mass Effect 3, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Assassin's Creed 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Skylanders Giants, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Announced: Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Monster Hunter 3, Rayman Legends, Injustice: Gods Among Us, NBA 2K13