The original Nintendo Wii, for all of its quirks, was a fairly simple machine to understand: the console was focused on converting your arm motions into action on the TV.
The new Wii U is a different kind of beast altogether, with touchscreens, pro controllers, asynchronous gameplay, and two different models to choose from right out of the gate. It can all be a bit overwhelming, which is why we're taking you to Wii U school.
1. Basic or Deluxe?
The answer is simple: don't get a Basic Set (unless your life depends on it). The stripped-down basic bundle comes with the system, a GamePad and only 8 GB of internal flash memory for $299. For $349, the Premium Bundle tosses in four times the memory with 32 GB, a cradle charger for the GamePad, and 'Nintendo Land.' It's more than worth the extra $50.
2. The Great GamePad
Most of Wii U's “wow factor” stems from the snazzy new controller, which looks like the offspring of an iPad and an old Wiimote. Part controller, part tablet, the GamePad does a little bit of everything. It has two analog sticks, a direction pad, eight input buttons, a camera, and most impressively, a 6.2-inch display with touchscreen.
The built-in screen can work in tandem with the game shown on your TV (such as a map or inventory screen) or it can be used to play games totally independent of the television. In other words, you don't have to be a TV hog anymore.
3. Lots of Accessories
While Nintendo says that some games will eventually support more than one GamePad, the system only ships with one and there's no need for a second one just yet.
You should probably invest in a Pro Controller, which resembles an Xbox 360 controller quite a bit, for playing traditional games, like 'Call of Duty,' which don't require the GamePad's brand of wizardry.
Some multiplayer games, like many of the mini-games in pack-in title 'Nintendo Land,' use old school WiiMotes and nunchuk attachments, so make sure you hang on to your old Wii accessories.
4. Toss Out Your Old System
While you'll need your Wii controllers if you plan on playing 'Nintendo Land,' you can likely go ahead and ditch your original Wii system because of backwards compatibility.
Digital games purchased and downloaded over the Wii's Virtual Console will also be transferable over to the Wii U, though it can be cumbersome because it requires being connected online while using an SD memory card to transfer the content.
5. Really, A Universal Remote Too?
Once you input the specs from your TV manufacturer and cable provider, you can use the TV Control button on the corner of the GamePad to bring up the virtual remote -- which lets you change channels, volume, power on/off and more on both your television and cable/satellite box. And unlike your regular remote, you're unlikely to lose this one between your couch cushions.
6. Much Improved Online Capability
Unlike the Wii's casual disregard for the phenomena of online gaming, the Wii U is way better equipped for play over the Internet. Instead of having to exchange random friend codes to connect with friends, you can register a free Nintendo Network gamertag.
The online marketplace is also a streamlined version of the 3DS's eShop, allowing you to buy most of the system’s games as downloads. App-wise, Wii U features YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu Plus which have the added benefit of being viewed on the GamePad, if desired.
7. It Looks Pretty Good
If you're a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 owner, don't go buying the Wii U for a big graphical upgrade. For the most part, the Wii U's visual capabilities put it on par with those systems. However, it's a night-and-day difference when compared to the last Wii, which lacked high-definition graphics. The Mushroom Kingdom has never looked as shiny or bright as it does on the Wii U.
8. Yeah, But What About The Games?
The Wii U's unique launch titles includes 'Nintendo Land,' a collection of 12 mini-games based on Nintendo classics, like Zelda and Mario, that also serves as a kind of Wii U tutorial.
In “New Super Mario Bros. U,” a second player using the new GamePad may act as either a helper or an annoyance to Mario by creating blocks to let him jump to his safety or barriers to lead to his untimely death.
Meanwhile, 'ZombiU' stands out as one of the most interesting original games for the system because the GamePad's display is used to look at your inventory, to hack doors, destroy barricades, and more.
Other games for Wii U are simply top games from Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 ported over with a few new tricks (such as 'Call of Duty Black Ops 2,' 'Assassin's Creed III,' 'Mass Effect 3,' and 'Darksiders II'). For example, the system's version of 'Batman: Arkham City' turns your second screen into a Batcomputer that allows players to select objectives, choose their gadgets, and track forensic evidence for important clues.
And next year, you can expect at least 85 new game releases for the Wii U, which should be enough to keep you busy.
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