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Nintendo Wii U

I got a sneak peek at the new Wii U gaming system that is being released on November 18.  The Nintendo trailer trucked into town a few weeks ago and I took the editor of my video gaming section, Josh Garfield, down to check it out.

Nintendo said this was a biggie so I pulled Josh out of school.  This better be big!

Here are some shots of the new unit that features a complete new controller.  Gone are the Wiimotes that themselves changed the game back with the Wii in 2006.

The Wii U GamePad controller – a tablet and conventional controller hybrid system – connects wirelessly with both the console and the television.  It is touch screen and has motion controls plus a full complement of buttons and control sticks built in.

It is surprisingly light and fit well in my hands and in Josh’s 15 year-old hands.  The Wii U’s claim to fame is that it provides a unique two-screen gaming experience.

The Wii U will play games that allow for up to five people in a room to take part.  As of now, Nintendo will not be selling additional tablets separately though the console does support up to two.

The Wii U’s GamePad also serves as an extra screen for watching replays, looking up information (such as sports scores), talking with friends or looking for other content. Twitter, Facebook, iMDb and Wikipedia are all integrated.  And that GamePad…the Wii U could one day be the ultimate universal remote control.

With its touch interface and infrared blaster on the tablet’s front, the Wii U can control a TV and cable box, even selecting the appropriate source input.  Coffee tables around the world may one finally see just one remote control and this could be it.

Those familiar with the original Wii’s graphics will be blown away by the clear, crisp and smooth visuals the Wii U puts out.  This is the first HD console Nintendo has manufactured and the jump in picture quality is significant.  During our brief game playing session in the trailer we got to try several new titles.  The consensus with the Garfield boys is that NintendoLand will be the biggie.  It comes packaged in the console’s Deluxe version.

Josh quickly picked up on the GamePad’s many control buttons and didn’t want to end his demo session.  I wanted to pop in Super Mario Bros. U to see how far this theme has grown from my Nintendo NES when I was just a bit older than him.  Conclusion:  light years.  The rep said there would be nearly 40 titles on launch day with many more to come after that.

Gaming isn’t the only thing Nintendo is counting on.  We already knew that the Wii U would have streaming apps for Netflix, Hulu and YouTube, but they have an ambitious plan to combine television, DVR and streaming video services called TVii.

Instead of the clunky channel grid you see on every cable box, TVii will recommend things to watch, group shows by category and offer a unified search engine that works across all video content.

For TiVo users, the Wii U will be able to record and play back DVR content–though you’ll still need a dedicated TiVo box to do so.

If you can find a retailer that is not already pre-sold out of these, the prices will be $349.99 for the 32 GB decked-out “Deluxe” version and $299.99 for the entry-level 8 GB model.

Over the years that I have broadcasted my radio show and written reviews I generally have focused on the Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3.  That’s mostly because the nice PR folks at those companies have kept my three video gaming editors (my three boys) updated with new releases and product add-ons like the Xbox 360 Kinect.

If we don’t know about a product or title then we can’t review or recommend it.  We are impressed with Nintendo’s latest entry into the home gaming system and hope to write and talk about its features and services for years to come.  If Mario delivers review units and titles then we will deliver our thoughts.

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