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Wii U: Everything you need to know about Nintendo's new console

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Wii U

© Nintendo


The Wii U - Nintendo's successor to its ground-breaking and best-selling Wii console - is available across the UK and Europe from today (November 30).

In the months up to release there been some confusion over what exactly the Wii U is, so hopefully this launch guide should help explain the key elements of the system.

In short, it's a brand new console that's more powerful than the original Wii, and offers a new way to play games with a touch-screen enabled, tablet-like controller.

> Wii U: Digital Spy answers your questions about the new home console


What's new about the Wii U: Touch-screen controller and HD visuals

The Wii's most central new addition is the GamePad. Similar to a tablet, it has a screen that allows you to enter touch commands that interact with the action on a television.

The controller itself also includes a camera, motion sensors and traditional buttons, paving the way for a wider range of innovative in-game applications as well as traditional games.

Simple uses of the GamePad's screen include supplementary data, such as a map or a way of changing weapons or items faster. Other games provide another viewpoint, where looking at the controller and panning it around a room will 'extend' the game world beyond the TV screen.

It also allows for interesting asynchronous multiplayer scenarios. An example is that the player using the GamePad is playing a character that no one else can see, while other players - holding traditional Wii controllers - have to work together to hunt them down on the TV.

Finally, the Wii U hardware has been vastly improved over the Wii, supporting high-definition visuals comparable to the Xbox 360 and PS3.

'New Super Mario Bros. U' screenshot

© Nintendo



New online and social features: Downloadable games, Miiverse and video chat

Nintendo has embraced a number of new online ideas with the Wii U.

For one, the Friend Code system - a rather laborious way of adding and playing with friends online - is replaced with a simple and easier username similar to Xbox Live, PSN and other online services.

As well as the eShop - which sees smaller, download-only titles similar to WiiWare on the original Wii - you are able to download Wii U retail titles such as New Super Mario Bros U and Nintendo Land direct to your system at launch.

While these usually come at a slightly higher cost than in stores, and will likely quickly eat up your hard drive space (external hard drives are thankfully readily supported), it's a convenient way to purchase games for the new system.

MiiVerse

© Nintendo / NeoGAF



Miiverse, meanwhile, is a social space similar to Twitter and forums, allowing users to write messages and draw pictures about various games and topics. Posts can be marked as spoilers if necessary, and any other Wii U user can comment on any user's posts.

Pressing the home button while playing a game will automatically take a screenshot, which you can attach to Miiverse posts if you're asking for help or simply want to show something off to the world.

Nintendo has worked some kind of magic with its Miiverse policing system, as the entire network seems devoid of any profanity, obscenities or lewd drawings. Miiverse also contains the friends list for your Nintendo Network ID, and is where you can send and accept friend requests.

There is also a Wii U Chat, which uses a camera in the front of the GamePad to have video calls with other users. It's a cool idea, but the prevalence of smartphones and Skype means it's not a particularly noteworthy feature.

Wii U promotional shots

© Nintendo



What games are available from day one?

Nintendo has branded the Wii U launch lineup as 'the strongest in the company's history', and we're hard pressed to disagree, with a wide range of exclusive and well-known properties.

New Super Mario Bros U and Nintendo Land are the two Nintendo-developed titles for the system. Mario is a solid but safe choice, offering classic Mario action but doing little to push the GamePad, while Nintendo Land is an excellent showcase of what the system can do.

> Read our review of Nintendo Land
> Read our review of New Super Mario Bros U
> Read our review of Zombi U
> Read our review of Scribblenauts Unlimited (US only)

Assassin's Creed 3, Black Ops 2, , Mass Effect 3, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed and Just Dance 4 are some of the third-party titles available on day one.

Many of these titles have exclusive new modes and control schemes using the GamePad, and also support the new Pro Controller - a dedicated control pad shaped similar to those seen on Xbox 360.

Finally, Zombi U, Tank! Tank! Tank! and Rabbids Land are exclusive to the system, and all use the GamePad in new and interesting ways.

Gallery: View the entire Wii U launch lineup for the UK:
Can I use my Wii games and controllers on the new system? What about my old downloads?

Wii U fully supports all Wii games and add-ons, including the Balance Board, Nunchuks and Classic Controller. There are, however, a few concessions.

The console must first be given a lengthy system update to add Wii functionality, so provided you download the 1GB patch and install it, then you'll be ready to go. This is also needed to download online features such as the eShop and Miiverse.

Once that is done, you are able to carry all saves and downloaded titles (including Virtual Console and WiiWare games) across through a lengthy transfer process involving a dedicated space on the original Wii and a SD card which permanently moves content from one system to another - so think twice about trading your Wii in before you get a Wii U!

Finally, launching Wii content puts the Wii U in a 'Wii mode' which essentially disables all new Wii U features (Miiverse, GamePad).

Nintendo TVii

© Nintendo



What bundles are available?

Another potentially confusing step is that the Wii U comes in three bundles. The basic pack includes a white Wii U console with 8GB of memory, and retails for around £250.

Meanwhile the Premium bundle comes in black with 32GB of memory, a copy of Nintendo Land, charging cradles and a Nintendo Network Premium membership (this is around £300).

Finally, the Zombi U bundle is the same as the Premium pack, but replaces Nintendo Land with Ubisoft's survival horror title Zombi U.

There's also the recently revealed Wii Mini, which is a different thing entirely, so ignore that if you're after a Wii U bundle.

Wii U promotional shots

© Nintendo



The future for Wii U: The Games

Nintendo has already outlined a number of the system's launch window titles, releasing from next week through to March 2013.

Exclusives include Pikmin 3, Wii Fit U, LEGO City: Undercover, GAME & Wario, Rayman Legends and Scribblenauts Unlimited.

Beyond that, expect Bayonetta 2, odd-ball adventure The Wonderful 101 and Monster Hunter 3 (which is cross-compatible with the 3DS version).

Elsewhere, expect a number of third-party ports as they release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, including Aliens: Colonial Marines.

And from there? We'll know more in the coming months, but Nintendo staples such as new Mario, Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong and Animal Crossing games are a dead cert.

'Pikmin 3' screenshot

© Nintendo


[Above: Pikmin 3, set for release in early 2013]

The future for Wii U: The Features

Like other consoles, the Wii U is expected to offer new features and services in future years, similar to Xbox 360 and PS3's firmware refreshes in recent years.

Next year the Wii U will interact with steaming and DVR services through the TVii mode, allowing users to browse and select a wide range of content from different sources from the GamePad. With BBC iPlayer and Netflix partnering with Nintendo for the Wii, hopefully both these services will also be available when it comes to the UK.

NFC (Near Field Communication) support is possible with the GamePad but is unavailable at launch. This wireless, touch-based communication seen in Skylanders and mobile phones could allow toys to be used on Wii U for all-new ways to play.

Multiple GamePads are also expected to be supported by Wii U in the next few years, paving the way for even more unique gameplay possibilities.

Have you picked up a Wii U today? Let us know what you think of the device in the comments below!

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