CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Well, folks, the eighth generation of home video game consoles has arrived. It's time to say goodbye to the generation the Xbox 360 launched seven years ago and say hello to the new generation kicked off by the Nintendo Wii U.
The Wii U has a lot to live up to. Not only is it the first console of a new generation, but it's also the successor to the Wii, which has sold more than 97 million units and is the best selling seventh generation console.
So is it worthy? Yes.
The main hook of the Wii U is the controller, which is called the Wii U Gamepad. Think of it as one part standard video game controller, one part Wii Remote and one part tablet computer. The Gamepad has a built-in touch screen that's utilized in many similar ways to the Nintendo DS/3DS.
The Wii U also features high-definition graphics, a first for a Nintendo console. It's a little late in the game for the Big N to display games in high definition, and it's kind of laughable that this is regarded as a selling point considering the Xbox 360 launched with hi-def graphics back in 2005. Regardless, imagine how fantastic a new "Zelda" or "Metroid" will look in high definition.
Speaking of games, the launch ones are pretty good. The Wii U Deluxe comes bundled with "Nintendo Land," but the titles you really need to look for are "ZombiU," "New Super Mario Bros. U" and "Scribblenauts Unlimited." (See my review of these games in next week's Saturday, Dec. 22 FlipSide)
Speaking of the Wii U Deluxe, you absolutely must spend the extra $50 on it if you plan to purchase this console. Not only does it come with a copy of "Nintendo Land," it also features a charging cradle and stand for the Gamepad and 32 GB of memory (compared to the standard Wii U's measly 8 GB).
While you can use an external hard drive, it's simply stupid not to spend the extra $50. Even without the goodies, such as the essential charging cradle, the memory is worth it. That 8 GB model is only going to have 3 GB after you install a massive and mandatory 5GB patch.
The Wii U also has access to YouTube, Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video built in. The Nintendo TVii app isn't available yet, but it will be soon. Also included is the free Wii U Chat, which is Nintendo's version of Skype.
Miiverse is Nintendo's answer to PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, and it's wonderful. It's one part Internet forum and one part Facebook, where users can post hints and tips for fellow gamers or discuss games in their own separate forums. It's surprisingly addictive, and it's a great way to meet new online gaming buddies.
It should also be noted that the Wii U is backwards compatible with Wii games, and you can transfer your saved data from the Wii to the Wii U.
The Wii U isn't without its faults, of course. For example, the YouTube app is atrocious, and the Gamepad has a shockingly low two- to four-hour battery life.
However, it's a wonderful console and shows that Nintendo is always ahead of the curve when it comes to gaming technology. I look forward to seeing how Microsoft and Sony will implement their own versions of the Gamepad into their upcoming consoles while claiming they're totally original.