Last updated: February 19. 2013 6:12PM - 173 Views

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NINTENDO'S next-generation game console is here just in time for Christmas.

It's called the Wii U. Its predecessor, the original Nintendo Wii, set a new standard in gaming – it was easy to use, approachable, and featured a unique controller which translated the gamers' physical movements into actions in the game. With the release of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, the graphics on the Wii began to look a little dated – particularly in the face of the true HD graphics output by its competitors, but it remained popular due in large part to its accessibility.

Nintendo has taken an equally unique approach with the Wii U – it's a totally new platform, with updated graphics, interface, and controls, but they've sought to retain the accessibility and approachability of the original platform, while at the same time incorporating updated features and controls that will allow it to remain competitive for the next few years.

One of the most unique things about the Wii U is the GamePad, a controller that features a 6-inch touchscreen display, a motion sensor, speakers, and a front-facing webcam, along with the normal array of buttons and controls that you'd find on a standard controller.

While seemingly awkward, the unique nature of the Wii U gamepad adds a whole new dimension to gameplay. Yes, it has accelerometers so you can tilt it to drive, for example, but it also has a touch screen – allowing gamers to easily type their names, or manipulate controls that are particular to that game, without taking up any screen real-estate on your TV. Of course, there's a downside – all that equipment is power hungry, so you'll be recharging the GamePad frequently as well. Even so, it's a fair tradeoff for the functionality. It also makes navigating all of the onscreen menus and functionality a much simpler proposition.

Nintendo has big plans for the Wii U. A lot of built-in functionality, including Near Field Communication capability for the GamePad, and features like Netflix, Hulu, and other services offered by the competing Sony and Microsoft products, have been delayed until a December software update arrives.

The Wii U is available from numerous retailers both in stores and online. The Basic Set costs $299.99, and includes 8GB of internal storage and features white system hardware.

The Deluxe Set costs $349.99, includes 32GB of internal storage, features black system hardware, and adds a Nintendo Land video game, a Wii U GamePad stand and cradle, and a console stand.

For the money, the Deluxe Set really seems like a better buy.

Nick DeLorenzo is director of interactive and new media for The Times Leader. E-mail him at ndelorenzo@timesleader.com.

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