November 19, 2012 • 09:15:23 a.m.

Should you buy a Wii U on launch day Sunday?

By Zach Walters - zwalters@shawmedia.com

This Sunday, Nintendo will be launching it's new gaming console, the Wii U. By now, I'm sure you've seen the onslaught of ads, but I'll summarize for those that might be unfamiliar.

The Wii U is the successor to Nintendo's insanely successful Wii system, which was launched back in 2006. The new system launches this Sunday, at $299.99 for the basic model and $349.99 for the deluxe model (which includes more memory, a stand and controller docks). While the Wii charmed gamers and non-gamers alike with it's innovative motion controls, the Wii U intends to advance gaming further with it's new tablet-like gamepads. The new controller's integrated touchscreen can function as a second viewing screen for gaming aspects, or you can use it to play the game on the controller instead of the TV, freeing up the living room for other family members. The new system will also support your current Wii Remotes, preventing them from gathering dust in the closet.  Here's a newer video showcasing the system, focusing on it's ramped up online connectivity.

MORE COVERAGE: Wii U review

Despite it's nifty new features, it's hard to look at the Wii U and not consider it to be a sophomore slump for Nintendo. The Wii U offers a handful of updated bells and whistles, such as HD visuals (finally), larger onboard memory, and more integrated online functionality. Features like this don't do much to impress though, since Xbox 360 and PS3 have had them since their launch. I didn't expect Nintendo to match the success of the original Wii, but it's difficult to see the overall appeal of this new console. Besides developers devising a few intriguing mechanics with the second screen, and the prospect of the kids being able to continue playing their games when dad wants to watch football, what else can it offer that other systems can't?

Speaking of other systems, Nintendo's new console is once again lacking on the hardware front. Graphics and processing power on the Wii U are about on par with the PS3 and 360. This helps Nintendo keep the cost of their system down, but also leaves them at a disadvantage once Sony and Microsoft inevitably launch their new systems. The Wii was painfully primitive when it came to online play, and while the Wii U looks like it's trying to remedy the situation, it's difficult to tell how well it works by watching a video. Online play is integral for the Wii U's success. Especially right now, as hordes of gamers flock to stores to pick up the latest Call of Duty (which also happens to be a Wii U launch title).

Perhaps the biggest problem with the original Wii was a lack of third-party software support. Once families got tired of playing Wii Sports and getting in shape with Wii Fit, there wasn't much left to satisfy the core audience in terms of games. First party Nintendo games were few and far between, and other developers focused their efforts on the more powerful systems that could handle their graphics-heavy games. As of right now, the Wii U has a surprisingly impressive launch lineup. But when the next wave of shiny new systems come from Sony and Microsoft, what's to say that Nintendo's system won't be left in the proverbial dust just like last time?

So should you brave midnight releases and cold weather for a chance to pick up Nintendo's latest this holiday season? If you're a hardcore Nintendo fan, there's a fair amount to be excited about. You're looking at a robust launch lineup and a system that won't break the bank, along with some intriguing new gameplay mechanics. If you got great mileage out of your original Wii, there's no reason you shouldn't pick up the Wii U. However, if you're like me and was disappointed by the lack of software and outdated hardware, I'd wait a while to see how the system holds up.

What are your impressions? Email me at zwalters@shawmedia.com or find me on Twitter @geekfeednews.


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