The device retails at two price points: $299 gets you a white Wii U with 8 GB of storage, a GamePad controller, and all the necessary accessories. $349, on the other hand, gets you a black Wii U with 32 GB of storage, the accessories and the controller, and a stand, a controller cradle, and the Nintendo Land video game, which the San Francisco Chronicle calls "both [an] introduction and tutorial for the new console."
Side note from the Horizons desk: Committed gamers are almost definitely better off opting for the $349 bundle, if only for the extra storage. If you play a lot of games, you're going to end up forking over a few bucks down the line for memory expansion anyway, right? Better to just get it over with now. Plus, the black "deluxe" console is pretty sweet, in our humble opinion.
The Wii U represents a major leap forward from the Wii. For one, this console is capable of playing HD content, and it's got enough processing power to muscle through the kind of big, graphically-complex titles that currently populate the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 ecosystems. (Of course, in this way, Nintendo is only playing catch-up – once Microsoft and Sony release their next consoles, Nintendo likely will be left in the dust all over again.)
There's also the GamePad controller, a bulky, touchscreen affair intended to open a "second portal" into the gaming experience (one player could devise football plays on the GamePad, for instance, out of view of his competitor). Wii U reviews are still trickling out, so we're not sure exactly how the GamePad stacks up, but over at the AP, Lou Kesten points out that the controller is a serious machine unto itself.
"The GamePad looks like the spawn of a tablet computer and a classic game controller. Its surface area is a little smaller than an iPad's," he writes, "but it's about three times as thick, largely because it has hand grips that make it more comfortable over prolonged game sessions. It has an accelerometer and gyroscope for motion-controlled games, as well as a camera, a microphone, speakers, two analog joysticks and a typical array of buttons."
And the "inventive, challenging" Super Mario Bros. U is definitely worth picking up, says Kyle Orland of Ars Technica. The game, Orland opines, is "the first real Mario title to launch with a home console since the Nintendo 64, the best two-dimensional Mario title in decades, and the first since Super Mario World to really capture the appeal of the 8- and 16-bit classics that came before it."
High praise indeed.
For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.