Release of the Week: Nintendo Wii U

Nintendo has finally entered the HD era with the release of their latest console. The Nintendo Wii U is either the first “next-generation” console or the last of the current generation depending on how you look at it. In terms of raw power the console is comparable to the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3. Many game developers have claimed that their ports look “as good as” their Sony and Microsoft versions. That isn’t a ringing endorsement, but it does mean that the always popular first party Nintendo games will look better then ever.

Lately Nintendo hasn’t been known for releasing the most powerful game consoles. Instead it’s known for some pretty innovative gimmicks, be it the dual-screen/touchscreen on the DS, motion controls on the Wii or glasses-free 3D on the 3DS. This time the Wii U offers its tablet-like GamePad controller as its resident gimmick. This controller includes all the buttons you would expect on a controller, including dual analog sticks. The difference is the inclusion of a 6.2 inch touchscreen as well as a front-facing camera. At the moment games only support one GamePad controller, but in the future you’ll be able to buy additional GamePads for multi-screen mayhem. For now multiplayer games will utilize last generation’s Wii Remotes or the new Pro Controller. Throw in the nunchuk and that’s four controllers at launch, although only the GamePad comes packed in with the console.

How developers utilize the GamePad will make or break the Wii U. Ubisoft’s ZombiU forces you to play mini games or access your inventory while zombies on your TV continue rushing towards you. Sing Party puts the lyrics on the tablet so you can face your friends, who may join in during the chorus that appears on the TV. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will allow two people to play multiplayer together, one using the GamePad and one using the TV. Additionally many games will allow you to switch to the GamePad screen so that someone else can use the TV.

If the Wii U is going to succeed, it needs to do well early. The next generation of Xbox and PlayStation are right around the corner, and they will most likely blow past the Wii U in terms of horsepower. Nintendo is once again coming to the market with a seemingly-underpowered system and hoping that their gimmick works. Time will tell if an iPad-like controller will entice people to put their iPad down.The good news for Nintendo was that preorders sold out. If you want a Wii U and don’t already have one, the short supply might mean a long wait. In the meantime check out their website and see if the system really is for you.

Hitman: Absolution (360, PS3 PC)

This fifth installation in the Hitman franchise is the biggest non-Nintendo game this week. After Hitman: Blood Money ended on a cliffhanger in 2006 the popular stealth series disappeared. Developer IO Interactive tried their hand at the less than stellar Kane and Lynch series but is finally back to continue Agent 47’s story. Having been betrayed by the agency, 47 must track down his hold handler while on the run from his former employer. Early reviews have been mixed on this one, so do your research before you rush out to buy.

New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)

With the launch of the Wii U comes yet another side-scrolling Mario game. This time Bowser not only kidnaps Princess Peach, but takes over her castle as well. He must be getting lazy. The game supports up to 5 players, with four playing on Wii Remotes and one assisting them using the GamePad. The game is probably exactly what you expect, making it a safe title for new Wii U adopters to pick up.

Nintendo Land (Wii U)

Bundled with the deluxe Wii U, Nintendo Land is this console’s Wii Sports. Centered around a theme park, Nintendo Land lets your Mii avatars play in various mini games with classic Nintendo characters. There are several solo games, as well as some for up to 5 players. The game highlights various uses for the GamePad while providing some entertainment for friends and family gathered around your shiny new console.

ZombiU (Wii U)

While most of the Wii U’s launch line up consists of bright and cheerful family games, Ubisoft is hoping to capture the hardcore crowd. ZombiU is a survival horror first-person shooter which uses the GamePad in context sensitive situations to add tension. Players can permanently die from a single zombie bite and turn into a zombie. Once they’re respawned as a new character, they must find their old zombie self to retrieve any supplies they had. Escaping from an infested London won’t be an easy task.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3, Vita)

After years of Nintendo showing off their rich collection of characters within the Super Smash Brothers franchise, Sony has decided to develop a brawler of their own. While Smash Brothers focuses on knocking opponents off a platform, Battle Royal encourages players to build up super moves which are used to score points. The PS3 and Vita games will be identical and players will be able to battle each other across platforms. In fact, the game is part of Sony’s Cross-Buy program, so purchasing the PS3 version of the game will net you the Vita version for no additional charge.

 The Walking Dead: The Game — Episode 5: No Time Left (360, PS3, PC, Mac)

The final episode of The Walking Dead is finally here! Telltale’s zombie-infested adventure game is already up for game of the year nominations among press and public alike. The final episode is sure to be an emotional rollercoaster as Lee’s adventure with young Clementine concludes. The Walking Dead‘s decision-based gameplay mechanics offers a unique and emotionally-investing experience that most games will never approach. Check out Pete’s recent exploration of how the game compares to the story-heavy “visual novel” niche.

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (360, PS3, Wii, Wii U)

The original Epic Mickey featured the triumphant return of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to the Disney universe. One of Walt Disney’s original creations, Oswald was owned by Universal Pictures until a trade in 2006 involving sportscaster Al Michaels brought him back to Disney. Oswald and Mickey Mouse were enemies in the first game, but this time around the two are working together to save Wasteland. Oswald is either controlled by the AI or a second player, using his remote control to assist Mickey.

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