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Wii U first impressions: Controller is cool but clumsy

I got the chance to play around with the Nintendo Wii U today at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. My first impression? The new console has identity issues.

Nintendo is making a big deal about the Wii U’s touch screen, which can double as a gaming tablet, video chat device and web surfer. Users can also choose to play using the screen on either the controller or the TV.

"Up until now, home console games had to occupy the TV screen in order to be played," Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said in the Wii U presentation at E3 on Tuesday. "The new controller for Wii U, with its 6.2-inch screen built in, means you won't need to give up your gameplay when someone else comes in the room and wants to watch a TV program."

That same touch screen has a d-pad, analog sticks, shoulder and front facing buttons – making for possibly the biggest console controller ever.

From what I’ve overheard, most bloggers thought the controller was comfortable and ergonomically sound. I agree – except that Nintendo’s core demographic isn’t middle-aged hipster men. Kids are going to find the controller too bulky.

But the controller does bring the success of Nintendo’s handheld DS dual-screen gaming to the Wii. Players can use the tablet to point to the sides of the TV screen to find hidden features. In essence a gamer could be surrounded 360 degrees by collectible items.

The console itself will have1,080p HDMI output, but there hasn’t been word on how powerful the graphics will be. The demo of the Zelda game still looked rather cartoonish, but Nintendo did say visualization intensive games like Darksiders II, 'Batman: Arkham City, 'Tekken, Assassin's Creed and Metro: Last Light will be released for the system.

From the looks of these games, Nintendo is aiming to play to the hard-core gaming demographic.

We’ll find out next if playing both sides (family vs. hard-core gaming) will pay off for Nintendo.

The Wii U will be released between April and December next year. Its price hasn't been revealed yet.

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