At its E3 2011 Press Conference, Nintendo finally revealed some details on their forthcoming HD console. The Wii U and its accompanying tablet-like controller will launch sometime after March 31, 2012, but we’ve got the first details right now.

Nintendo’s presentation spent very little time covering the Wii U hardware itself (which, in fact, was only displayed sitting next to a TV in one on the promotional videos), focusing instead on the system’s revolutionary controller. It remains difficult, for now, to describe the controller as anything other than iPad-like, though it certainly packs a generous amount of tech into it’s admittedly large frame.

The standout feature is obviously the 6.2 inch screen. Though it will be different from game to game, Wii U can play some games exclusively on the controller’s screen — indeed, a video demo showed a child who moved the game he was playing from the family TV to the Wii U controller. Other games may use the controller as a secondary screen, say for inventory items or maps, or even as a virtual window on the action occurring on TV.

Wii U Controller TV

The controller features a full compliment of buttons in addition to its touch screen and stylus, including dual analog joysticks, a digital pad, the traditional Nintendo face buttons, two shoulder buttons and two triggers. But that’s not all. The unit also includes a front facing camera, built-in speakers, and an accelerometer that allows for some interesting augmented reality possibilities.

Nintendo promises that the Wii U will be fully backward compatible with all Wii games and accessories, and to that end they showed Wii U trailers that included the Wii Remote, Wii Balance Board, and Wii Zapper. Perhaps the most striking combination was a golf demo in which the Wii U controller sat on the floor, showing the golf ball. A player took a swing with a Wii Remote and the ball went sailing off the controller screen into the TV. Very, very cool.

A number of games were announced as being in development for Wii U, including Lego City Stories (an exclusive), Darksiders 2, Tekken, Batman: Arkham City, Ghost Recon Online, Assassin’s Creed, Dirt, Metro Last Light, Ninja Gaiden 3, and Super Smash Bros., which is concurrently in development for the 3DS. Based on the footage shown, games looked more or less identical to their current Xbox 360 and PS3 iterations. A tech demo of a bird flying among blooming cherry blossoms was certainly pretty, but perhaps not the display of devastating graphical technology that many Nintendo fans were hoping for.

Wii U System

Nintendo has stated that at E3 2011, they are focusing on the 3DS and on the Wii U controller. We will, apparently, have to wait a bit longer to learn much of anything concrete about the actual Wii U system. Though that choice may well have been forced on Nintendo due to the state of software in development for the Wii U, the fact remains that the controller offers some exciting prospects for future games, and it is certainly the “hook” for the Wii U just as the original Wii Remote was for the Wii.

Though issues of ergonomics (how does it feel to hold that thing?) and price (those controllers don’t look cheap) have yet to come to the fore, Nintendo has got to be pleased by the reception to the Wii U controller. Whether the public and the industry, in the short term, come around to the name Wii U may be another matter.

Ranters, what do you think of your first look at the Wii U? Is it what you expected? What do you think of the controller? The name? Sound off in the comments below.

Stay tuned to Game Rant for more news and updates as E3 2011 continues through the week.

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tags: Nintendo, Wii U

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