The time is finally upon us; Nintendo is unleashing the first next-generation console and the company’s first console in six years. Nintendo is once again looking to revolutionize the way we play games, and that revolution is the Wii U. With the holiday season comes video games, and while the Wii U may be the hardest item to find this year, we have your guide to Nintendo’s new gaming console. So what do you need to know?

The Hardware and Gamepad

The Wii U is arriving as the first next-generation console, so it has a lot of expectations to live up to. Nintendo has promised that the graphics capabilities of the system are more advanced than the Xbox 360 and PS3, but their biggest focus has been on delivering a unique experience through the console’s Gamepad, the tablet-like controller. Featuring a 6.2″ touchscreen display, dual analog sticks and triggers, a built-in camera and microphone, and traditional gaming button layout, the Gamepad allows for an incredible amount of gameplay variety. In-game mini-maps are now displayed right on the controller’s screen, inventory systems are now easily accessible through simple touch, and new game mechanics (such as the ability to punch numbers on a keypad in ‘ZombiU’) are all unique ways of creating the best possible experience for gamers.

Social Gaming

The Wii U’s Gamepad is also used to easily access the new social features of the console. Imagine this: you’re stuck on the planet-sized boss of level 4, but you can’t quite figure out his weakness or attack pattern. Rather than pausing the game, booting up the laptop, and searching for a solution online, you simply press a button, post on the Wii U message boards, and wait for a reply while to continue to play. This is the reality of the Wii U which allows gamers to chat with others who are playing similar games, participating in discussions about their favorite characters or their high scores. Nintendo is bringing the Wii U into the social media realm by offering players a number of different ways to communicate.

The Games

Of course, no gaming console is complete without games. The Wii U features one of the strongest launch line-ups in console history with several titles already receiving glowing reviews. Here are a few of the must-have launch games:

  •  Batman: Arkham Asylum Armored Edition is a Wii U port of last year’s award-winning title from Rocksteady, with the addition of some new gameplay mechanics and all of the available DLC included on-disc.
  • Scribblenauts Unlimited takes the traditional Scribblenauts formula of solving puzzles with your imagination, but now allows players to create their very own unique items. Want to make a giraffe with monster truck wheels for legs? Yep, you can do that. Ever wondered what it would be like if a cannon could fire out elephants? Build one!
  • New Super Marios Bros. U: No Nintendo console is complete without a Mario game, and it’s here on day one. The New Super Mario series has done very well and the company is bringing it to the new console in a big way. The game is taking advantage of the new social aspect of the Wii U by allowing players to see how their fellow gamers stack up on individual levels and allows friends to compare high scores and coin runs directly through the game. Of course, gameplay is what matters and once again players will be able to run through solo or team up with up to three friends for another challenging journey through the Mushroom Kingdom.

The launch line-up also includes great titles such as ‘Assassin’s Creed III’ and ‘Mass Effect 3.’

The Wii U is currently on store shelves (and online) but don’t expect it to be there long. There are two models: The 8GB Basic Edition for $299 (which includes the Wii U hardware and Gamepad) and the 32 GB Deluxe Edition for $349 (which includes a charging cradle for the Gamepad controller, a copy of ‘Nintendo Land,’ and a special rewards membership for the eShop).