Nintendo’s new console, the Wii U, has finally been released after over a year since its reveal at E3 2011. Its launch has been met with mixed reception due to a sparse selection of ports and casual titles. Among the gems however is the one title that Nintendo opted to pack into the box containing the sleek deluxe model of the new console. Nintendo Land is honestly the most fun any gamer can have with what is deceptively disguised as a mini-game compilation.
Nintendo Land is fun. Plain and simple. Its different attractions utilize the Wii U GamePad in a variety of ways, all of which I found to be very fun. Single player attractions provide the least longevity for the obvious reason that you can do the same thing only so much. Multiplayer on the other hand (despite painstakingly lacking online playability) is unbelievable fun.
To put my experience into perspective, one of my favorite games back in the day was Pac-Man Vs. It was an asymmetrical multiplayer experience where three players with Gamecube controllers played as the ghosts with a limited viewpoint on the TV, while a fourth player with a Gameboy Advance had an overhead view that looked like a classic game of Pac-man. It was ridiculously fun, especially with a full party. Why do I bring up this experience? Two words: Mario Chase. This game follows the same basic formula as Pac-Man Vs. and had me very excited for Nintendo Land ever since. It’s no surprise that I loved the simplicity of playing virtual tag in a Mario universe. But the other games are just as intuitive and fun.
Single player games include titles like Yoshi’s Fruit Cart and Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, among a few others. Yoshi’s Fruit Cart has you look up at the TV to see where all of the fruit in the level are and then you draw a path on the controller (where the fruit is hidden) for the cart to follow and hopefully get all the fruit and then to the exit. Takamaru’s Ninja Castle is a game that centers on swiping your hand across the screen while pointing it sideways at your TV. It requires no sensor bar to function and it works just as well, if not better, than the Wii’s MotionPlus upgrade.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest and Metroid Blast in particular can actually be played in single or multiplayer and either way works perfectly fine. However, multiplayer is most certainly recommended. Zelda Battle Quest acts as a miniature Zelda title within Nintendo Land; you don’t just wildly swing your sword. There are elements of strategy involved that harken back to Skyward Sword where you must swing your sword in certain ways or at particular moments to defeat enemies. The user with the GamePad works with the sword wielders by hanging back and shooting arrows at pots, birds and enemies that the sword wielders cannot reach. This fun game comes complete with quite a few levels that span over different familiar Zelda landscapes with appearances from enemies within the universe as well.
Metroid Blast only spans a few different levels but makes up for it with a plethora of competitive and cooperative modes. For example, one mode features several on-ground players with Wii remotes and nunchuks trying to shoot down the user with the GamePad who flies Samus’s airship. Another mode has all of the players teaming up against AI controlled enemies that attack in waves. We found this mode was the most fun if only for the fact that the Miis on the ground can use the grapple beam to latch onto the ship’s under side and fire at enemies from above.
Balloon Trip Breeze is one of the less exciting experiences, opting for a relaxing tone and all touch screen gameplay to move your character from one platform to another while avoiding obstacles. The game works well, but it gets old pretty quickly. Captain Falcon’s Twister Race is a single player racing game that offers two perspectives of the same game, an overhead view on the GamePad and a standard third person view on the TV. You steer by tilting the GamePad and it works incredibly well. It’s just a shame that this game in particular had no multiplayer, let alone an online multiplayer mode. Donkey Kong’s Crash Course is by far the most frustratingly fun game in Nintendo Land. I found it to be pretty challenging because just like in older NES games, your mistakes can mean the end of the game pretty quickly. Taking care is of the utmost importance because you cannot tilt the controller recklessly and expect to make it to the end. Though even when taking care while playing, I still was not able to reach the end on my first run through. Definitely a keeper for anyone looking for a challenge. Octopus Dance is extremely obscure but a nice idea. It’s a dancing mini-game that mostly uses some tilting mechanics with the gyroscope and the two control sticks. For anyone who’s ever played Ape Escape on the first Playstation, it plays similarly to the dancing minigame in that title. A little confusing due to the need to use both screens, but overall cute and enjoyable.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day is a very interesting concept; the player using the GamePad plays as two guards (controlled with one of each control stick and their respective trigger) who chase around the players with Wii remotes as they attempt to gather as much candy as possible. An exceptionally fun experience with a full party. Luigi’s Ghost Mansion is largely a slower version of Mario Chase, but the hunters can become the hunted. The GamePad user plays as a ghost who is only visible when charging, has grabbed an opponent or has moved into an area that has been lit up. The other players have to use flashlights to bring the ghost’s health to zero. This game is especially tense and also provides a great deal of enjoyment as a party game. Pikmin Adventure is by and large Pikmin, but with human players controlling some of the titular creatures. The GamePad user plays as Olimar who has a small degree of control on the human controlled Pikmin and total control over his own standard Pikmin. A very fun cooperative and competitive experience.
Nintendo Land’s multiplayer attractions provide the same unbridled experience. There is nothing like sitting down with four friends and playing a quick game of Mario Chase. Then playing it again. The variety in the attractions is as impressive as the fun gameplay within them. It needs to be played to really believe it, but the games are genuinely very fun.
Nintendo Land has a very simplistic style as far its visual look. Lighting and shadows are quite impressive and the overall design is actually quite cute and appealing. The thing is, I feel that more could have been done with this. The game gives me a very “Little Big Planet-esque” vibe. For example, the enemies in the Legend of Zelda themed attraction are all styled to look like they’ve been stitched together and made to look like stuffed toys with buttons and string. Again, very cute, but more could have been done with it. The game does run at an extremely smooth 60 frames per second and it certainly has me excited for what Nintendo has in store as far as first party content goes.
The sound falls basically in the same line as the graphics; it’s quite good but they could have gone farther with it. Cute remixes of classic Nintendo games like Mario, F-Zero and Pikmin are all present in this game. There’s even a jukebox you can unlock that can allow you to play some of those songs in the main Nintendo Land plaza. Some themes you will hum to and others you won’t really notice. Sound effects and even dialogue from Monita (a robot who helps you learn about Nintendo Land and its attractions) all sound crisp and clear on both the TV and the GamePad.
Replay Value: 4/5
Nintendo Land is a game that some will revisit the same way a person revisits games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band; mostly when you have friends around. That isn’t to say you won’t want to play more of the single player games. Each attraction actually has quite a few levels (something that Wii Sports completely lacked) and completionists will actually find some of the later stages to be somewhat challenging, especially for multiplayer attractions. Unfortunately, there is no online play and no leaderboards. However, a direct link to Miiverse makes up for this and makes sharing fun moments in the game quite easy to do (though this is only relevant to those who actually choose to make use of Miiverse).
Throughout the game, there are presents to unlock via coins and a fun little retro styled coin drop game. These serve as primary unlockables and wind up littered throughout the plaza. They’re mostly useless little statues but it’s fun to collect them, if only for a little while.
Overall Score: 17/20 = 8.5 out of 10
I’ll be honest; I really wanted to give Nintendo Land a higher score simply because it was just that much fun to play both alone and with friends. Sadly, there are some hindrances that prevent this from being a near perfect experience. However this is not a bad thing; Nintendo Land’s primary goal is to show you what the Wii U’s capabilities are in terms of gameplay and it does exactly that. There is not one attraction in this game that does not work the way it should and the variety provides everyone something they will enjoy. The exceptions of attractions based on Star Fox, Kirby and Pokémon is a little odd, but I say let’s leave all of that for Smash Bros.
+Incredibly fun gameplay
+Cute and detailed visual style
+Direct link to Miiverse
+Greater longevity than Wii Sports
– No online playability
– Could have taken the overall experience further