Categories See All →
E3 2012: Hands On with Nintendo Land
Note: The majority of the article (black text) was written by me, Leah. The blue text is written by Marcus Estrada, who added his own thoughts on the game's demo as well.
Let’s be honest here. When Nintendo Land was announced during E3, I’m sure most of us in the gaming community expected it to be nothing but a game that would cater to the "casual crowd." Alright, that may be true in some aspects, but it shouldn’t be pushed aside so easily (and in my case, I almost did just that). I was only willing to play one or two of the minigames offered at Nintendo’s booth on the E3 show floor simply to get it over with. My mind was quickly changed, however, as soon as I experienced playing one of the minigames firsthand.
What exactly is Nintendo Land? It’s basically an amusement park-themed party game that brings together Nintendo’s well-loved franchises in the form of different minigames. Some are single-player, some multiplayer. The multiplayer minigames can support up to five players – four with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck and one with the Wii U GamePad. For those attending E3, five of the twelve minigames that will be present in Nintendo Land were playable.
Nintendo really went all out to maximize the experience of playing the selection of Nintendo Land minigames they had to offer. I would even go as far as to say that their booth was my favorite of the ones I visited on the E3 show floor. Crazy lights and thematic music played constantly and it very much felt like I was in a theme park like Disneyland. Nintendo even offered the chance to complete a pin set if you went through every minigame attraction – which was very rewarding.
Because of the decor of the Nintendo Land area I was also rather nervous about what the games would be like. As Leah mentioned at the start, we both had reservations and stereotypical ideas about how casual these games probably all were. Initially, we only were going to play a game or two but quickly found ourselves enthralled. It was a big surprise and quite the good one at that. It's because of this I hope that others might give it a shot when it's finally available.
Fellow Game Podunk writer Marcus Estrada and I decided to hit up Animal Crossing: Sweet Day first. As it was a multiplayer game, we cycled through using the Wii Remotes four times and then used the Wii U GamePad last. The players using the Remotes work together to run around the map in order to collect 50 pieces of candy. The more candy you collect, however, the more you are slowed down as your head becomes engorged with the sweets. This makes it easier for the player with the GamePad to catch you (although you can get rid of candy at any time to make yourself faster again). The GamePad player is in charge of two guards that are supposed to catch the other four players. If they happen to catch people three times, then the GamePad player wins.
I quickly became engrossed by the quirky little minigame. Working together with the other four Wii Remote players was extremely fun – either to exclaim that a guard was coming or to indicate that another person was needed to shake candy down from a tree. Using the GamePad was a completely different and enthralling experience. Each analog stick is used to control each guard, and the screen displays the map as it rotates on its own. It’s very weird at first, but you quickly get used to it (and I was able to catch three players before they got 50 pieces of candy!).
Out of all the games, this was the one that hooked me most. It's such a simple game in concept but where it really shines is with how players bond over multiplayer. Although most of the people playing Sweet Day with me were complete strangers, I still found myself enjoying their company and not being nervous to shout out about danger or needing help. It was a lot of fun trying to outwit the player-controlled guards and the victories I shared with the other E3 visitors were fantastic.
Next up was Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, which was another multiplayer experience similar to Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. The four players with the Wii Remotes must team up and use flashlights to eliminate the player with the GamePad, who is a ghost. The ghost’s objective is to hunt down each human one by one. There are a few tricks to differentiate it from Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, however.
The Wii Remote players are able to revive each other, should they be caught by the ghost. Their flashlights will eventually run out of battery as well (you can refill it if you happen to find a random battery). The ghost is invisible, but players will be able to sense his presence through steadily increasing vibration, depending on how close he is.
While I enjoyed Animal Crossing: Sweet Day a lot, I think Luigi’s Ghost Mansion’s differences are what make me love it more and ultimately make it my favorite of the five minigames. Working with teammates to hunt down the ghost is thrilling. The best part, in my opinion, is being the ghost, though. Using the map displayed on the GamePad’s screen to effectively hunt down the other players is awesome. And like Animal Crossing: Sweet Day before it, I was able to perfect the art of using the GamePad in Luigi’s Ghost Mansion and win as the ghost.
When we first walked up to this game, I was worried it was going to be a simple re-skin of the Animal Crossing game. As it turned out though, it ended up being largely different, despite having the same top down look with five possible players. I must note though that this game definitely does seem to be the more strategic/difficult of the two, although it's still not that tough.
The trouble comes mostly with the fact that, unlike Sweet Day, you can't see the antagonist so more casual gamers might find it unfair. When I played as the ghost, the team against me was rather silent and that did them in. If I had played with a more talkative group then it probably would have been a more entertaining experience.
The third minigame attraction Marcus and I visited was Donkey Kong’s Crash Course. It was one of the two single-player minigames available to play in the Nintendo Land area. And despite the “casualness” the set of games may exude, Donkey Kong’s Crash Course was anything but. For some reason, I had the most difficult time playing it and constantly died in the same spot not too far from the starting line. It wasn’t due to the controls, either.
Donkey Kong’s Crash Course mostly uses tilting of the Wii U GamePad to get around the obstacle course. You must also make use of different buttons to move the obstacles. Just tilting willy-nilly won’t get you anywhere. Tilting a lot will build speed when you need it, but if you do it at the wrong moment, you’ll find yourself crashing and losing a life. The game seemingly requires a lot of patience and practice. Unfortunately, at that moment, I didn’t have either. I think if I had more time with Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, I would have enjoyed it more than I did.
One function of the GamePad which Leah doesn't mention here is the screen. Although you have your game screen on the TV, you're really meant to look at the smaller tablet screen while playing the game. Why? It's due to the fact that the TV set shows you the entire level in one go, which is seriously overwhelming. The GamePad shows only the area you're currently travelling though. It works much better to keep you focused on the right spot. I'll admit it was pretty weird playing a "console" game by looking at a small screen, but it wasn't off-putting either.
Although there were only two single-player gaming experiences on display, this was definitely the better one. It was something I enjoyed quite a bit and would rank it as one of my two favorites of all five games on the show floor. Of everything, this seemed to be the game best suited to both newcomers and more hardcore gamers. It's definitely focused as a sort of puzzle/reflex game but it's much tougher than it looks.
Fourth up was The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest. It’s another multiplayer game, but teams up four players rather than pitting them against each other. Three Wii Remote users make use of a trusty sword and shield, while the single Wii U GamePad user instead wields a bow and arrow. Wanting to create different experiences with the GamePad, I decided to play as the archer over the swordsman.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest is simple: it’s on-rails and you must defeat every enemy that is in your path. While the swordsmen were hacking and slashing away, I was able to strike at enemies near and far with my arrows. It was a fun and interesting experience using the GamePad with this particular minigame. You only needed to move it around to aim and then use the analog stick to charge and fire. Making the GamePad aim downwards would refill your arrows – making for a realistic experience. Unfortunately, as a team, we weren’t able to complete the minigame and died. But I still did very much enjoy playing as the archer with the GamePad.
Unlike Leah, I played with the Remote. This is not the ideal way to play though as it showcases little, if any, innovation in regards to gameplay. With the Remote, you simply fling it about in the air to swing your sword. Where have we seen that before? Oh yeah, with a great deal of Wii games over the past five years. Although it will no doubt be fun for younger gamers it won't win any praise from the core crowd. Zelda fans in particular will probably find this an affront to the franchise and scoff it right off.
Lastly was Takamaru’s Ninja Castle: the second of the two single-player minigames there. As the name implies, you are a ninja and you throw shurikens at enemy ninjas. It is probably the simplest of all the minigame attractions that were presented in the Nintendo Land area. It was also my least favorite (and it didn’t help how long the line for it was).
With the Wii U GamePad, you simply lay it flat in one hand, aim wherever at the TV screen, and use the other to flick at the GamePad screen to throw shurikens. Depending on how fast you flick at the screen will influence how fast the onscreen shurikens will be thrown. Accuracy also comes into play and will ultimately determine how high of a score you will receive. As mentioned before, I didn’t really enjoy Takamaru’s Ninja Castle. Compared to the ones previously played, it was too simple and boring.
I share in the general disinterest in Takamaru's Ninja Castle. More than anything it seems like an arcade-style tech demo for the system. It stands fine as a concept and the gameplay functions are okay but it's not very interesting in the long run. One thing which Leah didn't really speak to though is how you direct where the shurikens will go.
As I was handed the GamePad, I expected to do some aiming via the touch screen in order to direct my shot. Upon finding that wasn't the case, my next assumption was that simply flicking more left or right would direct the weapons at the right place. This didn't work either. Finally, I realized that the GamePad had a function I hadn't even contemplated for some reason. By pointing the device at different sections of the screen you were directing where your shots would fire. It's so simple that younger and casual gamers will probably enjoy this diversion for a bit, but most of us will probably tire of it after a few levels.
After all of that, my pin holder had five out of five hard-earned badges. I also carried with me a fun and unexpected experience with the Nintendo Land minigames. From what Marcus and I had played, the party game will definitely be a fantastic time for families and groups with gamers in-between casual and hardcore.
Hopefully, Nintendo Land will come as a game packaged in with the Wii U system and that each minigame will feature different maps and whatnot. I’m very much looking forward to the full game when it releases, so I can experience the other seven minigames and replay the previously discussed five!
Top Stories From Around the Web