Platform: Wii U
Release Date: November 18, 2012
ESRB: E for Everyone
When Nintendo Land was first revealed at E3 earlier this year, few people knew what to make of it. A virtual theme park for Miis that encompassed a wide range of Nintendo's franchises - it's not quite the Wii Sports successor many had imagined. This time around, it was clear that Nintendo rethought how they would approach a casual game that would show off the Wii U and be accessible to everyone. Instead of the simple menu-based interface that Wii Sports exhibited, they chose to make it more of an interactive experience in which the game would emulate the feel of a theme park. Does it succeed as that first big console game attraction, or does Nintendo Land fail to launch?
Interestingly enough, Nintendo Land is quite a surprise. On the outside, it may seem relatively simple in execution, like Wii Sports, but don't let the packaging fool you: there's much more depth to these games than Wii Sports or even Wii Sports Resort ever had. On a fundamental level, Nintendo Land's games still lean toward the casual end of the spectrum, but what make them stand out is the fact that they are based on popular Nintendo properties and that each game has multiple levels and skill levels and even trophies of sorts.
Upon your initial arrival in Nintendo Land, you're greeted by an empty park with just the game attractions and a giant statue at the center, which is oddly shaped like a TV at the top. Then you're introduced to this game's assistant character of sorts, a floating robot with a TV monitor for a head named Monita. She speaks in a somewhat monotone robot voice but is actually quite likeable, and is the one who instructs you on how to play each minigame and the park itself. After the initial tutorial, you're let lose into the park itself, free to go and play whatever game you choose.
Like I mentioned earlier, part of what makes Nintendo Land interesting is that Nintendo didn't just want to make a menu based mini-game compilation of sorts, so they introduced the theme park aspect to help Nintendo Land feel like a real place you could explore. Conversely, they knew that some people would just want to skip all that and hop right to the games, so they actually did include a menu that you can quickly swap to from the park that includes all of the games right there for you to pick from. Even though I really enjoyed the whole park aspect, I admit that I did use this mode a lot at times for its simple convenience.
So how do the actual games stack up? Let's take a look at each of them in their respective categories below.
Pikmin Adventure is a lot of fun, and one of three or four games that include tens of different levels for you to play through. The basic gist of the game is a lot like the actual Pikmin series itself; your Mii will play the part of Captain Olimar, and along with another Mii as a Pikmin helper, you'll command Pikmin to attack enemies and destroy bricks and the like as you progress through the level and attempt to escape via a spaceship at the end. As you progress, you'll run into tougher enemies and even a few large bosses. Like the other games, its gameplay is simple on a rudimentary scale, but the light strategy elements make it a lot of fun, and the stamps and gold stars are actually quite a challenge to acquire in the long run.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest and Metroid Blast are both essentially shooting gallery games. In the former, it features your Mii dressed as Link and running through the level on-rails, only stopping when you pull back your bow to shoot or swing your sword while you aim at the various enemies that are coming toward you in the level. This game actually has different and diverse level designs and features lite Zelda elements to it, such as hitting switches to proceed through doors and minibosses and the like. Metroid Blast is more of a free-roaming environment where your Mii is either piloting Samus' ship or on-foot and hunting down waves of enemies in the level; in this game, it's more about pin-point precision since you need to aim and shoot at an enemies weak spot to do any damage. Both games feature multiple levels (with Metroid featuring a good 20+ levels), so they're definitely meatier single-player experiences.
Octopus Dance is based on the old Game & Watch series with the black and white LCD characters (specifically the one titled Octopus), at least in theme; the actual minigame is nothing like that. Instead, it's a Simon Says-type game where you'll mimic the movements of an NPC character with the Gamepad's two analog sticks, doing everything from stretching your arms to the left and right to tilting the Gamepad in order to lean your character over and even giving the pad a quick shake for a jump. It's fast-paced and pretty fun, not to mention that the music here is incredibly catchy.
Balloon Quest is a terrific follow-up to the original Balloon Fight NES game. You'll use the stylus on the Gamepad's touch screen to make quick strokes to initiate gusts of wind in the direction of your swiping, and that wind will carry your Mii through the level. Meanwhile, you'll need to be adept at harnessing that wind in order to dodge obstacles such as floating spikes and moving spikes, as well as enemy birds that are also flying with balloons and attempting to pop yours. Factoring in other elements that happen during different times of the day (stormy and windy), and there's quite a challenge in this one. It also helps that the music is fantastic.
Donkey Kong: Crash Course is a quirky minigame where you control a little rolling contraption amidst an obstacle course that you must traverse by tilting the Gamepad. You'll trigger switches, platforms, and elevators with buttons while you attempt to balance the contraption and keep it from falling over, but if that happens, you'll lose a life. Fortunately, there are checkpoints scattered about to make things just a bit easier. Even so, this is definitely one of the more challenging games, and it's probably one of the most rewarding since it can be difficult to play through. There isn't much to identify it as a Donkey Kong game here aside from the aesthetics of the construction site (steel girders and such) from the original game, but it's still an interesting and fun experience to play through.
Takamaru's Ninja Castle is perhaps the most classic version of the shooting gallery and one of the most simple games in concept. You'll swipe at the Gamepad in order to toss throwing stars at enemy ninjas that pop out from behind the background and around each setpiece. There are a number of different rounds you'll play through, as well as different types of enemies with different attack patterns that you'll need to learn to avoid before you reach a final round in which you engage with the last boss. It's definitely fun in spurts, though swiping at the touch screen to throw ninja stars can get a little tiring after a while.
Yoshi's Fruit Cart was probably my least favorite of the games that I played, though it's not necessarily bad. It's just not as exciting as the rest. Essentially, you're given an overhead view of a field with several fruit on it on the TV screen. On the Gamepad, you'll use the stylus to draw a path for the Yoshi cart you're riding in to arrive at the goal, but the key factor is that you need to collect all of the fruit in the level along the way. Making things more difficult is the fact that you can only see the fruit on the TV but not the Gamepad, and you can only see the path you're drawing on the Gamepad but not the TV, so the objective is to examine the screen on the TV and guesstimate where you should draw the path in relation to the fruit on the other screen. As the levels go on, things get progressively more challenging as more obstacles are introduced, enemies patrol the screen, and fruit moves around.
Captain Falcon's Twister Race is a racing obstacle course minigame based on the F-Zero series, and requires you to hold the Gamepad in a vertical position relative to the TV screen. The Gamepad will show you an overhead view of your vehicle as it races along the track, as well as any booster pads, obstacles, and twists and turns in the course itself, while the TV screen will show you a behind-the-vehicle view of the events. As you complete each course, things get more challenging as you'll dodge other vehicles and more obstacles such as spikes, narrow turns, and other hindrances that will attempt to slow you down as you try to reach each checkpoint in a certain allotted time. It's an enjoyable game for a few runs, but aside from trying to master it, you might not spend as much time with this game as the others.
by Marcus Estrada
When it comes to Versus Attractions in Nintendo Land there are only three, but they all work wonderfully. The first of the three is Animal Crossing Sweet Day. In this game, you take the role of either an animal or guard. Wii Remote players rush around as elephant-capped Miis trying to collect candy and deposit it elsewhere. All the while, the GamePad player moves two guards via the analog sticks to capture others. If the animals reach their candy goal before guards can take all their lives, then they win. The concept is fairly simple but ends up being a lot of fun to play with groups or even just one other player.
Luigi“s Ghost Mansion comes off as a very similar game to Animal Crossing Sweet Day at first. The game is also played from a top down perspective and faces a group of one to four players on Wii Remote against a GamePad-controlled antagonist. This time around, though, the focus is on trying to stop the GamePad ghost by shining a flashlight on it. Ghost hunters only have a flashlight to protect them but can and will be creeped up on by the ghost. Unlike Animal Crossing, it employs vibration to let the hunters know when a ghost is near, as well as flashlight powerups. Although it is very simple, it has a bit more strategic flair than Animal Crossing.
Finally there is Mario Chase, which is slightly different in visual presentation but still basically a glorified game of catch. While the Remote player assumes the role of running away, GamePad players have a bonus. Along with their own character who can tackle they also have two AI Yoshis who will meander around and hopefully stop running players in their tracks. However, only the human player can tackle the other, so no amount of Yoshi cornering will end the game.
The thing that really keeps you coming back to Nintendo Land in the end (aside from fun multiplayer games that are perfect for party occassions) is the fact that you get coins from each game (for various reasons and achievements, including just participating) that you'll spend in a Pachinko-like minigame which takes place at Monita tower in the center of the park. During the minigame, a cursor will go back and forth at the top of the screen while you drop coins down through the slots and attempt to light up beacons by having the coins touch them. There are some 10+ different pachinko levels of varying complexity, so sometimes it'll cost 10-20 coins or more just to complete one level. Oh, and the reward for winning? A randomly selected prize in a question mark block that will pop out of Monita tower and be found somewhere on the park floor.
It could be anything from a giant mechanical Deku Tree replica to a Zebesian replica from the Metroid series, or even a remixed song from the past of one of the game's many featured franchises. I've gotten a good 30-40 of these prizes so far, and my park is still far from being populated by them; there could be as many as 50-100 or more to collect in all. Therein lies the true genius of Nintendo Land; by playing the games, collecting coins, and redeeming them for these prizes, you begin to populate your park with Nintendo paraphenalia and lore, and it really does become more like a virtual Nintendo theme park. Each reward acts as a piece of Nintendo history, and even tells you a bit about it when you tap on it on the touch screen. Listening to one of the remixed songs blast through the speakers around the park is also a pretty cool experience, and it actually sounds like you're hearing it in a theater/colliseum-type environment.
At the end of the day, Nintendo Land is a remarkably solid tie-in for the Wii U console. The game shines best when you have friends and family to play some of the different games with, but many of the single-player games are quite enjoyable and offer enough depth to satisfy even core gamers. If you end up buying the Wii U Basic Console instead of Premium, Nintendo Land is well worth buying for its immense replay value and homage to Nintendo's past. And if you already own it due to buying the Premium console but haven't played it yet? Pick it up and give it a try; you just might be surprised at how addictive it can be.
+ Tons of content and replay value to experience
+ 12 different games to play through with many different modes
+ Visuals are smooth, appealing
+ Building up the park with Nintendo memorabilia is lots of fun
- Some games aren't as good as others
- 3 of the games can only be played with two players or more
Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)
Nintendo Land is a great entry point to the Wii U and helps show what the console is all about with the different uses for the Gamepad. Pick it up especially if you're into multiplayer at parties and if you love Nintendo memorabilia.