*NB: My schedule wasn’t compatible with my friends’, so I wasn’t able to pull them to look at the game’s multiplayer components, so was only able to review the minigames with single-player components.
Here I am going to tell you the features that you will find in one of the Wii U’s flagship titles, Nintendo Land.
Just as the Nintendo Wii has Wii Sports, Nintendo’s Wii U has Nintendo Land, just don’t expect to see the same fervor over this launch title. The attractions are designed show off the capability of the Wii U gamepad. To that extent, Nintendo Land succeeds. However, Nintendo Land does not have the friendly control-scheme Wii Sports has, and it may chase off newcomers.
Replay value becomes low, and the attractions (mini-games) can be completed within a matter of hours. Stamps, Nintendo’s version of achievements, trophies, and master ranks can extend replay value and keep the game exciting.
Nintendo Land features twelve attractions; six attractions are exclusively single player, three are exclusively multiplayer, and three can be played with one-five players. For a party game, it is good to see that there is something in it for the single players, too.
Let’s Talk about the Plaza:
The game begins with your Mii arriving in the Nintendo Land Plaza, which is currently barren. You are immediately greeted by Monita, a computer program that will assist you in learning the layouts of all the attractions. If some of you are getting flashbacks of Fi, don’t worry, Monita is nowhere near as talkative as Fi, and you have the option of skipping her dialogue during the attractions.
At the top of the plaza is a mini-game where you can spend Nintendo Land Coins, currency you get when you play the attractions. Spending coins earns you statues to decorate your plaza.
One thing you will immediately notice is that your Mii’s point-of-view is almost entirely dependent on how you are holding the Gamepad.
If your Wii U is connected to the internet, you’ll return to your plaza to find that it is infested with Miis. These Miis are players from around the world, and will look at the statues that your purchased with all of your coins. You can also talk to them, compare your scores with theirs, and even make friends. This is a welcome change to Wii’s policy when finding friends online.
Well, now that we’ve looked around the plaza (which is a giant roulette wheel), let’s check out those attractions.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest (1-5 Players)
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest really shows off the Gamepad’s motion capabilities. This is just one of a few games that allow you to use either the gamepad or the controller (both for multiplayer). With the gamepad, you take control of an archer. If you want to use the Wii controller, you’ll take control of a swordsman. You have six hearts to make it through an on-rails course. Waves of enemies will appear, and you have to defeat them all. Out of the two modes, the archery is far superior. You aim your bow by looking around with the gamepad, and shoot by pulling down on the right analog stick and releasing. The left control stick can turn your Mii in case you cannot physically turn any farther. The gamepad responds very well. I was able to turn 180 degrees in order to shoot enemies behind me without any trouble.
While the archery is fun, problems arose when enemies manage to make it to you. On more than one occasion I was mercilessly beaten into the ground by a group of enemies that made it past my volley of arrows.
Playing as the swordsman will have you using the Wii Motion Plus. However, the gameplay is extremely limited. This is simply a Zelda-themed version of the sword game in Wii Sports Resort. Your character moves automatically, and you swing your sword back and forth to defeat waves of enemies. Swings that are blocked will knock your Mii off balance and open to a counter-attack.
Say you want to play multiplayer. Once character will be the archer, and all others will be swordsmen. All the characters share the same six hearts, so this game relies heavily on teamwork.
The game features over twenty levels, including main quests, time attacks, and bonus levels (which are incredibly difficult). The levels are fun, but it won’t take you long to complete most of this attraction.
Yoshi’s Fruit Cart (Single-Player Only)
This game relies heavily on the stylus. Piloting a Yoshi cart, you must use your stylus to draw a path through all of the fruit and to the exit. The trick is this: The fruit can only be seen on your T.V. screen, but the path you draw can only be seen on your gamepad. It’ll take some skill to navigate through the courses, especially if your T.V. screen has a different aspect ratio than the gamepad. The game’s entertainment value lies in its simplicity, and it also makes the game accessible to newcomers. This same simplicity also restricts the game’s replay value, and I saw all this attraction offered within a couple of hours.
Metroid Blast (1-5 Players)
This attraction has you take control of Samus on foot (Wiimote and Nunchuck) or take to the skies in Samus’s Gunship (Gamepad). You have three hit points to take down waves of enemies, collect tokens, or defeat a major boss. Metroid Blast offers the greatest variety of gameplay and replay value of the attractions. Metroid Blast also has the most complicated control-scheme of any of the attractions. You’ll have to move the gamepad at different angles to aim while using the analog sticks to maneuver the gunship around the field. Though the control-scheme is complicated, defeating enemies from afar makes the game simple.
In contrast, the on-foot missions are a blast. The control scheme is reminiscent of the Metroid Prime series, with the exception being the third-person point-of-view. On-foot missions also give the levels more strategy, as opposed to the gunship strategy of maintaining a high altitude and raining down lasers and missiles from above.
Octopus Dance (Single-Player Only)
This attraction couldn’t be more simple. Using the left and right analog sticks to control your Mii’s arms, shaking the gamepad makes your Mii jump, and tilting your gamepad left or right makes your Mii lean in those directions. The goal is to follow the movements of your dance instructor. There are three move in a measure, and the tempo increases with each successful measure. Coordination is the key to getting a good score. Though this is party game, the fun lies in you and your friends trying to beat each other’s high score. Since play sessions do not last beyond a few minutes, friends will not wait long to get their turn at this title.
Takamaru’s Ninja Castle (Single-Player Only)
This attraction has you swiping your fingers on the gamepad’s screen furiously while trying to defeat wave after wave of ninjas. The game prompts you to hold the gamepad sideways with just hand, but I had to cradle the gamepad in order to maintain stability and power.
Swiping at the screen flings throwing stars at the screen. The stars are used as both offense (hitting ninjas) and defense (deflecting enemy throwing stars). As your progress through the attraction, you gain scrolls, abilities that let you perform different actions. For example, the first scroll allows you the use of clay bombs, which has an area effect wherever it is thrown. To activate these powers, you must draw a simple pattern on your gamepad screen. The gamepad is responsive to swipes, and I had no trouble getting the scrolls to work. This game is extremely short, and will only take about ten to fifteen minutes to complete the entire attraction.
Donkey Kong’s Crash Course (Single-Player Only)
Not a game for the easily ruffled, Donkey Kong’s Crash Course requires a steady hand. Your Mii has transformed into a two-wheeled spring-thingy (let’s see you come up with a better description). You must navigate the obstacles by tilting your gamepad back and forth. As your progress, the attraction adds more mechanics to challenge the player. Blowing on the mic raises elevators, the L and R buttons tilt certain panels, and the analog stick turns cranks.
The frustration comes when you realize how fragile your Mii is in this game. A slight fall, hitting the wall too hard, and losing your balance are all causes for your Mii’s demise. Accidents happen all the time, with stupid mistakes being the number one reason your may send something through the floor.
Despite all the frustration, the gameplay is solid at times, and the mechanics-building is paced extremely well. If you are a person who enjoys speed runs, then you’ll love Donkey Kong’s Crash Course.
Pikmin Adventure (1-5 Players)
This game will definitely scratch your itch for a new Pikmin experience. The player with the gamepad will star as Olimar and command a number of pikmin as they travel through various levels. If your friends want to join in, they can play as a large pikmin. You’ll have to work together to take down hordes of small enemies and a few big bosses.
The control schemes for this game are simple and inviting. As Olimar, you will be using the stylus to fling the pikmin at your target, while the analog stick move your character around. Tapping the zL or zR buttons blows a whistle and gathers your pikmin, including the player pikmin, which can be thrown much higher and for much farther distances. A nice little addition to this control scheme is ability to switch between left and right-handed controls.
This game also features a leveling system. Grabbing nectar increases your experience points, and your pikmin get stronger every five levels. This system also applies to the player pikmin.
Not all of the levels are aimed at defeating all the enemies. There are times where you will have to race through the course in a time attack level. Time bonuses are scattered throughout the level, and are hidden in enemies. Strategy is employed when you have to decide which baddy to ignore and which to defeat. Pikmin Adventure is definitely one of the more enjoyable experiences of NIntendo Land.
Captain Falcon’s Twister Race (Single-Player Only)
The disappointment in this attraction doesn’t come from how it performs, but rather how it could have performed. This game is a race against the clock. You must dodge obstacles and reach the checkpoint within an allotted time. You hold the gamepad vertically and tilt left and right as you steer your machine through the twists and turns. The video on the gamepad is an overhead view of your machine as it speeds through the course. Simultaneously, an over-the-shoulder viewpoint shown on the T.V. screen. You’ll have to focus on gamepad screen in order to steer accurately, but must look at the T.V. when you go through tunnels. These moments did not last very long, but when I did glance at the T.V., the action seemed way more exciting than what was happening on the gamepad screen.
There are not very many areas in this game, but they are tough to get through. Do not expect to be playing this game for long.
Balloon Trip Breeze (Single-Player Only)
Balloon Trip Breeze is another attraction that forces you to split your focus on what is happening on the T.V. screen and the gamepad screen. Your MIi has to navigate a field of mines and enemy balloon fighters as you make your way from island to island. The autoscroll keeps the game moving along to keep you from simply floating in place. Hover close to the sea for too long, and a large fish will jump up and eat you.
Swipe the screen with your stylus to move your character along. Tapping the screen creates a small shockwave that destroys enemies or mines. The controls are easy to understand, but the gameplay can become chaotic when you are trying to manage swipes and taps while keeping your Mii away from hazards. Still, Balloon Trip Breeze provides a good bit of challenge, to keep you coming back to beat your own high score.
Back To the Plaza for a Final Verdict
Everything that NIntendo Land does, it does well. Controls are responsive, most of the games easy to learn, and the controls are inviting. Unfortunately, some games are either too complicated for newcomers, which is a problem for parties. Other games are too easy, much to the chagrin of more experienced player.
One of the main goals of Nintendo Land is to demonstrate the capabilities of the gamepad. To that end, Nintendo Land more that succeeds. Seeing what the gamepad can do makes me excited for what Nintendo has in-store for the future. The title is a great way to get aquatinted with the gamepad. If you are looking to pick up a Wii U bundle, I recommend the Nintendo Land title if you want to see what the gamepad can do.
Unfortunately, Nintendo Land is held back by the lack of depth in a lot of games, especially Octopus Dance and Yoshi’s Fruit Cart. Unless you have a burning desire for this game, I would wait for a future price drop before picking up the title.