In order to introduce players to the GamePad, the new Wii U functions and controls, Nintendo had to release a game that did all those things at launch. What better then Nintendo Land, a game full of mini-games that is essentially the Wii Sports for their latest home console offering? Whether Nintendo Land will have the same effect for Wii U that Wii Sports did for the Wii remains to be seen. What I can tell you however, is that the game is a lot of fun and really demonstrates what gaming on a tablet in a home setting is supposed to feel like.
The thing that truly sets apart Nintendo Land from other mini-game collections is that with Nintendo Land, the depth and variety of games are much better. Furthermore, many of the games include faces of the Nintendo franchise such as Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Samus and Link to name a few. All in all there are 12 different attractions, each with its own unique stages or modes and each anchored around a particular Nintendo franchise. I especially loved how Nintendo made it feel like one big theme park and that each mini-game was an attraction or ride if you will.
Upon logging into the game you’ll be using your created Mii to explore the main area of the game, otherwise known as the Plaza and sampling the various games scattered throughout. You may even notice a hilarious robot named Monita who acts as your impassive guide. From the Plaza you can access the attractions, or press Y on the GamePad to bring up a screen and select the game you and your friends wish to play. You can also see the various rewards you’ve won in the supplementary Coin Game and run circles around your park guests (ranging from generic Miis to your Miiverse friends). The look and feel of a amusement park simply works and is a breath of fresh air compared to other games that were party games. Progress is tied to whatever Mii you’re playing with, so people who are sharing a system don’t have to worry about losing their high scores or having their stats messed with. Which is great because it allows you to challenge yourself or your friends for the highest score possible.
The mini-games are exciting, fun and full of entertainment. Every play session I’ve had, no matter the size of the group, always resulted in me laughing and having loads of fun. Nintendo Land can be enjoyed with friends but certainly offers plenty of entertainment on your own. Which for Nintendo is a huge payoff, especially since most mini-game collections are basically worthless unless you have friends over. Of the 12 attractions available in Nintendo Land 9 can be played solo, 6 can be played with up to 5 players, and all 12 can be played competitively via the Attraction Tour.
All of the attractions essentially have the user using the GamePad to interact with the game in a different way, as opposed to other players who would be using Wii remotes. This new style offers a unique way to change the way games are played in a multiplayer setting. I found it so easy to use the tablet to play many of the minigames including the use of the gyroscope controls which add a new level of playing. All in all it feels really fresh, and is something that’s simply never been done before. Another neat feature is how the game gives “fairness” to other players. For example in Mario Chase, it adjusts for two player games by giving the pursuer a couple of Yoshi robots and Monita’s assistance to track down their GamePad-wielding friend. This makes what would otherwise be an unfair and probably frustrating experience much more balanced. It’s refreshing to see a mini-game collection go to such lengths to ensure the game can be enjoyed no matter the size of the party, and this is definitely one of Land’s greatest strengths.
With each attraction, you get a better understanding of just what the GamePad is capable of, and where perhaps developers might take creation in the future. Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, for example, has players using the GamePad to fire ninja stars and bombs at enemies as you race to save the princess, Donkey Kong’s Crash Course allows players to tilt the tablet and using the L and R buttons to try and make it through the maze to the end. One of my favorites however is The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, which has you fighting your way through different areas of Hyrule, with the GamePad user acting as an archer and the Wii remote players wielding motion-controlled swords. All three of these games can be played cooperatively or alone, and have far more depth than you have any right to expect from a mini-game collection.
Nintendo Land might seem like a simple conceived idea, but everything is beautiful looking and crisp thanks to the HD graphics. Everything is fresh and shiny, and while graphics don’t make much of a difference in a mini-game collection to begin with, having such a colorful hub to run around in is still much appreciated. The music is also delightful, featuring a mix of new tunes and remixed tracks from the various franchises represented.
Nintendo Land is just what Nintendo needed to kick start the new console. It shows exactly what the new console and tablet controller are capable of, and has far more depth and entertainment then you’d expect from a mini-game collection. With so much variety and multiple attractions, you’ll be sure to have hours of fun solo or with friends. Add to that high scores, trophies to earn, stamps to collect, plaza decorations, and what you’ve got is an experience that must not be missed, and probably the best show of Wii U available at launch.