The eighth generation of home consoles is here with the Wii U and packed in with the system is Nintendo Land. Like Wii Sports, Nintendo is counting on Nintendo Land to showcase the capabilities of their new GamePad controller as well as the advent of “asymmetric” multiplayer. If Nintendo Land is of any indication, the Wii U is going to have a lot to offer in the coming years.
Miis were the stars of numerous games on the original Wii, and they are the stars of Nintendo Land as well. Players create their own Miis at the home menu of the Wii U, and then they are able to use their Miis in the game to play the various Attractions. You see, Nintendo Land is a theme park based on 12 Nintendo properties. Think of it as the Nintendo version of Disney Land. The different Attractions are all set in place to show off the GamePad’s abilities. Players can walk around the park, or “plaza”, and go to each Attraction.
First off, there are Team Attractions. There is The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, in which four other players can join the game as swordsman to help the player with the GamePad, who plays as an archer. This Attraction is on-rails, featuring stylized versions of famous enemies from Zelda’s history. To go along with that is a Time Attack mode, and there is plenty of replayability in the form of going after a Master Ranking on each stage.
The second Team Attraction is Pikmin Adventure. Players with the GamePad use the touchscreen to control the Pikmin and send them after enemies. A bot joins a person playing solo as a random Mii from the collection of Miis saved on the Wii U, and they are dressed in a Pikmin suit and function like a Pikmin. Pikmin Adventure plays out like a dungeon crawler with RPG elements. It’s surprisingly fun and deep, especially in co-op modes. Pikmin Adventure is complimented by a Versus mode that pits Olimar against the player-controlled Pikmin.
Finally, the third Team Attraction is Metroid Blast. One of the most highly advertised of the 12 Attractions, Metroid Blast features three different game modes. The first mode is Assault Mission, which is a campaign featuring 30 levels of varying objectives. The person with the GamePad controls the Gunship while the rest of the people playing are in Samus suits. They can work together with the Gunship to complete the objectives in each level. Metroid Blast has two other modes, and both are Versus modes. The first Versus mode pits the Gunship against those in the Samus suits. The third Versus mode sees a free-for-all battle against all those in Samus suits, in which the GamePad screen displays useful information for everyone to see and use.
I enjoyed all the Team Attractions greatly. They are all very deep, and the multiple game modes make them even more replayable. Best of all, they provide a healthy challenge for those that seek it, as well as functionality that makes them accessible to those that just want to blow through the levels. This keeps them from becoming frustrating.
Moving on from the Team Attractions are Competitive Attractions. There are three Competitive Attractions, the first being Mario Chase. Mario Chase is ridiculously fun. One player controls their Mii dressed as Mario, and they have a bird’s eye view of the map. Their goal is to avoid the Miis dressed as Toads until the time limit runs out. Depending on the amount of players, Mario Chase actually changes, which shows just how deep and thoughtful these Attractions are in Nintendo Land. Many are quick to write the game off as simply another mini-game collection, but no mini-game collection has been this deep and work in favor of the gamers.
Secondly is Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. Luigi’s Ghost Mansion can be very tense and a lot of fun with the right people. GamePad players control the ghost, but they are invisible to the Miis dressed as Luigi. Stages are based on various haunted areas, with the ghost’s goal of taking out the other players. Just like Mario Chase, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion changes based on the number of players to keep the level of difficulty and the balance even. Maps also change sizes based on the amount of players.
The third Competitive Attraction is Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. This is another Attraction that can be very fun and surprisingly intense. The player with the GamePad controls two different guards using the left and right analog sticks. Players with Wii remotes run around and collect candy while the guards have the goal of tackling them. This shows just how great multi-screen gameplay can be for home consoles.
Solo Attractions are the last bunch, and there are six of them. My least favorite is Yoshi’s Fruit Cart. While it does make good use of the two screen gameplay, it simply is not as fun as the others. Octopus Dance is a rhythm game that takes its cues from the classic Game & Watch games. Octopus Dance shows another example of how the two screens can change the gameplay. Donkey Kong’s Crash Course uses tilt functionality for a very addictive Attraction that is, like the others mentioned, is surprisingly complex and let’s just say there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Three other Solo Attractions join the previously mentioned ones. One Attraction is based on a rather obscure Nintendo IP that most fans, even diehard Nintendo fans, may not recognize. Takamaru’s Ninja Castle sees players holding the GamePad vertically as opposed to horizontally. By swiping their hand across the screen, players throw ninja stars at paper cut-outs of enemy ninjas on their television. This is an on-rails Attraction as well that works like a shooting gallery. Shapes can be drawn on the screen as well to deepen the combat system, such as transforming the shuriken into clay bombs, and drawing a line across the screen slows down time. Takamaru’s Ninja Castle is a bit mindless, but it is high on replayability and the cutesy art style is great.
Captain Falcon’s Twister Race is another Attraction that requires the GamePad to be held vertically. It uses tilt functionality to control a high speed racer across a dangerous track filled with various obstacles. Different content is displayed on the television screen that simply can’t be seen on the top-down view on the GamePad, which once again is a great example of how the Wii U’s unique functionality works. The camera on the front of the GamePad shows the face of whoever is playing, which is an amusing feature that reminds me of the hilarious snapshots of Kinect games, except in real-time. Other Attractions also use this camera feature for similarly hilarious results.
And finally, the final Attraction in Nintendo Land is Balloon Trip Breeze. Using the touchscreen, players send their Mii, with a couple of balloons strapped on their back, across multiple stages. Capturing the simple and pure fun of the original Balloon Trip on NES, this was one of my favorite Solo Attractions. As you can see, I liked all of the Attractions in Nintendo Land, with the exception of Yoshi’s Fruit Cart. Usually there are a number of games in mini-game collections that I can pinpoint as bad or outright stupid, but Nintendo Land features one Attraction that I found mediocre, but not even bad.
Each Attraction features a unique art style. Graphically, Nintendo Land fails to show off the full capabilities of the Wii U, but it is still a game that is easy on the eyes. Bright, vibrant colors make up most of the game. Music in the game is fantastic as well, featuring classic tunes from games such as Donkey Kong Country, Super Metroid, and music from the storied history of each of the 12 games that are represented.
Multiplayer, co-op, leaderboards, a Stamp achievement system, and more give Nintendo Land a ton of replay value. The game is deceptively deep, with each of the 12 Attractions featuring a lot more than meets the eye. There is also an Attraction Tour mode that works like a playlist of the Attractions that can be a lot of fun, though the fact that it can end in a “draw” is a little disappointing. There is a mini-game in the center of the plaza that works like plinko, and by beating stages, players unlock prizes that can be messed around with around the plaza .Unfortunately, the lack of online leaderboards and multiplayer is disappointing. I have always been a huge proponent of offline multiplayer and co-op, always being sure to point out the games that lack them, but that goes both ways. In my opinion, games need both offline and online multiplayer to be truly successful. To be fair, Nintendo Land does feature Miiverse functionality, and admittedly, it is kind of cool to see the comments of random people pop up and it is fun watching other Miis explore your plaza.
However, there is currently a freezing problem involved with Nintendo Land that many people believe are caused by Miiverse. What happens is that the game will randomly freeze and very annoying sounds will come out of both the television screen and the GamePad controller. The only solution is to unplug the Wii U and then wait a few hours until the Wii U GamePad is able to connect back to the Wii U properly. This is a pretty irritating problem, but it is fairly rare and Nintendo is releasing a patch very soon.
Nintendo Land does a brilliant job of showing off Wii U’s unique capabilities. Simply put, the game provides unique multiplayer experiences that simply haven’t been possible before, plus the new gameplay mechanics that haven’t been possible on any other system before it. Nintendo Land is a dream for any diehard Nintendo fan, and is the best mini-game compilation that I’ve ever played. Don’t write this one off as casual shovelware. Nintendo Land is addicting, fun, and one of the best Wii U launch options.
Tested on Wii U. Final Score: 8.75/10