Following up on Wii Sports was never going to be an easy thing for Nintendo. The pack-in instantly sold people on the Wii premise, people knew how to play it easily to and could understand the concept. Just swing the racquet, bat, or whatever and it just clicked. Faced with a new controller, which isn’t as simple with more buttons and a touch screen added, Nintendo has had to chuck most of what they’ve taught people with the Wii Remote out the window and start fresh. Nintendo Land is the end result. The game isn’t just here to teach you how to use your Wii U, no, it’s not a glorified tech demo either. But instead, it’s a compilation of different games designed to help you get the most out of your new controller.
If you’ve bought the Premium Pack, you probably won’t care as much about whether you should grab your free pack-in with the consoleor not. However, if you went with the basic pack, we’d argue that the price of admission for NintendoLand is well worth it. Best of all? There’s no queues.
Nintendo Land contains 12 attractions for you to try out in this wondrous virtual theme park. Each of attractions features a different Nintendo franchise with them all being re-envisioned with a unique visual style, your Mii literally plays dress up as they go through each game. The games are split into three distinct styles: Team, Battle and Solo Games. The cooperative attractions are far and away the most in-depth games and could even fare as stand-alone titles on the eShop if Nintendo wanted – these are not mini-games.
The most intense or, dare we say it, “hardcore” game would easily be Metroid Blast. Playable with either the GamePad or Wii Remote Plus, those on the GamePad pilot Samus’ Ship while the Wii Remote players take it to the ground to an arena shoot out. Samus’ Ship is controlled using the Analogue Sticks and Gyroscope while the Wii Remote players will note that the controls are different to most third person shooters which is a little bit jarring. In Metroid Blast, there are 20 different levels to work through either separately or as a team, with “Master Rank” challenges for those who want a punishment.
Next up is The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, which allows players to play through an adventure through Hyrule either as an archer (on the GamePad) or a swordsman (on the Wii Remotes). While there are only nine levels provided, it does take some time to get you through the entirety of the quest. Once you’re done, there are time attack mods to complete for stamps and Master Ranks, as we previously mentioned. We particularly loved the iconic Zelda locales being rendered in a style similar to Kirby’s Epic Yarn, with fabrics and stitching and the like. With classic Zelda tunes also being remixed slightly, we’re fairly convinced that we wouldn’t mind a Zelda in this vein in the future.
Our final team based game is Pikmin Adventure, which features 16 levels of Pikmin chucking action. Like all the team games, you can play this by yourself but it is more enjoyable with friends. The GamePad player takes control of Olimar and can indirectly control the Wii Remote players too, who play as Pikmin. Olimar can interact with the Pikmin by throwing them, while the Pikmin can take matters into their own hands and attack things independently. It’s a nice little title and a great warm up to Pikmin 3 which we hope is close.
While co-operative games are fun, it’s even more fun to play against each other and beat the crap out of your friends (in games, of course). The one we played most in this category is Mario Chase, which, surprisingly, is exactly what you would’ve called “chasey” in primary school. One player is Mario on the GamePad, the others are Toad on the Wii Remotes. Everyone basically has to chase Mario, who can see where all the Toads are, while the Toads have to coordinate to attempt to corner Mario. It’s fun, it’s simple, and it works incredibly well.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day is similar to Mario Chase, but in reverse. The GamePad player takes control of two dogs, who must capture “sweet stealing” characters before they steal all the sweets in the town. It sounds a little bit one sided, as the characters who are stealing the sweets become slower and slower as they collect them as well, but controlling the two Dog characters is harder than you would think.
Luigi’s Ghost Mansion rounds off the competitive games, with a twist. Four Wii Remote players basically have to hunt down a ghost in a mansion – who they can’t see. The Ghost is played by whoever is using the GamePad, and is invisible to the ghost hunters unless a torch is shone on them. To help the hunters, the Wii Remotes rumble whenever the ghost is close by, increasing intensity as the ghost gets closer. Sometimes players may even be assisted by lightning, sometimes lighting up the mansion and exposing the ghost. For those cheeky players, the player who is the Ghost can even light himself up to fake out the players. It’s good fun and quite simple too.
All of the above games are going to be played different by everyone, most of them will have everyone yelling at each other where this player is or coordinating sweet stealing. Everyone will eventually come up with their own strategy and don’t fret if you can’t get the full amount of people to play, the CPU will fill in for the absent players. This is less helpful in Luigi’s Ghost Mansion however, that game is severely unbalanced without all the players.
While there is a lot of content in Nintendo Land that benefit from having a lot people to play with, the games that require just yourself are equally just as fun. My favourite of which is Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, don’t be fooled by its simple appearance this game is one tough nut to crack. To navigate the courses (there are four) you need a steady hand as you tilt GamePad left and right make it to the goal. You’ll be restarting this one over and over as you eventually learn the chalkboard maze, as you move through the areas your figure out the best way to tackle them, as each one of them requires a different skill to complete. Once you’ve completed the first course twice in a row then there is also the second, third and fourth courses to make it through as well as the master ranks and stamps to collect. That poor spring cart rolling thing you control, it’s going to die so much.
Now for something at the other end of the fun scale, Octopus Dance. A simple rhythm game in which you must dance you way through ever increasing difficulty or be at the sufferance of the giant Game and Watch Octopus. The game is played with the two analogue sticks moving each arm, in the beginning they’ll move the same direction but later on it does get harder with different moves need on each stick or arm. The game doesn’t really use the Wii U as well as it could, with the only real feature being the random squids appearing and blurting ink onto the GamePad, obscuring your view..
Not all of the attractions on Nintendo Land require you to be a reflex whizz, Yoshi’s Fruit Cart is one of the slower, methodical games. Using the GamePad you’ll need to navigate Yoshi to the fruit on the game board, trouble is that it only shows up on the TV so you’ll need to drive blind laying a path and hoping you get it right. Some stages are quite straightforward with this but then there are other stages where you need to collect fruit in order to avoid pitfalls and more.
While Miyamoto might not think too much of F-Zero anymore, someone at Nintendo still loves it. Captain Falcon’s Twister Race attraction poorly attempts to bring F-Zero back to the big screen. Like Takamaru’s Ninja Castle you hold the GamePad vertically as you navigate the Blue Falcon through a twisting and obstacle filled track. It’s just a wonder why you have to look at the top down view on the GamePad and miss out on the ‘real’ looking F-Zero experience on the top screen.
NintendoLand isn’t just full of Nintendo’s biggest properties, some of the older and more obscure franchises also get their time in the sun. Takamaru’s Ninja Castle takes an old Famicon game and gives it a new lease of life. You’ll need to hold the GamePad sideways for this one as you fling ninja stars toward the origami Ninjas that pop up on the screen. The GamePad’s motion sensors work perfect here, forget about needing a sensor bar, it knows where it needs to be.
Balloon Trip Breeze is again another modern update of a classic and forgotten franchise and you won’t hear me say this often but the stylus controls for moving your Mii around are much better than that of smashing buttons to stay afloat in the old days. Since we haven’t seen Balloon Trip in so long the game also benefits from having the fresher soundtrack. We all know the Zelda, Mario and Animal Crossing tunes, but to hear Balloon Trip with a new soundtrack is really cool.
Each game also has a number of extras hidden away that may or may not be obvious if you just play it a couple of times. Each of the team game challenges has a ‘Master Rank’ which you can achieve by completing a specific objective and some of them you’re going to have trouble getting without repeated play. There are also stamps to collect for each game, it’s a pseudo-achievement system that will suit the more ‘hardcore’ of the gamers out there. All of the single player attractions also include a ‘helper’ mode that a player with a second Wii Remote can lend a hand, we found it to be more trouble in a lot of games than it was worth.
All of the games are accessed through the in game plaza, this plaza will start out very empty but eventually will fill with players from around the world and your friends list. There are also prizes to unlock that populate the plaza, you can get these prizes by playing a ball drop style game in the middle of the plaza with coins earned from playing games. Additionally, a train circles around the plaza, hop aboard and you can play in ‘Attraction Mode’ which will allow you to play through a random sample of games with friends. It also keeps track of who has played with the GamePad and will mix it up so everyone gets a go. However since all of the games in NintendoLand don’t lend themselves to multiplayer there will be times where the majority of people aren’t playing a game and just observing, not good for those with a short attention span. NintendoLand also requires a lot of investment in Wii Remotes (or if you don’t have Motion Plus that too) and nunchuks depending on the game you play. I’m lucky that I have the right amount of controllers but only two of those were MotionPlus equipped (with the add-on). You’ll need to lay down the money to get the most out of the game.
The MiiVerse is featured in NintendoLand everywhere, not just in the plaza where you can view other people’s comments and statistics but also in games. No posts will actually appear during game play but when you pass or fail levels you’ll have the option of sharing your thoughts at any time and then you’ll also see the opinions of others at the same time. If you’re doing well at Zelda: Battle Quest you’ll get a bunch of comments from others who perhaps are having a hard time, or see posts from others who too have passed. One tip I got from someone actually helped me complete a stage as well. Sadly nothing in Nintendo Land is online enabled outside of the MiiVerse integration, there’s no online leader boards or online play. Why a lot of the games would lose something in the online transition, a lot of them still would have worked. The leader boards too should have been at least with friends, I do tire of see the scores just set by the people who have played on my own console.
Nintendo is new at this whole HD graphic caper and they’re doing very well as it so far. New Super Mario Bros. U got off on the right foot and NintendoLand continues the run with not only great looking graphics on a technical level but a wonderful style through all the attractions and the plaza. The patchwork and fabric style in Zelda: Battle Quest, the beady-eyed glazed look of Animal Crossing and the origami paper style in Takamaru’s are all unique and terrific. Nintendo have done these art styles in previous games (and in standard definition) but in HD they get a fresh coat of paint.
Being a Nintendo title made up of Nintendo past, present and perhaps future you would expect nothing less than perfect with the soundtrack and indeed Nintendo has delivered. Nintendo has managed to not only include modern interpretations of classic Nintendo themes but also include older 8-bit and 16-bit throwbacks as well. The original tunes made for the plaza and menu as well will go down as ‘classic’ Nintendo tracks in the future, catchy and jovial.
NintendoLand isn’t as easy as Wii Sports to explain to people, but once you’ve broken through the uncertainty barrier the game quickly becomes the “It” game to have on the Wii U. There’s enough content here to be able to enjoy by yourself and provided you have the equipment there is a lot of fun to have in multiplayer as well. NintendoLand hits the nostalgia note pretty hard but you don’t have to have loved Nintendo for 25 years to enjoy this one, NintendoLand will make you wish such a place actually existed.