Four staffers teamed up to sort through Nintendo Land. What was the consensus?
Editor's Note: Since Nintendo Land is a large game with 12 distinct mini-games in it, we decided to assemble an Avengers-like team of staffers to write about all the attractions and discuss the game. In addition, I implore you to check out the accompanying podcast segment.
Neal Ronaghan (NR): Nintendo Land is the emblematic Wii Sports-like game from Nintendo for Wii U, but it goes for a slightly different audience by employing a different technique. Instead of trying to be a game for everyone, Nintendo Land is more of a game for anyone who has any experience with video games. It's 12 attractions are layered with gaming tropes that, for the Wii Sports crowd, might be a little dense. Still, Nintendo Land sets out to be a showcase for the system and what it can do, and in that sense, it very much succeeds, even if the single-player experience is lacking.
Scott Thompson (ST): Neal nailed it; Nintendo Land is much more of a traditional game than Wii Sports ever was, and as such, it isn't a game your entire family will likely enjoy. This more focused approach might limit participants, but it also creates a deeper experience for the people who are ready for it. Wii Sports' bare bones, sterile look is completely gone, too. I was worried Nintendo might take a "Mario Party" approach when it came to presentation, doing just enough to get the game out of door, but I'm incredibly impressed with how the game looks and sounds. Each attraction has a specific look and features great remixes of classic tunes from the franchise it represents. I didn't expect to really be moved one way or the other with Nintendo Land; now, its most always what we are playing in my home.
Andy Goergen (AG): The visual aesthetic of the game is really appealing. It feels like there was a whole bunch of extra fabric left over from the world of Kirby's Epic Yarn, so they just used it to stitch together versions of Hyrule and other Nintendo classics. Seeing your Mii characters decked out Halloween costumes of your favorite Nintendo mascots is delightful.
Patrick Barnett (PB): Everything that they mentioned and more applies to Nintendo Land. Nintendo crafted an experience that really stands above Wii Sports from a creative aspect. The interconnected hub world feels like a place you could seemingly spend tons of time in while not actually visiting any of the real attractions. Subtle touches like prizes awarded from the coin mini-game or Miiverse integration are the things that will keep me coming back to Nintendo Land, even when gaming by myself. Single-player attractions may have some flaws, but for now, Nintendo Land is the quintessential multiplayer game that everyone should at least check out.
NR: Definitely. The prizes are addicting to accumulate, especially when it's stuff like a giant Deku Tree in the art style of the game. Still, the meat of this game is in the attractions, so check out a short review of each one below. Which one's your favorite? Let us know!
One of the deeper experiences in Nintendo Land, The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest takes players through a series of Zelda-themed stages, ambushing them with enemies around every turn. It’s easy to pick up and play, but somewhat challenging to finish. Players take on the role of Link, armed with one of his signature weapons. Players on the GamePad fight with a bow and arrow, and use the gyro controls to aim. A flick of the right analog stick fires an arrow, or you can hold it down to charge your shot. You can also use the right analog stick to aim, if your gyro gets a bit off-center. The GamePad controls work well, and of course the Kirby’s Epic Yarn-inspired fabric Hyrule looks amazing on the screen.All the other players wield the Wii Remote Plus, taking control of the Master Sword. Controls are akin to Skyward Sword with one-to-one sword action, and a shield you can raise using the B button on the Remote.
Progression is automatic, which takes a bit of the “Zelda mystique” out of the experience, but the combat is still loads of fun. The players share a single life bar, making it imperative to cooperate in finding the best approach to any given battle. The game gets difficult fairly quickly, but the more you die, the more extra hearts you can gain from your fallen players the next time around. -AG
While Pikmin 3 might have missed launch, Pikmin Adventure makes up for it. This cooperative attraction puts the GamePad player in the shoes of an Olimar Mii (complete with his army of Pikmin) and the one-to-four Wii Remote players as Pikmin Miis. The level-based game requires the players to work together to defeat enemies using simple attack commands.
The action gets hairier as time goes on, with giant enemies, cool power-ups, and a variety of hazards. The enemies are all mechanized toys based off of Pikmin enemies, and if they happen to eat a character, that character turns into a walking piece of poop (no joke). It's that kind of whimsy and silliness that makes this a fun experience. Even more fun is the underlying competition of the whole attraction, as players try to level up their character by collecting nectar, which increases attack and also blooms the Pikmin. -NR
Made up of both cooperative and competitive modes, Metroid Blast is probably the most "core" experience available in Nintendo Land, and Monita is wise to warn the player of such right from the start. Up to five players can team up to combat waves of enemies, or they can battle each other in one of two competitive modes. In another proof of concept for asymmetrical gameplay, four of the players dress as Samus and wield Wii Remotes and Nunchuks while the other controls Samus' ship via the GamePad.
Playing on the ground as Samus should feel familiar to anyone who has played a first-person shooter on the Wii in the past. Unlike Zelda Battle Quest, which doesn't let players move themselves, Metroid Blast sets players free to run and strafe around environments while firing upon waves of enemies. However, this freedom also creates a huge hurdle for any less acclimated players, who may experience confusion and irritation. Still, those familiar with shooters should undoubtedly enjoy playing without restriction.
Using the GamePad to control Samus' ship isn't an easier affair; it's equal parts complex and rewarding. Moving the GamePad around in real space shifts the ship's targeting reticule, while the left stick moves the ship forward, backward and from side to side, and the right stick changes altitude and turns the ship. It definitely takes some getting used to, but with practice the controls begin to make sense. Whizzing about the map, strafing around towers and unleashing fiery death from above is an absolute joy, and I'm sure groups of friends will fight over who gets to use the GamePad each round. This is one of the best attractions Nintendo Land has to offer, and as long as your group is familiar with playing games, I'm sure you'll return to it often. -ST
Mario Chase holds a unique distinction for me. It was the first Wii U game I played at E3 2011, when it was called Chase Mii. Not much has changed since then, but considering the electricity of the game then, nothing had to. The GamePad player controls a Mario-hatted Mii who must evade the Toad hat-wearing Miis in one of three different levels. Everyone has a third-person view, but the GamePad player can view a top-down map showing the location of each player.
That’s more or less all there is to it, but that simplicity makes it ones of the best multiplayer games in Nintendo Land. The other two competitive attractions are similar, but Mario Chase embodies the purest form of that concept. This is hide-and-seek on a grand scale. The levels present unique challenges; the first is simple and without hazards, and the other two feature mud and slides, respectively. You can play the game with up to five players, but it can scale all the way down to two players, in which case two Yoshi carts drive around and seek Mario as well. Mario Chase is, in my eyes, the showcase multiplayer game for Nintendo Land. Considering the quality of the other multiplayer games, that makes it very special. -NR
Easily one of the best multiplayer attractions available in Nintendo Land, Luigi's Ghost Mansion perfectly illustrates the value in asymmetrical gameplay. Supporting up to five players, Ghost Mansion pits a group of Miis against a single ghost in one of three levels. Relegated to the GamePad, the ghost's objective is to gradually capture and cause the Mii players to faint. He is completely invisible on the TV screen, where the players view the action, and must use this tactical advantage to elude and sneak up on his unsuspecting pursuers.
Meanwhile, Mii players are left to wander around the area, trying to shine their flashlight on the ghost in order to deplete his health and defeat him. The flashlight beam reveals and harms the ghost, but it must be used sparingly, lest the battery run out and momentarily leave the player defenseless. Instead of relying on the flashlight alone, the players have a few other cues to let them know when danger approaches. The most important of these is the Wii Remote vibration. When the ghost is in a player's general vicinity, his controller slightly rumbles. If the ghost is within very close range, the player's remote rumbles heavily, and the music heightens in response. Lighting also crashes from time to time, lighting up different areas of the level and, if he is in that light, revealing the position of the ghost.
The game scales for fewer than four human Mii players by featuring AI-controlled bots that wander around the stage. Disappointingly, the ghost cannot destroy these bots, so the game loses a bit of the suspense and classic horror movie progression of slowly picking off protagonists one by one. Still, this game instantly makes clear just what is possible with asymmetrical multiplayer and how the GamePad can create experiences unique to the Wii U. Much like the other great Nintendo Land attractions, though, the limitation of three levels is disappointing. -ST
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day finally gives you an excuse to eat way too much candy, which is essentially the goal for those controlling animals in this competitive multiplayer attraction. While players with Wii Remotes seek out candy, the player holding the GamePad tries to stop them. The game is played differently depending on the number of players, and creates a different fun experience in both instances.
Stash mode is played during one-on-one matches. In this mode, the animals must pick up candy and drop it in one of the locations around the map. Carry mode is played with three to five players. In this variation, players must cumulatively carry a given amount of candy at one time to win. I definitely found Carry mode more enjoyable from an animal's perspective because of the cooperation required to succeed. Players must communicate to help each other avoid the guards and get the candy from trees. Compared to the other attractions, this is the game that forced my friends and I to talk with each other the most.
From a guard’s perspective, the activity is essentially the same in either game mode. Controlling both guards at the same time could prove a bit difficult for some, but it is one of the game’s most redeeming qualities. Being able to independently plan out paths for both guards is very rewarding when it leads to the capture of an animal. Animal Crossing: Sweet Day has already provided me with hours of fun, and I am sure it will continue to do so. -PB
Yoshi’s Fruit Cart brings back our favorite dinosaur to once again do what he seems to do best: collect fruit. While playing, the game forces you to painstakingly switch your view from the TV to the GamePad in order to draw a path for Yoshi to follow. Along this path, Yoshi finds various objects, such as fruit, presents, or even chili. Drawing the line isn’t very engaging and feels more like a chore than interactive gameplay. Like other Nintendo Land attractions, the game forces you to start from the first stage every time you wish to play. This isn’t an issue in attractions that move at a quick pace, but Yoshi’s Fruit Cart is a far more methodical activity, making each play session a chore.
The lack of online leaderboards makes playing through the game over and over again even more pointless. In the end, I can’t recommend Yoshi’s Fruit Cart to someone looking for single-player fun. It may be fine once, but having to play everything again may make you want to turn off the game. -PB
Easily the weakest link in the Nintendo Land package, Octopus Dance is a rhythm game that uses the tilt controls of the GamePad and both analog sticks. You try to replicate the actions of an on-screen avatar using these controls. The catch is that you must change your view from the GamePad screen to the TV between rounds, as your Mii will turn around and face the opposite direction, making the controls seem reversed.
It takes far too long for this game to get difficult, and once it does, it doesn’t become any more fun. The lack of checkpoints and leaderboards, along with all the other shortcomings of the solo attractions in Nintendo Land, is even more glaring when the game isn’t fun to begin with. The entire package could be improved if this game wasn’t even included. -AG
DK: Crash Course is one of the most challenging Nintendo Land attractions. Gameplay involves handling gyro controls in combination with button presses, which should challenge even the most experienced player. Despite the difficulty, it is hard not to fall in love with this game’s premise and just wish for more. The lack of additional levels is probably the attraction’s greatest downfall. You can only access the additional stages present when you complete those before it in succession. Having to repeat the same 10 minutes of play to get to the fourth stage, often only to fail, became quite frustrating.
Some of the game’s other, more enjoyable quirks outshine these replayability issues. The ability to race against the ghost of a previous attempt is a great way to encourage faster times, and it was entertaining to find that, despite the existence of a clearly defined path, your vehicle could avoid an obstacle in obscure ways. While DK: Crash Course may not be the game that gathers people around the TV, it is certainly the best single-player attraction in Nintendo Land. -PB
Yes, everyone's demands have been heard: Takamaru returns! Oh, did I say everyone? I meant absolutely no one. Based on the Famicom game Nazo no Murasame Jō, this Nintendo Land attraction is the evolution of the shuriken throwing demo first unveiled at E3 2011. The player is asked to simply hold the GamePad sideways and swipe his hand toward the TV screen to throw a shuriken; the quickness of the swipe dictates the velocity of the projectile, while moving the GamePad around in real space alters where it will land. Takamaru's Ninja Castle is Duck Hunt 2.0, an evolution of the light gun genre.
The conceit of the attraction is the capture of Monita by some rogue, leaving the player responsible for making his way through the various levels and rescuing her (it?). Takamaru is one of the more pleasant looking attractions, with bright, vibrant colors and a world made of wood, cardboard, and construction paper. It makes me long for an HD Kirby's Epic Yarn or Paper Mario game. Still, a beautiful wrapping can't disguise the fact that this attraction is rather limited. The first few minutes of playing Takamaru are fun, and throwing shuriken feels comfortable enough, but after a level or two of mindlessly swiping the GamePad, I was ready to move on.
Though the attraction throws in some elements to break up the monotony, such as scrolls you can activate by drawing a circle on the GamePad, and periodical bonus levels, it doesn't change the fact that, for the most part, the player simply swipes the screen endlessly to down foe after foe. A neat idea, and it's easy to see how a fuller title could utilize it, but its charm wears quickly, and the player may soon decide to take his sore arm to one of Nintendo Land's more worthwhile single-player offerings. -ST
This F-Zero racing attraction has you turning the GamePad vertically, much in the same way you would with Takamaru’s Ninja Castle. Steering is done entirely by tilting the GamePad left and right. The GamePad screen gives a nice overhead view of the action, while the TV shows the race from the driver’s perspective.
Although the game is fun, the lack of true checkpoints makes it hard to want to come back to the Twister Race after you get particularly far. The early portions of the race are too easy, and take too long. By the time the difficulty ramps up, you’ve already sunk about five minutes into the race. Every time you die, you have to replay that first five minutes.
As with the other Nintendo Land games, the lack of online leaderboards really hurts the solo experience. It’s no fun competing with only yourself for high scores. -AG
Most of Nintendo Land’s single-player games rely on a patting-your-head-while-rubbing-your-belly kind of challenge. Balloon Trip Breeze is no different. The basic concept involves you using the stylus to draw wind to blow your Mii through beautiful backdrops while collecting balloons and avoiding hazards. It’s a high score game at heart, though the stages change and increase in difficulty as you progress. The difficulty ramps up quickly: after gentle, sunny days, wind and rain make your balloon trip your worst nightmare.
Breeze is also as unforgiving as most of the other single-player games, as you restart whenever you die. It’s not as egregious as Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, especially since Balloon Trip has always had this quality, but it’s still frustrating. While your enjoyment of Balloon Trip may dictate your enjoyment of this game, Balloon Trip Breeze is fantastic and addictive, which is precisely what a high score game should be. -NR