Review: Nintendo Land (Nintendo Wii U)

Nintendo Land
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Genre: Party
Release Date: 11/18/2012

I know there were a lot of groans when Nintendo Land was unveiled as the big “reveal” of Nintendo’s E3 press conference this year and I’ll admit to not being too excited for it myself. On the other hand, I can’t think of a pack-in game that would’ve hit the kind of mainstream spread that they were going for with this and show what kinds of things the Wii U is actually capable of. Those who got the deluxe version of the Wii U got this game with it, though anyone with the basic model would have to pony up $60 if they wanted to get their hands on it. Is it worth it at that price? Read on.

As you might expect in a minigame compilation in a similar vein as Wii Sports or Wii Play, there is no real story here. When you pick a Mii, you are dropped into the midst of a carnival acting as a hub of sorts for all of the games at your disposal. You are greeted by a floating robot/monitor thing that is the Nintendo equivalent of the Windows paperclip. It means well in trying to teach you the controls and how to play each game, but having it greet you after your first several sessions with the game becomes something of a nuisance.

You have the option of walking to each individual game if you wish, though you eventually gain the ability to just teleport to the ones you want to play. There are twelve games in all, organized by Team, Competitive, and Solo Attractions. Playing games earns you coins that can be spent on the giant tower in the middle of all of the games in an attempt to earn prizes via a pachinko style game. Prizes take the form of statues and trinkets that dot the park as well as music that can be played while you move about it. There’s also a train that you can hop on where you and some friends can run a gambit of multiple games to see who wins the most.

The games are played by your created Mii characters, so as you might imagine, the visuals are on the simplistic side. Since the game is in HD, it puts this title on par with the kinds of games you’d find on the Xbox 360 that use the created avatars. Much of the visual appreciation will come from the aesthetic of your favorite franchises represented in each of the minigames. A few small details, like your tunic and hat being ripped up while taking damage in The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest were a nice touch though.

Likewise, your enjoyment of the soundtrack will be limited to how much you enjoy the remixed tracks of older games. Metroid, Mario, and even Balloon Fight are all represented here and use some of the same sound effects. The dialogue is limited to the tutorials and the announcer in each game, which fill their respective roles satisfactorily.

Since each game has such wildly varying control schemes, I will discuss each one individually before going back to my thoughts on the package as a whole, starting with the Solo Attractions.

Takamaru’s Ninja Castle – The closest thing to a light gun game in the package. The player lays the Wii U gamepad the long way and points it at the screen. On the TV screen, ninjas will pop out of hiding from different places with some of them even launching projectiles back at you. The object is to use the stylus to flick shuriken at the ninjas and try to hit as many as you can before the end of the stage. If you run out, you have to flick the gamepad to reload. Aiming a giant tablet takes some getting used to versus other Wii accessories, like say the Zapper, but it works reasonably well and is fairly entertaining.

Donkey Kong’s Crash Course – This is a deceptively challenging game. Your Mii’s face is on wheels and must navigate to the end of the course. Navigation is handled by tilting the game pad left or right, though certain obstacles can be manipulated using the joysticks or blowing into the microphone. While the objective is to get through the course as quickly as possible, moving too fast will cause you to flip over and smash your face on something. Failure will result in restarting at the last checkpoint you cleared, though you get limited attempts at trying to conquer each course.

Captain Falcon’s Twister Race – An F-Zero inspired racing game that has you trying to make it to the finish line as quickly as possible. You steer using the gamepad’s gyroscope similar to Mario Kart Wii. The key difference here is that one screen shows a view behind your car while another is an overhead view of the track. When you travel into a tunnel, you are forced to look at the other screen since the overhead view doesn’t show what’s going on in the tunnel. There are a number of traps and speed bursts to watch out for too.

Balloon Trip Breeze – The objective here is to float from island to island trying to collect as many balloons as you can along the way. Your Mii is directed by swiping the gamepad screen with the stylus, causing a gust of wind to blow in whatever direction you swiped it in. As you progress, a number of obstacles will be in your way, including other balloon riding enemies that will try to knock you down, though landing on their balloons will pop them and cause them to fall. The game continues until all lives are spent.

Yoshi’s Fruit Cart – There will be a starting point for Yoshi, a goal, and a specific amount of fruit in between. The goal doesn’t open until you collect all of the fruit, so you must draw a path using the stylus in order to navigate Yoshi in such a way that you can collect all of it and still make it to the end when he’s done. The kicker is that the gamepad doesn’t display all of the details that are on the TV screen, such as the fruit itself or the locations of pits and traps along the way. If you mess up, you can spend a life to continue from the point where you made the mistake, though losing all of the lives ends the game.

Octopus Dance – This is a simple rhythm game where you must mimic the actions of the diver onscreen. The two thumbsticks control the movement of your Mii’s arms and you can use the gyroscope in the gamepad to jump or lean from side to side. The gamepad’s camera will capture your face as you play the game and make it look as though you’re dancing in the background. Also of note, is that the TV and the gamepad will show two different perspectives; one showing the front of your character and another showing the back. It’s easier to mimic the motions while looking at the screen that shows your backside, but the diver will occasionally switch up the screens.

Of the single player offerings, not a single one really offers any lasting appeal. Of them, Takamaru’s Ninja Castle and Captain Falcon’s Twister Race are the ones I’d most likely revisit, though Donkey Kong’s Crash Course does offer up a worthy challenge. Balloon Trip Breeze, while decently entertaining, doesn’t provide enough variety for a routine visit. Yoshi’s Fruit Cart and Octopus Dance just struck me as incredibly bland. Moving onto the Team Attractions, we have:

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest – This game can be played with 1-5 players, and plays out much like the single player mode of the Swordplay game on Wii Sports Resort. The person using the gamepad uses a bow and arrow, while the other four players use Wii remotes to wield a sword and shield. The bow and arrow player can use the added screen to zoom in on enemies from a distance, though if they run out of arrows, they have to shake or tilt the controller to reload. The sword and shield players have a much easier time, as they just have to swing at foes and can actually block with the shield as a defense mechanism. Each player also has their own set of life hearts that must be depleted before they meet defeat. These can be regenerated from picking up powerups from fallen foes.

Metroid Blast – This particular game has three modes all its own. Gamepad users are in control of Samus’ ship and can blast enemies from the air, while all of the other players must use a nunchuk and Wii remote combo to dispatch enemies on foot. Assault Mission allows all of the players to work cooperatively to take on all of the creatures in a stage. Surface-Air Combat tasks the on-foot players with trying to shoot down the one in the ship. Ground Battle is a free for all where players compete for tokens. While I was disappointed that there appeared to be no option to go into a ball form, the on-foot players at least have the option to dodge attacks by doing a roll of sorts.

Pikmin Adventure – In a move to seemingly get everyone in the mood for the upcoming Pikmin 3, this game also has two different modes. The primary one has the gamepad player in control of Captain Olimar (played by your Mii, of course) that has the ability to direct an arsenal of Pikmin that you run across as you progress through each stage. The four players with Wii remotes get to play as much larger Pikmin that can assist in combating foes, knocking things down, or can be tossed about like the regular Pikmin. All Pikmin, including those in control of players, can absorb a syrupy substance that will level them up and increase their strength, though taking damage powers them down. All players must work together to defeat the boss of each stage and escape in the ship safely. There’s also a token Versus mode that has players battling each other over candy.

It’s hard to pick my favorite among these as all three rank among my most preferred games to play in the entire package. They can be played alone, and choosing to use the gamepad or the Wii remote changes the dynamic of each game immensely, plus they also offer cooperative and competitive play in some cases that really adds mileage to each one. These games are the primary reason to pick up this package. Now, as for the Competitive Attractions:

Mario Chase – The player with the gamepad is in a Mario costume and must run from the other players wearing Toad getups. Mario has a slight advantage in that he can see the entire map as well as where any of the other players are at any given time. Think of it like Pac-Man if the ghosts couldn’t see beyond what was right next to them.

Luigi’s Ghost Mansion – The gamepad player controls the ghost who must attack the other players with the Wii remotes. Likewise, in order to win, those players must shine their flashlight on the attacking ghost. The ghost player remains invisible to to the other players, except when a flash of lightning illuminates the room or when a player shines their flashlight on him. The controller will rumble for the player if the ghost happens to be nearby. The second screen will show the entirety of the map for the player in control of the ghost at all times, thus giving the ghost player the element of surprise.

Animal Crossing: Sweet Day – The four players with Wii remotes must collect candy scattered about the map while trying to avoid being caught by the cards controlled by the Gamepad player. Each joystick on the gamepad controls an individual guard, making it possible to pursue to the other players using both at once. It’s very similar in concept to the Mario Chase game, only in reverse.

I think these games sit middle of the road. They work great in a party atmosphere and would provide a decent amount of entertainment if you have enough players to fill out the roster. They just aren’t distinct enough from one another and relies too much on a mechanic of “players chase other players.” They’re not bad by any means, but are ultimately outshined by the Team Attractions.

While the Wii U still does not have an achievement system in place, there are awards that can be earned within each of the Nintendo Land games that behave as such. So if you like performing arbitrary tasks, you can do so without any of the recognition that such accomplishments would normally provide. If this doesn’t interest you, your performance in each game will earn you tokens that can be put towards the pachinko game to further decorate your park. More than likely though, you will put this game away until you have company over, as there is no online play.

Each game in the collection is a cinch to learn just by picking up and playing it, though if you still don’t get it, the tutorials will drill the concepts into you slowly. Most of them rely on movement or just a couple of buttons on the gamepad, so it’s easy for anyone to grasp, and is designed to hit the widest spread of people possible. I think it’ll be less interesting to the mainstream than Wii Sports was, instead appealing to people that are nostalgic for the franchises represented by each game in the compilation. It plays very much like a tech demo collection, and so long as it doesn’t scare everyone away with technology that can potentially lead to more shovelware like Nintendo’s previous console, it does well enough showcasing the kinds of unique things that developers can do with the technology.

At the end of the day, barely half of the games in the compilation are worth playing more than once. I’m also left scratching my head as to why half of them are single-player only, when any one of them could have been adapted to accommodate multiple players. This isn’t to say the package as a whole isn’t worth owning. There were only a handful of games I really cared to play in Wii Sports Resort and Wii Play and I still consider them worthwhile compilations to hang on to. The ones I do enjoy manage to be fun to play alone or when friends are involved, while still showcasing original ideas featuring the Wii U’s technology. I sincerely hope third party developers are taking notes.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Good
Graphics: Decent
Sounds: Enjoyable
Controls/Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Mediocre
Balance: Great
Originality: Classic
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Great
Miscellaneous: Mediocre

Final Score: Enjoyable Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
The entire purpose behind Nintendo Land, aside from being an enjoyable party game for players of all ages and skill levels, is to show off what the technology of the Wii U can do, and it manages to achieve that very goal. The twelve minigames included in the package are going to be very hit or miss with players given that many of them vary wildly in design, though the ones with a multiplayer component are the real stars of the show. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of casual appeal that Wii Sports does with the original Wii, but as a pack-in title for the deluxe edition of the Wii U, it performs admirably enough. Even if you’re not sold enough on the idea to invest the full $60, it’s at least worth a rental just to see the kind of potential Nintendo’s latest console holds for future offerings.



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4 responses to “Review: Nintendo Land (Nintendo Wii U)”

  1. Alexander Lucard Avatar

    This was actually one of my three least favorite launch games. I found most of the mini games except Yoshi’s Fruit Cart and Balloon Trip to be boring. Both Mario Chase and Luigi’s Mansion reminded me too much of Pac Man Vs. for the Game Cube. It was kind of an easy throwback to me.

    Did the bow and arrow part of Link’s game remind you of a really bad version of Link’s Crossbow Training for the Wii?

    I’m also surprised they didn’t try for a mini Pokemon Snap game or something featuring Kirby. That’s two huge first party licenses they could have gotten some mileage from with a mini game.

    1. Sean Madson Avatar

      This was really tough for me to judge the worth of, since I hadn’t yet got a full five person roster together to try some of them. But I’m a sucker to co-op games, so the few minigames that supported that functionality were of the most interest to me (even the Link’s Crossbow Training offshoot :)). The single player ones didn’t hold my attention that much though. That Pac Man Vs. was a good reference though, wish I thought of that.

      I’m surprised too at the franchises they picked. Especially that Ninja Castle one, which was really obscure. I didn’t see any trace of Star Fox or Kid Icarus either which they’ve been trying to revive on the 3DS for the past couple of years.

  2. […] in fact, I have heard it described by people as simply a peripheral for the current Wii. And while Nintendo Land makes a strong case for what the new console can do, it’s not nearly as great of a game as […]

  3. […] I didn’t get a chance to try the multiplayer aspect, but if it’s anything like Nintendo Land‘s take on Pikmin, I’d definitely get some friends together and take it for a […]

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