With the release of a new console, there’s a go-to title that almost all adopters will purchase. Sometimes this game is unavoidable by being bundle with the hardware or particular peripherals and this was sort of the case for Nintendo Land.
Mocked following its reveal at E3 earlier this year, the first-party title had its back up against the wall from day-one. The awkward and confusing demonstration, which was supposed to showcase the Wii U’s GamePad in a glowing fashion, did no favours in an attempt to win over potential consumers to this Wii Play-esque sounding party title. Thankfully though, this was just a case of poor presentation as Nintendo Land is immense fun, especially when played as it’s supposed to be – with friends.
It’s worth noting from the off that Nintendo Land feels rather light on content for a single player experience. With 12 mini-games on offer – six single player, three competitive multiplayer and three cooperative multiplayer – you would hope that there’d be enough to provide some serious longevity; however, this is only partly true.
With a case of doing what it does well really well, the three competitive modes highlight the Wii U’s new functionalities, whilst providing a level playing field for those with and without the GamePad. Mario Chase, Luigi’s Mansion and Animal Crossing: Sweet Day provide enjoyment for up to five players, with one player on their own with the GamePad against up to four other players using WiiMotes. The GamePad’s built-in screen is used to excellent effect and highlight the potential brilliance of the console’s future superbly.
Despite the trio of competitive modes being just differing versions of the playground activity ‘Tag’, they provided quite a vast amount of enjoyment. Mario Chase pits the GamePad player as Mario against four toads, with the goal of outrunning your opponents despite a four-to-one disadvantage. Where the new controllers brilliance comes into play though is how the game is levelled up: by showing you where all the other players are on the GamePad, granting you the ability to escape when needed. Likewise, the ghost in Luigi’s Mansion can see everything, whilst the ‘guards’ in Animal Crossing allows for a two-pronged attack.
It’s these separate experiences and unique gameplay mechanics that Nintendo Land really excels in. The ability to pit a group of friends against each other – whilst still encouraging team work – against one, more powerful player is indicative of the types of experiences that Nintendo hope to create with the Wii U.
The team modes – The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, Metroid Blast and Pikmin Adventure – offer a huge amount of content in each, with dozens of levels and multiple options for each. There’s a variety as well; whether it’s wielding swords or a bow an arrow in Battle Quest, shooting down your enemies in Metroid Blast, or maneuvering a team in a strategic fashion in Pikmin Adventure, there’s something for everyone.
Much like the Wii Sports games, Nintendo Land makes good use of each players custom Mii allowing you to easily recognise who you are, whilst also maintaining an ongoing set of statistics for your profile – which includes five collectible badges for each attractions.
Using the account holders Mii, you start off exploring around the Plaza – a bright and colourful environment that acts as the game’s menu system – and are shown the ropes by the initially friendly robot Monita. Her incessant warbling quickly becomes a source of frustration for those that spend more than a few hours with the game, but her tutorials and explanations to players which have never played before – impressively determined by the use of Miis – are invaluable.
The style and atmosphere of the Plaza, and in fact the entire game, is pleasant and uplifting to be in, and via the supplementary Coin Game you can begin to populate it with a wide variety of Nintendo memorabilia to view upon and enjoy. To start an attraction, simply walk up to the attraction and off you go; there is of course a quick menu for those that just want to get playing right away, but the Plaza adds a personality that is in-keeping with Nintendo’s values.
Although it may sport a simple artistic style, it works wonderfully and is beautifully crisp. The glimmer and shine are abundant and having such a colourful environment certainly makes for a more joyful experience. The soundtrack is equally as delightful, with nostalgic mixes for the relevant series’.
Regardless of the mode, each hinges on the notion that the GamePad user is having an alternative experience to the other players in a multiplayer capacity. With a combination of the touchscreen, tilt mechanics and button presses it creates quite an experience, and one that is surely the key aim of Nintendo Land. It’s fresh, unique and really, one of a kind.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the game modes though are their balancing based on the number of players partaking. At no point does it feel unfair or overly skewed to either the GamePad player or the standard WiiMote players.
As for the single player games though, they’re satisfactory at best. No mode really shines and whilst you can play them in a ‘take it in turns’ fashion, they don’t really work in a party environment. As a result, despite the modes available, it feels as though Nintendo Land is a little light on content. The competitive modes were the biggest draws, so the limited level selection and option of only three of them means that things can get tiring a bit too swiftly.
It doesn’t help either that the likes of Battle Quest requires Motion Plus meaning that for many the ability to play all multiplayer modes with five players might be a tad difficult. There’s also the worry of it’s longevity. As a group of 12 mini-games, there’s nothing to keep you engrossed for more than an hour or so past the first few sessions, and Nintendo Land never really feels like a game worthwhile playing single player.
What Nintendo Land lacks in real substance it makes up for it bite-sized gameplay and manages to show off Nintendo’s new console perfectly. It’s the ideal title to showcase the GamePad and some of the mini-games are quite frankly fantastic. Given the shallowness of the Wii Sports launch it would be easy to dismiss Nintendo Land, but that would be a grave mistake.