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Six years ago, Nintendo launched the Wii with the pack-in game Wii Sports. It was arguably the Wii’s killer appliance that was able to appeal to casual and not-so casual audiences. Sports also contributed to the reasons behind the console's successful worldwide launch. Here we are now with Nintendo launching the Wii U with a new pack-in game called Nintendo Land assuming you bought the $350 deluxe set. Nintendo hopes to recapture that same magic that they did with Wii Sports with the new Wii U gamepad for Nintendo Land. It is a solid showpiece for the new console gameplay-wise, but does it have the same impact as Wii Sports had on both hardcore and casual audiences?
Nintendo Land is a new mini-game collection created solely for the Wii U. The hub is a theme park filled with the attractions that are pretty much the mini-games from various Nintendo franchises such as Zelda, Metroid, Mario, Pikmin, and more. Most of the mini-games can be played alone and with more players, but some are multiplayer only and the best ones of the bunch. Players can earn coins playing these twelve mini-games and insert them into a Plinko-like mini-game for prizes. These prizes are usually decorations for Nintendo Land and tunes for the jukebox, which are new takes on some of the best Nintendo game tunes over the years. Since it is a mini-game collection, how are the actual mini-games? Quite simply, there are hits and misses, but you’ll find some favorites out of the twelve Nintendo Land offers.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest is basically the sword mini-game from Wii Sports Resort with a Zelda skin if you played that game on the Wii. In other words, it is a co-op based adventure that can be played up to five players, but also alone. Players with Wii Remotes play as swordsmen and slice through enemies while whoever is controlling the gamepad plays as an archer firing arrows at the opposition. Playing it alone is not that fun especially being only the archer since if you aren’t precise with your shots, you’re going to be mowed down quickly. This mini-game is easier with the Wii Remote Plus since slicing enemies up with the sword is much easier, but it does require precise slices against certain enemies like in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Your chances do go better of beating the eight stages with more people around.
Pikmin Adventure is pretty much Pikmin-lite being a team based game, but also can be played alone. The gamepad player plays as Olimar ordering the Pikmin around while Wii Remote players play as the Pikmin mowing down enemies. It serves as a good warmup for Pikmin 3 when it comes sometime next year. The last team-based game, but also can played solo mini-game is Metroid Blast. Whoever has the gamepad controls Samus’s starships to take out familiar enemies from the franchise while those who rather play as Samus on-foot requires both the Wii Remote Plus and Nunchuk. This mini-game in a nutshell is a horde-like mode where you have to eliminate waves of enemies before moving on to the next level. There is also a multiplayer versus mode, but Metroid Blast is an okay mini-game as a whole and it wasn’t really that memorable to me personally.
There are some single-player standouts from Nintendo Land if you feel like playing the game alone. Donkey Kong’s Crash Course is arguably the toughest mini-game of the whole collection that requires tilting the gamepad to navigate through a treacherous obstacle course reminiscent of the original Donkey Kong. Its nice to have something challenging in this game to play as your tilting skills are indeed put to the test. Balloon Fight Breeze is basically a lite version of the old Balloon Fight that requires the styles to control the breezes for the player to navigate through the few levels the mini-game provides. This is another one I enjoyed out of the bunch and the same is the case for Yoshi’s Fruit Cart. This Yoshi-themed mini-game also requires the stylus as you have to draw a path on the blank gamepad screen for the Yoshi cart to eat the fruit that is displayed only on the TV and lead it to the finish door. Things definitely get tricky in this game later on with eating the fruit in a specific order and the fruit moving around in a set pattern. I thought Yoshi’s Fruit Cart was a clever use of both the TV and the Wii U’s gamepad.
The single-player mini-games that didn’t impress me that much in Nintendo Land are Captain Falcon’s Twister Race, Octopus Dance, and Takamaru’s Ninja Castle. Captain Falcon’s Twisted Race is a mini-game that takes in the F-Zero universe and requires using the gamepad vertically as you tilt it to control the Blue Falcon through a few levels while avoiding obstacles and traffic. The sense of speed, however, is the most disappointing aspect of this mini-game since speed is what makes F-Zero the game it was in the past. Octopus Dance is a dancing mini-game that requires tilting and both analog sticks of the gamepad. This one is not really that special as you’re just trying to repeat the instructor’s moves. Takamaru’s Ninja Castle is the throwing ninja stars mini-game that was demoed at E3 in the past. It is pretty much self-explanatory using the gamepad to throw shurikens at enemies. Doing a faster motion of the swipe animation on the gamepad does allow you to throw faster shurikens, but this mini-game is pretty one-dimensional at the end of the day.
The most fun you’ll spend with Nintendo Land, especially if you have up to five friends to play with locally, are the multiplayer-only mini-games. These three games pretty much share similar “chasing” concepts, but have some slight differences. Mario Chase is Pac-Man in a nutshell as the Wii Remote players play as Toads and they have to take down Mario, who is the gamepad player. The gamepad player has his own screen of where to go while the TV is for the Toads. Mario can however find a starman that randomly spawns during the game and stun Toads for a limited time if he runs into them. Luigi’s Ghost Mansion is nearly reminiscent of Pac-Man V.S. on the GameCube. The gamepad player controls the ghost in its own screen as it has to take down the ghost hunters played by the Wii Remote players and also avoid be seen by their flashlights. This mini-game also uses the Wii Remote’s rumble cleverly well whenever the ghost is nearby to either be lit up or get caught by it instead. Animal Crossing: Sweet Day has Wii Remote players have to collect fruit and drop them off at specific spots while the gamepad player controls two guys with both analog sticks trying to prevent the other players from achieving their goal. Gathering more fruit with them does make Wii Remote players, so pacing and strategy do come in when it comes to collecting them in an effective manner. These three multiplayer mini-games are the best parts of Nintendo Land and it is kind of shame they can’t be played online, but I think it wouldn’t be the same compared to locally against your friends.
Most of these Nintendo Land mini-games are best played in short bursts as a mini-game collection should be. I don’t see myself playing any of them for more than 30 minutes in a single session, but there are nice to play and have around if you feel like playing something quick. There are leaderboards and Miiverse support as you can jot down specific thoughts of the game either by handwriting or a drawing. The achievement-like stamp system also returns from Wii Sports Resort if you perform certain activities in any of the mini-games. At random times, there will be random double coin opportunities for a specific mini-game and I recommend taking advantage of those if you want to make your theme park look better with more decorations.
If you enjoyed the Mii-like aesthetic for some of Nintendo’s games on the Wii, you’ll like it here in Nintendo Land. All of the mini-games require Miis, so it is nice to see them dressed up as your favorite Nintendo characters. With that aesthetic, there is a certain charm to the look of Nintendo Land and that is something you can’t be mad at whether you’re having a good or bad time with the game. The same goes for the soundtrack with the Nintendo Land theme blasting every time you’re running around the park. The theme is catchy enough to the point I like to randomly hum it, which shows that Nintendo has something special. There is also a 8-bit version of the theme if you don’t feel running to every mini-game and just access them with menus instead. Also, this game is filled with reimagined takes of classic Nintendo takes in the various mini-games to others to collect with coins.
Nintendo Land is not only a solid showpiece for the Wii U, but also shows potential with the gamepad from both control and gameplay perspectives. Not all of the twelve mini-games are sure hits, but a good amount of them are fun enough to be played in short bursts. The multiplayer mini-games are the most fun and where you’ll spend the most time with if you have friends to play with you locally. No online play does a hurt in a bit for those and the team-based games like Zelda and Metroid, but I can see why Nintendo decided to leave them with just local multiplayer. This game also covers some of Nintendo’s best and not so popular franchises, so I hope more franchises like Pokemon, Kirby, and Star Fox get the Nintendo Land treatment with downloadable content or a new full-fledged sequel. Will Nintendo Land for the Wii U have the same impact as Wii Sports did for the original Wii? I don’t think so, but Nintendo Land is still worth playing to see what the Wii U is capable of now and the future.