Fantastic multiplayer; lots of content; great controls; easy to learn gameplay
Solo attractions don't have the same appeal as multiplayer; some of the attraction choices can be a bit obscure
I have very fond memories of Wii’s launch. While I bought Twilight Princess and Marvel Ultimate Alliance alongside the system, the real highlight was Wii’s pack-in game, Wii Sports. While some of the novelty has worn off over the years, there was something very cool about experiencing it at parties with friends those first few months. It was unlike anything else out there and it showed us what Wii could do. Fast forward six years, and here we are with the spiritual successor to that game: Nintendo Land. Is it as fun as Wii Sports? Does it fill the same role, as both a system showpiece for the system and its abilities? I’d say, “No question.” In fact, it’s better in almost every way.
The theme park style hub world of Nintendo Land offers up 12 attractions each based on a Nintendo franchise. Some of these games are more loosely based on their respective series than others, but each attraction captures the look and feel of the franchise. Like Wii Sports before it, the games themselves are a mixed bag, but the most entertaining games make the whole package feel worth it.
The attractions are split into three different categories: Team, Competitive, and Solo. The competitive attractions will probably be the biggest draws for most gamers. I found Luigi’s Ghost Mansion and Mario Chase to be two of the more popular options in my household, and with good reason: they’re an absolute blast! In Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, one player assumes the role of a ghost using the gamepad, while up to four other players use flashlights to look for the ghoul on the TV. In Mario Chase, it’s reversed: the player using the Wii U controller is being pursued while the other players chase him on the top screen. Mario Chase also makes use of the controller’s camera, allowing the other players (not to mention spectators) to watch and judge reactions, which adds a lot of fun and humor.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day is the third of the competitive attractions, and it’s another game that emphasizes pursuit. However, part of the challenge here is using the GamePad’s dual analog sticks to control two different guards at the same time to chase down the Wii remote users. It’s a fun and basic way of showing how the GamePad’s dual analog sticks might be implemented in other games.
Nintendo Land‘s Team attractions are based on Metroid, Zelda and Pikmin. These force two or more players to work together to complete tasks, like defeating a certain number of enemies in an area. While it’s fun going on quests with a group of friends, I found that the Versus modes (available in both Metroid and Pikmin) were much more enjoyable. What can I say? It’s more fun to compete, sometimes!
The single player games are also very enjoyable, but they tend to be little more than fun diversions, so it’s a good thing the game gives so many options for those without friends to play with. Donkey Kong’s Crash Course is by far the strongest of the single player attractions as it works on a level that a lot of the other single player games don’t. Racing through a track reminiscent of the original arcade game, players will have to use the controller in many different ways to reach the finish, and it really shows off some of the less-appreciated applications of the Wii U controller like the gyro sensors. And trust me, reaching that finish line will not come easy. The Miiverse seems to be filled with people struggling the same way that I was.
Nintendo Land’s strongest selling point, though, is just how easy it is to jump right into these games. Once you’ve learned how the controls work, it feels fluid and simple, but there’s a lot of room to master those skills. Players are rewarded with “stamps” for completing certain goals, adding some incentive to keep coming back and getting better at the various mini games. Each game also pays out coins, too, which can be used to unlock small trophies and other things for display in the park. Between this and the number of maps and stages that each game offers, Nintendo Land boasts a ton of content.
You may notice I haven’t gone over all of Nintendo Land’s attractions. In truth, I could sit and analyze every one of the games here, but I think it would take away from the overall point: Nintendo needed a game like this to make the case for the Wii U. It’s a system that’s coming out much earlier than its competition, and the controller is sure to scare off a few people, initially. Luckily, Nintendo Land is the game that will show players why they should give this console a shot. While the quality of each game can vary, the package as a whole is a lot of fun, and that’s the most important part. Find yourself four friends and four Wii Remotes and you’ll quickly see why Wii U, along with Nintendo Land, is a must-buy.