In my latest segment in my ‘Late To The Party’ series, I thought I would tackle another title from the Wii U launch range; Nintendo Land. Especially as I am the only writer in Team Z1G who possesses a Wii U (to my knowledge). In my defence, it took me quite a while to play the entirety of what this game has to offer (and I still haven’t ‘technically’ finished it either), simply because I live with non-gamers and I was unable to play the multi-player attractions until I could drag someone over to help me test them out.
Nintendo Land is exactly what it sounds like it would be, a theme park full of Nintendo goodness. The 12 ‘attractions’ in this theme park are all centred around Nintendo franchises old and new, and from the well-known to the obscure. Each one uses different aspects and features of the Wii U GamePad for their gameplay, and quite a lot of them introduce Wii Remotes in for multi-player to create the ‘asymmetric gameplay’ experience that Nintendo promised the Wii U would have. It is really tempting to refer to these ‘attractions’ as mini-games for ease of description, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Each one is almost a fully-fleshed out game in it’s own right, with multiple levels, difficulties, play styles, and some even have requirements for ‘Mastering’ each level. Also, every one contains a soundtrack of remastered songs from the original game franchises. The depth that Nintendo have put into each and every one is often astounding.
The game wholly starts from the central hub, a large (and empty – but not for long) circular room with 12 gateways from it for the different attractions. There you are introduced to two things that will carry you through the rest of the experience. Firstly, there is Monita, your friendly guide throughout Nintendo Land. She is there to explain each attraction’s rules and also to guide you through the many other features of the Nintendo Land Plaza.
What other features? Well, once you begin playing you will earn coins, which can be used in a mini-game similar to the coin-shunting machines at your local arcades. If you succeed, you win a prize, which is an item from one of the attractions to begin filling your Plaza. The fun comes with trying to find the prize, which is shot out of the top of the central platform, and unwrapping it. Tapping on the item from then on will prompt Monita to tell you what it is. Also, if you are connected to the internet, other Miis from around the world will be randomly wandering your Plaza, randomly saying anything that that particular user has written about Nintendo Land on MiiVerse. Finally in the Plaza, running around the middle in a circle is a train. Boarding this train gives you the opportunity to start a party session for your game. You select the number of players, the length of the game session, and Nintendo Land will select attractions for you all to play. An excellent feature for the indecisive.
The other thing that is introduced to you right at the beginning is Nintendo Land’s main theme, and man is it infectious. In classical Nintendo style, the main theme is simple but ultimately catchy. It is the sort of song that, after playing the game for a certain amount of time, you catch yourself humming along to with no idea of when you started doing so. Sure, it is very far from the Super Mario theme (which is pretty much recognisable universally), but it is still a great song to have been assigned to one of Wii U’s flagship launch titles.
Anyway, onto the attractions themselves, which are divided into three categories. Team attractions are those that require teamwork between a GamePad user and 1-4 Wii Remote users to succeed in multi-player. These three can be played in single player as well, on either GamePad or Wii Remote, giving two styles of play. This simply lowers the challenge a little and removes any teamwork aspects from the levels (such as switches that require two players to step on each one). The team attractions are The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, Metroid Blast and Pikmin Adventure.
Competitive attractions are just that, a competition between a GamePad user and 1-4 Wii Remote users, these usually give the GamePad user a slight advantage in terms of ability, but allow the Wii Remote users the power of numbers to overwhelm the other player. None of these can be played with only a single player, unfortunately, but make excellent (and very entertaining) party games. The competitive attractions are Mario Chase, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, and Animal Crossing: Sweet Day.
Finally, the remaining six are the Solo attractions, all of which use solely the GamePad for their control methods. These six are the ones that use the GamePad in various different ways to create fun and challenging gameplay experiences. These six are Takamaru’s Ninja Castle (probably the most obscure Nintendo reference, being that it is based on a Japan-only NES game), Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, Captain Falcon’s Twister Race, Balloon Trip Breeze, Yoshi’s Fruit Cart, and Octopus Dance.
I don’t want to ruin the attractions for anyone that is yet to play this game (hence the lack of explanations of how the attractions are played – most of my fun with this game from discovering attractions I hadn’t previously played at EXPO) but I will say that, after playing them all, you get a real sense of how much fun the GamePad can be as a new control method. My personal favourites are Pikmin Adventure (simply because it is one of the attractions that really ‘feels’ like a fully fleshed-out title) and Yoshi’s Fruit Cart (as it is the only Solo attraction that gives the full ‘asymmetric gameplay’ experience).
The last thing I will say on Nintendo Land is about the aesthetics. Even more so than my last Late To The Party title, ZombiU, this title is gorgeous. The step up from, say, Wii Sports Resort to Nintendo Land is clearly visible from the moment you start playing. Every last bit of this title is absolutely beautiful, even the Miis have benefited from the change. The aesthetic of the entire game, in every attraction, is that of having been pieced together. All the enemies, scenery and Mii’s outfits are either patchwork (in the vein of the excellent Kirby’s Epic Yarn) or have the look of simple machines. It may be a very simple graphical style, but this is only made crisper and sharper by high definition.
In short, I would thoroughly recommend Nintendo Land to anyone who has a Wii U. Sure, it can be a little underwhelming in single player for some (although I personally love it), but it is an excellent showcase of a lot of the new features that Nintendo’s new control system brings to the table. It’s wonderful to look at, has some incredible gameplay ideas, and has highly infectious music too. Absolutely essential.
Have you got Nintendo Land too, and if so, what do you think of it? Drop me a comment, or Tweet me @reubenmount.