Remember that title that was shown last at the Nintendo media briefing? How could you forget? It sent a wave of sighs rippling through the entire room and out the doors across the entire internet.
Well, as it turns out, that game really isn’t half bad. Granted, it doesn’t appear to be the blockbuster shock announcement that the whole of the Nintendo fanbase was expecting at the close of the press conference, but in its favor, literally everything we played from it throughout the course of the expo was well-received by our editors.
To back up just a bit, Nintendo Land is really just a collection of 12 mini-games that are meant to showcase some of the new functionality possible with the WiiU hardware. The games are certainly meant for a party or family atmosphere, and they predominantly leverage the ability to use up to four Wii remotes in addition to a Wii U controller.
I’ll briefly run through each mini-game that was on showcase at E3 and then add my thoughts about it.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day
Luigi’s Ghost Mansion
In this game, up to four players take part in a game of tag with an invisible ghost, controlled by the Wii U GamePad. The only clue they have that the ghost is approaching is the rumbling of their Wii remotes, so communications is key to victory. These players can shine their lights on the ghost to weaken him until eventually he loses all health and dies—but it requires quite a bit of coordination since he can’t be seen (well, actually, the ghost player also has the option of “sprinting”, which makes him visible for a short moment while it occurs). It’s essentially a glorified version of Pac-Man Vs., but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Lasting appeal is another matter entirely, but at the very least, we enjoyed our play time.
Donkey Kong’s Crash Course
This was only one of two single-player Nintendo Land attractions shown at E3. You hold the Wii U controller perpendicular to the ground and tilt left and right to roll a makeshift car from the starting point through an extremely complex obstacle course filled with a variety of hazards. The end is at Donkey Kong someplace far at the bottom of the expansive level. According to the reps I spoke with, only a select few people had actually completed this exercise successfully; in spite of my efforts, I wasn’t one of them.
The key is to move quickly enough to safely descend hazardous staircases without flipping the vehicle, but simultaneously slowly enough such that crashing into a wall won’t blow you to pieces. Simultaneously you have to be aware of upcoming gates and lifts (lowered and raised using the L and R buttons) and various other elements of the environment such as movable lifts which can be controlled by rotating the right analog stick. Sound difficult? You’re right! It’s fun, also, albeit understandably frustrating. This game could potentially be a great single-player inclusion, but the big question is depth. No one was talking about the number of levels present in the final build. If we were treated to a lot of them, it’d be great.
Donkey Kong's Crash Course
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day
Up to four players compete against the Wii U controller player (who controls two guards) in an effort to collect 50 fruits and hold onto them (collectively). Doing so will win the match for the Wii remote holders, but it’s harder than it sounds. For starters, carrying the fruits makes you heavy and slow—so when you’re fleeing the guards, you’ll probably need to drop some of them to make a clean getaway. It’s also not necessarily a walk in the park to collect them; they fall off trees which often require two or three players to be standing beneath them simultaneously for a few precious seconds. Couple that with the fact that the level is littered with choke points such as bridges and cramped paths between trees and houses and you’ve got an interesting challenge.
However, making matters even more intriguing is the fact that the Wii U controller player controls two guards simultaneously—one with each control stick. This allows him to, through the application of great coordination, single-handedly arrange ambushes and fake-outs. You can also hide behind the obstacles and emerge to shock a player, and you can even dive using L or R, though this slows you down if you miss. If three players are caught (including the same player multiple times), the round ends and the Wii U player wins.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest
The WiiU player in this game is an archer, and he’s joined by up to three other players who wield swords. Moving through a makeshift Zelda world, they battle through various enemies, working together. This is the only game I didn’t personally play, but I watched quite a bit of it and it looked like people enjoyed it. It seems like the weakest of the bunch however—at least, from what I could tell.
Takamaru’s Ninja Castle
Here’s another novelty mini-game that was still enjoyable to experience. You hold the Wii U remote vertically pointed toward the screen and tilt it to aim at cardboard ninja targets. To fire off ninja stars at them, you swipe your finger up the screen at whatever speed is necessary to hit the target in the distance. It’s intuitive but also tricky during heavy action sequences.
Speaking of which, a plethora of enemies come rolling toward you throughout this demo. Most of them are just standard vanilla ninja dudes that run at you, but some of them require multiple hits, and still others fire back if you aren’t careful and don’t take them out quickly enough (you can negate their projectiles also, by the way, but firing at them as well). There’s even a mini-boss at the end that requires swipes when up close to break his guard multiple times before repeatedly pummeling him with ninja stars. Again, it’s fun, but ultimately it seems like a bit of a short-lived novelty.
Like with most products at E3, it’s too early to judge Nintendo Land, of course, based on the limited selection of content showcased at the expo and its unfinished state. But thus far, it seems like a quality pack-in that’s probably going to be quite a bit better received than most fans indicated following the announcement at the press briefing. Whether or not it has the lasting and universal appeal of Wii Sports, however, remains to be seen.