A virtual theme park
As children, we dream of going to places like Disneyland and Universal Studios, places where movies are brought to life through rides and attractions. In a similar fashion, Nintendo has inspired a generation (or a few) to dream of a new theme park. A place where gamers themselves become the mascots and live out their video game fantasies in animatronic ecstasy: Nintendo Land.
Nintendo Land contains a myriad of mini-games, including six single player games, three strictly competitive games, and three versatile campaigns through the worlds of Pikmin, Zelda, and Metroid. Also, while your main park area starts empty, collecting coins in the attractions will grant you access to a Plinko-esque mini-game where you can earn exhibits. Your guide to this world of digital wonder is Monita, the often hilarious monitor who will offer information on any of the exhibits and play the villain or even the kidnapped princess in some games.
As the Wii U Deluxe edition bundled game, one cannot help but to compare Nintendo Land to Wii Sports or Wii Sports Resort. The latter comparison proves to be far more equitable, as one of the games, The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, can be played in single player with the exact same controls as Resort’s Swordplay Showdown. Another game, the Octopus Dance, will remind players of Wii Fit series’ Rhythm Boxing and Rhythm Kung Fu, except with joystick controls.
Nonetheless, Nintendo Land has several features that make me believe it will have more longevity than Nintendo’s previous party games. For one, asymmetrical play gives you twice as many reasons to return and rechallenge friends. Even on single player, the game will mark your data according to which method you chose to play through levels (with Wiimote or Gamepad controls), so you will have more opportunities to find all the hidden items and paths in each game. Games like Metroid Blast and Battle Quest are so entertaining that I have played the main quests using both control styles AND with a partner. Finally, the game will randomly pick certain games for double coins and includes a party mode (Attraction Tour) that will pick levels of various games based on a pre-selected skill setting. This provides variety and the ability to skip intro levels when you have guests who want more of a challenge.
Many have challenged the decision to not include universal achievements in Wii U games, but at least Nintendo Land seems to offer an answer for that problem. Your park is filled with Miis from across the Miiverse who, aside from shouting about what part of the Donkey Kong Crash Course always kills them, will display trophies, stamps, and completion percentages upon prompting. There is even a scoreboard system of sorts that will list the top players in the world in those individual categories.
As is generally the case with parties, not all the games are a hit. Captain Falcon’s Twister Race presents a challenging course with checkpoints that are merely for show and an unforgiving system of instant KOs that will make you start over and over. Donkey Kong Crash Course and Balloon Fight also seem to only speak to certain challenge-seeking audiences while quickly becoming the least favorite games of others. In comparison, Yoshi’s Fruit Cart (a game of drawing lines on the Gamepad based on the arrangement of fruit on the television screen) is particularly fun to play till completion because of a warp gate checkpoint system that lets you potentially skip up to where you had previously lost in your series of doodling disasters. A missed opportunity, in my opinion, is the gift shop of Nintendo Land — a coin-dropping game that quickly becomes a chore for players to unload the easily maxed out game bank as they play through the same screens again and again. While the game does eventually start generating more difficult play boards, it will always keep the beginning ones in rotation, so already I have played the initial boards too many times.
Playing through the many attractions of Nintendo Land, I felt that the game is best played as either a single player attempting to master individual games for completionist data or as a group of four or five players enjoying the party aspects of the games. When playing with only two players, the game tends to generate overly efficient AI to fill the extra slots in attractions like Mario Chase or Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. In Mario Chase, the AI Yoshi run around the area shouting Mario’s position as long as they retain eye-contact and will even coordinate with each other to circle around and cut off Mario’s route as the other is in pursuit. In the Mansion, Nintendo Land’s mascot Monita will slowly float around spinning her flashlight (which never runs out of batteries like the player flashlights do) so the ghost player must completely avoid her or take damage.
Rather than an amusement park, I find Nintendo Land most emulates a type of discovery museum. For the most part, the attractions exist as a tool for teaching how to explore the world of Wii U. The exhibits you unlock feel like animatronic trophies strewn through the park. They showcase older games and have references that serve as Nintendo’s way of acknowledging the older fanbase, but fails just short of delivering the true experiences that fanbase desires. There are many things I love about Nintendo Land, both as a single player and as a party host. As a stand alone title, Nintendo Land is a great party game and fantastic for families, but probably not something people should buy to play on their own. However, as a part of the deluxe bundle, this is almost at the level of Wii Sports for ease of play and generation-bridging fun.
Tested on Wii U