One of the biggest surprises and also one of the most hated portions of Nintendo’s E3 conference yesterday was a game full of games called Nintendo Land. The Big N is posing this game as the Wii Sports of Wii U: a game to showcase what you can do with the Wii U. When Nintendo closed with this, I, like pretty much everyone else, was rather shocked and let down, but now that it has had some time to sink in, I can understand why they needed to show it, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be a knock out of the park.
As the name would suggest, Nintendo Land is a theme park of sorts for your Wii U. When entering, you are placed in the circular “hub world” of the park where dozens and dozens of Miis roam around and be Mii-like. The developers have stated that the Miis in this park are cultivated from friends lists and Miis you might have met in other games. There is a method to becoming friends with foreign Miis, but that has not been shown as of yet.
Walking around the park, you might see various attractions from some of the mini games present (Captain Falcon’s ship, for example), along with some attractions you might find in ANY theme park (a train that goes around and around). Using the GamePad, you can tilt the camera up and around by physically moving the GamePad and looking at the screen. This type of movement they have called “Panorama View” in other applications. At the edges of the park are little spokes where each of the mini games are located. The developer’s discussion last night has some video of what the park looks like and the control methods available to you while in it.
Like Wii Sports, Nintendo Land is made up of several mini-games, each with their own play style and different way to use the GamePad. Unlike Wii Sports, however, the focus here isn’t on getting up and throwing Wii Remotes through the TV. ‘Tis a shame. Nintendo is only showing off five of the twelve games at E3, and here is what they have on display:
Donkey Kong’s Crash Course: Using the GamePad’s motion control, players tilt the controller to guide a fragile rolling cart through an obstacle course that resembles the original Donkey Kong arcade game. This single-player game lets other spectators watch the action on the TV and offer advice about how to pass the next obstacle.
Luigi’s Ghost Mansion: The player with the GamePad is a ghost (invisible to others) who is trying to capture up to four humans armed with flashlights. The ghost must sneak around the environment by staying in the shadows and try to catch them one by one. The humans can work together to revive fallen comrades before the ghost catches everyone. If all four humans are caught before they are revived, the ghost wins. But if they are successful at shining their flashlights on the ghost long enough to reduce its hit points to zero, the humans win.
Animal Crossing™: Sweet Day: The player holding the Wii U GamePad controls two guards who are in charge of safeguarding a candy orchard from a group of candy-loving animals. Up to four other players, using the Wii Remote controllers to control these animals, must work together to outwit – and outrun – the guards. The game ends when a combined total of 50 pieces of candy are collected, or when the guards catch any one of the animals three times.
The Legend of Zelda™: Battle Quest: The player with the GamePad is an archer who can aim and shoot arrows using the screen as a view finder. That player is joined by up to three others who wield Wii Remote Plus controllers like swords. Players work together to take on a variety of enemies in a world that looks like a cloth version of a game from The Legend of Zelda series.
Takamaru’s Ninja Castle: Based on an early Famicom game available only in Japan, this single-player game turns the GamePad into a launcher for ninja stars. Players swipe the controller’s touch screen to take out an ever-growing army of ninja attackers, earning more points for consecutive hits. Moving the GamePad around at different angles enables the player to take aim in an intuitive fashion.
Seven other attractions will be announced at a later date.
For whatever reason, Nintendo doesn’t have any in house video of Nintendo Land up for review on either their E3 site or Youtube page, so finding any video to show of these games has resorted to hunting for show floor gameplay footage and the bit at the developer’s discussion linked above. However, there is an Iwata Asks that focuses on Wii U software, and they do discuss Nintendo Land at some length with gameplay snippets here and there.
Just like the Wii’s name emerging from its former glory as “Revolution,” it has taken me a bit to get on board with Nintendo Land. Its poor placement in the conference did it no favors, and Nintendo’s odd way of focusing a ton of time on it live but not having much footage of the game afterward is perplexing. However, now that my fervor has died down, I can see how these games will be fun while also acquainting users to the new hardware. Still, if Nintendo wants this to be the Wii U’s Wii Sports, it pretty much needs to pack this software in with each sale for it to have any chance. People by this point have a pretty good understanding of the nature of tablets, and there is little need to go out and buy a game that “explains” what one is, even though there are unique features to the Wii U.