Monday, January 14, 2013

Nintendo Land (Wii U) Review

We have arrived at the first review of the new year (and the first review of this week of five reviews), and boy, is it a big one. Nintendo Land launched with the Wii U, and it contains 12 attractions, each with their own gameplay mechanics. Is this the launch title to talk about for the Wii U lineup?

An in-depth look at all 12 attractions

The Wii U is finally here, and the system leads off with a premier game that hopes to show off the potential and various uses of the all-new Wii U GamePad controller. The game is none other than Nintendo Land. Like Wii Sports before it, Nintendo Land is supposed to give a good idea of what kinds of innovation the Wii U GamePad brings to gaming. Does Nintendo Land succeed or is the sixty dollar price for admission not worth the money?

Nintendo Land features twelve unique attractions, all based off of Nintendo properties such as Mario, Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda. Six of the attractions are made for multiplayer (three of these have modes that can be played solo) while six are exclusively single-player affairs.

The Nintendo Land hub is known as the plaza where Miis from around the world congregate pending the player's approval to allow other Miis to show up. A giant tower rests in the center where you can spend coins earned simply by playing attractions to play a pachinko-like mini-game. The goal of the mini-game is to drop coins inside slots to light them all up.

Each time this feat is performed, you earn a prize that sits around the Nintendo Land Plaza. These prizes come in the form of question blocks a la Super Mario Bros. and are opened by simply walking up to them or touching them with the GamePad screen. All prizes are based off one of the twelve attractions, and there are 200 total. There's even a jukebox that plays music from the various attractions, so you can listen to songs from The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest or Metroid Blast, for example, at any time as you stroll around the plaza.

Like Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort before it, each mode of each attraction in Nintendo Land can earn a player up to five stamps. Think of these as achievements for a given attraction's mode. These can consist of goals like mastering all missions in Metroid Blast, visiting all islands in Balloon Trip Breeze, or making your first successful jump in Captain Falcon's Twister Race.

I would now like to get into the actual attractions themselves. I'm going to start with the team attractions, then go to the competitive, and finally wrap up with the solo attractions.

Team Attractions

Team attractions, of which there are three, have the most in the way of modes. These can be played in solo fashion or with other players.

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest

This attraction that is based off of one of Nintendo's most heralded franchises plays as an on-rails adventure. It can be played with up to four players. One person uses the GamePad to launch arrows at faraway enemies while the others use the Wii Remote Plus to slice and dice foes with their swords. The GamePad player uses the right stick to fire off arrows, holding down the stick to charge their shots. These charged shots will break through an enemy's wooden shield instantly and take down a foe's health by a considerable amount. The person using the GamePad can look around and aim with the controller's gyro sensors and reload by pointing the GamePad downward. Dodging is performed by pressing in both the ZL and ZR buttons or by tilting the controller-- but only when prompted.

Meanwhile, the Wii Remote Plus players act out Skyward Sword by swinging the controller and slashing baddies. Depending on how they swing the remote, their Mii will swing its sword in a specific direction. When it concerns enemies with shields, the swordsman needs to swing their sword from the right angle or else they will hit the enemy's shield, stunning them and leaving them vulnerable for attack. The swordsman can also hold out their own shield to deflect attacks and arrows from enemies.

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest has nine starting levels to progress through. The goal is to reach the end of each stage, beat the boss, and collect the Triforce. In the way are hordes of enemies, simple switch-hitting puzzles-- some of which are timed, and the aforementioned bosses.

When playing solo, you can opt to use the GamePad to be the archer or use a remote to be a swordsman. However, when playing on a team, all players share a stock of six hearts. Each time any member gets hurt, a heart disappears. If all hearts are gone, it is game over. Thankfully there are opportunities to recover hearts, usually by defeating a fat bird that flies around in given parts of each level.

Battle Quest delivers a Legend of Zelda-like experience that whether it's alone or with other players demands practice and patience. It is difficult to get through all of the levels, and even more so trying to master them (i.e. not take any damage).

Pikmin Adventure

Another cooperative attraction, Pikmin Adventure puts you into the shoes of Captain Olimar with the task of getting through dozens of levels to escape the planet. However, you are not alone in your earthly journey. A band of Pikmin friends join you. You control Captain Olimar with the analog stick and tap areas of the touch screen to toss Pikmin onto foes, and to break boxes containing Pikmin-strengthening nectar and other helpful items.

In a multiplayer setting, the GamePad player is Olimar while the Wii Remote players (with the remote held like an NES controller) serve as larger than usual Mii Pikmin. Nonetheless, like The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, all players share the same life bar, meaning that one bad player can ruin it for everybody.

Pikmin Adventure starts off very easy, perhaps deceptively so. Once you reach the later stages, you will find yourself overwhelmed with enemies and not given a lot of room to work with. Bosses become much more challenging as well. To master levels, you need to beat a given mission under a certain time without taking any damage.

Metroid Blast

The final team attraction, and perhaps my favorite of all of the twelve Nintendo Land attractions, is Metroid Blast. You can take control of piloting Samus's fabled Gunship or taking the fight on foot. The Gunship player uses the GamePad to move around with the left stick, rise and fall with the right stick, look around with the gyro controls, and fire at foes with the RZ button. This control scheme definitely takes some getting used to, but when it is mastered, it feels really right. On the other side of the equation is/are the on-foot player(s). This is the only attraction to utilize the Wii Remote Plus Nunchuk. This is used for movement. Holding the A button on the Wii Remote allows you to look around as you blast targets.

The main mode of Metroid Blast consists of thirty missions, ten of which are extra after the initial twenty are completed. These range from defeating all enemies, collecting all of the Mii token spread around a given arena, or beating a boss such as Kraid or Ridley. The extra missions are some of the most difficult diversions players will experience in Nintendo Land altogether, but they are certainly rewarding when they are completed.

Two other modes await players in Metroid Blast, and they are both versus excursions. One has a Gunship player taking on the on-foot player(s) while the other has everyone on equal footing (literally) in a ground combat battle to collect the most tokens.

Metroid Blast is a feature-rich action-packed attraction that will delight players with its fast and frenetic firefights and fast-paced encounters. As I stated earlier, it is definitely my favorite of the twelve Nintendo Land attractions.

Competitive Attractions

These attractions are what make Nintendo Land so fantastic in the multiplayer department-- not to say the attractions I've already talked about aren't. Regardless, these are the ones that require cooperation between teammates. These are also the ones that are shining examples of the asymmetric gameplay that Nintendo has been touting so much over the past year or so.

Mario Chase

My favorite of the competitive attractions is Mario Chase. The GamePad player, dressed as Mario, is the person being chased while the Wii Remote players, dressed as Toads, are the ones pursuing, hoping to catch him. At the beginning of each game, the GamePad player gets ten seconds to create some distance between himself and the Toad players. Although he is outnumbered, the GamePad player has the luxury of seeing an overhead view of the playing field on the controller's screen to plan his escape route if things get heated. If the player can last two minutes without being caught by a Toad, he wins. If a Toad tackles or tags the Mario character, they win.

If Mario Chase is only played by two players, one as Mario and one as the Toad, the Toad player gets two AI controlled Yoshi carts that patrol the map. If they see the Mario player, their flags will go up and the computer will tell the Toad player what colored area of the map the Mario Mii is located. If a Yoshi cart gets close enough to Mario, it will lash out its tongue, temporarily stunning him. Additionally, the Toad player also gets the bonus of having a counter on the bottom of the television screen to say how far away his target is.

Even when played this way, Mario Chase is a bundle of awesome fun. The panic that sets in on the Mario player when a Toad approaches him or her is hilarious. The "D'oh, I almost had him" reaction from Toad players when they just miss nabbing Mario is also guffaw-worthy. All-in-all, Mario Chase is simply sensational and an excellent party attraction.

Luigi's Ghost Mansion

The second competitive attraction is Luigi's Ghost Mansion, a fright-filled spooktacular game. The goal of this game is for the Wii Remote players (up to four people) to shine their flashlights on the invisible GamePad player, acting as the ghost, in order to drain its life and defeat it before the ghost player can defeat the remote players. Despite being invisible to players, the ghost can be seen if it dashes or a flash of lightning illuminates the playing field. The players' Wii Remotes also vibrate when the ghost is near them. The Wii Remote players can't just use their flashlights all willy-nilly either. If they do, they'll find themselves without power and ripe for the taking by the ghost player.

Luigi's Ghost Mansion is a tense attraction for all parties involved. Even when it's just two players going at it (in this case there are invincible computer-controlled characters that flash their lights), the game is still entertaining and worthy of gaming sessions that last far into the night.

Animal Crossing: Sweet Day

The Animal Crossing attraction has up to four players trying to gather a certain quota of candy before they are tackled by the GamePad player three times. The more candy the players hold at once, the slower their movement speed. There is a strategy to unloading candy just so you can move faster and make a clean getaway.

The Wii U GamePad player controls Copper and Booker, two guards. One is moved with the left analog stick while the second is moved with the right analog stick. As the GamePad player you can't just spread the guards out. You need to have them work as a team to corner the candy-collectors and tackle them.

Unfortunately, there are only two maps for Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. That said, however, this attraction is a tremendous bunch of fun that with many players is just absolute marvelous madness.

Solo Attractions

If you're all alone and your get-together isn't until Friday, why not try out the solo attractions of Nintendo Land? Although these require but one player, a second person with a Wii Remote can assist in certain sections of each attraction. For instance, in Yoshi's Fruit Cart, the Wii Remote user can eat one fruit for you each level to help out. This is called the Assisted Play function. Also, unlike the team and competitive attractions, you can earn trophies based on how many points you earn, from bronze to platinum.

Yoshi's Fruit Cart

Yoshi gets his own attraction with Yoshi's Fruit Cart. The objective of this game is to lead Yoshi to collect all  of the fruit on the screen and guide him to the goal gate. This is done by drawing a path on the Wii U GamePad. However, the catch is that the fruit only shows up on the television screen, meaning you need to reference various points in the background of each level in order to draw the trail on the controller's screen.

At first the challenge is really low-- fruit sit by easy reference points. As you progress through the attraction, fruit begin moving, you have to eat fruit in a certain order, the background is less helpful, and dangerous obstacles like bees and holes are introduced.

Yoshi's Fruit Cart may be simple in design and aesthetic, but it is a good helping of enjoyment. There are over 50 levels in all, and reaching the end gives you a grand feeling.

Donkey Kong's Crash Course

Ready for a challenge? Well that is exactly what you'll receive with Donkey Kong's Crash Course. The idea of this attraction is to tilt the GamePad to move a vehicle through an obstacle course. This is easier said than done as the egg that represents your Mii that sits on top of the vehicle can break without much force. It's a breeze to accidentally go too fast or go too slow and make a mistake. Many times you need to tilt the GamePad all the way in one direction to cross a chasm and then quickly tilt back to regain control before your vehicle slams into a wall or girder. Also, the shoulder buttons are used in the attraction to control certain pathways and elevators.

Despite the immense challenge of this attraction, Donkey Kong's Crash Course always seems fair. There are a total of four different courses in this attraction, and if you can make it to and save Pauline for the fourth and final time, you are indeed an expert at manipulation... well, trolley manipulation, that is.

Takamaru's Ninja Castle

Takamaru's Ninja Castle is based off of a Japan-only Famicom Disk System game. The attraction itself consists of four stages where the goal is to hold the GamePad vertically and swipe one's fingers across the touch screen to throw shuriken at enemies and to deflect attacks. Pending on the angle of the GamePad, the trajectory of your throws will change. As you progress you earn ninja scrolls that allow you to draw a symbol on the touch screen with your finger to unleash a special move, such as Falcon Eye that grants you five seconds to fling a profusion of shuriken at slowed down opponents.

Takamaru's Ninja Castle is an enjoyable game that tests your reflexes and aiming skill. It's most likely my favorite of the solo attractions because I can return to it time and time again to hone my throwing star ability.

Captain Falcon's Twister Race

Based on the futuristic racer F-Zero, Captain Falcon's Twister Race has you holding the Wii U GamePad vertically and steering your Blue Falcon-riding Mii through the track with the controller's gyroscope. The television screen shows a behind-the-back view of your Mii, typical of standard racing games, while the GamePad screen is an aerial view that allows you to see more of the track ahead. There are 12 different sections of the track, and each section is timed. If you don't reach a checkpoint in time, fall off the track, or hit a bomb, it is game over.

Captain Falcon's Twister Race requires a lot of finesse to accurately steer your vehicle through the numerous obstacle-laden sections of the track. However, it is a wild ride and an engaging one at that, too.

Balloon Trip Breeze

Swiping the touch screen to generate gusts of wind for your Mii character to be pushed from is the name of Balloon Trip Breeze's game. This attraction is an auto-scrolling affair that moves from right to left. Not only do you want to pop balloons that give you points, but you have to dodge static and moving mines as well as bird baddies.

While the television screen grants you a full-sized view of the playing field, the GamePad screen has a zoomed-in view. I found myself not even using the GamePad screen and focusing entirely on my TV, which I can certainly guess wasn't Nintendo's hope.

Balloon Trip Breeze is made up of three days, but after completing the initial three, you unlock more that essentially doubles the content and the challenge the next time you play the attraction. The attraction as a whole is a pleasant experience that I didn't mind playing through time and time again despite thinking the two screens were worthless for this particular activity.

Octopus Dance

Lastly comes Octopus Dance, based off a Game & Watch game. This attraction-- my least favorite of the bunch-- is a rhythm-centric one where memorization is key. The diver dance instructor performs three movements. You must repeat those movements with the analog sticks or the gyro sensor of the GamePad in time with the beats. As you reach the end of each round, the movements grow faster and faster.

The use of the GamePad on Octopus Dance, outside of movement, is to get a backside view of both you and your instructor. You see, the movements you must memorize and repeat involve directions. If the instructor uses his left hand, you must do the same, so looking at the right screen is crucial to getting each movement right.

After each round, the instructor will turn you around, making it so you need to divert your eyes from the GamePad screen to the television screen. Additionally, sometimes your screen will get doused in ink by an octopus, so you must look at the other screen. This becomes even more crazy because you are looking at the front of your Mii and instructor, meaning you must mirror the instructor's moves. Considering how fast these movements occur in later rounds, this can be like rubbing your head while patting your stomach.

Octopus Dance is just incredibly difficult, and it's an attraction that I found more cheap than a real actual challenge.


Nintendo Land's presentation is full of vibrant color. Everything, whether boss, enemy, vehicle, or piece of background, is made to look like a toy. For example, Ridley in Metroid Blast has various parts connected by bolts while the plant-life in Pikmin Adventure are made of cloth, quilt, and other similar fibers. Nintendo Land really has the sensation that you're playing Nintendo properties in an amusement park setting with one cohesive toy-like feeling to them.

In addition to that comes the sound. Your guide through the park is a robot with a monitor for a face named Monita. She has a monotone female voice that explains the ins and outs of the numerous attractions and particulars about the game as a whole. The actual music of each attraction is fantastic. There are remarkable remixes of several familiar Nintendo tunes such as Super Mario 64's Slider, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time's Gerudo Valley, and Animal Crossing: City Folk's city theme, and these remixed themes can be heard at any time in the Nintendo Land Plaza, pending you have won them as prizes. Overall, the entire presentation of Nintendo Land impresses.

Nintendo Land might not be the real life theme park many fans have been clamoring for, but this is a stellar compromise. The majority of the attractions are great fun, but many of them require multiple players to really shine and be greatly entertaining. If you do not have anyone else to play Nintendo Land with, this game is probably not for you. The solo parts of the game can only go so far. However, if you do have people to play with, then Nintendo Land will make party night and any other get-together all the more enjoyable. Just remember to please party responsibly.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

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