When Nintendo launched the Wii in 2006, it came packed with the highly popular Wii Sports.
Wii Sports was part of the reason the Wii became so successful. Not only was it a game that came with the Wii (and free games are always awesome), but it showed off the capabilities of what the system could do and what it was about. It was a game where people of all ages and gaming experience could jump in and play with ease.
When Nintendo Land was revealed this past summer at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), many gamers around the world thought Nintendo Land would be the Wii Sports for the Wii U in the sense that it would show what the GamePad – the Wii U’s tablet-like controller – could do to make the system distinct from those already on the market.
However, many gamers also could not help but think that Nintendo Land was going to be just another compilation of boring mini games Nintendo orchestrated together to make a quick buck.
I will admit those thoughts riddled through my head when I first saw the game. My fear was the game would get boring as fast as Wii Sports did within the first day I got the Wii.
I am surprised and happy to report that this is not the case for Nintendo Land. In short, it blows Wii Sports out of the water and into space.
Nintendo Land takes place in a theme park setting where you will be guided through everything in the game with the help of Monita, a floating robotic guide with a monitor for its head. You meet Monita in Nintendo Land Plaza, the central area of the game. It is here where you will interact with other players around the world and visit one of the game’s 12 attractions, which are the mini games themed around one of Nintendo’s many franchises from the past three decades.
There are a number of things to do and earn within each attraction such as obtaining high scores, stamps, trophies master rankings and coins.
After each game you play, the score or stats (depending upon the attraction you are playing) such the score you earned, how you rank all-time against other people on your system, your personal highest score, and which trophy you earned will be displayed. For some reason, there is no way to view these stats unless you play through a level within an attraction and even then it only displays the three highest scores.
Attaining trophies, stamps and master rankings will keep you coming back to the attractions, as it gives some big-time replay value to the Nintendo Land. Depending upon the score and stats you get in an attraction, you will earn a bronze, silver, gold or platinum trophy. Getting stamps and master rankings are similar to Xbox’s achievements and Playstation’s trophies where you must complete certain challenges to acquire them. Earning every stamp on each attraction as well as a master ranking on each level takes some serious time, dedication and will even push the most hardcore gamers to their limits. It becomes an even greater challenge when there are further, more difficult levels that can be unlocked in every attraction when all of the default levels are completed.
Each Mii character gets their own set of stamps and trophies to earn. If one person gets a specific stamp, only that person will get it. The annoying thing with having a Mii character you created in the game though is that they have to be favorited from the Mii Maker on the Wii U if you want to play with that character.
You will also earn coins playing through the attractions for prizes. Prizes are basically decorations that are used to build your Plaza and make it a livelier place. The prizes consist of objects from an attraction, recreations of enemies, landmarks, or characters from Nintendo’s games and extra features to the Plaza.
Spending the coins and acquiring prizes is done via Pachinko (Japanese pinball), which is accessed from the giant tower in the center of the Plaza. The coins are used as balls to get into several different slots. Once all of the slots have been hit by coins, you move on to a new Pachinko layout to get the next prize.
Playing Pachinko got boring and repetitive rather fast as the levels layouts repeat and there are only so many times you can wait to see if the ball you dropped will make it into a slot. Other than earning prizes, the only thing that made playing Pachinko fun after a while was being able to watch something on TV and continue playing it on the GamePad.
One of the other prizes is the game’s music, which can be played at anytime on a jukebox when you are in the Plaza. The music comes from each attraction where a lot of the tracks are happier, more delightful versions of various songs from Nintendo’s games, and it is one of the best parts of the game. I loved playing through the Zelda attraction and listening to Nintendo Land’s take on Lost Woods.
The overall design and visuals of Nintendo Land are pretty, though I would not necessarily say the graphics are out-of-this-world. The game always has vivid colors while maintaining a smooth framerate. Even the GamePad’s display was impressively able to stay consistent with its framerate no matter what was happening on screen.
Enemies and props in specific attractions are robotic imitations from the game’s they are portraying. Some environments have a patchwork design to give you a feeling that you really are in an amusement park. Your Mii will even dress up in costumes resembling a character (or characters) from a franchise depending on the attraction you are in. These are nice touches that add the game’s overall experience.
If you are the kind of person that loves to get pictures of the rides you were on when you go to an amusement park, the game has a neat feature where it will take random pictures of the level you just played and display them in the background when you complete a stage. It is too bad these pictures cannot be viewed once you move on to something else.
There are 12 attractions for you to play through. These attractions imitate many of Nintendo’s franchises from Mario to Zelda to Balloon Fight and even Game & Watch.
Overall, the attractions are a blast to play whether you are alone or playing with a group of friends. I never thought I would say this toward a party/mini game compilation.
The attractions have enough depth and challenge to them to where it will keep players of all gaming experiences coming back for more. Some attractions such as the The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest have more than one game mode within itself, so it is almost like there are more than 12 attractions in the end.
Nintendo Land does an excellent job of showing what the GamePad is capable of for future games because each attraction utilizes it in their own distinct ways.
Some attractions simply used the GamePad as a second screen, giving people a five-player game. Other attractions such as Metroid Blast provided a unique way to pilot a space ship using multiple aspects on the GamePad.
One big problem with the game is no matter what combination of people you have playing, you cannot play all the games together. If there are A.I. partners to make up for the absence of three other people in an attraction like Mario Chase where you need to have two to five players, then why could I not have only A.I. partners to play against when I am playing alone?
Fortunately, the game somewhat makes up for this with Attraction Tour, a tournament-like mode where you will compete with other people playing the different attractions. Whoever has the most coins at the end of all the rounds wins the tour.
The person holding the GamePad chooses which person they want to play on what attraction. If other players are watching on the side lines, they can pick who they think will win for a chance to earn a few extra coins. This grants a great chance for everyone to participate in the games while simultaneously going through everything Nintendo Land has to offer.
Bottom line, even if I did not buy the Deluxe Set of the Wii U, which came with a copy of Nintendo Land, I would still buy it at full retail price and recommend it to others. It is rare to see party game that I can enjoy so much by myself and even more so with friends.
It is a game that has a plethora of replay value and does a fantastic job of showing what the GamePad is all about. I can see myself and other completionists coming back to the game to collect all the stamps, trophies, prizes and attempting to best their last high score. It is also something I will want to play with friends whenever I have them over.
When he is not raging at Donkey Kong’s Crash Course Robbie Key proudly serves his post in “Reviews and Editorials” for Analog Addiction. He is also Stephen F. Austin State University’s lone gaming journalist, a blogger for IGN, has a passion for those cryptic things known as video games and most importantly, he is American. You can follow his completely relevant Twitter updates and watch his awesomtacular YouTube videos. Be sure to look out for his future Wii U reviews as well.