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GoNintendo Review - Nintendo Land

by rawmeatcowboy
15 November 2012
GN Version 4.0

This review does not include discussion of online aspects such as Miiverse, as those were not available at time of review.

Nintendo Land has a very heavy burden to carry. It is the one Wii U game out there that will teach consumers the ins and outs of the system. When you have a unique control system like the Wii U, you need a piece of software that showcases those options. Nintendo learned just how important that was with Wii Sports on the Wii. That one game was key to the Wii's early success. Wii Sports became one of the best-selling games of all time, and without it, the Wii would have never reached the level of success it did.

So yes, there's a ton of pressure on Nintendo Land. It's a pack-in game for those that go with the Deluxe bundle, but you can bet that the Basic consumers are going to look towards this game as well. It serves an absolutely huge purpose. This is the showcase that family and friends will present to one another when expressing their content or disinterest in Wii U. Does Nintendo Land have what it takes to take the torch that Wii Sports is passing it?

To be 100% honest, I'm not sure Nintendo Land has what it takes to be the next Wii Sports. That's not because it lacks anything that Wii Sports has. Nintendo Land actually has much, much more to offer than Wii Sports ever did. This is, without a doubt, a much bigger and better game than Wii Sports could ever have hoped to be. It's that breadth of content and attention to the core gamer's interests that have me worried. There might simply be too much here to learn when it comes to enticing those expanded audience Wii owners.

With Wii Sports, it was very easy to see what you had to do. When you did bowling, you just moved the Wiimote as you would a bowling ball. In the baseball mini-game, you held the Wiimote like a baseball bat. These were things that anyone could understand right off the bat. No extra explanation was needed, it was almost second nature. Nintendo Land doesn't offer experiences like that. It's more in line of what you would find in a Mario Party game, albeit with attractions that offer a lot more depth.

I think that's the key thing to pay attention to with Nintendo Land. The amount of depth here is definitely going to blow you away. I promise, you're not prepared for the sheer amount of replayability and gameplay options that are going to be offered up. Yes, some attractions offer more content and reasons to come back than others, but there's no doubt that any of these attractions offer just as much gameplay as anything found in Wii Sports.

It's not going to be hard for you to find something you love in each of Nintendo Land's attractions. Out of the entire group, there's really only one attraction that I don't care for. Takamaru's Ninja Castle just isn't much fun, but that's in my opinion. I know others will each that game up, which is completely fine by me. I just find the attraction to be much more repetitive than any other in the entire package. It does a good job of showing how the TV and GamePad can work together, but outside of that, it lost my interest.

But the other attractions in Nintendo Land, I truly enjoy all of them. I found something to latch onto with each and every one of them. These aren't just mini-games stuffed into a collection. These are fully-fledged ideas that would be right at home as 3DS or Wii U eShop downloads. If you are worried about Nintendo Land offering content that you're done with after the first week, I promise that will not be the case. There's just so much to do and see, some of which I'm only now uncovering.

One of my favorite attractions has to be Balloon Trip Breeze. It's funny that this attraction is one of my favorites, seeing as how Balloon Fight doesn't hold a fond place in my heart. I played the original countless times, but I never really found it to be all that enjoyable. Balloon Trip Breeze has managed to move past those lackluster memories to create an experience that really sticks out above what the original offered.

With Balloon Trip Breeze, you'll use the stylus on the GamePad to create gusts of wind. The longer/faster you draw the lines, the longer/stronger wind gusts will appear on TV. You use these gusts to control your character through an auto-scrolling level. Your goal is to get from start to finish, popping as many balloon as you can along the way. You'll also have to fend off enemies by popping their balloons or moving out of the way. On top of all that, there are environmental hazards to avoid as well. You follow all this action on TV, while the GamePad provides a more zoomed-in look.

Balloon Trip Breeze does a wonderful job of showing how both the TV and GamePad can work together. You don't even need to look at the GamePad to play, but doing so will help you navigate some trickier portions of levels. The longer you play, the tougher the levels get. You'll need to get a true handle on your wind gusts as you move along, as later levels require very tiny gusts to keep you out of harm's way. The best part is, just when you think it's all over, the game offers up more content for you to tackle.

That's actually an element of Nintendo Land itself that keeps returning. These attractions may seem like they have a set amount of content to them, but when you actually play and accomplish goals, you'll unlock new content. It's obvious that this content only becomes available once the game is satisfied with your progress. You'll unlock tougher, longer challenges that are only suited to those that have grasped the basic mechanics really well. These new challenges will ask you to really finely tune everything you've learned to take on the next level.

Another stand-out experience comes from Metroid Blast, which Nintendo Land happily touts as one of the most engaging and gamer-centric attractions that the virtual park has to offer. This game lets you take on the role of Samus either on-foot or via her ship. It's up to you to tackle all the enemies that the game has to throw at you, wave after wave. You'll have to keep tabs on enemy locations, power-ups and health in order to make it through each wave into the next.

Needless to say, the ship and on-foot experiences are completely different. On-foot action requires the use of a Wii MotionPlus controller and Nunchuk. You'll take on enemies on foot, using the pointer to aim at the screen and fire. You can also launch bombs and flip out of the wave of oncoming attacks. There are a few other tricks to learn when playing on-foot, but it's best to leave those up to you to discover.

If you decide to play with the GamePad and pilot Samus' ship, you're going to find that you're much more active while playing. You'll use both analog sticks and motion control to pilot your ship through the play field, which will allow you to fire shots and missiles down on the enemies below. You can also swoop the ship down right next to the ground if you want, in order to get up close and personal with your foes. Piloting the ship is definitely more of a core-gamer experience, so make sure whoever is handling that knows their way around a controller!

Of course, you could always have your friends join in while you all tackle Metroid Blast, or a number of other attractions in the game. Without a doubt, you'll have a lot more fun with Nintendo Land if you have friends to join in on the action. It's not necessary to have real-life players, as the game will throw in bots for you in multiple modes, but having a real-life person joining in will definitely make for a more engaging experience.

While a few of Nintendo Land's attractions are single-player only, more of them allow you to bring in a bunch of friends. Some of them allow for up to 5 players, like Metroid Blast mentioned above. When you have other players come in and play with you, you're going to come out with a much more memorable experience. I've been waiting months and months to try some of these attractions with friends rather than demo stand attendees. Playing with people you know allows you to get much more involved, much more heated. I'm telling you, these attractions are going to get you much more excited than you think!

Take Mario Chase, for example. This is a simple game of tag. One person plays as Mario while everyone else runs around trying to catch that person. All you have to do is tackle Mario once and the game is over. Mario plays on the GamePad, which features a third person camera view and a map with moving icons. The Wii MotionPlus players look at the TV in split-screen mode. A little number counter shows how close/far you are from Mario. You'll have to work together and shout out colors to track down Mario and have the best shot at grabbing him.

Sounds ridiculously simple, doesn't it? It definitely is easy to play, but it's super addictive once you get into it. Throw in the right mix of people and you've got yourself a mode that you could play for hours on end. There are even other maps for you to unlock, which means you don't have to keep playing the same level over and over. To be honest, just one level would be enough to keep the fun going, but it's nice to spice things up when you bring new people in.

Let's say you don't have anyone to play with. Let's say you are in a single-player only kind of setup. You will still have plenty to tackle in Nintendo Land, but the multiplayer features just won't be as fun with bots. That entertainment is going to be met with a personal limit. Playing with real-life people could provide hours and hours of fun, but playing against bots is a race against time. You'll eventually learn how the bots work and how to fool them. Once you hit that block, those attractions may very well be spent.

Still, you'll have a motivation to keep checking these attractions out. You can become addicted to the in-game achievement setup called 'Stamps'. You'll earn stamps for all number of actions, for reaching a certain score to tackling a set amount of levels. If that sort of thing isn't for you, perhaps spending in-game coins will be. Play attractions to earn coins, then take those coins to one of Nintendo Land's best kept secrets.

We've all seen the various Nintendo-themed items that you can earn to populate your theme park, but did you ever wonder how you get them? Well, at the top of the Nintendo Land tower is a little mini-game that is similar to what you find in Smash Bros.. You drop a coin into the machine to play a very old-school game in the style of Plinko or Pachinko. You have to bounce the coins off a certain number of colored pegs. Once you hit all of those pegs, you'll win yourself a new item for your theme park. The only option you have to control where your coin falls is hitting a button. A coin slot moves from left to right, so you decide when you press the A button. Then you watch where the coin falls. If you don't hit your goal, spend another coin and try again!

Playing this mini-game and earning attraction decorations becomes super addictive. The game in and of itself is just a blast to play, but seeing those rewards populating your theme park is the icing on the cake. I've found myself spending equal time on attractions and playing this mini-game. It's such a simple idea that keeps you coming back time and time again. You have a ton of coins, so you might as well spend them on trying to win something nice!

I'm just hopeful that you can find people to enjoy Nintendo Land's attractions with. As I said earlier, I'm worried that Nintendo Land might be too much for your new, expanded audience gamer. There are multiple Nintendo Land attractions that require a lot of control input, a lot of directions. I fear that those expanded audience gamers might get overwhelmed by all this. While games like Mario Chase are pretty much pick up and play, there are many others that are more complex. Not complex for your regular gamer by any means, but perhaps too much for those that are used to Wii Sports and Wii Fit.

I'm honestly worried about Nintendo Land's ability to sell the Wii U to the newcomers. This package is much, MUCH more focused on the regular/core gamer than Wii Sports ever was. I can understand the idea of Nintendo expecting Wii owners to have evolved over the last 6 years, so something like Nintendo Land might make sense as the next step for that expanded audience gamer. Unfortunately, I think they might be overestimating the abilities of those gamers. Wii Sports is being played in nursing homes to this very day. I really don't see that same crowd picking up, understanding and enjoying Nintendo Land in the same way.

With that said, you can obviously tell that Nintendo Land is a blast for the regular gamer. You'll get what's going on here. You'll also have plenty of unique and interesting ways to learn about what the Wii U GamePad does. Nintendo Land is without a doubt, the showpiece for the Wii U and GamePad. This is the title that's going to make you a believer in the tech. You'll be itching to take on some of these control ideas in full-fledged games. You may have written off the title based on what you've seen so far, but I strongly suggest you rethink that stance.

The real question is, can Nintendo court new gamers with an experience like Nintendo Land? The title serves a great purpose, but will it have the same wide reach that Wii Sports did? That's going to be up to people like you and I. I'm sure some expanded audience gamers will come along for the ride, but most may find themselves too intimidated. That's where you need to step in and show them the fun they could be having.