Review by Fanboy Username
"A successful successor to Sports"
When the original Wii released, every console came with Wii Sports bundled in. It was a glorified tech demo that showed one thing: motion controls can be fun. Despite it being quickly outgrown, Wii Sports was a great bundle game to show off what kinds of things the Wii was capable of. As Wii Sports is to the Wii, Nintendo Land is to the Wii U. It is bundled in with the deluxe console and shows off the various functions of what the Wii U's tablet controller is capable of. Nintendo Land goes a step above Wii Sports, however, being much more of a game than its predecessor. If you get the basic bundle or your region does not have Nintendo Land bundled in, it is available for full retail price, sitting on the shelf next to New Super Mario Bros. U. But is it worth it?
Speaking very briefly on the presentation, this game is about what you would expect. Almost none of the music is new. It uses those familiar tunes you're all familiar with from the games you love. The art style is somehow both very simple and very original. Everything has a patchwork look to it, somewhat like LittleBigPlanet. It's very cute and easy on the eyes.
Nintendo Land is actually 12 small games bundled into one. These games are divided into different categories, meant for different groups of people. Six of the games are strictly single player games; three are strictly competitive games, meant for 2-5 players and has no option for 1 player since there is no AI; and three are meant for 1-5 players, playable either solo, co-op, or competitive, although the focus is co-op. To properly judge Nintendo Land, the only way to truly do it is to look at each game.
Single player games:
Yoshi's Fruit Cart
On the TV is a board that takes up the whole screen. You see Yoshi, some fruit on dishes, some traps, and a door. The background is always some type of pattern on green fabric. On the tablet screen is the same board, but you cannot see the fruit. Your objective is to use the screen and the pattern on the fabric to draw a line starting from the start point to the door. The difficulty comes in when the fruit starts moving in circles around traps with a hard to follow pattern. You have to beat the time limit (you have unlimited time to draw, but on the path, Yoshi only survives so long) while making sure to pick up every single moving fruit or else the door won't open to the next level. And you start with only 3 lives, so game overs can happen very quickly. All in all, this mode is very basic and for me, not very fun.
This game does not make too much use of the game pad. This is a rhythm game in which you must mimic a robot's moves with the analog sticks and sometimes the motion controls in the tablet. This is made harder by the game trying to disorientate you. The left analog stick controls the left arm, and the right stick the right arm. You want to make sure you're looking at the back of the robot because then you just have to move in the direction he does. But if he turns you around, it is very confusing to move the left arm with the left stick when the robot's left arm is on the right side. That's where the game pad comes in. The game pad and the TV both view different sides, so when the robots turns around, you switch from watching the tablet to watching the TV. But then the game introduces a little octopus that spits out ink that blocks one screen, so you either have to be able to mimic the moves on the wrong screen or tap the octopus to make him smaller, which can easily make you miss the robot's movement. All in all, this mode is not very fun either. It starts out way too easy and then at the end you're all jumbled up and likely to lose. Then you have to start again at the easy part.
Donkey Kong's Crash Course
This game focuses more on the motion controls than it does the game pad. You control a small buggy best described as a triangle with two wheels and the top point being your soft spot that you can't let touch anything or it's game over. You tilt the game pad to change the direction of gravity to move the cart to the finish line. Then you must control some platforms with the analog sticks, the triggers, or by blowing in the mic (you can also press X, which I do). And to make it interesting, you're aiming for the shortest time you can. This game is fun, but the way progression works out is a bit disappointing. You move a little bit, find a part you get stuck on, lose all your lives trying to figure it out, finally figure it out, move on to find another place you get stuck on, etc. It took me about 30 minutes to beat the first board, but now I can beat it easily under 2 minutes, to give you an idea.
Takamaru's Ninja Castle
This game is the easiest to explain. It's basically an arcade light gun shooter. You hold the game pad sideways pointing it at enemies on screen to flick your finger on the touch screen to throw shurikens. This mode has a good bit of challenge, but it did leave my arm sore after completing it. Definitely good to only play a bit, then play another game to give your arm rest, then come back for more.
Captain Falcon's Twister Race
This game also focuses on motion controls, but also uses the dual screens. You hold the gamepad sideways and then use the motion controls to drive an F-Zero ship along a race course. The game pad's screen shows a top-down view that makes it easier to tell when to turn. The TV screen shows a somewhat normal view you see in racing games, showing more than what the game pad does, but it makes it harder to judge turns. This game starts slow and easy, but then it introduces bombs and boost jump pads, both of which are able to kill you, bombs by the obvious, and boost jump pads by making you fall off screen if you approach it at a bad angle. The bad thing about them is if you hit them, it's game over. You have one life. Then when you hit them, you have to start at the slow beginning again, and around the first 3 minutes of the course are slow and easy. And there's only one course. This mode is fun when you don't lose repeatedly.
Balloon Trip Breeze
This is a very simple mode in which you must use the stylus on the game pad to float in the air to collect balloons for points and avoid spikes and enemies. Aside from flicking for movement, you can also tap the screen to cause a small boom to move balloons to easier to reach positions and knock back enemies and break blocks. The TV has a zoomed out picture that you must look at and the pad has a zoomed in picture so it's hard to look down and hit where you want to. This game is OK, but nothing too special.
Those are all of the single player games. I have a really huge gripe with all of them that they all share. They all only have one course and you always start from the beginning, and the beginning is always slow. Then you reach a point where it actually has some difficulty and mess up, and it's game over and you have to start again from the start. It gets very tedious when you're droning through the beginning for the 10th time knowing you really can't lose to this part. Even if it's only a minute or two to get past the easy part, when you see it 10 times, that's 10-20 minutes of your life wasted on monotonous gameplay that poses no fun or challenge. Each mode, if perfected, can be beat in 5 minutes or less. and then after you beat them, you get to play them again for bonus content! But the game stops you after you win the first time, so if you want to see the bonus content, guess what, you have to do that whole game over again. Hope you finally nailed that tough part!
Zelda: Battle Quest
All co-op modes feature two different playable characters, one for the gamepad and a different one for the Wiimotes. You can play solo as either character in both modes. In Zelda, the gamepad is the archer and the Wiimote is a swordsman. This mode is somewhat similar to light gun games. The characters automatically run in a predermined line and you fight classic Zelda enemies on your way to the goal. As the archer, you move the gamepad around you to taret enemies and a flick of the analog stick fires an arrow. You dodge in QTE fashion with the trigger buttons and sometimes the motion controls. As the swordsman, you use a WiiMotion+ controller to swing your sword and then use B to raise your shield to block. It actually works very well and is fun to play, but it's pretty short with only 14 stages in the main game and a time attack mode with only 3 stages not even a minute long.
In this mode, the gamepad controls Olimar, who taps on the screen to throw the Pikmin to attack a creature there. The Wiimote users control a large Pikmin to attack on their own. You go through stages fighting the enemies you see in the Pikmin games and fight bosses, throwing Pikmin at glass spheres on them to hurt them. This mode is a lot of fun and requires more strategy than Zelda does. The second mode in this game is a versus map where everybody faces each other trying to collect the most candy. This mode lacks depth.
This is my favorite game in the whole collection. In this mode, the gamepad user controls Samus' ship and aims similar to Zelda's archer but also has free movement, using the right stick to control vertical movement and the left stick to control horizontal movement. The Wiimote and nunchuck users control Samus and it plays like many Wii games, aiming directly at the screen with the sensor and using the nunchuck to move around. The main mode has plenty of variety in tasks to complete and enemies that behave differently and Ridley and Kraid appear as the two game bosses. The game is not as easy as just pointing at an enemy and shooting it, as you must hit small targets on them to actually hurt them. This game is a blast to play and has the most levels out of the co-op games. Aside from the main mission, there are two arena types, one with ground units vs. Samus' ship and one with just ground units in a FFA.
These three co-op modes are the bulk of the game that you will play and all of them are fun and varied. There is absolutely nothing bad to say about them.
In Mario Chase, the gamepad player controls Mario and the Wiimote players control Toads. Mario looks away from the TV and looks only at the screen, able to see the whole map which is relatively large and where the Toads are. The Toads only have their screen to go off of and don't always know where Mario is. It's their job to work together to flank him so Mario has nowhere to escape. This mode is good if you have lots of people that can work together. If you play 1v1, the single Toad has some Yoshis to help him track Mario down, but since Mario is faster, he has the advantage. The game ends with Mario winning after 2 minutes or the Toads if they catch him before then.
Luigi's Ghost Mansion
In this mode, the gamepad player controls a ghost and the Wiimote players control Luigis. This takes place on a small map the size of the TV screen and the objective is for the ghost to sneak up on the Luigis and tackle him 3 times, and the Luigis work together to flash their light on him to reduce his health. The ghost is invisible except for when lightning lights up a room, uses his tackle ability to run faster, or the Wiimotes rumble when the ghost is close. Luigis also can't use their flashlights indefinitely. If the battery runs out, they have to find a battery and are completely defenseless in the meantime. If this mode is played 1v1, the extra Luigis are replaced with sentry drones that randomly walk around with their flashlights. Not quite an AI.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day
Animal Crossing is very similar to Mario Chase with roles reversed. In this one, the gamepad controller has two different people he controls that he must use to tackle the Wiimote users. The Wiimote users must run around collecting candy that slows them down and deposit them in holes. Either the Wiimote users win by collecting a set amount of candy or the gamepad user wins by tackling a player 3 times.
The competitive games show a completely new way we could be playing games, by having different abilities for different users. The games themselves are decent, but it feels like many times the advantage is given to one team or the other. While they are fun, the lack of variety other than 3-5 maps per game means it will grow stale quickly.
With all of the games covered, one question is still left unanswered: is it worth it? The answer is... if you get it in the deluxe bundle. The single player content will likely last around 5 hours for the average person. There is more to do than what you can do in 5 hours, but the truth is that it simply gets monotonous having to redo the whole game just to reach the point where you choke up again. You can go for platinum trophies in the single player games or master the individual levels in the co-op games, or amass coins to collect rewards that you will only look at for 5 seconds and then never see again, and on top of that, to get the rewards, you must play a very boring pachinko game. There is a good bit to do, but the way it's presented just does not work for most people. If you got the deluxe bundle, I definitely recommend putting this game in as your first Wii U game and see some neat things the game pad could do. If you got the basic and are considering this, it's not worth the full retail price. If it were half the price, it would be easier to recommend it. This game at its roots is still a tech demo.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/27/12
Game Release: Nintendo Land (US, 11/18/12)
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