It's undeniable that Nintendo are game console innovators – they have been doing it since the early 1980s, having incrementally pushed gaming forward more than any other company, ever. Now, almost thirty years after the release of their first console, the Nitnendo Entertainment System, they are doing it again with the Wii U. For better or worse, Nintendo are launching an all-new system, with an all-new control scheme, and creating all new ways to play. However, there's always one catch to any kind of innovation that people don't talk about: you have to explain it to people. For Nintendo, the last time they had to sell people on a new concept, motion controlled gaming, they had Wii Sports to help people get up off their couches and play tennis in their living rooms. This time around, Nintendo is using Nintendo Land to demonstrate all the different ways you can use the Wii U's GamePad to play, and doing so with a hearty helping of nostalgia.
As a whole concept, Nintendo Land is somewhat hard to define. It's this magical theme park of sorts for your Mii to run around in, and play mini-games based off of classic Nintendo games. Breaking the individual games apart from their carnival of a wrapper is easy, as they each are their own standalone experiences, straddling both single and multiplayer events. Outside of the games, Nintendo Land is a vibrant arena where you can travel from game to game, interact with other Miis, set up multiplayer tournaments, and even do a little gambling.
The twelve games included in the package break down into two basic buckets, single and multiplayer games. The single player ones include Donkey Kong's Crash Course, Takamaru's Ninja Castle, Captain Falcon's Twister Race, Yoshi's Fruit Cart, Octopus Dance and Balloon Trip Breeze, and are all uniquely crafted to be played using both the TV and the GamePad's screens. The multiplayer games; Metroid Blast, The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, Mario Chase, Pikmin Adventure, Luigi's Ghost Mansion and Animal Crossing: Sweet Day each have different experiences depending on which screen you're playing on.
In an attempt to keep this review to a reasonable here is a one-sentence summary of the gameplay for each of the games included:
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day – (Based On: Animal Crossing)
Gather and store the most candy without getting caught by the guards who are controlled by the person with the GamePad.
Balloon Trip Breeze – (Based On: Balloon Trip)
Stay afloat as long as possible using the stylus on the touch screen to "blow" wind into the balloons.
Captain Falcon's Twister Race – (Based On: F-Zero)
Win the race while avoiding obstacles using the gyroscope inside the GamePad to control your ship.
Donkey Kong's Crash Course – (Based On: Donkey Kong)
Navigate a dangerously unstable cart through the construction site by carefully tilting the controller.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest – (Based On: The Legend of Zelda)
A team of Miis, swordsman on the ground using the Wii controller and an archer in the back using the GamePad, need to navigate the dangerous wilds of Hyrule to save the Triforce.
Luigi's Ghost Mansion – (Based On: Luigi's Mansion)
Hunt as or be hunted by a rogue ghost that's looking to scare the life out of Luigi Miis.
Mario Chase – (Based On: Super Mario Bros.)
Mix the schoolyard game of tag with Mario Kart 64's battle levels, and you get Mario Chase.
Metroid Blast – (Based On: Metroid)
Take your best stab at being an intergalactic bounty hunter by taking out evil aliens on the ground (using a Wiimote) or from the air (using the GamePad).
Octopus Dance – (Based On: Game & Watch Octopus)
It's a mirrored version of Simon Says, with dance moves, and an LCD octopus.
Pikmin Adventure – (Based On: Pikmin)
Work co-operatively, or play competitively to clear out areas as either Pikmin (Wiimotes) or Captain Olimar (GamePad).
Takamaru's Ninja Castle – (Based On: Nazo no Murasame Jo)
It's kind of like when you got to throw ninja stars in Shinobo, but this time you actually have to aim, and "throw" them using the GamePad's touchscreen.
Yoshi's Fruit Cart – (Based On: Yoshi)
Draw a path for Yoshi to get from Point A to Point B eating all of the fruit in-between.
Clearly, Nintendo Land is a much meatier compilation than Wii Sports was. There are a lot of different games to play here, as well as a lot of different mechanics to learn. Each game does a solid job of introducing how to play and explaining just what you need to do each time you start it up. Some games are easier than others (the multiplayer ones really depend on who you're playing with), and some are deceivingly challenging (like most of the single player ones), but they all take a bit of practice getting used to.
One of the few downsides of an otherwise fantastic experience is actually a byproduct of it being such a robust game. Some people might not be able to connect with each of the individual games leaving them a bit lost. For example, picking up Pikmin Adventure is significantly easier for someone that has played Pikmin before, whereas those folks only really need to figure out how to play, instead of how to play and just what the heck is going on. It's too spread out over too many franchises for the novice gamer; however, longtime Nintendo fans will appreciate the reimagining of some of their favorite franchises.
Even with the success of the Wii, the Wii U is waging an uphill battle. It's new controller and gameplay options are going to still be foreign to many of the people that the Wii won over, but that's where Nintendo Land comes in. If you're an early adopter that typically turns into an evangelist amongst your friends and family, this is the game that is truly going to explain just what the Wii U is, and what it can do. This compilation is Nintendo's secret weapon to teaching people how to play their new console, under the guise of enjoying mini-games inspired by Nintendo's classics, and it manages to succeed at every turn.