in Review

Nintendo Land

I had this really great plan. After receiving a nice chunk of (Amazon credit) change for mine and Jesus’ birthdays, I was going to save it all. I would use it responsibly over the course of 2013, splurging on choice Blu Rays and video games when I really wanted them, acting like an adult. Then around the end of January I thought to myself, “You know what I miss? Christmas.” So I decided, since the money was in place of gifts anyway, I would just waste it all on one big, dumb purchase. There were a few candidates, but ultimately I went with perhaps the most foolish of all, a Nintendo Wii U.

The Wii U has not had the best launch. Since it came out a couple months ago, there has been little actual buzz about the system. Part of this must have to do with the public’s confusion around the device – many do not even realize it is a new console and not just another Wii add-on. Part of it probably has to do with the lack of new games for the system – so far it’s been a lot of ports, a New Super Mario Bros. game, and ZombiU, a zombie game that’s supposedly all right but it’s zombies who cares anymore. And then there’s Nintendo Land, the game that’s thrown in for free with the deluxe version of the Wii U. Would be worth buying on its own? Can it possibly stand up against the juggernaut that was Wii Sports?

Like Wii Sports, Nintendo Land is a minigame collection designed to show off why this new system is cool. Unlike with the Wii, however, the Wii U experience is not nearly as inherently exciting. The newness just isn’t quite there, since it’s hard to shake the impression that the Wii U is really just Nintendo taking its two previous successes, the DS and the Wii, and putting them in one box. I’ve been drawing on one screen and pointing at stuff with a silly peripheral for a while now. That said, it’s still fun to finally see Nintendo stuff in HD, and there’s enough to Nintendo Land that I can at least be excited to see what Nintendo does with the console in the future.

So you show up as your Mii to the big circular amusement park. You’re greeted by this living television called Monita (Japanese for monitor) who tells you to go play in the 12 attractions the park has, because it’s fun and you can get coins to waist in pachinko. The attractions are Nintendo Land‘s minigames, which are all based on Nintendo franchises, a hook I really appreciated. Sure, archery would probably be fun on its own, but it’s a lot more fun when you’re going through Hyrule dressed as Link shooting moblins.

The games showcase all the different ways the Wii U gamepad can be used. For example, that Zelda minigame has you aiming and shooting entirely on the gamepad’s screen, the Pikmin one has you ordering troops with the stylus, and the Nazo no Murasame Jo one lets you flick shuriken off the gamepad onto the TV screen. I found novelty and some level of enjoyment in all of the attractions, even though the idea of sitting in front of my TV and then holding the gamepad in front of my face took a while to settle in.

Multiplayer reveals the eery vision of the future Nintendo has for the console. That’s maybe a little harsh, most of the cooperative stuff is fun, as the gamepad player performs one set of tasks while the (up to four) players with Wii remotes use the TV. But the competitive stuff all felt pretty weak. It all came down to the remote players chasing the gamepad player around, or vice versa, with the twist being the gamepad player usually having more information. It’s not terrible, but it’s not very exciting either, and I expect Nintendo consoles to be the best for offline multiplayer fun.

Nintendo Land is not going to move consoles like Wii Sports did, but it is a nice showcase for the brave, foolish people who actually bought the system. The Wii U is reportedly not much more powerful than a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, and Sony and Microsoft are probably going to release new consoles by the end of this year. Nintendo has a very short amount of time to turn this thing into a hit and get some third party developers making interesting games for it. If they don’t, expect it to quickly turn into what the Wii turned out to be, a Nintendo-game-playing dust collector.