More than a blueprint for what is to come, Nintendo Land is a full-fledged game packed with content
In the midst of all the great manners on which the system's controller is used, one of Nintendo Land's key components, perhaps its most original one, is its art style. Set in a fictional Nintendo theme park, the game features a central hub surrounded by twelve extravagant gates that lead into the attractions. Taking advantage of this make-believe scenario, Nintendo made sure to design everything as it were part of a nicely put together attempt to recreate the "real" worlds within their games. On The Legend of Zelda's attraction, the whole world is made of plush; Donkey Kong's ride uses a chalkboard as its background; and the recreation of the world of Pikmin is done with Mushroom Kingdom blocks, and robots that recreate the game's insects. Absolutely everything is exploding either from Nintendo self-references, or bits of detail that tell players nothing is what it seems.
Nintendo Land was built by giving designers the power to act as mad scientists working with a new potion, and such is the case with any experiment in creativity and insanity, some results are far better than others, but the twelve-game package is so varied that every single gamer will, at least, find four attractions he will greatly enjoy. While a player's most liked attractions will be the cause for many hours of gameplay, the least beloved ones will also warrant a visit, because Nintendo Land is packed with collectibles and achievements that are more effectively unlocked when all attractions are played. Every attraction features a number of stamps that can be acquired through the clearing of certain goals, and each one of them will also grant players a star or master rank according to the level of completion achieved.
As if that was not enough, the more levels are cleared, attractions are played, and stamps are acquired, players will gain a few coins, which can be spent in an arcade-like mini-game to unlock gift boxes hiding items featuring Nintendo icons that will decorate the central hub. There is an overwhelmingly great satisfaction in watching as your personal version of the park is populated by statues of Kraid, Ganon, Koopas and others. The quality of the games, the sensational multiplayer value that some of them possess, and the daunting challenges and levels that nearly all of them have would already be a valuable enough incentive to play the game for countless hours, but Nintendo added plenty of extras to keep players going, which goes to show that Nintendo Land is not simply a pack-in, it is a full fledged game that could be worth the full price.
The game offers three attractions focused exclusively on multiplayer. All of which take advantage from the asymmetrical gameplay allowed by the fact the Wii U uses two completely different controllers. In Mario Chase, while one player flees through a small arena others go after him. The twist here is that the player who controls Mario can see the whole map through the gamepad's screen, while the chasers have to explore the place looking for him without many visual clues. Both Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and Luigi's Ghost Mansion are slight variations of that theme: in the first, one player gathers candy around the village while the other controls, through the gamepad, two guards that move independently according to the movement of both control sticks; in the latter, one player acts as a ghost, being invisible to those who look at the TV screen, while the others must use flashlights to capture him. The three experiences are nicely balanced, and the couple of different approaches with which each of them can be experienced doubles the value of the whole thing. Playing them will surely guarantee plenty of laughter, exciting close calls.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is a group of six games whose focus is solo play, four of which are probably the weakest of the bunch: Captain Falcon's Twister Race, Balloon Trip Breeze, Takamaru's Ninja Castle and Octopus Dance. On Twister Race o, players must tilt the gamepad to control the Blue Falcon through a course divided in 16 distinct segments, all of which are times. Balloon Trip has players drawing air currents on the screen to move the character across a sky that is plagued by tons of enemies. On Ninja Castle, players must slide their fingers across the gamepad's screen while aiming at the TV to launch stars against deadly enemies. And in Octopus Dance, both of the pad's control sticks must be used independently to move the arms of your character in order to replicate the dance moves of a robot. Although those games are a lot of fun, they become the game's weakest link because their content is thin, since their value comes from the fact their arcade-like structure will have players going back to the very beginning whenever they lose their lives.
The other two single-player attractions also feature the same sort of game over system, but they have a highly addictive nature that severely diminishes any frustration caused by having to restart from scratch. DK'S Crash Course offers a ten-section obstacle course inspired in the original arcade Donkey Kong title. During this attraction, players must carefully tilt the gamepad to move a little wheeled cart across many slopes, platforms and traps that are just waiting to crush your poor Mii. Meanwhile, on Yoshi's Fruit Cart players must draw a path for Yoshi to follow and eat all the fruits in a given stage. The twist, though, is that obstacles and fruit only appear on the TV, leaving players to utilize tiny visual cues to determine where exactly in the gamepad's screen are the objects located. Like every other attraction in the game, those two keep track of best scores achieved, which makes trying to outdo yourself a very compelling experience.
As a coincidence, or maybe not, the three greatest attractions found in the game are those that allow all three kinds of gameplay: competitive and cooperative multiplayer, and single-player. Metroid Blast, the finest one in the bunch, places up to five players in one arena (where one controls a ship through the gamepad and others play as Samus on the ground) to either blast each other to death or defeat hordes of different enemies in varied challenges. The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest offers nine familiar scenarios with temples, forests and volcanoes where a group of Link-dressed Miis must down many challenging foes and bosses with swords, or with the arrow and bow. Finally, Pikmin Adventure has one player lead the way as Olimar, while the other four control large and very powerful Pikmin to aid Olimar and the regular sized ones.
What is most impressive about those titles, other than the fact that they are fun - a quality that is shared among all attractions of the game - is that they have a load of content. Aside from the regular levels that must be cleared either alone or cooperatively, they also feature extra and very challenging stages (some of which are nearly impossible to clear by yourself), and a whole bunch of different modes to be explored. Another positive point, which is equally spread across the entirety of Nintendo Land, is how well the controls work, especially the gamepad. Moving Samus' ship by working with the control sticks and tilting the controller as if it were a window with which you can better glimpse what is on TV is absolutely fantastic, and the same can be said for moving the cart in DK's Crash Course, using the bow in Zelda: Battle Quest, or getting a totally different perspective through the controller's screen in the chase-centered attractions.
The cherry on top of this glorious pile of content is the game's integration with Mii Verse. Aside from seamlessly allowing players to share comments in-between stages and matches, and showing what other people around the world are saying about the attractions, Nintendo Land will populate the central plaza of the park with hundreds of real Miis from other players. Aside from serving as a visual prop, it is possible to select any Mii that is walking around the place in order to check where that person is from, what attractions they have been playing, how many coins and prizes they have collected, and how is their level of completion in all of the attractions. It's something so naturally done, and it is executed with such an incredible charm, that spending time around the plaza looking at other people's comments and records is a very valid activity. Although the game does not feature any kind of online gameplay, which is a shame as some games could have benefited from it, there is still a whole lot of connectivity.
Nintendo Land, therefore, serves three core purposes. Firstly, it is an extremely well-produced game that packs a whole lot of value; secondly, it serves as a blueprint so that gamers can know what their newly acquired system is capable of, and developers can use its concepts as a source of inspiration; finally, it is a great display of how Nintendo's MiiVerse can be integrated into a game in very meaningful ways. More than a bonus that comes with the system, Nintendo Land is a game that offers plenty of challenge for lonely moments, and a huge quantity of fun when two or more friends are gathered.