Hands-on with Nintendo Land for Wii U

Nintendo Land is the big game Nintendo is pushing this year, and sadly, one of the games I got to spend the least time exploring at the company’s post-E3 event. The problem in this case is that several of the games are multiplayer, and that involves getting people together and switching roles when you’re done, but actually getting to switch games when you’ve played both parts is a bit trickier as people begin to swap in and out.

Even so, I did get a pretty good bit of hands on with three of the five games available in the demo, which make up less than half of the 12 total games that will be available on the disc when it comes out this holiday season. So while I can’t say much about Animal Crossing: Sweet Day or The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, here is what I did get to enjoy.

“Luigi’s Ghost Mansion” is, as you might have easily guessed, a game based on Luigi’s Mansion. But rather than using high-powered vacuum cleaners, your best defenses against the ghost haunting the grounds is your flashlight… and each other.

The game takes some cues from Pac-Man Vs., with four players using Wii Remotes to control four Miis dressed as Mario, Luigi, Wario, or Waluigi on the television screen. Meanwhile, a fifth player takes control of a ghost on the Wii U GamePad, and can see all the players in a well-lit version of the mansion while the TV players are hindered by the darkness.

The goal is to hunt while being hunted; the four players try to find and drain the ghost’s energy using their flashlights, while the ghost attempts to evade, sneak up on them, and drain their energy. Making things more complicated is that the flashlights use up their own energy, and the four Mario Miis have to acquire batteries to prolong their use. Other Marios can also be restored from their drained state after the ghost fells them, but it takes a while of shining the flashlight on them to do so.

Overall, it was a lot of fun, though it’s worth noting that in every match I was a part of or witnessed, whether I was a Mario Mii or not, the ghost always won. As a result, it feels like the ghost’s advantage might unbalance the game a little bit.

The next game I got to try was “Takamaru’s Ninja Castle,” an interesting inclusion as it is based on Nazo no Murasame Jō (“The Mysterious Murasame Castle”), a Nintendo game which has not only been exclusive to Japan, but has has little presence in other Nintendo titles which have reached our shores, such as Super Smash Bros. (where a piece of music was used for the Mario Bros. NES stage).

Trivia aside, this was a game able to be played easily by one player, who holds the Wii U GamePad as seen above, and swipes the star on the controller’s screen towards the ninja opponents who appear on the television screen. Moving the controller around allows you to aim, though the targeting reticule was easy to lose track of at times, and could probably stand to pop out a little more.

You proceed through the grounds of a ninja castle, and the gameplay is very reminiscent of on-rails light gun shooters as enemies appear and attack, and you must deal with them and the weapons they throw at you. Of course, with the star-throwing motion and the GamePad controller, while the basic experience is familiar, this adds a new quirk to it as it is a little more involved, particularly with the speed/force of your throws being a factor for range.

Upon reaching the end, you encounter a boss ninja who blocks your shots with his swords (he has a lot of swords for one ninja) and tries to get in close to attack you. Once he’s there, though, you can break through his defenses and send him reeling back for another round until he’s eventually defeated.

The last game of the bunch I was able to spend time with was also the briefest: “Donkey Kong’s Crash Course.” Another single-player game, I was disappointed I couldn’t play more after hearing great things about it out of E3, but I think I got enough of a feel to get the overall gist.

The idea is that the television displays a large stage which is a series of tracks based on the original Donkey Kong, while the Wii U GamePad displays a close-up version of the portion of the track where your character is. You hold the Wii U GamePad up in front of you, as shown above, and tilt it back and forth to maneuver a mine cart-like vehicle through the maze-like track.

It’s a lot like those little plastic toy mazes which would feature tiny ball bearings that you might find at the toy store. But you also have to be careful of tilting the controller too far, or else your cart will break, costing you a life.

I didn’t get to make it to the end, but I’m assuming that your goal is to reach Donkey Kong and/or Pauline at the center of the maze.

For some semblance of completion, here are the descriptions of the remaining two games from Nintendo:

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest: The player with the GamePad is an archer who can aim and shoot arrows using the screen as a view finder. That player is joined by up to three others who wield Wii Remote Plus controllers like swords. Players work together to take on a variety of enemies in a world that looks like a cloth version of a game from The Legend of Zelda series.

Animal Crossing: Sweet Day: The player holding the Wii U GamePad controls two guards who are in charge of safeguarding a candy orchard from a group of candy-loving animals. Up to four other players, using the Wii Remote controllers to control these animals, must work together to outwit – and outrun – the guards. The game ends when a combined total of 50 pieces of candy are collected, or when the guards catch any one of the animals three times.

In addition to these, two demonstrations from last year’s E3 showing of the Wii U, “Battle Mii” and “Chase Mii,” which were based on Metroid and Mario, respectively, both used Miis and seem like they would fit right in to the package. Whether they will be a part or not, Nintendo isn’t saying, though if they are, it is strange they would not have been announced or shown this year.

Finally, those worried that this will be just a mini-game collection similar to Wii Play have nothing to fear, according to Nintendo. Unlike those, the games featured in Nintendo Land are said to feature depth beyond what that title contained, including multiple levels to play through.

I’m looking forward to playing this one more when it comes out this holiday season. Some think it should be a pack-in, as it’s being considered the Wii Sports of the Wii U, and it certainly seems to fit the bill.

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.