i’ve been dipping into the wii u launch title nintendo land ever since i got my wii u, but for my first “completed” game of the year i finished getting all the single-player mode stars except one. “star player” awards are achieved by reaching the main goal in various games, and of the nine non-competitive games the one i had to leave out was the donkey kong game because after many, many failed attempts i still couldn’t get past area 9. this was certainly the most frustrating part of my experience with the overall game, but hardly the only one.
as a nintendo fanboy i was very curious to see how the various iconic franchises would get reworked, but in general the results were more disappointing than not. the highlight was probably the nintendo land take on balloon fight, a series that is generally ignored, because the version presented is generally faithful to the source material. however, even with that game there are a lot of caveats to my enjoyment of it. although it’s great to see a new take on the familiar balloon fight setup, the controls feel shoehorned in, and having to control the movement with the touchscreen on the gamepad while simultaneously trying to watch the main screen just feels awkward and annoying.
the majority of the “attractions” don’t have much to do with their source at all, other than the trappings, which makes sense seeing as how the developers came up with the mini-games before adding in the franchises. also, the three longer campaigns, based on the zelda, pikmin, and metroid series, are repetitive and wear out their welcome quickly. for me the main draw of those series has never been the combat, and in simplifying them for nintendo land the end result is less a distilling of an essence and more a complete watering down. these modes ended up being the most tedious to complete, which is disappointing given my deep love and long history with them.
for these modes as well as the majority of the rest of the experience the use of the gamepad doesn’t feel nearly as revolutionary as nintendo seemed to have been hoping it would, although there are occasional glimmers of brilliance and better things to come. moving the controller around in a 3-D space tends to be the more enjoyable use for it, but that type of gameplay has already been introduced with the 3DS and so makes much less of an impact here. also, the multiplayer modes certainly make use of the gamepad in more-essential ways, but as usual my multiplayer experience was limited so i can’t comment too much on that.
one of the more-enjoyable aspects of nintendo land is general to wii u, and one that i continue to appreciate, is the integration of miiverse. the in-game plaza does a good job of making you feel connected to other players, even though interactions with other players aren’t live. running around and seeing other players’ miis with their comments, including international players, enhances the overall ambience of video game as theme park (it’s nice to know that others are as frustrated with area 9 of the donkey kong game as i am), and continue to enhance my gaming experience, by default a solitary activity, by making it more social than ever before.
all in all this was a slow start to wii u and, despite my boredom for the majority for the experience, what i still hope will become a new nintendo series. it’s nice to see nintendo trying to use their IPs in new ways, so hopefully this is just a starting point and we’ll see more relevant and more successful spins on beloved classics in the future.
check out these not-so-tedious nintendo land links:
– official site
– the nintendo wikia is a good source of info, including all the stamp and star player requirements as well as info on all the assist modes
– interesting discussion on favorite and least favorite parts of the game on nintendolife’s forum. i’m surprised people disliked “octopus dance” so much, since it was one of the easier games for me.
– it’s interesting to see the range of scores on metacritic. here’s a positive review from nintendolife and a less-positive review from game informer.
– list of in-game prizes on gamefaqs
– some comments from the developers from an interview at IGN
– iwata asks entry