Wii U’s pack-in stumbles after Wii Sports, still worth buying: PAR plays Nintendo Land

Wii U’s pack-in stumbles after Wii Sports, still worth buying: PAR plays Nintendo Land

Nintendo Land

  • Wii U

$59.99 MSRP

Buy Game

Nintendo doesn’t want you to buy the basic Wii U set. The value proposition is just silly: for $50 extra dollars you get a copy of Nintendo Land, four times the internal storage, a charging stand for the Game Pad, and vertical stands for the console. You’ll also earn points back on any games you buy online. Wii Sports all but made the Wii the sales monster it ultimately became; it was the perfect pack-in at the perfect time. Nintendo clearly hopes Nintendo Land will offer the same excitement but… no.

Nintendo Land isn’t as immediately amazing as the games included in Wii Sports, and many of them require a combination of the Game Pad and Wii Remotes to really enjoy.

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way

The single-player games aren’t nearly as fun as the multiplayer experiences, although the sense of play and the ability to explore a virtual amusement park, complete with a high level of polish and many surprises for the Nintendo fan, makes this much better than most launch titles on any system. Most of the content can safely be ignored, while the best games may be worth the purchase price alone. If you received it with the Deluxe package you’ll be very happy indeed.

I don’t want to go through the list of games and describe them all, so here are some examples: In the F-Zero game you tilt the GamePad to steer Captain Falcon. When he goes through a tunnel you look up at the TV. There is a game where you flick ninja stars at the television. There is a game where you draw a line to guide Yoshi through obstacles to eat fruit and get to the exit.

The twist is that all the items appear on the TV but NOT the GamePad, so you have to use your wits and some trial and error to collect all the good stuff while avoiding the bad stuff. In the Balloon Fight game you swipe on the GamePad’s screen to change your direction with gusts of wind. The vast majority of these games are simple and, while some are more challenging than others, all of them will give up all they have to offer in a few plays.

Keep in mind I’m a gamer in my 30s and new hardware doesn’t have the same built-in appeal it used to. I think Nintendo Land is going to get middling reviews but it’s going to become a massive hit in houses that have children.

I don’t mean that in a negative way, kids get when a game is good or bad and they can be astute critics. The graphics in these games are attractive, the goals are easy to understand, and the ability to run around the park, collect high scores, and trade in your earned coins for items and decorations can hide the shallow nature of much of the game play. Nintendo has nailed the feel of being in a big, exciting theme park, complete with Nintendo cameos, music, and fun surprises, and that goes a long way.

There’s even a train you can ride on that will allow you to play minigame after minigame for a set amount of time, keeping things lively and interesting. Walking around the environment while using the GamePad to look around and explore as if it’s a window into the virtual world is a pretty cool experience. Kids, and some adults, are going to get at least some satisfaction from the care and love poured into every inch of the game. Many people list “Main Street Disney” as their favorite “ride” in Disney parks, and Nintendo nailed the feeling of a hub world as a destination.

Let’s get to the good games

Luigi’s Ghost Mansion allows the player with the GamePad to become a ghost who then has to hunt down the other players and knock them out. The rest of the players use Wii Remotes and the television screen to hunt down the ghost and hit him or her with their flashlights.

Their controllers rumble when the ghost is near, so they can talk to each other to try to track down the ghost’s position. It’s a simple game, but the flashlights have limited power before each player has to find a battery, and the ghost can drag its victim for a brief time when they’re knocked out. There are tactics and strategy to be learned and discussed, and the game is just as fun with your kids as it is with your adult friends. This is one of the few games in the Nintendo Land compilation that feels magical, and can’t be replicated on any of the existing consoles.

Mario Chase is similar, but simpler. One player has the GamePad and can see every player as they try to run. The other players look at the TV and can only see part of the maze as they try to tackle the character who is “it.” Communication and strategy are a must as players have to work together to block the escape and take out the running character. It’s easy to learn, surprisingly deep, rounds don’t take very long to play, and it’s a wonderful party game.

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest is a cooperative game that matches an archer using the GamePad with players using the Wii Remotes who attack with swords. You share a common pool of hearts, and have to walk forward to take out enemies and boss characters. Fans of the Zelda series will be pleasantly surprised by some of the themed enemies and locations in this game, even if the play itself is rather shallow. Still, getting a team together and combining melee with ranged attacks provides a good time.

Metroid Blast gives the player with the GamePad control of a flying hovercraft-like vessel, and you can either go through a series of challenges and battles in a single-player game or fight against other players on the ground in multiplayer. The control scheme for flying feels needlessly complicated, this is a game aimed at older games and people looking for more of a challenge, but there is more content here than you think, including boss battles and Metroid-based surprises. Each of these games does a beautiful job at fan service, and rewards fans of the various series by playing through.

So is this worth $60?

There is much here that you will play once and never think about again. There are some games here that are mediocre. And there are some amazing games that you’ll pull out again and again. The quality of the games themselves is incredibly uneven, but there is enough good stuff to justify the $60 price tag if you weren’t lucky to find one of the Wii U Deluxe Editions.

You’ll get hours out of the game overall, and if you have Wii Remotes sitting around and some friends who are game to try the new system you’re going to have a ton of fun. Co-operative Zelda games, even when they’re on rails, is a good time with your kids. Nintendo didn’t cheap out and throw anything together here, even the bad guys look and sound great.

The problem is that the marketing for Nintendo Land is going to be abysmal. Look at the trailer up there, does that look good? It looks terrible. The way Nintendo has to lay out the screenshots is complicated and features more dead space than game play. The way players interact with the Wii U is hard to show visually, so Nintendo is going to have a hell of a time selling the mainstream of this game in particular, and this system generally. I could get you excited about these games by inviting you over for a few rounds of Mario Chase, but text, images, and even video won’t be able to convey the experience.

That’s a problem Nintendo may not be able to solve easily, quickly, or at all. That being said, even if Nintendo Land doesn’t rise to the same immediately gratifying highs as Wii Sports, it contains enough fun games and a well-designed hub world to keep you, your kids, and your guests happy. Solo players? Let’s wait for ZombiU reviews.