I'm actually surprised there isn't a bustling Nintendo Land theme park somewhere on this planet. Wouldn't it work on some level in the real world? Nintendo has a stable of characters and franchises that resonate with a dedicated — Nintendo fans are nothing if not truly dedicated — base that spans generations. If a series of books about a young wizard with glasses and a thunderbolt mark on his head battling his snakish archenemy can carve out space in an established theme park, Mario or Donkey Kong can at least get a ride or two about them somewhere.
Perhaps that's some of the thinking that went behind Nintendo Land the game, one of Nintendo's top unveils at E3 that elicited mixed reaction from gaming journos at their press event, yet still drew throngs of others waiting to try it out alongside the WiiU gamepad. The lines at the Nintendo booth, oddly, could have been compared to people waiting for their favorite ride, which speaks to how Nintendo Land is actually set up.
Nintendo Land is actually a cluster of 12 minigames, or "attractions," each tailored around a signature Nintendo character and making different uses of the GamePad. At E3, we got to see five: Animal Crossing: Sweet Day; Donkey Kong's Crash Course; The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest; Luigi's Ghost Mansion and Takamaru's Ninja Castle. The other seven attractions, according to Nintendo, will be announced at a later date.
Because I like ninjas, the first one I tried was Takamaru's Ninja Castle, which hearkens back to a character from the Famicom days. I turned the GamePad to the side, transforming it into a launcher to throw ninja stars at enemy ninja of various colors. I was told most people just let loose with volley after volley of stars to take down their foes, but the game rewards you for both accuracy and hit streaks. I was also able to turn the GamePad different ways (an instinct many casual gamers have) in order to help my aim.
Then came Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, which made use of both the WiiU GamePad as well as the Wii Remotes. It functions in many ways as a rail shooter, with up to three other players using the Wii Remotes as swords. If you have the GamePad, you function as the Legolas of the group, using the GamePad screen to look around and the right thumbstick to draw arrows and fire.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day turned the GamePad into the security center for a candy orchard, as I used the two thumbsticks to control guards charged with protecting the orchard from candy thieves, who were controlled with Wii Remotes. The thieves are naturally faster than the guards, but stealing candy enlarges their heads and slows them down, leaving them with a choice: get more candy or unload some to evade the guards.
This union of GamePad and remotes was also similar in Luigi's Ghost Mansion, with the GamePad controlling an invisible (to others) ghost who hunts humans with flashlights that can burn away the ghost's life. For the most part, vibration is the only way the humans can sense the ghost's presence.
Finally, Donkey Kong's Crash Course has some fun with physics, as players can tilt and turn the GamePad to roll a cart through a hazard-ridden obstacle course.
All of these minigames might not have wowed some people the same way other titles at the show did, but they all carry the power to bring people together for a few hours of fun. Case in point was my stint as the ghost in Luigi's Ghost Mansion. I was hunting down a group of grown-ass British fellas who eventually started to sound like a fire team trying to track me down. It was an organic, fun playing experience, and whether the "hardcore" want to admit it, few have captured the spirit of play quite like Nintendo.
Nintendo Land is slated for release this holiday season.
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