Nintendo hasn’t exactly shied away from saying it hopes Nintendo Land will be this generation’s Wii Sports, which is a perfectly reasonable thing for them to want — Wii Sports made them literally billions of dollars. That said, if you ignore for a moment the giant stacks of money it generated, Wii Sports’ legacy is a mixed one to say the least. It was a brilliantly designed product, perfectly tailored to a demographic the video game industry had ignored up until then, but as a game it wasn’t much. It was five shallow minigames (only three of which actually worked).
Well, the good news is Nintendo Land, as a game, blows Wii Sports, as well as every other minigame collection Nintendo has done, out of the water. Read on for why…
Nintendo Land is made up of 12 “attractions”, half of which are devoted to showing off Nintendo’s heralded “asymmetric gameplay”, the other half of which are single player minigames designed to show off various abilities of the GamePad.
Three of the multiplayer attractions are basically takes on the much-beloved (by Nintendo and Nintendo fans alike) Pac-Man Vs. The best of this bunch is Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, but all the attractions provide simple couch-jostling fun. These attractions (Ghost Mansion, Mario Chase and Animal Crossing: Sweet Day) will be the ones you break out most often during large gatherings.
You’re pretty much guaranteed to find at least a few attractions you like. Unless you’re a jerk.
The other three multiplayer attractions are mostly devoted to co-op play. These ones are best suited to two-person play with a buddy or girlfriend (adding too many people to these modes just causes chaos). The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest is an on-rails action game in which Wiimote holders slash enemies with swords, while the person with the GamePad shoots arrows. Metroid Blast casts Wiimote players as Samus Aran (who controls much like she did in the Metroid Prime games), while the GamePad holder pilots her gunship. Finally, Pikmin Adventure is a fun Gauntlet-like hack and slash (and Nintendo Land’s best attraction overall). These co-op attractions are Nintendo Land’s meatiest — any one of them packs in more content than all of Wii Sports’ minigames combined (Pikmin Adventure for instance, serves up a whopping 22 unique stages).
Nintendo Land’s single player attractions generally aren’t as substantial as its multiplayer offerings, but most are solid little time-wasters nonetheless. Yoshi’s Fruit Cart, in which you draw lines on the GamePad to direct Yoshi towards tasty fruit and Captain Falcon’s Twister Race in which you steer an F-Zero car by tilting the GamePad are surprising standouts. The only dud of the bunch (and really, the only dud in all of Nintendo Land) is Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, a shooting gallery that has you awkwardly swiping throwing stars off the GamePad screen.
So, Nintendo Land is a fun game. The deepest, most dependably entertaining minigame collection Nintendo has ever made. Unfortunately for Nintendo I don’t think it’s destined to be the console-selling dynamo Wii Sports was.