Dec 26th, 2012

Pity the Mii, Nintendo’s solution to the avatar. This nameless, niche-less icon has oft struggled to take root, bouncing from game to game in straight-faced simplicity while others like Samus and Link have enjoyed back stories and planet-sized liberations.

With the launch of the Wii U, the Mii returns in Nintendo Land, a theme park vibrant with remixes of Nintendo’s greatest franchises. To the casual player, the appeal is simple (the Mii is a signpost for ‘non-gamer game here’), but to hardcore fans, the juxtaposition doesn’t bode well. Running rampant beneath a plethora of timeless classics, how will our Miis back Nintendo’s latest assertion: that there is something in Nintendo Land for everyone?

Your Mii is, once again, a guinea pig for unmarked pursuits, this time twelve attractions bordering the perimeters of Nintendo Land. Needless to say, not one of these pursuits is a plot intensive quest or survival-horror mansion. (I’m left speechless at anyone who so enters the theme park with these expectations in mind.)

Rather, what Nintendo does provide is an array of gaming experiences, each one vastly different from the next, yet each one equally simple to grasp. Be it in Metroid Blast’s third-person shooting or in the precision-based puzzler, Yoshi’s Fruit Cart, the objective is simple, and the controls even simpler. Yes, the Wii U GamePad couldn’t be easier to use — the tutorials take a minute at most — and while each game uses the pad differently, no dynamic feels unintuitive or cumbersome in the least. With an almost nonexistent learning curve, Nintendo Land caters to its casual fans while succinctly introducing an otherwise scary-looking controller.

And with a dozen games to choose from, dare I say, even the hardcore will be hard-pressed not to find at least one Nintendo Land game that doesn’t whet their gaming appetites, at least for a while.

Of the dozen attractions in Nintendo Land, some are restricted to single player, others accommodate from one to five players, and still others are exclusively multiplayer. Of those designed for groups, some are cooperative, and others both cooperative and competitive.

Luigi’s Ghost Mansion pits players’ Miis in a haunted room and equips them with nothing but a flashlight. Of course, these flashlights are far from ordinary. For one, they have abysmal battery life; but more to the point, they reveal ghosts. And who better to play the role of ghost than one who wields the GamePad? Indeed, it is his mission to frighten his opposition without being caught. Meanwhile, all other players must strategize to find and purge him into oblivion.

This concept of asymmetric gameplay in Nintendo Land is a simple one, yet it’s one fully realized with this second screen, which effectively conquers the notorious issue known as ‘screen-watching’.

Nintendo Land Luigi's Ghost Mansion

This simple yet welcome use of the Wii U GamePad is just one of twelve finely-tuned examples Nintendo Land has to offer. However, as a whole, the game is most enjoyed with friends and Wiimotes (and lots of batteries). While most attractions can be played alone, they’re akin to riding a roller coaster by yourself; that is, not as fun.

Even single-player-only games like Donkey Kong’s Crash Course are hardly as good without a crowd to watch and laugh as you blunder and fall. These games are good, make no mistake, but they’re vastly improved when played in the company of others. I don’t live with gamers, so it’s no surprise that I’ve spent far more hours playing games other than Nintendo Land.

While Nintendo Land comes packed-in with the Deluxe Wii U, one might think of it like a board game with a few phone-app style pastimes to boot. Like Wii Sports, it’s a novelty to begin with, but after a while, the game gets shelved, left as a precaution for when someone loses the Monopoly dice.

In all other instances, it shrugs off the dust as often as the one-dollar games on your Smartphone. Almost. Were it not for a few inclusions, Nintendo Land might have been rendered a 60-dollar collection of twelve simple innovations.

Unlike Wii Sports, Nintendo Land offers replay value in the form of collectible coins. Coins gained from any of twelve attractions can be used to try your luck at winning decorations for your park. Some are useful while others are merely aesthetic. For instance, one prize I earned was a switch that changes the setting from daytime to sunset to dusk and back again, while another prize was, well, a watermelon. This added sense of mystery adds incentive to keep earning coins, and, the more prizes you earn, the better your park will look.

Nintendo Land

Moreover, what your phone apps do not have is Miiverse. This social network is seamlessly integrated in Nintendo Land, allowing Miis from all over the world to wander your park with written and hand drawn messages ballooning in speech bubbles for all to see.

At the game over screen, people’s posts will appear left and right, detailing their latest accomplishments, miserable failures and humorous slip-ups, much of which will relate to your own experiences. The option to post a response of your own is also provided, and you can leap to Miiverse any time after a push of the ‘Home’ button.

Attractions also offer trophies related to how far you went in the given game without dying. These incentives to keep playing add depth to an otherwise superficial, albeit innovative, mini-game collection.

Bar the Miiverse community, however,  Nintendo Land lacks all form of online gameplay. The game majors on local multiplayer, but not everyone in a given household necessarily likes playing games in their spare time, casual or no.

While the same could be said of a board game, Nintendo leads a full-fledged fandom itching to get online, and, coupled with a console packed with internet-ready software, this lack of online play seems like a firewall Nintendo specifically deployed on the presumption that it may discourage local multiplayer, and this, to me, makes no sense.

“At least the effects are good,” someone might say. And they wouldn’t be wrong, to a degree. The colorful palette is apt for the game’s audience, and the HD textures make hand-stitched backgrounds and cardboard props look exactly that.

It’s a shame, then, that the Miis get nary a makeover. Indeed, they look exactly the same as they did on Wii Sports, save a few extra polygons. The colors on skin, shirt and pants look like someone borrowed a few buckets from Microsoft Paint. Perhaps he was short on time. In any case, my avatar looks considerably awful now that his simple figure is surrounded in a theme park filled with detail. Even I would feel naked.

Yet, while the visuals may be inconsistent in Nintendo Land, the music is a euphoric bliss of nostalgia. Classic tunes have been revamped and remixed so well that I find myself replaying some games just to hear them. If nothing else, Nintendo veterans will no doubt love what they hear.

Nintendo Land multiplayer

As a demonstration of hardware, Nintendo Land is a generation above Wii Sports. Time and effort garnish this latest mini-game collection, and a skilful inclusion of classic Nintendo franchises provides this party game with a refined sense of identity. Our high definition Miis could do with an improvement in texture, but everything else is coated in a vibrant finish, and the music certainly bears no gripes. The only thing missing is online multiplayer. Miiverse, while apt, is no substitute for true online multiplayer.

Regardless, Nintendo Land is a game to be played with others. While the Deluxe Wii U offers more than a packed-in title, I would discourage purchasing it if this game is the only thing on your mind and you only ever play games alone. Instead, I would advise you to ask yourself: Do you have some spare Wii Remotes? Do you have friends with whom you play social games? Do you long for your Mii to play dress-up? If the answer is yes to all of the above, then this game is undoubtedly worthy of your investment.

Indeed, it’s one of the best social videogames I’ve ever played. But make no mistake, it is a social game, and our Miis will find no lasting significance here. Running rampant beneath a plethora of timeless classics, they can all but fulfill Nintendo’s latest assertion: that there is, in fact, something for everyone.

The good:

  • Intuitive controls
  • Large, unique selection of games
  • Classic tunes

The bad:

  • Situational
  • Lack of online play
  • Miis look sub-par beside everything else

Final Score: 7.5/10

local_offer    Nintendo  Nintendo Land  wii u  
  • Linskarmo

    Great review. But I think the Miis look quite good in this game. Am I the only one that actually likes Miis?

    • DemonRoach


      • Revolution5268

         i like miiself as well.

    • I like Miis

  • Michael Wakeman

    No…I love miis too…

  • DemonRoach

    I sold mine after 2 days.  Why?  My Nintendo Wii came with 1 Gamepad.  It takes 2 Wii Remotes to play multiplayer: Do the math.  Nintendo really hit the wall on this sack of crap.

    •   lol, and how do you want to play multiplayer with just one controller? 😀

      • DemonRoach

         Of course, but they should of bundled SMB, not this.  It was a bad bundle. 

        • Jeffery02

          You’re right that Nintendo Land isn’t the best single player game. However, you have to remember that that’s not the purpose of it. Nintendo Land is meant to show off what the system can do for the player and their friends. NSMBU would have been better for the individual gamer, however, Nintendo wants as many people as possible to try out the GamePad and it’s many playing options. NSMBU does not utilize the GamePad as effectively as Nintendo Land. Also, just because NL wasn’t the game for you doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a good game to come with it. It could have come with nothing like many other consoles have (including the Wii U Basic) so maybe you need to be a little less greedy. (Yes I understand that last sentence was due to the angry Nintendo fanboy in me)

    • beerkin

      Hahaha! wiiU rules man. Who sells a system after a day. You are an idiot. Sir.

  • Seth S. Scott

    Will have to disagree and say that this has been my favorite SINGLE-player game I have so far. I keep coming back to it almost every day by myself. The challenge, constant level progression and prizes to unlock are awesome. I also do think that the Mii’s look fine, quite nice actually. 

  • Chris C

    Yeah this review is about 1 month late.

    • Guest

      Sorry, sir. You’ll have to forgive me. Times have been a-hectic, and I’ve only recently been granted sufficient time with the game to contextualise an honest review. 🙁

      • Justin Katt

        Honest not really but its mostly shit… You’re such a wanna be good writer.

  • RoadyMike

    The only thing I don’t like in Nintendo Land is that there wasn’t a Kirby or Pokemon attraction.But that’s just about it :/
    Also,I don’t see why not having online play is a con.Its a game that comes with the(deluxe)Wii U to see the systems and Gamepad functions and capabilities
    Wii Sports didn’t have online either,but did it really matter for that particular game?Nope.Same case here
    And bitch please,the Miis look faabuloous~

  • Justin Katt

    You are awful and terrible at writing reviews! Seriously you threw so many big words in, just sound smart and the negative comments are not just. Furthermore the statement ” Needless to say, not one of these pursuits is a plot intensive quest or survival-horror mansion.” is idiotic to say due to the fact that those are two actual attractions. Either Learn how to Review or well simply get replaced because that was simply awful and too wanna be pro reviewer/writer like.

    • Why are you so harsh on the reivewer.  I was able to read the review just fine.   I don’t like his overalll scoring of the game, but I thought it was very thorough and authentic.

      • Justin Katt

        His writing style is too fony. A zingy intro is fine but he kept trying so hard to sound sooo sophisticated and after awhile it got too annoying. It really felt like this was his first review and he wanted to sound like he knew it all because he an write big words in sophisticated ways. I like having big words and sophisticated sentences but that was the entire review so it makes it obvious he just wants to look smart. You don’t do that ever, it is just wrong because he really should have focused more on the game then his writing. His work was so mediocre I don’t think he likes games but just likes to write sophisticated soo people will kiss his ass about it. the score for this game is obviously at least a 9 and his negatives are simply not right and made up completely. He should be fired and have some one else redo the review for this game.

        • Jess Purdy

          The review was pretty overwritten, yeah, but a conversational style takes some time to perfect.

          I don’t think the problem was that they were too “sophisticated,” though.  Just a little wooden.

  • A 7.5 is a little too harsh.  More like an 8.5.    Nintnendoland is meant to remind us of the simple arcade games of old, and that it accomplishes well.  Yeah, it would be nice to have a long distance friend play with you as well, but then I guess it won’t be Nintendoland, since communication would probably be a chore.   Anyway, this game is meant to play if you have a small group of people who like to play videogames, or you wish to relieve classic games of old in an arcade style fashion, as well as be a great showcase for the new system. Right now it is my second most played game behind NSMBU.

    • Jess Purdy

      I’ve always wondered how you determine the relative value of like “7.5 is too much, deserves to have an 8 in front of it.”  I’m not sure I follow much of a difference, isn’t it a pretty good score either way?

  • ” The colors on skin, shirt and pants look like someone borrowed a few buckets from Microsoft Paint.”  What the hell does that even mean?  You realize that a color is a color, regardless of which software you choose to use, right?  This review was pretentious and poorly written for your audience.  Also, take a note from other writers and back up your arguments with some research.  There are reasons NL does not support online play.

    “Nintendo Land’s multiplayer attractions work because of the communication shared between the people playing them,” Eguchi said. “So they were set up from the start to be something people in the same room could enjoy.”

    This is the first and only comment I will ever put on this blog because frankly this review has shown me what kind of shit is allowed to be posted here.