Please note that all content, media and artwork are based on Nintendo Land as shown during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June 2012. Come back soon for the full site!
This is the conundrum of Nintendo Land: it is at once convoluted and confidently made. It feels way too complex for the old folks' home and, aside from Mario Chase, doesn't seem destined to be a family affair at the average Thanksgiving dinner. It suffers to exist in Wii Sports's shadow. On the other hand, it is undeniably a product of people who know what they are doing and it is blissfully refreshing how well its games control. It's easy to get caught up on the Wii U finally giving Nintendo's designers access to more processing power and HD graphics, but it's also finally letting them design console games for two analog sticks again. As amusing as shaking and swinging the Wii Remote was—and as much retro-cool there was in turning the Wii Remote sideways and using it as a Nintendo Entertainment System-style two-button controller—Nintendo Land gives us the chance to see Nintendo's designers utilizing a more diverse and appropriate set of tools. We get stylus controls for light real-time-strategy in Nintendo Land's Pikmin. We get gyro camera controls in Zelda archery. We get tilt controls in a Donkey Kong maze game. We get sensible analog stick controls to pilot a ship in Metroid. This complexity of control options may make the Wii U and a game like Nintendo Land off-putting to people who craved the simplicity of the Wii, but to those of us who are sick of the imprecise controls of so much of modern gaming—Kinect games that don't register your gestures; iOS games that are confused by your thumbs; Wii games that asked you to shake when a button-press would have sufficed—this new game is a blessed course correction. Crazy, experimental games are fine. Crazy, experimental games that control well are better.
All of Nintendo Land's games do something interesting with the system. Some merit no further experimentation than what Nintendo has done here. Some will excite players as much as they might frustrate them that there's no full-sized game yet that uses the same mechanic or lore. All of them, however, are more complex than Wii Sports tennis or bowling. All of them require Nintendo Land mascot Monita to yammer on about how to hold this controller or that, who needs to look at this screen, who needs to use that part of the controller. Try a Wii U game out on a friend and you'll find yourself explaining things way more than you ever had to explain the best of Wii Sports. Once you get going, though? These games work really well.
The level of polish in Nintendo Land will be appreciated by serious gamers and Nintendo fans. As classic Nintendo song after classic Nintendo song plays, gamers will find a lot of elements in the attractions to make them smile. Some are callbacks to older games. That's Samus' suit from Metroid Fustion in Metroid Blast. That's a Stalfos in Zelda. The best references, though, are just the references to that little something extra that Nintendo's best games always seemed to have. Take one mission in the lengthy Zelda: Battle Quest game, for example, when wind starts blowing and the archer suddenly has to aim differently to compensate as he or she shoots enemies through the gusts. Take Luigi's Ghost Mansion a competitive hide and seek game that uses small amounts of rumble to signal to TV players that the GamePad player's invisible ghost is getting near them. Take the careful doling out of special power moves in Takamaru Ninja's Castle that turn what initially feels like a simple target-shooting game into a complicated juggle of throwing stars, bombs and the option to switch things to super slow-mo.
Nintendo Land is a collection of 12 new games (called "attractions") representing some of Nintendo's most popular franchises, as well as a few lesser-known ones. The 12 attractions are the following:
Mario Chase looks to be what became of the Catch Mii tech demo shown at E3 2011.
When the Wii U launched in North America, Europe, and Australia, Nintendo Land came bundled with Wii U Deluxe Sets and was also available separately.
Nintendo Land borrows Coins and Question Blocks from the Mario series. As you play through the attractions, you'll earn "Nintendo Land Coins," which are used in the Coin Game to win prizes (contained in "? boxes") for your plaza. The Coin Game is designed to look like an 8-bit NES game, and uses Coin and ? Block graphics based on sprites from Super Mario Bros.
Three-dimensional Question Blocks also appear in the Pikmin Adventure attraction.