Sunday, October 28, 2012

3RM @ NYCC 2012: Nintendo Land

At New York Comic Con, Nintendo demonstrated a collection of games coming out this holiday season for the Wii U, ranging from third party efforts such as ZombiU and Scribblenauts Unlimited to first party releases such as New Super Mario Bros. U.  However, the game that had the most demo units on the showfloor was Nintendo Land, a collection of “attractions” spanning a multitude of Nintendo’s franchises, all focused on pushing out unique gameplay using the Wii U GamePad.

Nintendo Land consists of twelve attractions split up between three gameplay scenarios: three are both single and multiplayer, three are solely multiplayer, and the remaining six are mostly single-player.  At New York Comic Con, six games were playable, and we got to play all of them, split between the headings below.

Metroid Blast

Mission Assault Mode (w/o in-game audio)

Ground vs. Air Mode


Metroid Blast was presented prominently at the booth, running non-stop during the four-day convention. Players played through two different modes: a horde mode and a land verses ship mode. While the other players used the Wii Remote Plus and Nunchuck controls to play as Samus Aran characters, I managed to play this game with the Wii U GamePad as Samus’s gunship. There was a definite learning curve for these controls as I not only had to use the two control sticks to move the ship around but I also had to make use of the gamepad’s tilt function in order to aim my ship’s crosshairs. It was definitely not the easiest game to jump into without practice. Starting off with the horde mode, both the Samus players and ship player must work together to destroy waves of monsters invading the area. The area we played was an open, futuristic arena with a tall tower in the middle, and the aliens attacking us were reminiscent to Zoomers from the Metroid series. The way to defeat these enemies was to shoot large power buttons located on their bodies, but players could also charge and shoot bombs which could take out whole clusters of enemies at once.

After the horde mode was the land vs ship battle. Taking place in a level resembling Norfair right down to its soundtrack, the battle had the Samus characters working together to defeat the ship player, in this case me. The controls remained the same from before, but new strategies were needed to face off against human players. One interesting thing I noticed was that when the fight began, my ship started on a launch pad away from the battlefield, which meant I had to fly into the arena where the Samuses were waiting. To balance the all-vs-one match, the ship gets more health than each individual player below, but that did not help me in the long run. While the ship had a rapid-fire attack, it lacked accuracy compared to the ground players’ attacks. Using the ship’s powerful bombs, I defeated one Samus player, leaving him in his Zero Suit. Alas, while taking down the remaining player, the ZSS player found a heart, giving him back his power suit, which he used to surround me and take me down. Along with a ground vs ground battle, I can see this attraction getting used the most.

Presumably the biggest game played at the show, this game was constantly being played on the big screen.  In Metroid Blast, players with Wii Remote Pluses play as bounty hunters on the ground, while the player on the Wii U GamePad controls a gunship, flying through the air with ease.  There were two sub-games attendees got to play: Assault Mission Mode and Ground vs. Air Mode.  In Assault Mission Mode, all players work together to fight off a horde of monsters which fill the stage in waves.  After completing the Assault Mission stage, the attendants led us to a Norfair-esque battlefield to play Ground vs. Air Mode, in which the players on the ground have to fend off the gunship pilot above.

In my time playing the game, I only played on the Wii Remote Plus, and in doing so, I think there could be some issues with the controls here and there.  Because the reticule moves as a result of the Wii Remote Plus, there were moments when the reticule shifted erratically across the screen.  I would like to say this is probably the venue’s fault more than the game’s, but I will not be able to tell fly until the game’s final release.  Also, I found that dodging as a ground unit was pretty difficult, even with the ability to shrink into a morph ball.  Outside of those complaints, the game was quite action-packed.  I liked walking through the battlefield shooting wildly at the enemies in the distance, and I also enjoyed shooting charged grenades to wipe out whole clusters of monsters at once.  I only got to use it once or twice, but the grapple beam was a good evasion tactic and a fun maneuver to use for us bounty hunters.  I just wish the attendants let us play a harder level for the Assault Mission Mode so we could really get a feel of that mode.

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest


The other cooperative game I played was The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, which had four Links fighting their way through Zelda-inspired locales to save Hyrule. The only stage playable was in the Dark Woods on our way to the Forest Temple, which was filled with Chu Chus and Bokoblins. Similar to Metroid Blast, three of the Links used the Wii Remote Plus while the fourth Link used the Wii U GamePad. The Wii Remote Plus Links had swords, which would slash the same way the remotes were swung, and the player with the GamePad had a bow and arrow, which could be aimed by looking around with the GamePad. 

Once again, I had my hands-on with this game using the GamePad as my fellow Links handled the swords. Much like the Swordplay games in Wii Sports Resort, once the mission starts, the Links begin to move on their own toward the nearest enemy, which they then had to slash at in order to move on or else get hit. This was also true with my Link except the bow was not catered for close combat, so it was better to keep my distance. I noticed when I readied an arrow to shoot, my Link stopped moving forward, allowing me to survey the scene and strike enemies at a distance as well as any high-raised, arrow-shooting enemies that my sword-wielding compatriots could not reach. However, I also noticed that sometimes I would ready an arrow while my Link allies continuously moved forward, leaving me behind. It was important for me to know when to move forward with my crew or stay back and attack from the distance. 

There were times when teamwork was needed to solve puzzles such as striking buttons at the same time or shooting an arrow at some rope to open up a pathway. There were also puzzle-like enemies resembling a monster in Four Swords that required the Links to slash a certain way or simply arrow its eye out. Although these puzzle were limited, I would like them to be expanded in the final adventure. At the end of the stage, the four of us had to defeat a large Moblin with a massive club and shield. While the three swords tried to attack the beast head-on, I was able to aim for his head, which peaked over the shield. The boss was tricky, but I really hope there are more classic Zelda bosses that make their way into the game, too. After he was defeated, we all received the Triforce, saving the day. This time, anyway.


The other single-or-multiplayer attraction was The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest.  In this game, the Wii Remote Plus players control heroes with swords to fend off foes, while the Wii U GamePad player uses a bow and arrow to shoot at enemies from afar and activate switches the other players could not.  Unlike Metroid Blast, we only played a single mode, a quest through the Dark Woods into a temple to obtain the fabled Triforce!  Like Metroid Blasts’ cooperative mode, the entire team has collective hit-points, so cooperation is key for survival.

In my scrimmage through Battle Quest, I once again played on the Wii Remote Plus.  If you have ever played Wii Sports Resort’s Swordplay game, you should know how the game feels from the get-go.  The characters move steadily forward through the landscape, and as enemies emerge one way or another, each of the sword-wielders rushes toward the closest one to fight.  Here, enemies can be hit by swinging the Wii Remote Plus (and with it, the sword) into them, but some enemies have shields or other mechanisms blocking certain swings, so aim is just as important as speed when fighting enemies.  In order to block oncoming attacks from nearby or from far-reaching locations, players can pull up a shield to protect themselves.  As for the GamePad user, he or she aims with the movement of the GamePad itself and keeps in the back to shoot at enemies before they overwhelm the rest of the team.  I found fighting the enemies to be quite delightful, even if the level itself was rather simple in the end.  The greatest difficulty came with fighting the boss, who along with two minions fought continually, and we were on the brink of defeat when an arrow struck the head of the massive moblin.  In the end, it was fun to cooperate with other people in the adventure, but I wonder how the experience feels as a single-player game.

Animal Crossing: Sweet Day


The last multiplayer game I got a hands-on with was Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. Much like the other games, the players are divided into two groups: the hungry animals with Wii Remote Pluses and two guard dogs with the Wii U GamePad. Once again, I was the player with Wii U GamePad. The goal of this mini-game is for the greedy animals to eat 50 candies before time runs out or for the guard dogs to catch the animals three times. While the hungry animals start out faster than the dogs, eating candy makes their heads larger, slowing them down in the process. Also, since the candy grows on trees, these animals need to work together to shake the candy out of the trees. While each Wii Remote Plus player controls one animal, I had to control both dogs at the same time with the left control stick and L button used to control one guard and the right control stick and R button used to control the other. Unlike the other players who see the game on the television via a split-screen, I had my own view of the game via the gamepad screen that expanded larger the further away my dogs got from each other, but this also made it harder for them to work together to surround the criminal animals. Despite the complexity of controlling two characters at the same time, I seemed to have the advantage as both matches I played ended relatively quickly with me as the victor. My concern with this game was that it felt too easy for me to win despite being outnumbered. Hopefully other stages in this mode will cater more to the other animals.


Sweet Day was one of two multiplayer-only games at the showfloor, and it was also the game I played the least.  In it, the Wii Remote Plus players assume the role of Animal Crossing characters who want to eat as much fruit as possible from the trees around town, and the Wii U GamePad player controls two guards at the same time.  In this mode, the villagers win if they collectively gather a set number of sweets from the trees, and the guards win if they catch three of the villagers first.

I got to play as a villager in my game, and in that short time, I found this game to be a bit sided toward the guards for a couple reasons.  For one, a number of trees need to be shook in order drop sweets; this can require almost all of the villagers to group together at once.  Secondly, as someone collects sweets, they move slower due to the weight, but they can drop their stash to regain their speed and escape the guards.  The combination of those two factors made it easy for the guards to get all three of us in a manner of a couple minutes.  It was a fun frantic game, yes, but it was really short and felt slightly one-sided.

Luigi’s Ghost Mansion


The second playable multiplayer attraction at NYCC was Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, a game involving hunting ghosts while being hunted by ghosts.  Players with Wii Remote Pluses control Luigi-clones armed only with flashlights, and the player with the Wii U GamePad assumes the role of a mischievous ghost.  The goal of the Luigis is to capture the usually-invisible ghost with flashlights; when the ghost is in the light, its hit-points deplete until it reaches zero.  As for the ghost, its goal is to scare the Luigis into submission, and once all have been scared stiff, the ghost is the winner.

The twist in this game is that the prey is also a predator, capable of taking down the flashlight-bearing characters from behind and pulling them into darkness.  At the same time, however, the ghost has to avoid the light of all of the same people, so approaching them is a strategy in of itself.  Thankfully for the ghost, the Wii U GamePad shows everything for the ghost, allowing for more ideal strategies.  As for me, I took part as one of those ghost hunters, and hunting the ghost proved quite complicated.  Keeping the light on at all times would not work for long, as flashlights have batteries to recharge, dooming players to a ghastly surprise if they do not conserve their flashlights.  On top of this, if the team splits up too much, the ghost will be easily able to take them one by one.  Staying together and helping keep each other conscious is key to winning, but cooperation is needed, lest the ghost get its way.  In my experience, it felt pretty intense, especially when I was caught by a ghost, myself.  Thankfully, the only remaining teammate had shined his light at the ghost, freeing me from its grasp.  In the end, we humans persevered, but only by the skin our teeth and with a lot of teamwork.  It may have been a bit shorter than some of the attractions shown, but it was certainly enough to make me a believer in the game’s multiplayer elements.

Donkey Kong’s Crash Course


Donkey Kong’s Crash Course was one of the single player games available to play at Nintendo’s booth. The point of the game is to guide a kart-like object through a large, complex obstacle course using the Wii U GamePad’s tilt function, though sometimes the game needs some button input to progress, too. At one part of the course, I had to use the R and L buttons to move platforms, ramps, and elevators, and the last obstacle I reached had me rotate one control stick to spin a spiral pathway. On the television screen, I saw a large view of the course to get an idea of my progress or lack thereof, while on the GamePad screen I had a better view of the kart and obstacles, which helped me navigate the massive course. Despite this game looking simple, it was much harder than it looked. Going too fast in some spots had me crash the kart, forcing back to a checkpoint. Going too slow in another spot had me poorly land a jump, again crashing the kart. With only four lives, I did not get very far at all. One interesting detail I noticed was whenever I crashed the kart, a chalk explosion would mark where I failed as a reminder of my progress. This game is a definite challenge, and I only wish I could have gotten further into it.


Donkey Kong’s Crash Course was the only single player specific game I got to demo at New York Comic Con (Tony got to play the other as well), and from what I got to play from it, I feel it will be a fairly infuriating but equally-rewarding experience in its final form.  In Crash Course, players control a contraption, guiding it around an obstacle course in order to reach a virtual Pauline at the end of the level.  Every now and again, players pass a checkered flag to act as a checkpoint, and once some traumatic blow is given to the contraption’s “head,” the player starts back from the last checkpoint with one less life.  This attraction ends when either the life count has run out or when the player has reached Pauline (a feat I have yet to see to this day).

The game controls mostly by tilting the Wii U GamePad in the direction the player wants to move the contraption.  At times, though, other things such as the joysticks and L/R triggers are needed to maneuver specific switches and obstacles around the course.  At first, movement felt odd to me, but once I got the feeling of weight to the vehicle, I was able to maneuver it through a number of areas.  After some time playing, I reached an area of the game I had not seen before, and it would take me a couple deaths before I knew how to approach the area.  In the end, I still did not reach what I assume was close to the end of the course, but I feel that continual replays of the game will eventually make me a master at this game.  It has a learning curve that can bother some, but I think this sort of challenge is worth it.  My only concern is that the GamePad itself does not really offer a unique premise that could not be done on a Wii Remote Plus, unless some factors come into play later on that we do not know; I also hope we see more than one Crash Course in the final release.

Takamaru's Ninja Castle


The final attraction I got to play was another single player game, Takamaru’s Ninja Castle. Based off an old Famicon series, the game’s objective is to defeat a brigade of ninjas using paper ninja stars. The game is played with the Wii U GamePad on its side, facing the television screen. Much like an old arcade shooter, ninjas popped out of the background trying to attack me. However, by sliding my hand across the touch screen I could throw ninja stars at them, but there was more to it than that. Not only did I have to swipe the touch screen but also I had to do it at a certain speed to give my throws strength behind them as well as tilt the gamepad in order to aim where they were being thrown. 

In this adventure, there were a variety of ninjas attacking me constantly: blue ninjas that simply moved about the area, pink ninjas that threw ninja stars, yellow ninjas that carried bombs, and a black ninja with a sword to block my attacks as well as the ability to throw ninja stars. It was this black ninja that finished me off after  tense battle. It was a fun shooter, although it did get tiring to swipe my hand continuously in order to throw the stars. Another issue I had was that at the end of my playtime the GamePad seemed off-sync with the game and needed to be re-synced. I also hope the game has more enemy types throughout the later stages.



All of the attractions were filled with HD visuals and ran smoothly no matter how much action hit the screen. Filled with bloom effects and high-resolution textures, the game looks pleasant, and being filled with nods to Nintendo's franchises also adds to its charm. I really enjoyed that each game mode focused on a particular art style such as Zelda being made out of fabrics and dolls while Takamaru’s game was all origami. I can only imagine what the other games look like in the end.

Nintendo Land is coming around to be an amazing launch title for the Wii U. Having both colorful visuals and creative gameplay for both single player and multiplayer experiences, this game has a lot to offer. My only concerns with the game are the various learning curves needed to learn the new controls for each of the game’s attractions. There is still a lot left to play in Nintendo Land, and I cannot wait to see what Nintendo has in store when this launches alongside the Nintendo Wii U this November.


In the end, Nintendo Land offered me quite a few different viewpoints for its final release, and I was delighted at a number of them, with their own little issues here and there.  I only got to play on the GamePad for one of them, and I enjoyed that one perhaps the most of the attractions there.  I did not really mention the art styles for the attractions, but I found them to be quite colorful and unique.  I do think that there could be some better modeling with some of the environments and the Miis, but there is no doubt this could not be run on a Wii.
Nintendo Land releases on the Wii U’s launch date: November 18th, 2012.  The game will be available by itself or as a pack-in for those who purchase the Wii U Deluxe Bundle.