One of the most controversial announcements at this year's E3 came during the Nintendo press briefing when the Japanese video game maker showcased Nintendo Land for the first time to the public. Build to demonstrate the Wii U's capabilities; Nintendo Land is a theme park themed centralized hub that will feature 12 unique titles to coincide with the launch of the system. During E3 Nintendo was had five of them on display and announced the sixth one, leaving the remaining six to be revealed in the coming months. The five games that were on the show floor took advantage of some of Nintendo's oldest i.p.s to help drive home what the games, and system were all about.
Needless to say, some people didn't get it, and backlash arose immediately, both around the console and the games. Some people were saying that the unreleased console is already outdated technology, particularly in the shadow of Microsoft's SmartGlass announcement. Others said that the Wii U isn't going to have the same broad appeal that the Wii had. And even more wondered if Nintendo could capture the same lightning a bottle that they did for Wii with the Wii U.
The thing is, they absolutely can. They just need to do the same thing they've had to do with all of their recent hardware releases: get the system into peoples' hands so they can see it for themselves. And that's where Nintendo Land comes in.
Wisely packed in with every Wii console was a virus – it's name was Wii Sports. In addition to offering an incentive to the purchase of a new console, Wii Sports also served as entry point for potential gamers, new and old, to introduce them to an entirely new way to play video games with the Wii remote. The Wii U's virus is Nintendo Land.
At first glance, Nintendo Land appears to exemplify all of the problems that core gamers had with the Wii: gimmicky controls, childish graphics, and immature themes. However, once you dig a little further and get into the games, it executes on the task that it was intended to do like an expert surgeon wielding a scalpel. Each of the mini-games included as part of Nintendo Land demonstrate different mechanics that players will need to use in order to learn that they can enjoy playing games on two screens just as much as on one. Each of the mini-games are deeper experiences than Wii Sports was, offering more than a superficial, abbreviated game of golf
Here's a rundown of the mini games that were showcased at E3 and what they highlight:
Donkey Kong's Crash Course– Returning to a world reminiscent of DK's first title, this mini-game takes advantage of the Wii U's gyroscope and accelerometer to show off the controller's tilt capabilities.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest – The first high definition Zelda game showcases how three people can be playing the exact same scene and having entirely different experiences. As Wiimote controlled Link-constumed Mii's attack foes with their swords, the Wii U controller based player uses the screen and motion controls to fire arrows as a ranged support character.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day – This one tackles dual-screen play as well as using the analog sticks to navigate two separate characters as you chase down other players while they are attempting to collect candy.
Takamaru's Ninja Castle – This paper ninja star throwing game demos how easy it is to use the Wii U controller's touchscreen as an input device to interact with a game.
Luigi's Ghost Mansion – Borrowing a few ideas from the Miyamoto designed Pac-Man Vs., Luigi's Ghost Mansion puts the Wii U controller at the helm of a ghost who is hunting down the player controlled characters. The ghost can only be seen on the Wii U screen unless there's a light source hitting it.
(On a side note, I wouldn't be too surprised if the Metroid and Mario games shown off at this year's CES help round out the list of games.)
There is one small caveat though: most of these games are best enjoyed with a group of people, passing around the controller to take advantage of the different gameplay options. This speaks to the social gaming experience that Nintendo kept talking about this year, except this one takes place on the same couch.
Much like every other game on the market, potential players will need to actually play these games in order to see what surprises they hold, and form their own opinions as to whether or not they're good. The true results will be proven once the console hits the streets sometime later this year – and it already looks like Nintendo will be doing it's best to get the system in the hands of consumers in advance of the console's launch. Will consumers be willing to shell out an undisclosed amount of money for a next-gen Nintendo console? And if they do, will Nintendo Land be the killer app that spreads the word of the Wii U that Nintendo needs it to be? We're just going to have to wait and see.