I’ve actually liked Nintendo Land since it was first announced, even
despite the initial negativity/hostility a number of other outlets
(and gamers) showed towards it. (This is probably because I actually
played it before I read anything about it online.) A lot of the
negativity I think comes from the misconception that Nintendo Land is
a “mini-game compilation.” I remember this misconception also flying
around for Wii Sports. The reality seems more like “a full suite of
home arcade games and multiplayer modes” just as Wii Sports was “a
full suite of sports games” – though I think Nintendo Land is probably
more comparable to a more ambitious Wii Play, with its “Tanks!” game
and that one game that emulated Duck Hunt.
It’s not a coincidence that Nintendo has avoided using the word
“mini-game.” They’re basing a number of their games on old NES/Famitsu
arcade titles – none of which anyone would have called a “mini-game.”
And from what I played at E3, the relationships to those arcade roots
are more than just skin deep.
The Donkey Kong game may not feature Mario/Jumpman, but it still
manages to incorporate similar “rules.” Like in the original arcade
game, you can’t fall too far without dying, and they’ve expanded on
this by punishing you for crashing or flipping over as well. It’s a
good balance of speed and precision – go too slow, and you tip
over/get crushed; too fast, and you slam into the wall. I am
interested to see how many courses they will include and whether the
more complicated obstacles like conveyor belts, blazing oil drums,
tumbling barrels, and so on will show up in the later levels. Just
based on the one level I’ve played so far, I think it is definitely
difficult enough that four stages will suffice, just like in the
Zelda: Battle Quest is more or less a rail shooter…except I get to
use a sword and shield if I want to. It feels a lot snappier than
Skyward Sword, and thanks to the relatively fast pace of the game the
combat didn’t come off as cerebral. At first glance I was kind of
disappointed that you can’t move around freely, but I realized that
the trade-off is that they’re shifting the challenge focus back to
where it belongs – fighting many waves of enemies. (I hope this is a
sign for the future of the franchise!) And it supports four players. I
don’t think I’ve ever played a rail shooter that supports four
I don’t think I need to explain how Takamaru’s Ninja Castle is a
successor to the light gun gallery games. Obviously I haven’t played
Balloon Trip Breeze, but I’m a Balloon Trip addict and it sounds like
they’re incorporating all of the essential elements correctly.
For these “arcade”-like games, I think it’s interesting how the way
the GamePad is used tends to mirror the iPad/smartphone games enough
(tilting the controller for Donkey Kong, adapting Balloon Trip for a
touch screen) that I think the skills will be easily transferable. At
the same time, these are definitely not iPad/smartphone games.
Game Informer mentioned “competition in Miiverse” which I hope doesn’t
mean they’re ignoring simple leaderboards in favor of a social
networking driven online competition scene.
As for the “multiplayer mode” games:
I like how the Animal Crossing and Luigi’s Mansion games largely
amount to “virtual tag.” It’s kind of hard to go wrong with tag -
there is a reason why it is so well-known. And, hey, I’m 24, when am I
going to get an opportunity to play tag ever again? I am very much
hoping to be able to play tag online so I can compete with others
without having to get a bunch of friends together and make them sit
down to play video games (I do not have many local friends who are
into video games).
I played Metroid Blast back when it was Battle Mii. I like how it
differentiates itself from popular shooters by “overpowering” the
GamePad player without totally unbalancing the game, since the other
players are much more nimble and it is of course easier for them to
see (and hit) the player in the ship. I like that Nintendo is
including other game modes like co-op vs. CPU enemies, but I hope
they’re wise enough to include a four-player deathmatch mode as well
(its absence from the Game Informer preview has me a bit concerned).
And, again, this game is perfectly suited for online play. I am also
VERY excited to see that it features multiple maps, since that’s the
main key that assures me that Nintendo is not treating the
“attractions” like mini-games while trying to pass them off as
I like what I see, and I like what I’ve played…but I’m not sure the
“Nintendo Land” branding, the Miis, and Nintendo categorizing it as a
“interactive theme park” (this is the “genre” listed on the game’s web
page) are doing it any favors. I get the impression that Nintendo is
trying to sell the game to holiday shopper moms with the childish
branding, while hoping that existing gamers who read about games on
the internet will recognize the value of its arcade and multiplayer
mode offerings and be drawn in at that level as you seem to have been.
I can understand that ensuring the game gets an “E” rating might
actually be seen as kind of important given the job it is supposed to
do. But I’m not confident that relying too heavily on making it SEEM
overtly to be a “party game” (all high traffic sources label it as
such) is a good idea. Those games are decent sellers, but never Wii
Also, I recall that you said once that using the “Nintendo” brand for
Nintendo Land might be a mistake. At first I agreed, but you made a
comment recently that actually made me change my mind:
“It is not implausible that in the future there will only be the
distinct Nintendo console surrounded by PC gaming. We will know when
we are in that time because no one will refer to ‘playing games on
consoles’, it will be as was said in the 80s: “Playing games on
Nintendo” as ‘consoles’ will be referred to as ‘Nintendos’.”
Could the branding be a strategic move? I’m not sure it really makes
sense otherwise. “Nintendo” may be exactly the right brand…insofar
at least as Nintendo Land borrows from Nintendo’s arcade roots. As you
often say, there is no company today that identifies with arcade
values – and specifically the adaptation of arcades to the home
console space – as closely as Nintendo. It’s kind of a ballsy move in
that respect. If this game does not succeed, what would that do to the
Nintendo brand? But if it does succeed…
I looked up Battle Mii. I suppose Metroid Blast will look like this:
I’m not at all interested in Miis dressed up in Samus suits. When we think of Metroid, we think of a very Alien atmosphere that was done well in the early Metroid games and continued in the Metroid Prime games. Doing the Japanese cutesy style with this really removes my enthusiasm. I’m glad Nintendo does cute games, but not every game should be ‘cutie-pie’.
You said Nintendo Land is like a collection of arcade games. Let’s roll with that. When we look at arcade games, what do we find? We go from games from Pac-Man, Frogger, Donkey Kong, Defender, Asteroids, Battlezone, Space Invaders, Robotron, and Missile Command. The problem I have with Nintendo Land trying to be ‘arcade games’ is that arcade games have a much richer aesthetic range than anything we’ve seen in Nintendo Land. Yes, we have Donkey Kong aesthetics in one but everything else is ‘cutesy’ from Zelda’s ‘cloth’ graphics to the toy-like Metroid Blast. Can you honestly say that any game in Nintendo Land feels like Robotron or Spy Hunter? Or Street Fighter 2? Or Mortal Kombat? Arcade gaming wasn’t isolated to the cutesy art style. There was much diversity which Nintendo Land lacks.
Nintendo Land looks designed to be for the Japanese and not for the rest of the world. When people think of Zelda, they are expecting something more like this:
Instead, they will get this:
When people think of Metroid, they expect something like…
Instead, they will see this:
It looks more like Laser Tag at Vegas than an actual Metroid game.
In Smash Brothers, Nintendo got the art aesthetics right for the Metroid and Zelda stages but seem unable or unwilling to do so in Nintendo Land. While the thinking in NCL may be that the brands will sell Nintendo Land, I think the opposite will occur. Nintendo Land will be very damaging to these games’ brands. It will make them think Metroid, Zelda, and these other games are cutesy mini-games and will remove enthusiasm for the full Wii U versions of them.
I was too hasty in saying I was ‘sold’ on Nintendo Land. Now that I’ve seen more, Nintendo Land is back to being a ‘rent it first’ type of game.
I have no idea why NCL’s artists are so obtuse about having ANY range at all in their art styles. This is not the 90s. Most of the world hates Japanese anime today. It is fine to have a few games to be cute, it is another to have them ALL cute. And even worse, these are established brands and the art style (such as with Zelda and Metroid) are at complete contradiction to what fans of those brands are expecting.
Add in the stupid toy train at the start, and you have a turd. Does Nintendo actually think people will be willing to spend their money on such a ‘game’? Do they not see the turmoil over NSMB’s ‘art style’ (which is quite neutral)? Do they not see the collapse in sales and reputation with Wind Waker’s art style?
They either see it and don’t care, or they think this constant Japanese cutesy style is the best style and everyone who says otherwise is wrong.
What is the point of a Nintendo HD console if Nintendo has no range in the art styles? Is this the graphical preview we’re going to get for every Nintendo brand on the Wii U? It appears that way.
Now excuse me while I go vomit…