London - Having had the chance to play about half of the attractions on Nintendo Land – Nintendo’s virtual theme park on the Wii U console – I’m left in something approaching awe regarding the cleverness of the Japanese gaming giant.
Much as visitors to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom will saunter through themed worlds – from Frontierland with its Wild West overtones to the space age Tomorrowland – so will visitors to Nintendo Land be treated to entertainment inspired by the likes of Pikmin, The Legend of Zelda, F-Zero, Super Mario Bros, Luigi’s Mansion, Metroid, Animal Crossing and more.
To Nintendo, the benefits of introducing such franchises to a public they may assume comprises the spectrum from core gamers to newcomers (who may for example be playing at a friend’s home) are huge. Not only does it introduce Nintendo’s key franchises to those who know nothing about them, but many of them also teach the basic skills of their parent title through Nintendo Land’s mini-games.
Take Pikmin Adventure, for example, a co-operative mini-game where players work together to defeat clockwork versions of the predators prowling the wilds of the pikmins’ homeworld. As in the full Pikmin games, players assume the role of Captain Olimar – accompanied by Miis dressed as pikmin, incidentally – and proceed to use overwhelming numbers of pikmin to get the better of those predators.
To those of us familiar with Pikmin it’s obvious that herding the cute little blighters, before throwing them atop the backs of the very beasts looking to gobble them, is the way to progress. However, what if you’ve never played it?
Instantly you’re introduced to the fundamentals of the game, not to mention how it is controlled – and through this, Nintendo adds substantially to the number of potential buyers waiting for this year’s Pikmin 3, while giving those potential buyers all the skills they need so they won’t feel alienated by a foreign control system.
It’s a similar story when it comes to Metroid Blast, a frantic shooter based around the Metroid Prime series of first-person Metroid games. Indeed, here the controls are so similar to those of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption that through a fun, no-pressure set-up, where fathers may take on their children, for example, players are gently taught the relatively complex controls of the first-person shooter – at least as far as they go when played in tandem with the gesture control so synonymous with Wii and Wii U.
In fact, perhaps that last point further underlines the brilliance of Nintendo’s strategy, for not only are players learning the ropes of a wide variety of genres while having fun, but they’re learning through the intrinsically different and unique functions of Nintendo’s console. Not overly important you might think, but crucial to Nintendo, as such skills won’t immediately transfer to the control pad-heavy experiences available on the PS3 and Xbox 360.
If there was one problem that Nintendo encountered with the mass – and perhaps unexpected – success of the Wii, it was that the vast majority of gaming newcomers were seduced by the lure of the easily mastered Wii Sports and Wii Fit. Once the shine of those titles had worn off, Wiis were left to gather dust, for such newcomers never really moved across to other, more complicated, genres.
With Wii U all that could change and Nintendo Land is Nintendo’s ticket to success, making it arguably one of the most important launch titles we’ve seen on any console. The only mystery to me is why Nintendo hasn’t bundled it with the family-targeted Wii U Basic bundle too, for surely the more players the better for the Big N. – The Independent