A big portion of Nintendo’s E3 booth was devoted to Nintendo Land, the Wii U minigame collection. Stations were set up with five of the twelve attractions featured in the game—Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion and Takamaru’s Ninja Castle. The reward for "visiting" all five was a pin of each game’s logo, so in my quest for unique E3 experiences and swag I ended up stopping by each station.
Since Spencer already took you through The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, I figure we’ll go through the five attractions rather quickly. I’ll tell you the basic motives, then what I did and didn’t like about each one. Let me kick this off right away by saying I didn’t like that Nintendo didn’t have more demo stations open for Donkey Kong’s Crash Course and Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, as both were single-player games with at least 15-20 minute lines to play. The other three demo stations’ lines were ridiculously short and you typically only had to wait a few moments to get your turn.
My first stop was Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, simply because it was the first demo station I saw and the Nintendo representative on hand was offering me a Wii Remote. In this game, four Wii Remote holders control ghost-hunting Miis, while the gamepad holder controls the ghost. The Miis have to corner the ghost and shine a flashlight on it, but also have to take care to not be attacked by the ghost who can tag them, making them faint. If a Mii faints, the other Miis have to use light to revive him or her. The goal for Miis is to catch the ghost, while the goal for the ghost is to make all Miis faint. In my play session, the ghost won.
- Occasionally lightning flashes, lighting up darkened hallways and possibly revealing the ghost.
- Hallways were only wide enough for one person at a time, meaning it would be easy to trap characters.
- Controls were simple and the vibration function was a good way to alert Miis to ghost activity.
- My team wasn’t listening. If I said my controller was vibrating, indicating the ghost was near, they didn’t run to help.
- Extra batteries, needed to recharge Mii flashlights, didn’t drop often enough.
- Reviving characters takes quite a long time.
Next up was Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, because I figured I might as well go in order around the back of the booth. In this game, players’ Mii is in a flimsy cart and must make it from the top of the track to the bottom, collecting bananas along the way. You play using the gamepad, tilting the tablet from side to side while also occasionally pressing the shoulder buttons to move around parts of the course to proceed.
- The graphics looked really cool and reminded me vaguely of Kirby’s Epic Yarn and classic Donkey Kong games.
- The gamepad offers a zoomed-in view of the track while the TV shows the full track.
- You only get 3 lives, which isn’t very helpful considering how difficult this minigame is.
- The motion controls are a bit finicky, making it very hard to control the cart’s speed.
- You’re also timed while playing, which is quite helpful at triggering brief moments of panic when you worry you aren’t going fast enough.
From there, it was on to The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest. Spencer already played this, so let’s tackle this one quickly. It’s based on The Legend of Zelda: Foir Swords Adventures with each Mii being a different Link. In the E3 demo, the person with the gamepad was an archer and the ones with Wii Remotes were swordsmen. (Or a swordswoman, in my case.) You had to fight your way to and into the Forest Temple. What happens when you reach the end? I don’t know. My team didn’t survive.
- It was easy to control, as all you had to do was swing the remote to swing the sword or press B to bring up a shield.
- Some switches required players to work together to trigger them.
- Some enemies switch up their attacks or defenses, requiring you to swing your sword in a different way or use your shield to win.
- Everyone shares a health bar. So even if you’re doing well, your team can bring you down.
- You’re on rails, so you can’t step back or move to the side to dodge or get a better attack stance.
The next game I played was Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, which actually ended up being the longest line. (I think because a lot of people were giving up on Donkey Kong Crash Course due to its difficulty.) In this single-player game you’re a ninja who must toss ninja stars at cardboard cut-out enemies. The goal is to get as high a score as possible without being hit three times by enemies. If you survive to the end of the demo, you win and your score is tallied up based on what kinds of enemies you defeated.
To toss stars, you hold the gamepad flat with the touch screen facing up. You then swipe the touch screen, aiming the end of the gamepad facing the screen at enemies.
- The cardboard ninjas look really cool.
- The control scheme actually makes you feel like a ninja in some kind of movie, quickly sending out stars.
- The brief calibration/testing drums segment during the minigame is a good way to give you an opportunity to send out a few test throws and get used to aiming without worrying about sacrificing points in the actual challenge.
- It does take a moment to learn how to properly aim. It isn’t too difficult though, especially since you’re probably just swiping like crazy by the end of the minigame and not really focusing on accuracy.
I ended my Nintendo Land adventure with Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. Let me start by saying I was exceptionally pleased to discover I had been given the Wii Remote that let me control the Mii dressed as Peanut, my favorite Animal Crossing squirrel neighbor. I think I actually squealed with joy and the Nintendo representative gave me a bit of a weird look after that.
I also think this attraction demo was the best run at Nintendo’s booth since attendees were actually able to play through it a few times. Once you started the demo, you played four times as Miis and one time as the gamepad-holding gatekeepers. If you’re a Mii, then your goal is to work with the three other Miis to eat 50 candies without being caught by gatekeepers. The more you’re holding in your mouth, the bigger and slower you get. You have to work together to keep track of where the gatekeepers are in the maze and to get certain trees to drop candies. My team only collected the 50 candies once.
Being a gatekeeper is far more fun. You get to control two guard Miis, one with each analog stick, and have to chase down and tackle the animal Miis. If you tackle them three times, you win. You get a better view of the board when playing as the gatekeepers and I found it incredibly easy to block off paths with my two guards and tackle unsuspecting animals. As you can guess, I won when I had the gamepad.
- The gamepad offers a great way to keep track of more of the animals at once and it’s easier to keep track of two guards at one time than you’d think.
- Some trees require two or three animals to stand on pads to release sweets, forcing people to work together.
- The forest area of the town/maze is great for keeping away from gatekeepers if you’re an animal.
- You 100% have to play with people who are willing to talk to one another if you’re stuck as an animal. There is no way to beat the gatekeepers if you don’t cooperate and shout out where they are.
So overall, I’d say Nintendo Land did a fairly good job of showing what the Wii U is capable of and really seemed to shine when it came to multiplayer games. As for my favorite minigames, I’d say Animal Crossing: Sweet Day if I had the Wii U GamePad or The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest if I didn’t. My least favorite game was, of course, Donkey Kong’s Crash Course.