With the release of the groundbreaking Wii six years ago, Nintendo understood the need for an easy-to-use game to act as a tutorial for the whole system’s capabilities – thus Wii Sports was packaged free with every Wii console. The task ahead of the Wii U is less daunting, with people now used to motion controls in games, but it’s still going to be a leap for a lot of people. Most punters assumed a Wii U Sports title would fill this role once again, but Nintendo have offered something different.
NintendoLand is a virtual theme park, in which players can jump into mini-games that show off the capabilities of the Wii U, and teach players the required skills.
Most of these mini-games are based on established Nintendo franchises: Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion have all been announced in various detail.
A new one, titled Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, evolved out of the ninja star tech demo we saw at last year’s E3. Players hold the GamePad out flat, and swipe across the touch screen to flick throwing stars at targets on-screen.
These mini-games are used to demonstrate the concept repeatedly referred to as “Asymmetrical Gameplay”. Essentially this means that not all players are competing for the same goal, or even necessarily playing the same type of game. Often, one player with a GamePad will be pitted against four players with Wii remotes.
In Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, for example, four players using Wii remotes move around a maze haunted by ghosts they can’t see. As they make their way around, their controller will vibrate when a ghost is near, and they must stun them with a torch beam and capture them. If a ghost sneaks up on a player, it can incapacitate them, rendering them helpless until teammates arrive. The players win if they capture all the ghosts, the ghosts win if they incap all players.
The twist is, the fifth player has a view of the whole level on the GamePad, and they can not only see the ghosts floating around, but direct them, with the intention of trapping the other players. That player may be outnumbered, but it’s balanced by giving them an advantage.
The concept of asymmetrical gameplay is fascinating, although it may be hard to understand in text. But that only highlights how useful Nintendoland will prove to be: a few minutes watching the game play out and it makes sense. The ideas for potential strategies begin to flow almost immediately.
Nintendo have said there will be software included with the Wii U console to show off the new hardware, as Wii Sports did for the Wii. NintendoLand could fill this role perfectly: it shows off the capabilities of the hardware perfectly, and acting as a player’s first experience with the Wii U it can start their mind reeling with possibilities for future titles.
It hasn’t been confirmed, but I can’t see many people forking out for a mini-game compilation that probably won’t hold attention for too long. If it isn’t shipped with the console, the only other reasonable option would have to include other hardware, like a GamePad – similar to how WiiPlay was packaged with a Wii remote. Either way, NintendoLand looks to be a microcosm of the Wii U’s exciting potential.