Wii U’s Nintendo Land (and why it’s arguably the most important game Nintendo has ever released)

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The Wii U launch title is not only shaping up to be a game to tempt gamers and non-gamers alike, but smartly teaches gaming novices how to play a wide variety of genres.

Having had chance to play about half of the available attractions on Nintendo Land – Nintendo’s virtual theme park which is set to be entertaining gamers from day one of the Wii U’s launch – 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 various themed worlds – from Frontierland with its Wild West overtures 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 what they might assume to be a wide variety of the general public, from core gamers to complete newcomers to games (who might for example be playing at a friends home), is huge. Not only does it advertise Nintendo’s key franchises to those with no prior knowledge of them, but many also teach the basic skills of their parent title through Nintendo Land’s mini-games.

Take ‘Pikmin Adventure’ for example, a cooperative 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 Mii’s dressed as pikmin incidentally – and proceed to use overwhelming numbers of pikmin to get the better of those predators.

To those of us au fait 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 established way to progress. However, what if you’ve never heard of Pikmin, let alone played it?

Instantly you’re introduced to the fundamentals of the game, not to mention how it is controlled – not only therefore substantially adding to the numbers of potential buyers waiting patiently for 2013’s Pikmin 3, but also giving those potential buyers all the skills they need so they won’t feel alienated by a foreign control system; for never forget just how difficult it is to control modern videogames for those coming to the medium afresh.

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 that of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption that through a fun, no pressure set-up, where fathers might take on their kids 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 underlines the brilliance of Nintendo’s strategy further, for not only are players learning the ropes of a wide variety of genres while having fun (and without feeling like they’re having to leaping over insurmountable barriers), but they’re learning via 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 their 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, and the game which could potentially make the difference between Wii U being an unmitigated success or Sega Dreamcast-like failure – the only mystery too me is why Nintendo haven’t bundled the game with the family targetted Wii U Basic bundle too, for surely the more players have access to Nintendo Land the better for the Big N.

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