E3 2012 Hands-on Impressions
You ever wished that there was a Nintendo branded theme park? Well this game is like that … only not a real place. NintendoLand looks to be the Wii U’s techdemo minigame collection launch title much like Wii Sports was on the Wii. If you remember in my Nintendo conference prediction article, I mentioned that they would need a new kind of game to introduce players to the new Wii U tablet controller, that they have named the gamepad.
There will be 12 differently-themed parks you can “visit” when the game launches along with the Wii U, but for E3 they only brought five of these to try out. I toured all the attractions on the E3 show floor and here is a quick rundown of some of the games you can expect.
While Nintendo surprisingly had a media blackout on the upcoming 3DS Animal Crossing game, NintendoLand is directed by Katsuya Eguchi who is the same man who has directed the Animal Crossing series. So it is little surprise that there is an Animal Crossing themed minigame.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day is a five player multiplayer game. Four of the players (using a sideways Wiimote) will run around and try to collect candy while the player with the gamepad will simultaneously control two “candy guards” in an attempt to stop them. The game ends when the players collect a total of 50 candy pieces or the guards manage to tackle the villagers three times.
Playing as a villager, your Mii will be wearing this funky costume that resembles one of the Animal Crossing characters. You will have a big headed helmet on that you use to collect the candy in. You can pick up candy with one button and jettison it with another. As you collect more and more candy the helmet will get bigger, slowing your movement down. So if you have a guard on your heels you might have to start sacrificing some of your candy haul for speed so you can make your escape. Dropped candies stay on the field for a few moments so it is possible for other players to collect it in your wake.
Candy is found very rarely just on the ground, but much more often up in trees. Some trees only take one player to shake down but have very few pieces. The major loot comes from the two or three player trees. Players will have to work together to collect as much candy as they can before the guards track them down.
Playing as the guards takes a bit more work. You use the left stick to control one guard and the right stick to control the other. Your gamepad display will zoom out to let you see both guards making it easier to divide your troops and flank the villagers. Hitting either the left or right trigger will make that guard leap forward in an attempt to tackle the villagers. When a villager gets tackled they drop all the candy they have and will be unable to collect anymore for a few seconds. Once you have tackled three villagers (you can tackle the same villager multiple times) the game ends.
The demo did not show what happens when you don’t have five players. So we currently don’t know if the computer will fill the ranks or not. Still considering how much fun I had with complete strangers playing this game I can only imagine how fun it would be playing with actual friends and family. The concept is simple enough to easily pick up but deep enough to have some real strategy required for winning. This one will definitely be a standout in the final collection.
The original Donkey Kong was all about climbing up a tower to save Pauline. In Donkey Kong’s Crash Course you are guiding a cart down a wacky rollercoaster to reach the girl at the very bottom of the course. The aesthetics are similar to a toy track in front of a chalkboard which is deceptive in the challenge this game presents.
Using the gamepad you will tilt to move your cart around the tracks. It is all pretty simple until you get to the lifts and bridges that you activate by hitting either the L or R shoulder buttons. So you will have to tilt at the right angle and hold the proper button to continue. Going too fast, missing a jump, or getting caught on one of the mechanisms will cause your cart to crash and you have limited lives and a time limit. This is definitely one of the more difficult minigames to complete, especially with all the flashing lights of E3 shining all around you.
Takamaru’s Ninja Castle is probably out of left field for many Western gamers. It is based on the 1986 Japanese only Famicom Disk System game Nazo no Murasame Jo. It has seen both a Gameboy Advance and Virtual Console re-release but again only in Japan. It is a very fast paced ninja game that allowed you to launch shurikens at hordes of enemy ninjas.
The NintendoLand minigame has you turning the gamepad sideways to play a ninja shooting gallery. Using the gamepad’s accelerometer and gyroscope to aim you flick up on the touchscreen to launch shurikens at the various ninja that pop up. The speed of the projectile is based on how quickly you slide your finger up the screen so you’ll have to really launch it to get the ninjas that are far away.
This is far more than another Duck Hunt like shooting game. The enemies will launch their own projectiles (including bombs) that you must knock out of the air before you lose one of your three hitpoints. There is a combo bonus that builds for each target you hit without missing. At the end you are rated not only on your accuracy but also your points.
The design for this game is wood and origami. The sets are wood wrapped in colored paper and you can see the planks and splinters explode from your targets when you launch your paper shurikens at them. This is a fun little shooting gallery game that I can see will actually take some skill to set the high score.
Looks like Nintendo is finally figuring out that Mario fans have a fever and the only prescription is more Luigi. Not only will we be getting a 3DS sequel to Luigi’s Mansion soon, there is a whole minigame section based on the series. Playing like a bizarro world Pac-man. This is another 4 vs 1 five player game. Four players using a sideways WiiMote will control their Miis wearing Mario, Luigi, Wario, or Waluigi outfits and the gamepad player will control the ghost. The ghost is completely invisible to the players on the TV, though their controller will vibrate when he is nearby. They can only see the ghost if they happen to hit it with their flashlight, which will start to damage the ghost.
The ghost isn’t completely helpless, as touching any of the players will knock them out. Using the gamepad’s screen the ghost player can see their position as well as the position of all the other players, giving them the strategic upper hand even if they are outnumbered four to one. Other players can revive fallen friends by focusing their own flashlight on them but that leaves them open for a sneak attack by the ghost. The ghost player wins if they knock out all of the other four players and loses if it gets hit with enough light to bring its life down to zero. The only way the players have a chance of beating the ghost is if they coordinate their attacks and watch each other’s backs.
Again, we only were able to play the five player version, so we don’t have any idea if you can play a two on one or if the computer A.I. will fill in for any missing human players. Still this one is a lot of fun more chess-like paced minigame.
The only Legend of Zelda-based news of the show was this minigame that has three (not sure why not four) Links fighting their way through Ganon’s minions in an attempt to horde the castle and defeat the boss. This is completely cooperative multiplayer as the three players share six hearts between them and must often work together to hit switches at the same time to continue.
The two players using the WiiMote Plus will be using swords to hack their way through the enemies. Your character is automatically moving forward and will follow the way you tilt your sword. There are elements of the Skyward Sword controls as you slash in the direction you move the WiiMote and there are enemies that have shields which require you to attack where they are vulnerable. Also like the Wii title, you can hold your sword skyward to charge a powerful spin attack or overhead laser slice.
The gamepad player takes the role of the archer of the group. His job is to stay in the back and cover the swordsmen. You aim by looking at the gamepad screen and moving the controller around to change your view. You “pull back” on the right stick and release to fire. You only have ten arrows in your quiver and reload your arrows by lowering the gamepad for a second. The archer needs to keep their eyes upwards as there are switches and enemies in high towers that the swordsmen can’t hit, there are also sniper enemies that are best taken out from afar.
It is quite the fun minigame that has my favorite design choice. All the monsters are stuffed animal versions of popular Zelda creatures. Slashing at them will show cuts in their fabric so you are literally knocking the stuffing out of evil. While I do wish they used the nunchuck so you had more control over the characters movement, I can see how this automated method keeps everybody together easier. This one is looking to be a favorite when the whole collection launches this holiday.