I didn't really enjoy Nintendo Land.
I've been trying to come up with some way of saying that more artfully for hours now, but the more I thought about it, the more troll-like my sentiments became. Ultimately, I figured that it would be best to just come right out and say it. So...there you go.
A significant chunk of why I dislike the game comes, I suspect, from its position relative to the Wii U. By packaging Nintendo Land in with their new console, Nintendo is essentially placing it in the same category as Wii Sports -- that is to say, they're using it to show everything the new system can do. The thing is, whereas Wii Sports showed that the Wii legitimately had ways of gaming that hadn't really been done before, everything on Nintendo Land seems like it was borrowed from other sources. "Yoshi's Fruit Cart" is a line-drawing game. "Captain Falcon's Twister Race" is a top-down racer in which, like innumerable smart phone racing games, you control your car by tilting the Wii U GamePad. "Donkey Kong's Crash Course" is basically LocoRoco, or Roland, or Puddle, or any of the other games where you guide your character by tilting the screen. "Takamuru's Ninja Castle" is reminiscent of Paper Toss, or any other game where you use your finger to flick things across the screen. And so on, for pretty much every other minigame in the collection, with the only innovation being that what you're doing on the GamePad is reflected on your TV screen. Oh, and that everything has a Nintendo-related skin on it. I know that the company's IP is worth quite a bit, but I just can't bridge the divide between that fact and the fact that you can get all these games for a dollar or two on the app store for your smartphone of choice.
My other big, Wii Sports-related problem with Nintendo Land is, quite simply, that it's just not as fun or engaging. Wii Sports didn't have a tonne of content, but what it did have was enticing to anyone who saw it. Nintendo Land, by contrast, is filled to the brim with content, but -- with a few major exceptions, which I'll get to in a bit -- none of it makes me excited to play the Wii U, and I can't imagine that it would be anywhere near as attractive to the casual gamer. Case in point: when my wife saw me playing Nintendo Land, her exact words were, "Why are you playing this? It's for little kids!"
I get, of course, that I shouldn't draw any conclusions from that one reaction. But at the same time, that one reaction is from someone that's practically the definition of the kind of casual gamer that was attracted to the Wii. Slightly enhanced tablet ports just don't have the same allure as waving your arms and pretending you're bowling or boxing in your living room.
Admittedly, it's a little unfair to focus on what Nintendo Land isn't -- Wii Sports was probably a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, and not many games can compare to it, regardless of the position they're put in. The thing is, if I don't focus on that, there's not much left -- as I said, at its core, Nintendo Land is basically a bunch of reskinned mobile games. Minigame collections are minigame collections, and outside of the Warioware series, that usually means they don't amount to much.
All that said, Nintendo Land isn't completely devoid of charms. Or, more specifically, charm: "Metroid Blast" is loads of fun, and no matter how disenchanted I was left by the rest of the collection, I found myself going back to it again and again. Blasting away at the little robot aliens was, well, a blast, and it didn't matter whether I was using the GamePad to target them on my TV, or just playing on the GamePad itself. While I'm sure I could probably find some Android or iDevice game that it's aping if I looked hard enough, but quite frankly, it's fun enough that its origins don't matter -- which, sadly, is more than can be said for the rest of the games here.
It's awfully tempting to look at the failure of Nintendo Land and try to extrapolate that outwards to the new console it calls home. I'll avoid that temptation, though, because, hey, it's a launch minigame collection. I'm willing to bet that the Wii U will have significantly more interesting games on it as it gets older, and Nintendo's long history suggests there's no reason to believe otherwise.
Or, at least, that's what I'm hoping, because I really don't want to live in a world where Nintendo Land represents the height of the company's creative powers.