How Nintendo Land offers that aha moment for Wii U – San Jose Mercury News (blog)

How Nintendo Land offers that aha moment for Wii U

WiiU_NLand_logo01_WP

Everyone is waiting for that aha moment with the Wii U. It’s that instant when a next-gen console justifies its existence. In the past, that came with an upgrade to the visuals. A screenshot was usually enough to persuade gamers to leave their old system and buy the new one. But things started changing in the current generation.

Graphics became less of a selling point, and other factors emerged such as the motion-sensing control of the Wii or the online play of the Xbox 360. The problem with the Wii U is that the visuals won’t make gamers rush to the stores. The CPU horsepower puts Nintendo on par with consoles out now. That means the aha moment is harder to find, but it’s there.

At a recent San Francisco event, I had some hands-on time with Nintendo Land. I played through a demo of “Balloon Trip Breeze,” “Metroid Blast” and “Mario Chase.” The first two were familiar in different ways, but it was “Mario Chase” that impressed me.


WiiU_NLand_BalloonTrip_scrn01_WP
The visual style of Balloon Trip reminds me Kirby’s Epic Yarn.

A CLASSIC REDONE: With “Balloon Trip Breeze,” Nintendo brings back Balloon Fight. It has a fresh quilted look like Kirby’s Epic Yarn. You choose a Mii and fly across using a stylus on the Wii U Gamepad. You push him along by dragging a stylus behind a character, creating a breeze that lifts the avatar across. I was skeptical that this could re-create the tension of flying in the original, but the control scheme does a good job, especially when you’re avoiding spiky blocks and the big fish that threatens to swallow you whole.

The developers use the Gamepad and the main television in tandem; one doesn’t supersede the other. The Gamepad shows a close up of your character and the immediate area around him while the big TV shows the overall map. You will have to constantly look at both to navigate through a seemingly endless number of levels that fall under the time periods: morning, afternoon, night.

WiiU_NLand_BalloonTrip_scrn03_WP
Thanks to the stylus, knocking away these spiky blocks makes levels easier.

One of the big differences this time around is that players can smash the spiky blocks. It knocks them out of the way. There are also power-ups that float along. Some give you invincibility, others make your Mii small so that you can maneuver around obstacles more easily.

Like the original, there are weather effects like rain that make it harder to fly. In addition, ducks get in the way and you have to pounce on top of them. With one life to get as far as possible, “Balloon Trip Breeze” is unforgiving, but it also has that one-more-game hook that keeps you playing just like the original.

WiiU_NLand_MetroidBlast_scrn01_WP
This can be either competitive or co-operative depending on your style of play.

I’VE SEEN THIS DEMO: “Metroid Blast” is a more fleshed out version of a demo that Nintendo showed at E3 in 2011. The old demo called Battle Mii pit players using the Wii remote and nunchuk against a competitor who uses the Wii U Gamepad. The Wii remote gamers are on foot and have to battle the Wii U Gamepad player piloting Samus’ ship.

In this updated version, I played on the Wii U Gamepad with two other people. It was a co-op mission, where we had to work together to eliminate swarms of enemies. It wasn’t really difficult, especially when you could charge up a power shot and fire it off. Overall, it felt underwhelming.

WiiU_NLand_MarioChase_scrn01_WP
It may not look like much, but this is the funnest time I’ve had with the Wii U.

THAT AHA MOMENT: But “Mario Chase” changed my mind about the whole system. It’s the Nintendo Land attraction that gave me the aha moment. The minigame amounts to a high-tech version of hide and seek. It’s a simple concept: The Wii U Gamepad U player has a 10-second head start to run away and hide in an arena while four players later search for him.

It works because the Gamepad gives the hider his own personal screen. They can monitor where everyone is and try to stay out of sight while the other four look up and down the colored quadrants. There’s a set time limit and the four-player team has to constantly talk to each other to try to corner the target.

WiiU_NLand_MarioChase_scrn03_WP
The quadrant is in different colors for a reason. You’re suppose to yell out where the target is by color.

I was grinning like a maniac. This is what I did as a kid, and I did it so well that I could have been mistaken for a ninja. I also ruined parts of the house, concealing myself behind headboards or stealing away in cabinet shelves. Hearing my finders’ panicked voices as time ticked down made me smile.

And that’s the secret of the Wii U, the aha moment. It’s a system that’s built for the living room and tries to get families and friends to play together. The system’s strength is the asynchronous play that opens up new opportunities for fun. Sure, you can do the same thing online but the difference of having people in the room with you playing rather than hearing muffled groans of a headset is enormous. It’s like listening to a rock concert live versus on an iPod. There’s an electricity when gamers are together that can’t travel over WiFi.

WiiU_NLand_MarioChase_scrn04_WP
The thrill of victory.

Proximity is important. By using the Wii U Gamepad to reinvent and reinvigorate local multiplayer, Nintendo has a chance to take gaming in another direction, away from the mobile devices that can be isolating. Ask anyone that’s on BART. That’s the aha moment.

After the “Mario Chase” game finished, we had a chance to go over the match. The game shows a replay and my competitors could see how I avoided them by running up the middle and grabbing a star that makes me invincible and speeds me up. We played “Mario Chase” again, and this time, I was on the team looking for the guy in the Mario cap. It was just as fun from the other side as I realized every arena has different characteristics, obstacles and strategies.

Suddenly, I felt that Nov. 18 can’t arrive soon enough.

Images courtesy of Nintendo

By: TwitterButtons.com
Want to know what Gieson Cacho is playing? Follow him on Twitter.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Nintendo of America cuts Wii price to $ 130 – Computerandvideogames.com | Trendsation:

    [...] price drops to $ 129.99, includes Wii Sports and Wii Sports ResortThe VergeWii drops to $ 130GameSpotHow Nintendo Land offers that aha moment for Wii USan Jose Mercury News (blog)Engadget -SlashGear -Fast Companyall 28 news [...]

    –October 15, 2012 @ 6:02 am

  2. Nintendo of America cuts Wii price to $ 130 – Computerandvideogames.com | News:

    [...] price drops to $ 129.99, includes Wii Sports and Wii Sports ResortThe VergeWii drops to $ 130GameSpotHow Nintendo Land offers that aha moment for Wii USan Jose Mercury News (blog)Engadget -SlashGear -Fast Companyall 28 news [...]

    –October 15, 2012 @ 6:05 am

  3. How Nintendo Land offers that aha moment for Wii U – San Jose Mercury News (blog) « News « Bilal’s Hardware:

    [...] from: How Nintendo Land offers that aha moment for Wii U – San Jose Mercury News (blog) No related posts. Filed Under: News, Tech-News Tagged With: sci/tech Bilal’s Hardware on [...]

    –October 15, 2012 @ 6:24 am

mario – Google News

Comments are closed.