The most important game for Nintendo this year is Nintendo Land. It is the launch title for the Wii U, which is perhaps the riskiest console Nintendo has ever created—yes, riskier even than the Wii.
Where the Wii was built around the simple, pure idea of accessible motion-control gaming, The Wii U is designed to impress the world with the idea that having a screen in your hands while you play video games on your TV is a must-have video game experience.
Nintendo Land, a compilation of mini-games stitched together with a Nintendo theme park hub world, is designed to show people the many ways the Wii U's two-screen approach to living room gaming can be great. The question is whether Nintendo Land has its equivalent to Wii Sports' tennis and bowling, simple games that sold a globe on a new way of playing games.
We've written a lot about Wii U this week, but perhaps it's time to simply look again at the experiences five of Nintendo Land's 12 mini-games offer. Here they are, in the order of how much I liked my them, my favorite one at the top:
Luigi's Ghost Mansion is the crowd-pleaser of the bunch, a great five-player bit of skill and chaos that shows the appeal of what Nintendo is calling asymmetric gaming.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest is a three-player co-op game and another good one for demonstrating what's great about asymmetric multiplayer.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day is another asymmetric multiplayer game, but what's really good here is the simple, Nintendo-style twist of requiring a player who has a controller that features two analog sticks to control one character with each stick. This one is Nintendo at its best, because the idea here actually has little to do with the Wii U and a lot to do with the kind of fresh thinking about conventional control schemes that Nintendo's top people can be really good at.
Donkey Kong's Crash Course is a one-player arcade-style challenge that shows how the same game can play well privately on the GamePad screen or for an audience on the TV.
Takamaru's Ninja Castle demonstrates how the Wii U's GamePad can be used as a touch-based controller, but it also exposes the Wii U's calibration problem.
Many of the Nintendo Land games will include single-player modes that the game's creators say will be deeper than what we saw in the likes of Wii Play and other fairly shallow mini-game collections on the Wii. That may please the most hardcore gamers, but Nintendo Land's main job will be to convince anyone and everyone, that the oddball Wii U is in fact a machine that presents the kind of gaming few of us have experienced but all of us must.