Nintendo Land preview Hands-on with Wii Us franchise hopeful

As Nintendo’s E3 press conference came to a close we were waiting for something big, and Nintendo ended the show with what they seemed to believe was a pretty big deal. Explained as the game that would present the new system in the same way Wii Sports encapsulated all the Wii had to offer, we were given Nintendo Land. Though some may have taken to it more than others, seeing isn’t the same as playing. Today we played the five demos on offer for Nintendo Land: Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, Donkey Kong Crash Course, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, and Takumaru’s Ninja Castle.

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest

With an aesthetic that reminds us of the sword minigames from Wii Sports Resort, Battle Quest is Nintendo Land’s tribute to one of the highest regarded franchises in gaming. A three player adventure, the one holding the Gamepad shoots arrows at approaching enemies while also traversing the stage. Meanwhile, the archer is flanked on both sides by swordsmen that are also outfitted in Link’s attire, right down to the Hylian Shield and sword that move via the Wii Remote and Nunchuk.

We went through two different zones, taking down cuter versions of classic enemies like moblins, and even solving simple puzzles on the way to our boss fight. Though the boss wasn’t too hard, it’s easy to lose track of your shared hearts, which could cause you to bring down the whole team if you get too gung ho. Nintendo’s been implying heavily that the Zelda section of the game is much deeper than it seems, with more stages than you probably expect.

Animal Crossing: Sweet Day

One of the two demos that were optimized for five players, Sweet Day was a cute attraction based in the Animal Crossing world. It takes the concepts of cute animal people exploring a small town and collecting items that fall from trees, and adds a greater sense of urgency. While a team of four runs around the split screen co-op on the TV grabbing candy, the player on the Gamepad hunts them down with two separate guards.

Each directed by one of the two thumb sticks, it isn’t easy to control the guards and it gets hard the more the screen zooms out, but that’s the only way to effectively hunt down the candy grabbers. It caused some intense moments, as the candy thieves could speed up if they dropped the heavy candy they were carrying, but then they’d be further from their goal. Like the Luigi demo this was another one that gets more fun with each person playing.

Donkey Kong’s Crash Course

This minigame uses the accelerometer on the Wii U controller to steer a tiny two-wheeled cart (with your Mii adorning it) down the path of a gigantic Rube Goldberg-meets-LittleBigPlanet-like maze. The controls are rather delicate, and it’s easy to oversteer and leave a banana-splattered mess on the stage.

What’s unique and interesting about DK CC’s setup is that everyone watching you play can see a completely zoomed-out course that shows just how far you’ll have to go to hit all of the checkpoints. From the Wii U controller, it’s all zoomed in, so while everyone else sees your total progress, you’ll be engrossed in the tense drama of tilting and steering your kart from precarious point to precarious point. It’s intense, but unlike Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, the tension comes from your friends cheering for you not to fail. With the precise controls at hand, that’s a tall order.

Henry Gilbert

Henry Gilbert is a former GamesRadar+ Editor, having spent seven years at the site helping to navigate our readers through the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation. Henry is now following another passion of his besides video games, working as the producer and podcast cohost of the popular Talking Simpsons and What a Cartoon podcasts.