+1 to Joy

+1 to Joy: Nintendo Land

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+1 to Joy is a way that I can share things that I really enjoy, a way of counting blessings in my life; no matter how small those blessings are. This weekend I had some play sessions that reminded me of a specific game I’m very happy exists: Nintendo Land.

One of my greatest irritations of this last generation of gaming has been the derision and dismissive behavior behind the Wii U. There was so much of this that it became less of a running joke and more of an industry accepted standard, one that was patently false in my opinion. For me, before the Switch came along I felt that the Wii U was the best Nintendo system since the Super Nintendo.

Why? Yes, it was clunky and had a slow UI, but it also was jam packed with high quality exclusives that saw the first steps of a Nintendo focusing on the core gamer again. A lot of these first party games are getting ported over to the Switch now, and with good reason, because most of them were stellar. Sure, the gaming community may now understand what a wonderful platformer Tropical Freeze is, or know the joys of Mario Kart 8, but I was experiencing these long before a lot of people, while I listened to other hurl insults at the machine.

However, one of my favorite gaming experiences on the platform was the game it launched with: Nintendo Land.

Nintendo Land is unique in that you simply can’t replicate it on another system, it wouldn’t work. The asynchronous gameplay made possible in local play isn’t really a possibility with any other platform, and that is a shame as it is amazingly fun.

Sure, some of this is colored by the fact that I have children, but I’ve found adults are frequently as fond of the game as they are. Especially for those of us that love Nintendo, the ideas with Nintendo Land can easily find purchase, and can create a fun environment for pretty much any group of people.

If you aren’t familiar with the game it is essentially a collection of minigames, themed around Nintendo franchises, and set in an imaginary Nintendo theme park. Completing games nets you coins, or stamps for doing well, and the coins can be traded in via a Plinko style minigame that rewards you with new decorations for your theme park.

The games themselves have a wide range, with a bunch of single player challenge experiences available, but where the game really shines is in its multiplayer. My children’s favorite is a spin-off of Luigi’s Mansion, where one person is given the Gamepad and is the ghost. Nobody else can see this player unless they decide to dash, or when lightning flashes suddenly illuminate the room. Their goal is to sneak up behind the players and grab them, until all of their lives are gone.

Other players control their Miis decked out in Mario and Luigi hats, who watch the TV and are tasked with using flashlights to defeat the ghost. You can work together to bring people back, or hold a button to strife, but all of your flashlights are fueled by a battery, so you can’t just sit in the corner shining your light.

The amount of squeals of happiness from this game alone in my house are vast, but this idea of one person having off-screen play continues throughout a good portion of the minigames. My favorite is probably where one person with the Gamepad is supposed to be Mario, and runs away from the other individuals. These players work together to attempt to corner Mario, but the Gamepad player has full access to a screen of the map, and can more easily lead them on wild goose chases. It is a tense game of hide and seek, made further silly by the fact the person who is Mario’s game appears on the TV for the others to see, displayed by the camera on the front of the Gamepad.

Sadly Nintendo Land is unique enough that it simply could never be ported to the Switch, and we will likely never see a sequel. That is too bad though, because the number of times it has brought my children and I, or a group of people together in front of a TV, are too numerous to count.

I fired it up this weekend for the first time in a long time, and it was like catching up with an old friend, except in this case nothing had changed and we were immediately having as much fun together as we always had.

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