Nintendo Land: The postmortem interview

The Wii U is out worldwide, stowed under Christmas trees or already set up in family rooms across the continent. Bundled with the Deluxe Wii U console, Nintendo Land has a pretty hefty task to undertake: be approachable to casual gamers, keep the hardcores entertained and at the same time show off all the console's new features.

How did Nintendo make it? In this week's Famitsu magazine the game's creators shared information about how the game came together at a developer roundtable. The tidbits from the roundtable are shared below.

  • Nintendo Land, much like Wii Sports for the original Wii, largely came about as the design team at EAD put together prototypes for potential launch games. "The Wii U is a game system with a completely new structure," said producer Katsuya Eguchi, "so we wanted to have a full line-up of games that allowed gamers to experience the system's features straight on. So out of all the prototype programs we put together, we made a collection of games that made decent enough use of the TV and the Wii U Gamepad." This process began right after the team wrapped up Wii Sports Resort, so despite being a launch title, Nintendo Land had a good couple years of development behind it.
  • Unlike the original Wii Sports, Nintendo Land makes an effort to better unify the games included, presenting them as "attractions" in a virtual theme park. "These games were all very divergent from each other," Eguchi explained, "so we really struggled over how to put them all together. We thought about how to do this, and among the ideas was the keyword 'expo'. An expo is all about nations showing off all kinds of different things in the same place, so I thought that would be a good fit. So we went through that concept of making a sort of expo of games, and that led to Nintendo Land."

    "These games were all very divergent from each other ... so we really struggled over how to put them all together."
  • Once the team had some decent-looking prototypes in action, the next step was to match the potential games with well-known (and not-so-well-known) Nintendo franchises.

    "Generally it was easy to match the gameplay from the prototypes with one series or another," said director Yoshikazu Yamashita. "For example, a game with air and ground battles works well with Metroid. There was a time when Metroid Blast was going to be a Star Fox title, but the prototype featured this vehicle that hovered around like a helicopter and we figured that'd never be a good match for an Arwing."

    "I'll admit that some of the tie-ins, like Donkey Kong and Octopus, might be stretching it a little," added co-director Takayuki Shimamura. "With the way the courses are designed, we were originally thinking about making Donkey Kong's Crash Course into an Excitebike or 1080 Snowboarding title at first."
  • Despite its Wii Sports-like role in introducing the system to gamers, Nintendo Land features some surprisingly deep solo games, especially The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest. "With that game," explained Yamashita, "that was the developers of Zelda: Ocarina of Time seriously making a Zelda for Nintendo Land, so the project document for that game was this really thick tome. We tried to produce a lot of stages for each of the attractions. With all of them, you can 'beat' them if you put in a little effort, but that's just the first set, and there's a nearly equal number of stages unlocked afterward. These stages are set up to be a lot harder, so I don't think you'll run out of stuff to play anytime soon."

    "The developers of Zelda: Ocarina of Time seriously making a Zelda forNintendo Land."
  • With the multiplayer attractions, a lot of gamers have complained online that the player controlling the ghost in Luigi's Ghost Mansion has too much of an advantage. "Actually," Yamashita replied, "that advantage changes in a major way once more strategy and experience is thrown into the mix. During development, our play-testers said 'The ghost is way too strong,' but then when the devs started joining in games with them, suddenly the ghost couldn't win at all."

    Famitsu pointed out that the editors' first tactic while playing the Miis was to stay in one group as much as possible. "You can go from that and, as you keep on playing, you'll be able to chase down the ghost more frequently," Eguchi said. "With the competitive attractions, they're set up so the more you play them, the more even the odds are that any competitor can win, so experienced players can have some really hot matches with each other that way."

    "Did Nintendo think about implementing online support for any of these games? In a word, no."
  • Did Nintendo think about implementing online support for any of these games? In a word, no. "Nintendo Land's multiplayer attractions work because of the communication shared between the people playing them," Eguchi said, "so they were set up from the start to be something people in the same room could enjoy."

    "We've played the games with a 'no talking' rule in place," Shimamura added, "and it's amazing how much that changes the balance, even with us devs."
  • Nintendo Land has a major role in the Wii U's future fortunes, something that Shimamura is very aware of. "The Wii U offers a lot of new experiences, but we honestly believe that if you don't play this game, you're missing out on half of that value," he said. "With the GamePad, I think you're seeing a new dimension of multiplayer, something that hasn't been seen before."

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