At best, Nintendo Land games offer a simple distraction. At worst, they sully the franchises we've come to know and love.
Although we had a chance to play Nintendo Land at E3, there wasn't much to say about it. It was a straightforward collection of mini-games, after all. However, two of the "attractions" introduced during yesterday's Nintendo press conference showed off much more depth we'd seen previously. Pikmin Adventure, for example, looks like a fully-fledged Pikmin game. At a glance, Metroid Blast also looks like a rather complex third-person shooter.
Pikmin Adventure is definitely the more successful of the two efforts, if only because it stays truer to the source material. In fact, it even adds something unique to the series: the ability to actually play as a Pikmin. The player with the GamePad controls Olimar, and his experience is not unlike that of playing the original Pikmin game. You have a set of Pikmin at your employ, and you can throw them at enemies in order to progress through the level.
Additional players (on Wii Remotes) take control of individual Pikmin. The moveset is limited, as all you can do is run around and hit things with your head. However, the player with the GamePad can call you in with his whistle and direct you to specific objectives. Cooperation is pretty vital to make it through the level, as many traps require being aided by another player.
It looks and feels like a Pikmin game, which is why it's easily one of the strongest attractions we've seen in Nintendo Land so far. But don't think this will replace the need for Pikmin 3. Missing from Pikmin Adventure is the depth you'd expect from the franchise. For example, I was a blue Pikmin. As I jumped into the water, I thought maybe I'd get some kind of advantage. Alas, it appeared everyone could walk alongside me.
At least Pikmin stays true to its source material, something that can't be said of Metroid Blast. The Metroid franchise was never about the shooting, so it's disappointing to see Nintendo craft an experience that's centered entirely around that. Even worse, Nintendo couldn't even bother to replicate the gorgeous art style of the Prime games, opting to create a bland environment that looks worse than most last-gen games.
Blast offers a Horde-like mode, where you must simply defeat waves of incoming enemies. Shooting is incredibly rudimentary. If you play as the Samus-clone, you'll use the Wii Remote and aim at the screen, as in previous Wii shooters. If you play as the Gunship, you use the GamePad's analog sticks to control the ship and gyroscope to aim. (I am not a fan of gyroscopic aim.)
There are some power-ups scattered throughout the environment, but I was especially disappointed to see that Metroid Blast couldn't add some more elements from the Metroid franchise. Why not have rocket upgrades? Or new hand cannons, like ice and plasma? Why does transforming into a ball make you move around the environment slower? Metroid experimented with multiplayer shooting in Metroid Prime 2--and that was a far better experience than the one offered in Nintendo Land.
At best, Nintendo Land games offer a simple distraction. At worst, they sully the franchises we've come to know and love. At E3, Nintendo said they are "putting the Nintendo name on the line" with this game--and so far, their bet is looking like it will come up short.