Nintendo Land: Zelda Battle Quest Take-Home Impressions

I last got to try out Nintendo Land‘s Zelda-themed attraction, “The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest,” at E3 2012, and I walked away with a pretty favorable but admittedly shallow perspective. Being limited to a short, few-minutes session will do that to you. Now that I’ve got Nintendo Land sitting in my living room and have played through the main adventure, I think I can finally deliver the preview the game deserves.

Read on for my thoughts on Nintendo Land‘s questiest of attractions.

When I first picked the game up, I started off with the GamePad’s archery controls, which I never had the chance to touch at E3. I was a bit surprised to note that the aiming and trajectory systems are actually really complex. You’ll have to make sure your arrow travels in the appropriate arc to hit your target – it’s just simply a matter of point, shoot, and watch as things die. You’ll have to pull back your arrow for the appropriate amount of time using the right stick and release it with just the right amount of tension to hit enemies accurately. Later on, gusts of wind will throw off your aim, so you’ll have to adjust accordingly.

The archer is more suited to long-range combat, for example attacking enemies perched atop towers or picking off mobs from a distance. Up close it’s still pretty capable if you just launch a flurry of shots at oncoming foes, but against packs of enemies that are right in your face, you’ll probably need help from a partner. If enemies do happen to get close, or if they shoot projectiles your way, there are a set of command prompts to quickly dodge attacks. The controls will vary based on context, so keep your eye out for on-screen signals!

Things are a bit simpler for the sword-wielding player, but occasionally enemies will appear that will block some attacks. It’s a setup that should remind anyone who played Skyward Sword of that game’s MotionPlus combat, except this time it’s snappier and the enemies are more aggressive and will punish your mistakes. Thankfully, you get a shield of your own that you can evoke at any time by pressing the B button. If you’re in the middle of an attack or are recoiling from a failed strike, you won’t throw up your shield immediately, but if you’re quick enough you can typically recover in time to block your enemies’ counterattacks.

In the end, I preferred the swordsman, and gave the bow over to my wife, who happened to prefer playing on the GamePad. We were both happy with the breakdown in playstyles, which just goes to show how offering asymmetric experiences can actually enhance the game for everyone.

If you’re looking for an exploration-driven adventure, you won’t find it here. The game’s almost entirely based around combat, to the point that it’s actually on-rails and moves you through waves of enemies automatically. Puzzles are few and far between and all revolve around hitting switches, either in tandem or in a certain order and within a certain time limit.

Altogether, though, I’d say Battle Quest hits a much better sweet spot in terms of combat difficulty than the actual console Zeldas of recent years. And by that I mean that I actually died quite a bit, either because of the sheer number of enemies ganging up on my sorry hide or because the enemies’ attack patterns occasionally got the better of me. This is a refreshing change of pace from my experience with the series’ 3D entries, and I’m hoping that it indicates a shift in priorities and attitude over at EAD. If Zelda Wii U can put me through my paces to nearly the same extent that Battle Quest did, I’ll be one happy camper.

Check out our other take-home impressions of Wii U: