When Nintendo sent over the 3DS system last week, it also packaged a handful of launch titles. I didn’t receive the entire lot (games like Pilotwings Resort and Nintendogs + Cats will have to wait until next week) but I did get enough to keep myself occupied for the weekend.
Before I get into the games, a lot of people have been asking me if the battery life on the 3DS is as “bad” as is been rumored. I will say that the system doesn’t last nearly as long as a Nintendo DSi/DSiXL does on a single charge, at least in my playtime.
Now, keep in mind I wasn’t playing to conserve power. I was using the system in my real world. I want to have a persistently online experience, so I kept Wi-Fi on. I want to see how 3D changes the game, so I kept the stereo 3D on. I’ve been keeping the unit in my pocket wherever I go to take advantage of the pedometer and StreetPass, so it’s been in Sleep Mode when it’s not in use. And whenever I saw something “fun,” I pulled out the system to take a photo of it in 3D.
All told, on a full charge I think I got a little less than 4 hours of straight gameplay, but that was over the course of 8 hours of sleep mode. You’ll get a full day’s charge in real world gaming, but if you’re on a cross-country flight you might not make to approach.
I’m cool with the amount of time I get out of a charge, but it will be a point of complaint until the inevitable system redesign, and even then I don’t think everyone will be happy. I will say, that charging cradle is a brilliant freebie from Nintendo that’s super convenient — I know where my system is, and I know it’s ready for another day.
And now, the games.
I lump Nintendo’s choice of a launch title exactly in the same category as Yoshi’s Touch & Go, an early Nintendo DS game that began life as a basic dual-screen touch screen tech demo that I thought would have never seen a consumer release back in 2004.
I liked Yoshi’s Touch & Go, and the more I played it, the more I enjoyed it. It was like a throwback to the arcade days where you played for a single quarter and tried to break the high score table. But it was absurd for Nintendo to expect people to love it for 30 bucks — the same price that the company and its third parties were selling their bigger, meatier Nintendo DS products.
This is exactly the logic of Steel Diver. It, too, is a 3DS tech demo that’s been fleshed out as a full-blown release — in fact, it was originally a Nintendo DS tech demo that Nintendo eventually gave away at Download Play kiosks in 2005. It’s a very slow-paced game where you pilot a sub using extremely loose and sluggish slider controls for acceleration and depth. While it is fun and wholly original, it doesn’t have that addictive “just one more try” element that Yoshi’s Touch & Go had.
Like Yoshi, Steel Diver grew on me. I played it to completion and unlocked the Expert missions, and perhaps over time I’ll make an attempt and completing those, too. And the periscope missions are a slick 3D throwback to that Sea Wolf ticket redemption machine you see at Dave and Busters. In fact, Steel Diver is some of the best use of subtle stereo 3D in the line-up — it’s like watching a Cap’n Crunch baking soda submarine in an aquarium.
But I cannot justify a purchase of this game at its current price. 40 bucks is the current going rate for 3DS games, and this game is far too simple for the premium. Nintendo should have used this game as an example of a lower priced product instead of tossing it in with the rest of the 3DS launch titles.
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition
Easily the gem of the bunch, the best launch title of Nintendo’s Day One load. Yeah, I know it’s “just a port” of a game that came out last year, but Capcom totally went all out on this one, supporting nearly every out-of-the-box feature of the Nintendo 3DS: StreetPass for a surprisingly addictive roshambo battle mode against strangers, Internet Play for jump-in-jump-out competition against random players and friends.
And, of course, the game looks fantastic on the Nintendo 3DS, though compromises have been made to get the fast-paced game to run. Backgrounds are like old-school Hollywood backdrops with inanimate plywood standees, and the game only runs at the arcade 60 frames per second rate if you jump into an in-game menu and fully disable the stereoscopic 3D — you can’t just drop the 3D mid-game and have the framerate jump to its native 60. The 3D does look fantastic, though, and no one will fault you if you enjoy playing Super Street Fighter IV at 30 FPS since the only thing lost is that silky smoothness — attacks and special move timing isn’t thrown off in the framerate drop.
Madden NFL Football
I really want to enjoy this game because it’s actually well developed — after playing Madden on the DS for years it’s so refreshing to play a Nintendo handheld rendition that is actually comparable to the console editions. Player models look slick, the animation smooth and the subtle stereoscopic effect gives a nice “down the field” depth perspective that better shows where the players are in relation to each other.
But damn it, how can you rationalize a Madden game that doesn’t support multiplayer? You can’t. This is a single player experience, most likely because the developer didn’t have time to figure out the 3DS wireless SDK in time for launch. All the hours I spend playing and practicing are only good for me — I can’t take these Madden skills I earn and put them up against another 3DS Madden player. I would have much rather waited an extra couple of months for the 3DS game to release day and date with Madden NFL 2012 if it meant going head to head against other players. The DS versions could.
LEGO Star Wars: The Clone Wars
I like the LEGO Star Wars series on the console — and, in lesser affection, on the handheld — because I had some connection to the franchise it was lampooning in plastic. I’m not a Star Wars nut by any stretch but all the little nods and pokes at the series didn’t go unnoticed since I’ve seen the films as many times as it’s required of any red blooded American. And, the games were pretty fun too!
This game, however, is linked to a television series that I haven’t bothered to watch. So I’m not emotionally invested in playing through these missions — to Clone Wars fans I’m sure they’ll know exactly what each level refers to and why each cutscene joke is hilarious. But to me, someone that’s flipped the channel off of Cartoon Network when the show comes on, these are just generic button mashing levels of action.
But at least it looks good on the 3DS. It even showcases how the stereoscopic effect can benefit space battle — there are missions where you’re flying around in the void of space shooting at enemy fighters and giant craft, and while these missions are few and far between, it definitely gives us a little taste of how that 3D effect can benefit games like Wing Commander, where you can actually see distance between enemy craft. Space doesn’t exactly have points of reference beyond the occasional planet and stars billions of miles away, so that stereoscopic 3D can prove useful in space combat titles.
More write-ups to come!