Now that I’ve been able to plow through the entire line-up of launch titles for the 3DS, here’s a quick write-up of the games I didn’t have time to take care of on Day One.
I’ll have a final summation of my thoughts on the 3DS system later this weekend. For now…
I’ll start this by saying I’m a huge fan of the two-game Pilotwings series. I probably spent more time completing the Super NES original at 100% than I did playing Super Mario World…also completed at a 100%. When the Nintendo 64 came around, I was right there with Pilotwings 64 and, again, I spent weekends blasting through the challenges to perfection. There’s something about the variety of short air vehicle challenges that appeals to me.
Pilotwings Resort continues the launch title tradition on the 3DS, if you ignore the GBA, Nintendo DS, GameCube, and Wii. Wow, spelled out like that it’s kind of depressing that we’ve gone this long. Monster Games, the Excitetruck/Excitebots team, has ghost-developed this sequel, mimicking more the Nintendo 64 design but with a Wii Sports Resort skin. The guys nailed it: this game is wholly satisfying and addictive and its short mission structure makes it perfect for the handheld gaming environment.
And, like the previous games in the series, it shows off exactly what the system can do (Mode 7 on the Super NES, 3D modeling on the N64). In this case, stereoscopic 3D and how it can work to bring true depth to the environments. I also love the slight nods to the Super NES game, mostly in the form of short musical ditties played during some missions.
Many of the 3DS launch games had to pick their battles to make the day one release. In Pilotwings Resort’s case, we get a brilliant, addictive, and extensive single player experience that puts on a great display of 3D depth. But we don’t get much else out of other 3DS standards: no wireless multiplayer, no StreetPass support, no purchasable secrets using Play Coins. But my expectations were only as high as the Nintendo 64 game, and Monster Games exceeded them with Pilotwings Resort.
Nintendogs + Cats
I’m still working on getting my cat in this follow-up, so keep that in mind for those that are really looking to get virtual feline for their 3DS: it’s a long road ahead.
What made the original DS Nintendogs so adorable is modestly improved on. The dogs look better, they animate better, and they interact with player much more adorably thanks to the stereo 3D of their snout poking out of the screen.
I think my favorite addition is the augmented reality support and the photo taking capability: having your dog out in the real world is too cute for words, but then you can snap a photo of the adorable scene and save it to your SD card.
There’s not much “game” to Nintendogs, but it’s one of those carts that every system should have…if only so you can send strategically positioned photos to other Nintendogs owners using the StreetPass support.
Battle of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D
This is probably the first “younger skewing” game on the 3DS — Ubisoft’s definitely testing the demographic waters with this one. Like the games in the series past, this one simply celebrates the awesomeness that are dinosaurs. There’s not much to the game apart from a tremendously linear “march forward/fight dinosaur” progression with a Punch Out!! like pattern-based battle system that’s wicked easy to complete.
On a gameplay scale this is one of the low end of the launch titles, but I have to give credit where it’s due: the 3D depth is some of the best so far — even on the lowest setting the terrain drifts way off into the distance, and I swear the dino’s tail sways a half inch out of the screen when you’re marching in a behind-the-character camera view. Overall the game isn’t terrible but it’s certainly not worth your money when there are a dozen other options out there.
I’m the last person you want to go to if you want to know how a good a soccer game is. Pro Evo Soccer and FIFA are the two go-to games in the sport, which is apparently quite popular in every country but the one I live in. Lump me in with the “disinterested American” when it comes to Associated Football…it’s just a game that doesn’t excite me. Give me hockey instead and we’re talking.
But in the time I spent with the 3DS version, I will say this is console-quality stuff. Except for the extremely generic and super basic commentary. The visuals are great, and the 3D does pop but only when the camera’s tight in the up-close-and-personal perspective. Of course, in the time I spent with the game I didn’t score a single goal, which I suppose can attest for the accuracy of the sport…
I’m disappointed in Rayman 3D solely because I know both the system and the publisher are better than the final product. This is an absolutely loveless port of a brilliant and timeless plat former. Boot up the Dreamcast or Nintendo 64 original and you’ll see that Rayman 2 stands the test of time more than a decade later. That gameplay fun is still here on the 3DS, but it’s a rough road ahead.
I already had to deal with this kind of disappointment with the Nintendo DS port of the game. The 3DS edition performs a little better but it’s so spotty and rushed — sound is overpoweringly distorted in places and doesn‘t match the action, the framerate is inconsistent, the touch screen is barely used for anything but a couple of HUD indicators, and barely any attention was paid to the stereoscopic 3D. Rayman deserves far more love than this conversion.
Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars
I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed the second I booted this game up on my 3DS. Nowhere on the packaging did it state that Shadow Wars was going to be an Advance Wars/Tactics War style turn-based strategy game. I was looking forward to an in-your-face action fest and here I get a game where we take turns making our moves and let the game play out the fire-fight. It’s like Ubisoft intentionally hid this fact from the gamer.
But then the disappointed melted when I started to learn the mechanics. This is a very good design with a surprisingly deep and complex level of strategy, yet it’s still easy to follow and understand. If only the game would have a quick-save after every turn, because I fell victim to the frequent, random system crashes after I performed my 3DS system update. I learned the hard way to save after every move, just in case the 3DS decided to drop to the “There has been an error” screen.
That’s most likely not the fault of the game, though. What is the game’s fault is the crummy multiplayer that requires handing over the system to the other person after each turn. Lame.
Ridge Racer 3D
When it comes to racing, I’m all about the “throw realism out the window” design, and Ridge Racer is my kind of game. I’ve been playing this series since the arcade debut and the brilliant but short PlayStation launch title port. The Nintendo 3DS game is the upgraded Nitrous-heavy evolution of the franchise, but the spirit of the original is here, right down to the familiar tracks of the classics.
I’m cool with Ridge Racer 3D only running at 30 frames per second, with or without the stereo 3D turned on, because the sense of speed is still here. And the perception of depth works on a very subtle level — normally the road drifts off into the distance and blends into a mess of pixels, but with 3D turned on you can see that road cut around the bend or around the mountain. And that means you can judge the turns far sooner and more naturally.
I love the ghost trading SpotPass idea where you can get challenged by random strangers with their best laps, and, of course, the local wireless multiplayer is pretty hilarious now that you can customize your on-screen racer with your own raunchy camera photos.
Like Ridge Racer 3D, Ubisoft’s racing series is more about the balls-out racing than trying to simulate the sport. Like pretty much every version of the series, at least on the Nintendo handheld, this one is also crap.
Burnout is Asphalt 3D’s inspiration so you not only race you also try to take down your opponents by slamming them into the railings. But it’s pretty god damn funny watching the developers attempt a dynamic camera with shoddy programming and terrible physics that wouldn’t be acceptable even in the original Nintendo DS generation.
The game has its moments and the developer did try to put in as much content as it could — SpotPass and local wireless support, take that Madden! — but ultimately this is one of those launch titles you can safely skip since the only thing you’ll miss is laughable crashes, jumps, and a goofy soundtrack.
The Sims 3
This is perfect example of a developer trying to do something on a system without fully understanding what that system is capable of doing yet. Kudos for the Sims team for shoehorning the entire Sims 3 experience into the little handheld that could, but the performance is severely hampered with some awful framerates and clumsy controls.
The developer’s heart is in the right place, though, and did everything it thought necessary for the Sims 3 experience. There’s a 3D engine running on both the top screen and the bottom screen to show the Sims action from both the isometric perspective and a much more efficient top-down view for the point and click interface. But it’s this use of two 3D engines that bog down the processing and clunk up the works. This is not a smooth experience.
If framerates don’t bother you, then go for it. Sims 3 is a cool life simulator with a good sense of humor, and the SpotPass support is a neat little way to get your neighborhood inhabited by other players’ Sim creations.
Super Monkey Ball 3D
This one needs no real explanation. It’s Super Monkey Ball. That roll-the-monkey-to-the-goal-and-collect-bananas design. But now with a sense of depth on the 3DS screen. The game supports the tilt sensor on the system, but don’t bother: this is better suited for the analog slider. Difficulty has been toned down considerably, so don’t be surprised if you plow through all of the worlds and the 10 maps in a day.
This is definitely a victim of “rush the game to make launch!” strategy, because this Monkey Ball game features only two additional mini-games, neither of which are any good. Monkey Racing is a Mario Kart-like design with some really bad driving mechanics, and Monkey Fight is a poor attempt at a Smash Bros. design. The shining light in this bundle is the standard Monkey Ball, which is a shame because the 3D effect could have come in handy in Monkey Target or look amazing in Monkey Bowling. Missed opportunities here.
But feather in the cap for SEGA: Super Monkey Ball 3D is the only game in the launch line-up that runs at 60 frames per second in stereo 3D…at least in Monkey Ball levels. And, it’s also the only third party launch title to support Download Play for the Monkey Racing and Monkey Fight competition, so you only need one copy of the game to play against a buddy in the two kinda crappy modes.
Samurai Warriors 3D
I’m going on the record here: this is a franchise that is well beyond its welcome. Apparently it has enough of a following that justifies Koei to put a team on making it, and a team here in the US to localize it, but other than on message boards I never hear anyone speak highly of the “Warriors” franchise. It’s a repetitive button masher with little strategy, and after 15 minutes of mindlessly tapping the action command I’ve had enough.
The only thing going for this version of the franchise is its Stereo 3D. Now you can see the endless armies of the East layered on top of each other…with depth! Seriously, that’s all there is to see here, and I’d appreciate it if people stopped buying this game so Koei would stop making it so that people on message boards would shut up about how great the series is.