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Four on the Floor: Nintendo 3DS Software Impressions

Posted by: Peter Skeritt at 3/28/2011 11:25 PM
The Nintendo 3DS boasts some impressive technology, but a hardware platform is only as good as the games that are created for it. After spending time with a few of the launch titles for Nintendo's new handheld device, here are some quick impressions of each. Bear in mind that these aren't meant to be full reviews. 
 
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition:
 
This game had been the recipient of a lot of hype prior to the launch of the 3DS, and Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition puts its money where its fists are. Although the visuals make a few sacrifices-- notably a slight-to-moderate drop in framerate (depending on 3D versus 2D) and generally static backgrounds-- the rest of this impressive fighting game remains intact. All of the characters are here, along with their full move sets, music, intros, and endings. The implementation of the touch screen to pull off special moves, combos, and button combinations adds accessibility for players of any skill level. The 3DS D-Pad and the analog disc are both quite responsive, although players who are used to fighting sticks may need time to adjust. The trigger buttons unfortunately never feel quite tight enough given how the unit is held, and it can be tough to add those buttons to standard gameplay for some. The addition of StreetPass battles and the use of 3DS Coins to earn new figurines add to an already feature-rich title. This is, perhaps, the crown jewel of the 3DS launch lineup... and rightfully so. 
 
Ridge Racer 3D:
 
This is my personal favorite game of the 3DS' launch library, and it's similar to Ridge Racer on the PSP as it's basically fan service with a few new things thrown in for good measure. Courses and music tracks from several past Ridge Racer titles are seen here in Ridge Racer 3D, and the game builds upon the drift/nitrous system that we last saw in Ridge Racer 7 on the PS3 a few years ago. The system can be tweaked now to fill nitrous more while drifting normally or can fill more rapidly by drifting just after a boost has been depleted. This game doesn't reinvent the wheel, but instead delivers a comparable experience to its console brethren while adding optional 3D effects. Some of the 3D effects are striking, especially during initial experiences. Imagine flying off of a jump and zooming just past the Ridge Racer helicopter, for example. With 3D on, you can actually see the helicopter scaling in towards you as it seemingly jumps out of the screen. There are multiple layers to the visuals, each with its own level of depth. It's a vivid experience, but it's important to be careful not to crash into anything while admiring the visuals. I found myself doing this a few times, and part of the reason also stems from difficulty with peripheral vision while in 3D. While there's no online multiplayer, there is local wireless versus play as well as StreetPass duels to engage in if any other 3DS owners walk past who have played the game. 
 
Nintendogs + Cats:
 
It's been a few years since we first saw Nintendogs hit it big as it helped to propel Nintendo DS sales, and now the lovable pet simulator has returned with a fresh coat of cleaner visuals, 3D effects, and new breeds to adopt and train. While this new version is generally more of the same, there are some key improvements that make Nintendogs + Cats better than its predecessors. The game uses the inward-facing camera of the 3DS for facial recognition, which basically doubles as your pet's eyes. As the pet becomes comfortable and familiar with you, it can "see" you and react in a variety of different ways. Nintendogs + Cats also uses the 3DS' AR Card functionality to generate images of your pets by drawing from the Chance Block card. The improvements in the overall aesthetic package are apparent almost immediately, and 3D only adds to it. It's worth noting that Nintendogs + Cats is one game that actually looks worse with the 3D slider at maximum as the images tend to appear blurred and distorted. Once you get by the improvements, though, there's a lot of familiarity-- for better or for worse. Voice commands are still inconsistently recognized, leading to having to repeat the same thing multiple times before your pet responds. There's also arguably not enough here to warrant a full $40 purchase if you bought the original back in 2005. 
 
Samurai Warriors: Chronicles:
 
There's something to be said for being able to play a legitimate Warriors game on a handheld. Samurai Warriors: Chronicles does deliver the same kind of hack-and-slash experience on the 3DS, but the effort isn't without its flaws. The meat of the game feels comfortably familiar as your created officer and his (or her) allies lay waste to dozens of enemy troops. Each chapter has several varied sub-objectives, and many of these can only be met by hot-swapping to allies who are in the right places on the battlefield. The problems begin with the fact that the battlefields don't seem very busy, especially for a Warriors game. This is probably due to the limitations of the hardware, but it's hard to feel overwhelmed. This puts more of a focus on battles with other officers, and many of these don't deliver like they should. If you don't mind a less-chaotic Warriors experience, though-- or if you're new to these games-- Chronicles and its more forgiving difficulty might be a good place to start. Omega Force does a decent job with utilizing 3D as it's prevalent in all facets of the game. The framerate does suffer a bit, but it's nothing that prevents Chronicles from being playable. The music is very good and there's plenty of Japanese voice acting to be heard as the English dubbing has been eliminated. The jury is still out on this one, so stay tuned. 
 
As you can see, familiar titles are the name of the game here. Russell already talked about Pilotwings Resort, which was the other title that I picked up for the 3DS at launch. The only sure-fire winner seems to be Super Street Fighter IV at this point. The other titles all seem to have either limited appeal or have substantial flaws that could make consumers think twice before dropping full price on them. Full reviews of these 3DS titles should be rolling in soon, but in the meantime, feel free to leave comments with any questions about these games. We'll be happy to answer them for you.