There was more to Nintendo's press conference during this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo than just the Wii U announcement. Although overshadowed by the huge announcement of the new system, the software for the Nintendo 3DS was a very pleasant surprise. The game demonstrations playable during this year's E3 illustrate that Nintendo's latest handheld will have a strong future, despite the lackluster sales of the new system.
The 3DS appears to be off to a good start, with strong offerings from first- and third-party developers alike. However, there are still issues and concerns that should be addressed. The following are hands-on impressions of eight of the most popular 3DS titles on the E3 2011 show floor.
Super Mario 3DS
This is the 3DS game that everyone has been waiting for. A brand new Mario title built from the ground up that is as original and as charming as every other Mario title in the series. The game is completely in 3D, unlike the 2D side-scrolling New Super Mario Bros game series. It plays similarly to the style of Super Mario Galaxy, in which players direct Mario through levels from right to left, or foreground to background. Most of the moves from the 3D Mario games remain intact, from the butt-stomp to wall jumping. Mario has also picked up the ability to roll now, which doesn't appear to be of much use during the short demo. He can't hurt enemies with the move, and it only comes in handy (so far) when reaching low areas. The game has all the charm and tight gameplay of the classic Mario titles, and is sure to be a hit.
Kid Icarus Uprising
Kid Icarus is long overdue for a sequel. It was almost 24 years ago that the original title was released on the NES, and the series has been largely ignored for the entire time. Makes you feel old, doesn't it?
Although many would argue that the upcoming Kid Icarus Uprising isn't anything like the original title, it's still a beautiful and great game with memorable characters. True, the game plays more similarly to Sin & Punishment than the side-scrolling original. The graphics are stunning, and the action moves VERY quickly. Playing the game feels like you're on an on-rails ride at times. However, it was difficult to keep up with so much fast action on such tiny screens. Dodging, which is an essential technique in order to stay alive in the game, is often difficult to perform as well. It requires a "flick" of the analog stick; when the flick isn't fast enough, your character will simply move slowly into that position. Other than these two shortcomings, Kid Icarus Uprising is a beautifully crafted, original title that should be enjoyed by all 3DS owners.
Mario Kart 3DS
Mario Kart for the 3DS is basically the same ol' Mario Kart that you've been playing since the N64 (let's face it: All of these new Mario Kart titles are nothing like the SNES original). Which is a great thing, considering that Nintendo shouldn't fix what isn't broken (they typically don't either--just look at Animal Crossing and Zelda).
New additions include the ability to customize individual components of your kart, such as the wheel size, and the type of hang glider you use. The 3D effects on this game work amazingly well: It's very satisfying to look at the depth of the race track in order to get a "feel" of how large these environments are. As usual, the controls and very tight, falling into that "easy to learn, difficult to master" category, making the Mario Kart 3DS, just like every other Mario Kart, a great game for newbies and veteran gamers alike.
Luigi's Mansion 2
An unexpected announcement from Nintendo this year is a sequel to Luigi's Mansion, a GameCube launch title that was simple and and a bit shallow. The game plays just very similarly to the original-- battle and suck up ghosts using the Poltergeist 3000, a ghost-sucking vacuum that Luigi carries around. The big difference is now players can tilt the handheld device around in order to battle these ghosts. This can become a complete mess, since tilting the device will ruin the 3D effects of the game. During my short demo of the game, I lost my 3D viewing angle on multiple occasions during the very first ghost battle in the mansion while tilting the device. The graphics don't look nearly as nice as the GameCube original, and it looks a bit bland in comparison with the other 3DS titles on display as well. Also gone is a button completely dedicated to yelling out "Mario!" like the GameCube original. Once again, Luigi gets overshadowed by those around him.
Resident Evil Revelations
Luckily, third-party developers such as Capcom are in full support of the Nintendo 3DS. They're not simply porting over an old game either--Resident Evil Revelations is an completely new, original entry into the Resident Evil franchise. After completing the demo of the game, it's clear that the game is a combination of classic and newer Resident Evil titles. It's slow and suspenseful, just like the classic games, and has modern controls and gameplay mechanics of the newer ones.
The graphics are amazing, as well. It's hard to imagine that such a detailed and good-looking game is on a handheld. The graphics look almost as good as Resident Evil 5 on the XBOX360 and PS3. If the 3DS continues to receive a healthy amount of original, full-featured games such as RE: Revelations, than Nintendo's handheld is sure to be a success for all types of gamers.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 3D
The port of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater from the PlayStation 2 to the 3DS is proof of how powerful Nintendo's handheld can be. The entire game works perfectly on the handheld. The controls are similar to the brilliant control scheme used in Peace Walker, in which the face buttons are used to control the camera, and the R button is used to attack and fire weapons. The game does have new features unique to the 3DS, such as creating your own camo using the 3DS camera, using the touch screen to quickly select weapons, and using the 3DS gyroscope to keep Snake balanced when he's climbing a tree or crossing a bridge.
Unfortunately, the game feels a little too similar to the PS2 original. Players who ran through the original may find very little reason to go back into the Russian jungles. The 3D effects do work very well with the game. Each blade of grass appears to have a different layer of depth. While hiding from soldiers, certain blades of grass will appear to be coming out of the screen, and other will appear to be in the distance. Because there is so much detail in the graphics of the original title, the small screens of the 3DS condense everything, making the graphics look a bit crowded.
Star Fox 64 3D
Although Star Fox 64 was one of the greatest titles on the Nintendo 64, the 3D remake of the title with slightly enhanced graphics doesn't seem enough to warrant a full-priced title. The biggest selling point of the 3DS iteration of Star Fox is the enhanced multiplayer. New maps were used during the demonstration, but the newest feature is the ability to have a live-stream video of your face appear above your ship during the battle modes. Not that big of a deal, considering that the multiplayer is a very disappointing local-only affair. In other words, you won't be able to have battles over the Internet. What's the point of looking at a video of your opponent's face in the game when he's sitting right next to you?
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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS
It's a shame that Star Fox 64 3D did not receive the same kind of "special treatment" that the remake of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS did. Not only did Nintendo overhaul the game's graphics, but also added a huge amount of new features. Gamers who've beaten the game on numerous occasions (like many of you have) have another reason to go back to the world of Hyrule. Included in the 3DS remake are a boss rush mode, a remastered, more challenging single player known as "Master Quest," and improved controls. Players are able to aim their bow and arrows by moving the entire system. It's a lot more intuitive than you'd imagine, believe me.