8 Nintendo 3DS Launch Games Reviewed
You've decided you can't live without a Nintendo 3DS, but which launch games should you pick up?
Oh the decisions! Our launch game slideshow should help you make a few. Though we weren't able to play the full launch monty, we did put the ones you've heard the most about (as well as at least one you probably haven't) through their paces.
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It's Pilotwings in 3D, and that alone might earn it a recommendation, if not for three disappointments: The missions are too brief; they involve only three types of activity (plane, rocket pack, and hang glider); and you'll struggle to keep your eyes aligned with the 3DS's narrow 3D field-of-view--don't slip more than 10 degrees left or right--as the handheld jostles under your fingers. The game is certainly pretty, and if you hand it to a friend, you'll hear plenty of "oohs" and "aahs." But spend more than an hour with it, and the luster fades as you realize that it probably should have been a pack-in title, not a standalone.
PCW Rating: 2.5 stars [out of 5]
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition
Sure, there are already a bazillion versions of this one, but in full 3D? SSFIV 3D packs the same modes, characters, and stages found in both the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, and even manages to sneak in a few 3DS-exclusive features, including a snazzy new over-the-shoulder 3D combat mode, plus a StreetPass battle mode (we couldn't test this mode, but it involves prefiguring fighter figurines, and then letting them auto-fight other 3DS passers-by while the system's in your pocket). The game looks terrific for a portable version, though the 3D effect is rather subtle in the normal game view; and the 3DS's d-pad controls everything surprisingly well. All in all, this is a strong buy if you're looking for a solid fighter to play on the go.
PCW Rating: 4 stars [out of 5]
It's Rayman like you've--well, like you've seen him many times before. The 3DS version is just a scrape and port of Rayman 2: The Great Escape, a perfectly respectable platform-hopping adventure about a groovy whatchamacallit creature who can throw his fists around (they're detached) and spin his ear-things like helicopter blades. The 3D effect works reasonably well here, but I noticed some 3D image "ghosting," and the handheld's lower screen serves only to tabulate stuff you've picked up. It's probably a buy if you've never played it; otherwise, it's essentially a new-console-bandwagon port.
PCW Rating: 3 stars [out of 5]
Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
The Lego Star Wars series is a kid-friendly, irreverent take on the Star Wars series that plays like a fun (albeit somewhat easy) action game with basic puzzle elements. Don't buy it for the plot--it's all cartoony grunts and gurgles--but because you get to dash around in a galaxy far, far away, hacking up enemy robots, savagely pruning local foliage, and playing with your Force powers and nearby Lego pieces to check off levels. Gamers seeking a sophisticated challenge may prefer to pass, but if you're looking for a dose of simple, mindless fun, Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is newbie-friendly through and through.
PCW Rating: 3 stars [out of 5]
Put a side-scroller, a submarine sim, and a strategy game into the blender, and out pops Steel Diver, a bunch of mini-games that never quite gel. The basic challenges are reasonable enough: In one part you shoot at stuff in a submarine that moves left to right; in another you pop enemy ships through a periscope by swiveling 360 degrees with the 3DS's cameras; and in yet another you play a sort of turn-based 3D version of Battleship. But like Pilotwing, Steel Diver suffers from half-baked, dumbed-down ideas and feels way too easy. You'll plow through the whole affair in a couple of hours, leaving you to wonder where the rest of the game went.
PCW Rating: 2 stars [out of 5]
Nintendogs + Cats
This is the 3DS game I've played most. You won't find a cuter, more charming pet simulation--and playing with your pets dovetails beautifully with the system's 3D mode. Though I couldn't test the SpotPass feature (which enables you to meet the pets of other 3DS-toting passerby) having your puppy recognize you through the 3DS's camera and respond to your voice, and watching him (or her) romp around your actual real-world living room courtesy the 3DS's clever augmented reality feature made this game a must-buy for me. Note: You'll find three versions of this title on sale Sunday, so make sure you grab the one that has your favorite breeds (for me, all shelties).
PCW Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
If you're up for console-quality football, you won't find it in the 3DS version of EA's Madden series. What you will find is a basic, streamlined football game with the players and teams you know and love and hate, plus a few neat features like Gameflow play-calling (in which the game automatically chooses your next play based on "team style" preselection to keep the action going). Though Madden Football doesn't make much of the 3DS's 3D mode, the bottom screen comes in handy for checking out your plays before they happen. The real downer is that EA decided against giving Madden NFL a multiplayer mode, meaning that it's you versus a bunch of CPU opponents on the field. No bragging about beating your buddies here.
PCW Rating: 2 stars [out of 5]
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Shadow Wars
It's one of the best 3DS launch games, as well as the unlikeliest. How many Tom Clancy games can you count that made the transition to handheld with grace? Shadow Wars raises the total to one, and it's thanks to Julian Gollop, the guy who co-designed X-COM back in 1994. No, Shadow Wars isn't X-COM, but it is a diverting turn-based tactical shooter with some clever role-playing elements (think classes with upgradable gizmos and military widgets). The game's biggest shortcoming: Though it's tactically deep and reasonably lengthy, you'll never really identify with its shallow characters. But that's okay, since what it lacks in personality, it makes up for in playing depth.
PCW Rating: 4.0 stars [out of 5]
If you're still on the fence about getting a 3DS at all, check out our official hardware review. To sum up, it's a lovely little handheld with considerable potential and a few notable imperfections: A weak launch games lineup, an awful 3 to 5 hours of battery life, and 3D field-of-view limitations make it games that require you to move the handheld quickly difficult to play without wreaking havoc on the 3D effect. The games will surely improve, and you should be able to lengthen the battery life with accessories, but the 3D viewing angle may be a permanent shortcoming. If your grip is steady, you'll generally be fine, but the wisest course--especially if you're still undecided--is to get your hands on a demo unit and try before you buy.
PCW Rating: 4 out of 5 stars