After one of the most successful hardware launches in the company’s prestigious history, Nintendo’s 3DS console has already established itself as a must-have bit of new technology, as well as a gaming device to be reckoned with. Although the big hitters aren’t here yet, with new Mario, Zelda and Mario Kart titles still to due for release later this year (we hope) the launch line-up is still surprisingly strong nonetheless, especially for a handheld machine. The unit’s built-in games may be far more diverting and less throwaway than we were expecting – with the frankly amazing Augmented Reality software being a significant highlight – but early adopters haven’t been short of choice for high-quality boxed content either…
Part Burnout and part Blur, Asphalt 3D was never going to win any awards for genre innovation, but with some savvy map design (including a Bullitt-tastic recreation of the San Francisco hills) and a robust control scheme, it’s a solidly enjoyable racer nonetheless. The cash-based process of levelling up is surprisingly compelling, sneaky shortcuts are everywhere, and the Tron-like grid animation that commences when you boost with a maxed-out nitrous meter is an extremely cool visual flourish. There are a couple of minor imperfections – you can’t control your car in mid-air, and the AI is ridiculously aggressive at times – but handheld racing games are developer Gameloft’s bread and butter, and you can instantly tell that this is a new instalment in an established series rather than a tentative new IP. Asphalt 3D isn’t slick in its presentation or original in its approach, but it is thoroughly entertaining. There’s a very generous amount of content too.
Nintendogs + Cats
If you played the original Nintendogs game on the Nintendo DS, you should know exactly what to expect here. This 3DS iteration is much glossier in its presentation and the quality of the animation is far superior, but Nintendo haven’t altered the Nintendogs formula too much for one very significant reason; they pretty much perfected it last time out. As expected, the game makes constantly terrific usage of the 3DS unit’s stereoscopic effects, and whilst hardcore gamers are considerably less welcome here than casual ones are, the youthful appeal of the Nintendogs franchise is, if anything, likely to grow even stronger after this lovingly-crafted new outing. Virtual pets aren’t the kind of thing that will ensnare the affections of everyone, but no other developer has, to date, done it any better than this.
It may be showing its age a little, but it’s hard to protest too much when a classic game like Rayman 2 is re-made this lovingly; especially when such a vast proportion of today’s gamers weren’t around to play it the first time around. It’s a direct adaption of the Dreamcast version – commonly regarded to be the very finest one of them all – and in the absence of a Mario game at launch, Rayman 3D actually fills the void very competently. Control is faultless (bringing out the best in the 3DS’s excellent new circular control stick) the camera doesn’t misbehave too frequently and the 3D works effectively. If you played this twelve-or-so years ago then it’ll inevitably be a bit difficult not to mourn the fact that this isn’t a brand new Rayman adventure, but it’s still every bit as fun as it ever was, and newcomers looking for some well-honed platforming action definitely shouldn’t be without it.
Pro Evolution Soccer 3D
Judged purely on looks alone, Pro Evo 2011 3D provides one of the most tantalising glimpses at how covertly powerful the 3DS actually is beneath its bonnet. But aside from the fact that it clearly looks the part, it also manages to include the franchise’s none-more-extensive Master League mode in its entirety; with the added bonus of Streetpass functionality, which allows your team to do battle whilst you’re completely oblivious. It genuinely feels like full-pelt Pro Evo in your pocket, and the only kicker is the lack of online play; but the uber-slick presentation and stunning new ‘Player Cam’ more than compensate. If you’re a Pro Evo nut, you may initially go back to a traditional viewpoint after trying this new one for the first time, but persevere with it; it single-handedly makes for a brilliantly unique (and involving) game of football that’s unavailable anywhere else.
Super Monkey Ball 3D
The 3D looks so great in Super Monkey Ball 3D that it’s a bit strange to observe that one of the main gameplay options involves you having to turn it off. The game’s motion control method works well – you tilt the 3DS to move Ai Ai and company rather than using the control stick – but you’ll have to switch off the 3D if you don’t want to end up giving yourself a headache. Life-long fans are going to gravitate towards the precision loveliness of the control stick anyway, so it’s nothing terminal. Super Monkey Ball 3D may not come close to competing with the best ever Super Monkey Ball title – which was surely the painfully addictive Super Monkey Ball 2 – but it retains the flavour of the classic original games far better than some other recent handheld versions have managed. Solid mini-games too, especially Monkey Race which is now even more like Mario Kart than ever; no bad thing. So turn the 3D slider right down, or switch off the gyroscope, and enjoy.
After a fifteen year absence, one of Nintendo’s most revered first-party properties has finally returned, and for many this will be the only true cast-iron must-buy in the 3DS’s estimable launch line-up. You’re only ever given one of two gameplay options – Mission mode and Free Flight mode – and it is says a great deal about the game’s peculiar, incomparable appeal that each is as enjoyable as the other, and you may occasionally have a hard time choosing between them. Hardcore gamers aren’t going to find Pilotwings especially taxing but then that has never been what Pilotwings is about, and Resort is a more than worthy follow-up to two of Nintendo’s most fondly remembered system launch titles. It’s somewhat lighter on content than we would have liked, but a near-endless degree of replayability sweetens the pill immeasurably.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars
If it wasn’t for Capcom’s reliably superb beat ’em up proposition (see below) Shadow Wars would unquestionably be the 3DS’s finest launch title. A turn-based strategy game that offers up a genuinely uncommon degree of both nuance and depth, Shadow Wars is the kind of game that’s liable to cause sleepless nights, and a million idle tactical daydreams when you should really be working. Presentation is simple but effective, and the 3D aspect definitely isn’t as inventively utilised as it is in other 3DS launch titles; but it doesn’t matter. For all intents and purposes this is basically a new Advance Wars game, and if you’re the kind of person who rejoices at the announcement of a new Nintendo handheld, simply so that you can start getting excited about the prospect of a new Advance Wars, then it is absolutely not to be missed. Everyone else, welcome to the club.
Super Street Fighter IV 3D
It’s a bit predictable that the best 3DS launch game should be a remake of a thoroughbred classic, but Super Street Fighter IV 3D is remarkable for what it brings to the table; namely, almost everything. That Capcom have managed to wedge a current-gen powerhouse onto the 3DS this seamlessly is a testament both to them, and (again) to the clandestine power of the new console. But the fact that the new control methods all work, and the new 3D perspective even allows you to judge pernickety (and vital) aspects like sweep distance effortlessly, highlight the fact that this absolutely is NOT some slapdash smash-and-grab. But the best thing about it might be that the online multiplayer interface and general Wi-Fi functionality rivals the near-perfect systems that currently exist on Xbox Live and the Playstation Network. Just a port then, but what a port.
Watch the Nintendo 3DS Promo trailer here: