Publisher: Nintendo (2011)
When I reviewed Super Mario 3D Land (Nintendo, 2011), I thought I had seen the best the 3DS had too offer. Clearly, I spoke too soon. Mario Kart 7 is amazing. You might dismiss the 3D as window dressing, but it actually makes a big
difference! The sense of speed is more convincing and the environments feel more open and expansive. After soaring off a ramp your cart turns into a glider so you can navigate through the air to collect floating coins or look for alternate routes. It's an adrenaline rush that adds a whole new dimension to the racing. The graphics are the best I've seen in a Mario Kart title, offering 16 sensational new tracks along with 16 remixed tracks from past Mario Karts on the N64, Game Boy, and GameCube. The Aladdin-inspired night stage features exotic scenery and beautiful lighting effects. I also love the tropical resort that lets you race underwater (not in a tunnel - in
the actual water!). Neo City has a Blade Runner vibe with its high-tech, rainy scenery. The characters include all the usual suspects but the weapons include some new additions. The leaf power-up gives you a tail you can use to smack cars that ride too close. The awesome "lucky seven" power-up surrounds you with seven items
you can unleash with reckless abandon. Mario Kart 7 offers one of the best one-player race experiences ever, and naturally there are on-line and off-line multiplayer modes. It's been 20 years since I purchased the original Super Mario Kart (SNES, 1992), and this series is still king when it comes to pure racing fun. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Mario Tennis Open
Publisher: Nintendo (2012)
Nintendo can't always hit a home run, and Mario Tennis Open is proof. I had high hopes for this, as Mario Tennis (1995) on the Virtual Boy is one of my old favorites. That was a nifty 3D game with amazing depth perception that put you right smack in the middle of the action. In Mario Tennis Open however 3D is not even a factor. When holding the system upright, you use the close "dynamic view" which lets you move the system sideways to adjust your angle. This technique never works well in games. Swinging your arms is tiring and doesn't have much impact on the game. The 3D is turned off completely in this mode. When you lay the system flat, it automatically changes to a more traditional overhead view. This view makes it easier to see what's happening, but the 3D is barely noticeable. The touch screen can be used to hit the ball, but it's a confusing patchwork of colored areas, so stick with the buttons. To execute drop shots or lobs, you need to hit combinations of the A and B buttons. Why do they do that? The cheap "super shots" of the N64/GameCube are gone, but these have been replaced with "hot spots" on the court. Certain opponents are pretty cheap - including Boo who tends to disappear and re-appear all over the place. Even the courts and music seem run-of-the-mill. I was hoping the mini-games might redeem this mess, but it was not to be. The "hit the ball through the rings" variation is challenging and "Super Mario Tennis" lets you interact with the classic Super Mario Bros. game by hitting the ball off the screen. It sounds like a lot more fun than it is. After playing once or twice, you'll be ready to move on. Sadly, I think my favorite aspect of Mario Tennis Open is the "quick save and quit" feature, but not because I was being called away. I just didn't feel like playing
. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Majesco (2011)
Rating: Everyone 10+
You have to give the developers of Nano Assault a lot of credit. It would have been very easy to release a 3D version of the Nanostray shooters that were such a hit on the DS. Instead we get a completely original title that fully leverages the 3DS capabilities. In a typical stage you guide a small ship around the surface of a cell. Your ship looks like a flea but the cell itself rotates impressively as you move around it. Your goal is to exterminate all living organisms crawling over its surface while collecting DNA strands. Each cell has a unique shape, and the high-resolution, clammy surfaces look very organic. You use the four main buttons to unleash a stream of shots in any direction, and you also have a limited supply of special weapons (like guided missiles). Enemies have health meters, and it's satisfying to wear them down. It's fun to see what each new stage has in store at first
, but enemies never evolve into anything more than simple shapes. The shooting action is just okay. Organisms can spawn from a cell's surface with annoying frequency - sometimes directly beneath you. The treasure hunting aspect adds another dimension to the gameplay, forcing you to fully explore each cell. The illusion of depth is impressive (especially in the tunnel stages) and the pulsating electronic music is intense. A story mode allows you to unlock the various stages, and the arcade mode lets you play through each for score. Nano Assault earns points for originality, but on the whole it just doesn't leave a lasting impression. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Publisher: Nintendo (2012)
Rating: Everyone (comic mischief)
It makes sense that the cover of this game is gold-colored, because New Super Mario Bros. 2 has more gold than [expletive] King Tut!
There are power-ups that turn enemies to gold. There are special buttons that transform hills into mounds of gold. Gold flowers unleash Golden Mario. When Mario sticks his head into a golden block, he spouts gold coins as he walks. It's raining gold (Hallelujah), but is it too much of a good thing? Nintendo was clearly trying to find a new wrinkle to set this game apart. At its core, this still has all of the floating platforms, buzz saws, swimming stages, and haunted houses we've come to know and love. All the familiar Koopa, ghost, and turtle enemies are back, along with standard power-ups like the ability to hover or shoot bouncing fireballs. It's always a good time, but I was expecting New Super Mario Bros. 2 to somehow
leverage the 3D capabilities of the system. If anything it downplays
them. The stages have a modest sense of depth (the backgrounds are blurred), but like the musical tunes, most seem recycled. Interspersed are minor new elements like growing green platforms and super-wide "bump" blocks. Some new things are annoying, like those disappearing spider webs and pesky underwater tornadoes. The red centipedes are a pain because you never know how high you're going to bounce off them. It's easy to accidentally vault off the side of blocks, leading to accidental deaths. Collecting loads of coins is fun at first, but eventually you start to wonder if it's worth the effort. The game prompts you to save frequently and there's also a handy "quick save" feature. A coop mode is also included, but that's just another sign of an old franchise looking for a new hook. Has my love affair with 2D Super Mario games finally come to an end? Let's not get crazy, people. A below-average Super Mario title still blows away just about any other platformer out there. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions
Publisher: Namco (2011)
Offering six games in one, Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions packs hours of maze-chomping and alien-shooting goodness into one tiny cartridge. You get three variations of each game, including the arcade originals. The original Pac-Man and Galaga games have aged well in 30 years, but their vertical screens don't lend themselves to the 3DS display, so the objects look tiny. The newer games are a better fit. Pac-Man Tilt is a conventional platformer with a pinball flavor. It's not in 3D but it does let you tilt the screen in order to slide platforms, guide floating bubbles, or make Pac-Man roll into a ball like Sonic the Hedgehog. It's amusing for a while but I lost interest as the stages become more sophisticated - and tedious. Galaga 3D Impact is the most ambitious game on the cartridge. It's a 3D, first-person shooter and there's plenty of eye candy as you glide over various planets and ominous space stations. What makes the game unique is how you can move the system around you
to aim at the aliens. It's a good idea in theory, but in practice you tend to lose that 3D effect when you start jostling the system. You can aim using the thumbstick instead, but that's not nearly as precise and kind of defeats the purpose. The final two games straddle the line between classic and modern, and they feel like turbo-charged versions of the arcade originals. In Galaga Dimensions you face hundreds of swarming enemies at a time. Each group has an easy-to-spot leader, and if you destroy him the rest are instantly pulverized. There's no shortage of firepower as you have two rapid-fire "helper" cannons that you can position anywhere on the screen. The frenetic shooting is moderately fun but when the screen gets crowded it's hard to tell what's going on. The final game, Pac-Man Championship Edition, probably justifies buying this entire cartridge. It takes the classic 2D formula and makes it bigger, faster, and a lot flashier! Pac-Man can rip through the maze at high speeds as point values flash, and there's no time to catch your breath as new dots constantly appear on the fly. All the game variations record high scores, and most offer individual challenges to extend their replay value. Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions experiments with a lot of interesting styles while attempting to stay true to the original games. Some work better than others, but I think everyone will find something
to like in this retro-minded cartridge. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2011)
The Pilotwings franchise has a long tradition of showcasing the new graphical capabilities of Nintendo consoles, dating back to the SNES edition with its fancy "mode 7" effects. Pilotwings Resort lets you soar over tranquil island locations in a plane, jetpack, and hang glider. On paper, flying and 3D sounds like a match made in heaven, but in practice the small 3DS screen tends to understate the visual splendor of your surroundings. I never felt that sense of exhilaration that I was hoping for. The exotic environments are pleasant enough, but Nintendo fans will notice that one island was recycled from Wii Fit. A mission mode offers a series of increasingly difficult challenges where you fly through rings, pop balloons, shoot targets, and snap pictures of landmarks. To maximize your score you'll want to use speed boosts to improve your time, and be sure to nail the landing. Landing is not particularly hard and it's very satisfying to land your plane on the strip in the water. The early training missions are an absolute chore to get through, but things gradually get more interesting, so hang in there.
My favorite stage is the one where you chase a car and shoot at its balloons. When the car goes through a tunnel, it feels like a chase scene from a James Bond movie. While I generally prefer the plane missions, the jetpack gives you the maneuverability to freely explore your surroundings. The hang glider relies on "updrafts" to remain in the air, which look like weak tornados. These stages are relaxing but some people may find them extremely dull. The 3D aspect of Pilotwings Resort is good but not great, and I found that turning down the 3D setting a tad helped me maintain focus. The music is of the easy listening variety - not particularly catchy but not bad either. I've always found it hard to get excited about Pilotwings games, but this well-crafted title is fine for those looking for some leisurely fun. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Ubisoft (2011)
Except for the 3D treatment, this is a straight port of Rayman 2 which appeared on the Dreamcast way back in 2000. Ubisoft sure is getting a lot of mileage out of this game, and can you blame them? It's a charming, well-constructed platformer that appeals to all ages. Its smooth textures still look great, although some boxy platforms tend to reveal its age. Parts of the game seem particularly well suited to 3D (barrels falling toward you in a shaft) but the effect is mostly aesthetic (butterflies fluttering in the foreground). The 3D can be a liability during combat as it's easy to lose that 3D "sweet spot" when frantically targeting enemy pirates. Besides fighting and exploring you'll collect "lums" which resemble floating puff balls with wings. Grab as many yellow lums as you can or else you may be forced to replay early stages, some of which are pretty long. I found the brief cut-scenes to be funny and clever, and they sometimes offer vital clues so pay attention!
I initially pegged this as a "spring" game, but in retrospect the swamps, bayous, and pirates make it feel more like a summer title. I like Rayman 3D's frequent save points, but not so much the frequent load screens. The controls are generally responsive but the swimming controls absolutely suck
. Also, why does the game sometimes prompt me to hit buttons not on the 3DS controller? Uh-oh!
The audio boasts appealing natural sounds (like bird chirps) and the soundtrack has a magical Disney quality. Rayman 3D may be a port, but this game seems to defy age. If you've never played the original, you're in for a treat. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Resident Evil Revelations
Publisher: Capcom (2012)
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, intense violence, language)
I was less-than-enthused about Resident Evil Mercenaries (3DS, 2011), but Revelations feels more like a good old-fashioned Resident Evil romp. The action takes place on a plush ocean liner and the nautical theme is refreshing. It's not the first horror game to be set on a ship, as Carrier (Dreamcast, 2000) and Resident Evil Dead Aim (PS2, 2003) have also done it - but not as well. The icon used to start the game is a small cast iron box with a big eyeball looking through its round glass window - creepy! The star of the game is Jill Valentine, and her breasts look even better in 3D. I love the opening sequence in which Jill and her partner board a ship in the middle of a violent storm. The driving rain and sound of churning water really helps set the mood. The ship turns out to be an ideal setting for survival horror with its claustrophobic hallways, dark rooms, and creaky doors. The monsters are these generic white creatures that shamble around and try to give you the big French kiss. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer my monsters to be a little bit more disgusting. Revelations is nicely paced for a portable title, and having a recap between chapters is a nice touch. While the game has an old-school feel, you get all the modern conveniences like 180-degree turning, auto-mapping (on the lower screen), and an auto-save (which says "Saving", leaving no doubt). As good as the game is, there are a few issues. First, the idea of turning the screen red as you take damage is ill conceived. Your eyes need to work hard enough to play a 3D title, and having your vision obstructed is just painful. Another problem is the crappy map system, which makes it hard to reconcile the 3D map with the 2D ones. Sometimes there's one not-so-obvious item you need to make progress, and you'll waste a lot of time scouring the ship for it. Still, Revelations is compelling, and the water theme means this is a zombie game you can enjoy in the summer too. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries
Publisher: Capcom (2011)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)
It's a total rehash, but that doesn't mean I didn't have some fun playing this. Resident Evil Mercenaries recycles scenes and enemies from Resident Evil 5. That's the game where you shot black zombies in Africa ya racist bastard!
Just kidding. I like the general format of Mercenaries. Its short, timed stages are well suited for portable gaming. I also like the idea of playing each stage for high score. The problem is, you may not have a burning desire to replay these stages. The graphics are sharp but the bland scenery doesn't lend itself well to 3D. I wish Capcom had based this off of a more traditional Resident Evil instead. As with many first-person shooters I tend to contort my body while playing, making it easy to lose the 3D effect. Frankly the 3D doesn't add anything to this game so you might as well shut it off. The aiming controls are pretty tight however and the red laser sight works great. I love how you can approach stunned enemies and bludgeon them at the press of a button. I find it amusing how zombies run toward you at full speed but then suddenly stop in front of you - pausing long enough for you to shoot them in the face
. It's convenient! Bonus items are hard to spot in the scenery, and as soon as you're prompted to pick something up, you've already walked past it. One object you're not
likely to miss are those pink snowmen that extend your time. What the heck is that
all about? Mercenaries could have benefited from a little tuning. That bat/scorpion boss took me about 50 attempts
to kill! When you shoot a boss in his "weak spot" at point blank range 20 times and he doesn't die, something is obviously wrong. One interesting bonus feature is the ability to play one stage from the upcoming Resident Evil: Revelations title. It takes place on a ship at sea on a stormy night - a concept that may seem familiar to those who remember Resident Evil Dead Aim (PS2, 2003) or Carrier (Dreamcast, 2000). The creaky hull and narrow corridors convey a creepy sense of isolation, not unlike the early Resident Evil titles. It has potential. Mercenaries however will only keep you busy until you've unlocked the stages. It's worth noting that Capcom took a lot of flack for not providing an option to reset the high scores for the cartridge. If you're buying this game used, you may want to be aware of that. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (2011)
I've been a big Ridge Racer fan since the original pack-in for the Playstation, having played every sequel. Consequentially, when I started playing this 3DS edition I couldn't help but notice that the courses seemed awfully
familiar. I can't verify that all
of the courses are recycled from past games, but most seem to be. It's not a serious problem though because there are so many
scenic tracks to choose from. Ridge Racer has always been big on the eye candy, and adding 3D is just icing on the cake. When you're cruising on sunny highways, racing through a desert valley, or cruising through a tropical resort at sunset, everything has an inviting arcade gloss. As you would expect from a mature driving series, the controls are very refined. As a matter of fact, they may be too
good! Steering with the analog nub is ultra-precise, and hitting the brake sends you into a controlled power slide. Even when it looks like you're about to hit a wall, a simple tap will have you hugging the rail and back on the straightaway with no problem. While staring at the screen I would occasionally lose that 3D "sweet spot", probably because I naturally tend to lean my body while racing. A branching championship mode provides long-term play value by constantly introducing new courses and cars. The audio is the weakest aspect of the game. You can barely hear the techno music over the droning of engines, and that overly-enthused female commentator talks non-stop
. I swear she is absolutely obsessed
with my ability to slip-stream. "You're slip-streaming!" "Someone's using your slip-stream!" "Don't let them take advantage of your slip-stream!" Shut up woman!
Ridge Racer 3D is exactly what I was expecting, but I'm not sure how I feel about that. It will give longtime fans deja-vu, but frankly it will be hard to come up with a better racer for the 3DS. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2011)
Normally I'm leery about buying a portable game if I already own the console version. Still, I was intrigued to hear that this portable Sonic Generations has its own set of stages. Plus I wanted to see how they looked in 3D. No question about it, the classic Green Hill zone looks all new and shiny on the 3DS. The characters really "pop" and the layered backgrounds are sweet. The zones are culled from many Sonic titles over the years, and each offers "classic" and "modern" modes. The classic side-scrolling stages tend to play better, but the modern 3D stages are more spectacular. Unfortunately, on the small screen these modern stages look a lot less
spectacular. In fact, they look a heck
of a lot like the classic stages. And since both modes have slightly
different controls, switching between them is confusing. I enjoyed unlocking the zones, as they feature plenty of eye candy, secrets and alternate routes. Unfortunately the later stages tend to incorporate "deadly drop-offs" which are frustrating as hell. Those "wind updrafts" are supposed to help, but they're just plain dumb. I was psyched to see the Emerald Coast stage (from the original Sonic Adventure), but these elements ruin it. All of the stages are needlessly elongated, making them feel more repetitive and less fun to explore. The bottom screen shows your progress, and often I found myself checking it just because I wanted the stage to end!
At least the original music has been retained, and hearing these excellent tunes will instantly transport you back 10 or 20 years. Sonic Generations offers both the best and worst of Sonic, which will give Sonic fans a lot of mixed feelings. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2011)
I hear Steel Diver was originally a technical demo for the 3DS, and I believe it. This is an unconventional submarine shooter that plays in slow motion. The main campaign is a series of missions that typically run from five to fifteen minutes in length. Your goal is to get from point A to point B while navigating caves, avoiding mines, blasting rocks, and facing off against other vessels. There's even an occasional boss encounter. Two sliders on the lower screen control your speed and depth, and they seem perfectly positioned for your thumbs. Unfortunately they tend to be hard to "grab" (ugh) and when making slight adjustments they often return to their original positions (gah!). You'll probably need to use the stylus. A third control lets you adjust your sub's angle of attack. Momentum plays a key role as you're constantly fine-tuning the three controls, and it's pretty satisfying once you get the hang of it. The missions require a cautious, deliberate approach. While reasonable in difficulty and thoughtfully constructed, they are not the least bit addictive, and I never felt a burning desire to play the same mission twice. I do like the idea of repairing damage by "rubbing out" breaches in the hull. The "periscope strike" bonus game injects some much-needed action, presenting a first-person view as you fire torpedoes at ships and subs. I like the option of playing in stormy weather, but it's still nothing to write home about. A third mode is "steer commander" which is a Battleship-style game. I gave it a try but it was too complicated and definitely not my cup of tea. Steel Diver's 3D effects only slightly enhance its visuals, although I will admit those shipwrecks on the sea floor look pretty cool. The highlight of the game may be its audio. You'll want to wear earphones so you can become immersed in the echoing pings, clanking controls, and bubble sound effects. Steel Diver will appeal to patient gamers but thrill-seekers will quickly become bored with this. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Super Mario 3D Land
Publisher: Nintendo (2011)
Super Mario 3D Land combines the freedom of movement you get in a 3D platformer with the simple, confined stages of a 2D title. This prevents aimless wandering, although there are still plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. Some stages have a "lookout point" that lets you peer through a pair of binoculars to plan your route through the course ahead. At its core 3D Land is typical Mario as you hop between floating platforms, bump blocks to reveal coins, pounce on man-eating plants, and jump on a flag pole at the end of each level. Naturally there are special suits that afford you additional abilities. The Tanooki suit for example puts you in a raccoon fur and gives you the ability to hover in the air or smack foes with your tail. The new "propeller suit" propels you high into the air, making it easy to land on targets below. Though never spectacular, the stage designs play to the strengths of the 3DS. The 3D effect makes it easier to gauge your relative position, and when high in the air the sense of depth is more pronounced. There are even some clever optical illusions. The stages don't have a unifying theme as they do in most Mario titles, but their layouts are so inventive that you never feel as if you're doing the same thing twice. Best of all, 3D Land is consistently fun and hard to put down. It's also ideal for gaming on-the-go since the stages are brief and your progress is automatically saved. Nintendo hit a home run with this one. The 3DS was in dire need of a system-defining title, and Super Mario 3D Land fits like a glove. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition
Publisher: Capcom (2011)
Rating: Teen (mild language, mild suggestive themes, violence)
Street Fighter IV kicked some serious tail on the 360 and PS3, and incredibly, this portable edition looks like the same game!
Obviously there's some graphic degradation but on the small screen you can't even tell. It looks amazing, and while the 3D doesn't affect the fighting action one iota, it does add depth to the scenery. I always found the distillery and construction site stages to be pretty dull, but in 3D they look a lot more interesting. The roster is jam-packed with 35 characters. The fighting action is first-rate, although the tiny 3DS buttons are likely to induce hand-cramps during extended play (especially if you have large hands). I map the shoulder buttons to the light attacks, since I use them less often. The bottom touch screen is divided into four quadrants that let you perform special, super, and ultra moves with a touch of the screen. I know what you're thinking - no respectable Street Fighter fan would reduce themselves to that level, right? Well...
I hate to say it, but once you get used to tapping that screen to pull off tricky moves, it's a hard habit to break. A less compelling new feature is the new "3D versus" mode which tries to put you "in the game" with a closer, over-the-shoulder view. I'm not impressed with that viewing angle, and frankly it offers no real advantage. Wi-Fi and Internet play are supported, but I wish there were more attention paid to the off-line modes. Oh well, at least it records your highest arcade scores (overall and per character) and there's plenty of stuff to unlock. The main problem with Super Street Fighter IV 3D is it feels a little stale if you've already played the heck out of the console versions. But taken for what it is, this is the ultimate in portable fighting action. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Select new range: [Previous] [A-L] M-Z
Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com