Nintendo 3DS Reviews M-O

Mario Golf World Tour
Grade: D
Publisher: Nintendo (2014)
Reviewed: 2014/8/9
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIt's been many years since Mario Golf Toadstool Tour (GameCube, 2003), but in the meantime the Hot Shots Golf series has done a good job of filling the arcade-golf niche. By 2014, everyone knows how to make a good golf game - except the designers of Mario Golf World Tour. Not only is its gameplay riddled with flaws, but the structure of the game is aggravating.

I was happy to see a selection of my favorite characters like Peach, Yoshi, and Boo (ever see a ghost swing a golf club?), but disappointed only one generic "forest" course was available. After playing it a few times I discovered it was necessary to play the "Castle Club" mode to unlock new courses.

If that's not bad enough, you're forced to play using your dorky Mii. Is Nintendo still pushing those things? My Mii is an unlikeable loser who makes me cringe whenever he gallivants around yelling "yay!" and "yahoo!" The whole point of buying this game was to play as my favorite Nintendo characters!

The Castle Club is a huge pain. Upon selecting the forest course championship I was told I had to first play a practice round. Really? Upon completing that, I selected championship again, only to be told I had to play a "handicap tournament" first. How many times do I have to play this [expletive] course?! And why does this game insist on presenting me with options that I can't actually choose?!

Eventually I unlocked courses like seaside and mountain, and sure, they look good. I like the smooth contours and rounded trees, and you can even see the wind gusts. A second set of "fantasy courses" can be unlocked by completing challenges, but they look like ass. The only thing worse than competing on Peach's all-pink course (my eyes - it burns!) is hitting balls between urine puddles on Yoshi's yellow course.

In terms of control, the developers were intent on reinventing the wheel. The "expanding circle" swing meter is horrible. It's actually harder to hit shorter shots since you have to react quicker. A more conventional line meter can be found on the top edge of the lower screen, but even that sucks because it limits your power (no overswing). The shot screen is cluttered with all sorts of unnecessary arrows and indicators, and why does everything have to be rainbow colored? The rainbow grid is so gaudy I can't even see the flag on the green!

The ability to expedite ball rolls is useful, but a "fast forward" function would have been preferable to abruptly ending my shot. You can only save your game between rounds, which is really annoying when I'm having the best round of my life and my 3DS power lights are blinking like crazy. Mario Golf World Tour is a botched job. I'm pretty sure there's a good golf game here somewhere, but it's buried under a pile of garbage. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Mario Kart 7
Grade: A+
Publisher: Nintendo (2011)
Reviewed: 2012/3/11
Rating: Everyone


screenshotWhen 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.

1 to 8 players 

Mario Party: Island Tour
Grade: C
Publisher: Nintendo (2013)
Reviewed: 2014/8/9
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe original Mario Party (Nintendo 64, 1998) and its many sequels were designed with four-player action in mind, but sometimes it's hard to round up three other willing opponents. That's why I like Island Tour. In addition to the obligatory on-line modes, it's actually fun to play solo (with CPU-controlled competitors). In case you've never played a Mario Party title, it bridges the gap between conventional board games and video games.

Four characters roll dice and move around imaginative boards with hazards, branching paths, and special spaces. Periodically you'll compete in four-player mini-games, with the winner awarded extra spaces. You'll collect helpful items along the way, but the goal is always to be the first to reach the end of the board.

Six boards are available from the outset, each with an imaginative layout and unique style of play. One lets you climb platforms into the clouds, and one lets you boost along an elevated platform in space. In the mountain stage you can duck into caves to shelter from passing bullets. Each board comes with a time estimate so you can select a shorter course (10-20 minutes) if you don't have an hour to kill.

I like the way the dice softly bounce around, and the mini-games are pretty good. Some require you to use the stylus (tracing constellations) or tilt the system (to locate items in a scene). A few are based on pure luck, such as spinning a wheel. Some have an old-school flavor, like the one where you carry penguins across moving ice floes. The game doesn't really have a tropical vibe as the subtitle might imply.

As with other Mario Party games, Island Tour suffers from a deliberate, plodding pace. You're constantly having to page through unnecessary messages like "3 rounds until a bonus mini game!" Shut up! The game is also obsessed with the turn order, reminding you about it every single round.

There are so many superfluous messages and prompts that I find myself mindlessly tapping A almost constantly throughout the entire game. A streamlined "quick play" option would have come in handy. That said, the game is still fun and it's satisfying when you win. If you can stand its leisurely pace, Mario Party: Island Tour is a pleasant way to kill an hour. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Mario Tennis Open
Grade: D
Publisher: Nintendo (2012)
Reviewed: 2012/8/21
Rating: Everyone

screenshotNintendo 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 reappear 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.

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1 to 4 players 

Metroid: Samus Returns
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (2017)
Reviewed: 2017/11/10
Rating: Everyone 10+


screenshotSamus Return is the "proper" 2D Metroid sequel fans have been waiting for since Super Metroid (SNES, 1994). This engaging sci-fi platformer takes place on an exotic planet that's part ancient Egypt and part Aliens. Our heroine's default weapon is weak but can be fired rapidly. You also have a limited supply of missiles. I love how you can hold in the left shoulder button to adjust your shooting angle with precision. And once you get the timing down the new counter move lets you easily beat back dive-bombing alien birds.

The game has an excellent sense of progression as you slowly gain new powers such as the ability to roll up into a ball. Whenever you acquire a new ability (like scaling walls for example) you'll want to revisit old locations just so you can access previously out-of-reach areas. The map on the bottom screen comes in handy in terms of figuring out where to go next, but it's still easy to get lost in this expansive world. What makes the game difficult is that not only do enemies regenerate, but so do blocks and other obstacles. The cut-scenes look almost anime quality, and the manner in which Samus enters and exits a save booth leaves no doubt she is a female.

The problem with Metroid: Samus Returns has less to do with the game and more the system. I found the analog pad to be squirrelly, especially since you often need to hold in the shoulder buttons at the same time. It's awkward for making precise jumps and downright frustrating when you need to quickly transition between stand, squat, and ball positions. You'll want to use the digital pad but that's not an option. Metroid: Samus Returns is a well-crafted sci-fi adventure. I just wish I could play it using an SNES controller instead. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Nano Assault
Grade: C+
Publisher: Majesco (2011)
Reviewed: 2012/1/20
Rating: Everyone 10+


screenshotYou 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.

1 player 

New Super Mario Bros. 2
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (2012)
Reviewed: 2012/10/16
Rating: Everyone (comic mischief)


screenshotIt 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.

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1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Nintendo Life, NeoSeeker