Sega 3D Classics Collection
Publisher: Sega (2016)
Finally - a 3DS cartridge worth getting excited about! This excellent compilation does what Sega should
have been doing for the last decade
, which is leverage their substantial (and long dormant) back catalog. Sega 3D Classics Collection offers nine games originally from the arcades, Genesis, and Sega Master System. Its 3D-centric games like Thunder Blade have been enhanced to dramatic effect, and even 2D games like Sonic the Hedgehog benefit from the razor-sharp, layered backdrops. The first game, Power Drift, is a high-speed racer with scaling graphics and elevated roadways. I had never even heard
of this game! It's such a pleasant surprise I can almost
forgive Sega for the omission of Outrun. Puyo Puyo is a pleasant Japanese Tetris clone with endearing anime graphics. If you haven't played Sonic the Hedgehog for a long time, rest assured it's still awesome. This version may run a smidge
slower (no blast processing - duh!
) but that's offset but by the spin-dash move (not in the original game) and a stage select screen (formerly available via cheat code). I was never a huge fan of Galaxy Force II or Thunder Blade, but the eye-popping new 3D visuals elevate these games to a whole new level. They both look absolutely sensational and occasionally vertigo-inducing. Altered Beast is a cheesy side-scrolling beat-em-up. The graveyard looks very cool but its 3D effects are most pronounced on the transformation screen. Fantasy Zone II is a lighthearted side-scrolling shooter with goofy enemies, fluorescent scenery, and steel drum music. The Sega Master System version is also included. Maze Walker is aptly-named because it's super slow! Originally known as Maze Hunter 3D
(Sega Master System, 1988), it was designed for use with Sega's 3D glasses peripheral. This overhead platformer looked pretty amazing on the Master System, and this version is much sharper and conveys more depth. Some instructions for these games would have been nice, but I like how you can adjust the settings for each game and there are even few bonus modes. Sega 3D Classics Collection really brings the arcade home with fast action, easy controls, and eye candy galore. And if you think 3D effects are just window dressing, this cartridge might just change your mind. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
Publisher: Rising Star Games (2016)
Rating: Everyone 10+ (cartoon violence, mild suggestive themes)
I felt like Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
(Wii U, 2016) was a nearly flawless platformer, and when I began playing Pirates Curse I got that same feeling! This game has it all: cool atmosphere, clever dialog, keen attention to detail, and a toe-tapping soundtrack. At first the controls were cause for concern. The 3DS nub is a little touchy for jumps, and falling into the water is harmful (you can tell by the ghostly skulls emanating from it). Fortunately falling into water or off a cliff only costs you a fourth of a heart so it's not the end of the world. Once again our hair-smacking heroine finds herself in gorgeous tropical locations, battling mermaids, giant frogs, crabs, and zombies while searching for incredibly specific items like "ham stink". There's a lot of creativity in Pirate's Curse, including a cornfield stage overrun with creepy animated scarecrows! The visuals have a stylish anime flair reminiscent of Metal Slug
(Neo Geo, 1994). I just wish those ghosts didn't materialize while you're in the air - not fair!
I'm not normally big on 3D, but the towns are beautifully layered and I love how scenery in windows appears much further away. Even the mineshaft stages are easy on the eyes. I love the pacing of this game; you can really get into a rhythm playing this. The action is non-stop and there are frequent save points. I also enjoyed the infectious soundtrack and the offbeat humor. One thing Pirate's Curse lacks however is structure. I didn't mind revisiting various islands, but sometimes it was hard to remember what the heck I was trying to do. Certain sequences of the game are a too long, like having to carry Rottytops through that never-ending underground obstacle course. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is not as good as its Wii U cousin but it's still a heck of a good time. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal
Publisher: Sega (2014)
It seems like Sega is repeating the same mistakes over and over again. There are so many fundamental flaws with Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal, I can't get over it. The action is fast-paced but you'll typically fall into a familiar pattern of busting through blocks, swinging on electric beams, and performing homing attacks on robots. A branching map offers a variety of challenges. The foot races reminded me of Sonic Rivals
(PSP, 2006) and the worm tunnel felt like a throwback to the 16-bit era. But the basic stages are not very fun. You'd expect a stage called "seaside jungle" to be loaded with eye candy, but it's so boring! The music sounds like something you'd hear on an elevator. You need to collect a whole lot of stuff including crystals, gears, and various types of rings. I hate how when you bust through an object the rings spill behind
you, forcing you to go back and retrieve them. You toggle between characters via the directional pad, but it all feels very mechanical and contrived. You use Tails to float on vents, Sonic to break through blocks, and newcomer Sticks to activate switches with her boomerang. The stages are so repetitive and maze-like it's hard to tell if you're making progress or going in circles. You'll wonder if it will ever end! Good luck mustering enough enthusiasm to revisit stages to collect missing items. Between stages you're subjected to prolonged cutscenes. You can't skip them and paging through all that inconsequential text is pure agony. Even the branching stage mechanism is flawed, with seemingly unlocked areas turning out to be unavailable. When I entered Knuckles Hideout I was told "Knuckles has stepped out. Come back tomorrow." Who the [expletive] designed
this game? Sonic isnt even fast
for crying out loud. The only thing this Sonic Boom will shatter is the hopes and dreams of every long-suffering Sega fan. © Copyright 2017 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)
Rating: Everyone 10+ (fantasy violence)
If one Nintendo property screamed for the 3D treatment, it had to be Star Fox. The original Star Fox
(SNES, 1993) was Nintendo's first polygon shooter, leveraging a special "FX" chip to perform 3D rendering. Star Fox 64
(N64, 1997) realized the potential of the franchise, delivering smooth flight through rich 3D worlds. Star Fox 64 3D lets you relive the fun and even tosses in a new enhanced mode for good measure. The tutorial is lengthy (I thought it would never end) but playing the game rekindled fond memories. It's fun to skim over colorful landscapes while ducking under barriers and flying through rings to collect power-ups. The shimmering water effects look great and I love to see enemy ships explode before crashing into the ground. In most stages you move continuously forward, using your thrusters to dodge obstacles. Other areas give you free range, but they tend to be small, forcing you to constantly loop around. Star Fox looks great on the 3DS, but it's easy to lose the 3D focus in the heat of battle, so I turned it off. The bosses are interesting, and that lanky robot in the desert reminded me of General Grievous of Star Wars fame (complete with exposed heart). Star Fox veterans will appreciate subtle details like the distinctive robot voice that says good luck
. The thumbstick control is serviceable but the gyro steering option is an absolute nightmare
- I hate
it. Like other Star Fox games you're joined by wacky companions like Slippy Frog and Peppy Hare. These guys tend to get in trouble a lot, asking you to shoot down bogies on their tail. The problem is, it's really hard
to figure out what to shoot with so many ships criss-crossing on the horizon. Your limited vertical movement makes it hard to follow - or even locate
- enemies. Fortunately the low difficulty eases the frustration. Star Fox 64 3D has its charm but it feels somewhat constrained by its 64-bit heritage. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2011)
Expectations are sky-high for any new system which may explain the lukewarm reception to this 3DS launch title. Steel Diver is a submarine shooter with modest but sharp underwater graphics. Rays of sunshine penetrate the surface and shipwrecks are visible in the murky depths. Swirling storm clouds and rippling lightning can be seen in the sky above. Stereo sounds of pings, clanks, and bubbles put you in a submerged state of mind. Strategic in nature, the game demands a cautious, deliberate approach. Eight missions challenge you to navigate perilous undersea geographic formations, firing torpedoes to clear away mines, rocks, and enemy vessels. The game is controlled entirely via the stylus as you move sliders to accelerate, dive, and angle your sub. The controls feel very mechanical which is appropriate I think. Momentum plays a major role as you make fine-tuned adjustments on the fly. I love how the sliders make a "tick tick tick" sound reminiscent of the scene in Jaws when Quint gets a bite on his line. It's also cool how you repair damage by "rubbing out" breaches in the hull. Surfacing lets your sub slowly repair damage. The game does have its share of frustrations, like when missiles rain down from the surface (cheap). And how come I never know when I'm approaching an enemy or mine? Do I not have sonar? The number of missions is limited but you can play through them with three different subs, each with their own dimensions and controls. There's also a fun "periscope strike" arcade game and a "steel commander" strategy game. Steel Diver is a slow-burn experience. It never achieves greatness but its immersive maritime atmosphere will suck you into the frigid depths like a kraken. © Copyright 2020 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 Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Nintendo (2014)
Rating: Everyone 10+
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
(Wii U, 2014) was big on multiplayer mayhem but a little light on the single-player action. That's why I prefer this 3DS version. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is scaled down but feels more accessible. The diverse selection of fighters includes favorites like Mario, Zelda, Link, Pikachu, Sonic, Donkey Kong, and Pac-Man. The characters have black outlines which make them look flat, but the dynamic 3D stages provide enough eye candy. They include Sonic's lush Green Hill Zone, the flying ship of Star Fox, and a charmingly pixelated F-Zero track. This Smash Bros. may not look nearly as sharp as the Wii U, but its gameplay is right on point. Beating the crap out of loveable Nintendo characters is habit-forming. It's especially fun to bash them with weapons like hammers and swords, launching them off the screen. Special items let you unleash entities to fight on your behalf like the Galaga boss ship or the Mother Brain from Metroid. The manic fighting action is an acquired taste but I think novice players will find this portable edition more palatable, if only because the game tends to focus on your character. That said, you'll still occasionally lose track of what's going on or find yourself outside the field of view. I love the new Smash Run mode that lets you advance through side-scrolling stages to power-up your character for a single epic battle. The classic and all-star modes let you rack up high scores while forging through progressively difficult stages. There are dozens of modes, endless customization options, and a myriad of statistics. With Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, glorified cartoon violence is always at your fingertips, and I like
that. © Copyright 2015 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.
Publisher: Activision (2011)
I knew Wipeout 2 was shovelware crap from the outset but since it came bundled with another Ebay game I was forced
to review it. Hey - I don't make the rules, I just follow them. Wipeout 2 is based on the competitive reality television show. It's kind of like American Ninja for uncoordinated, out-of-shape people. Each contestant attempts to overcome an obstacle course built over a big pool so when they fall they end up in the water. If you thought the TV show was embarrassing wait until you play the game. Your goofy character runs over elevated platforms while hopping across sinking islands, bouncing on trampolines, and swinging on ropes. The physics is unpredictable and on the big red balls all you can do is bounce around like a rag doll. Since you're competing against other CPU opponents who tackle the course "off screen" there's no tension or excitement. The elimination round consists of continuously jumping over a swinging crane and it just feels like a pointless waste of time. A two-man commentary team manages to talk non-stop without saying anything remotely funny. "She has five rings; now she just needs to find five people to marry!" Har dee har har har. Even the 3D is awful, erratically cutting in and out. Like most reality TV, Wipeout 2 will lower your IQ. The fact that this is actually the second
Wipeout game for the DS is a sad commentary on our society. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Yoshi's New Island
Publisher: Nintendo (2014)
The intro story to Yoshi's New Island explains in lurid detail exactly where babies come from. They're delivered by storks
of course (duh!
). When one such delivery goes awry, baby Mario sets out to save baby Luigi from baby Bowser. Can't these babies all just get along?
The true star of the game is Yoshi, with baby Mario just along for the ride. New Island's style and controls harken back to the original Yoshi's Island: Super Mario World 2
(SNES, 1995). The backgrounds resemble kiddie art projects with soft edges and muted color schemes. The lighthearted platform action is easy and leisurely paced. You'll flutter between platforms, pounce on enemies, hit switches, and climb beanstalks. Yoshi's ability to toss eggs adds some much-needed spice. This is done by swallowing an enemy (B button), laying an egg (push down), and then hurling the egg using a timed aiming mechanism (X button). It seems awkward at first but becomes second nature with practice. Not only can you hurl eggs at enemies, but you also hit special clouds to reveal hidden doors. Does that make any sense at all? Nope!
Yoshi's New Island is enjoyable once you get the controls down. There are a few surprises like giant Shy Guys that produce huge eggs that can be thrown (or rolled) to wreak immense damage (very satisfying). I also enjoyed the puzzle sections where you guide a "fake" Yoshi into a bed of spikes. The 3DS capabilities aren't on display except for the bonus stages where you guide minecarts and balloons by tilting the system. The music and sound effects aren't exactly pleasing to the ears. Some of the tunes sound like they're played on kazoos (ugh) and hearing baby Mario screaming after you take a hit is grating. I'm not sure when the game saves your progress exactly, since it doesn't bother to tell you. I wouldn't call Yoshi's New Island particularly addictive or memorable, but it's kind of relaxing, and there's something to be said for that. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.