When it comes to games made for the Nintendo DS, the question of control comes down to one question: To touch screen or not to touch screen? Some games embrace the combination of the stylus with the touch screen, sometimes at the cost of flexibility and fun. Others eschew the DS's second screen altogether, focusing instead on the traditional control methods of the buttons and the D pad. While EA Sports' upcoming FIFA Street 3 will have multiple control schemes available to players, as we found out during a recent hands-on session with the game, the focus seems to be on the touch-screen controls that will bring your favorite soccer stars to life on the small screen.
In FIFA Street 3 for the DS, you use the D pad for moving your players up or down the pitch and the stylus/touch screen for practically everything else. This includes passes, tricks, and shots. To pass the ball to a teammate, you tap the screen in the direction you wish to pass the ball. Unlike the console versions of Street 3, the DS version of the game is aligned north and south. Thus, your team always moves up on offense and down on defense. To get an air pass going, you hold down the left shoulder button and then tap as normal. To get a nice chained set of air passes, you can simply time your taps by tapping just before the next player you pass to receives the ball.
To shoot the ball, you swipe upward with your stylus on the touch screen. As with passes, you have a degree of control over the direction of your shot; one key tactic to scoring goals is to move in one direction to get the goalkeeper committed, then firing the ball in the opposite corner for a quick goal. It doesn't work all the time, but it feels good when it works.
Tricks have always been a staple of the FIFA Street series, and that's no less true here with FIFA Street 3. When the ball is in your possession, you can pull off various tricks by tracing different patterns on the touch screen. Based on our experimentation, there seems to be a good amount of tricks available to you, though don't expect the FIFA Street 3 manual to be much help in terms of a trick reference point. Producers said players will just have to experiment with the trick system to see what kind of tricks they discover. Another bummer is the lack of wall-based tricks in the DS version, though producers said that some tricks in your arsenal will be context-sensitive. For instance, the tricks available to your player when standing still will be different from those available while juggling the ball.
As in the console game, pulling off tricks will earn you gamebreaker points, which will fill up your gamebreaker meter. Once it's filled completely, you can tap on a target on the touch screen, which will put you in gamebreaker mode and open up a gamebreaker minigame on the DS's lower screen: Each time the word "Touch" appears on the lower screen, you simply tap it with your stylus while a series of fancy passing and trick animations play out on the top screen. If you prove quick enough, your gamebreaker will result in a goal. The gamebreaker system feels very detached in the single-player game; when competing in a gamebreaker during a multiplayer match, however, both players will be competing against one another to tap the "Touch" icon first. The player who wins most of the battles will end up either scoring a goal (on offense) or successfully preventing one (when on defense).
Unlike the console versions of FIFA Street 3, which have a team-centric approach to the single-player games, the DS game will have you choosing and focusing your efforts around your favorite real-life soccer star. In the game's challenge mode--which is the core of the single-player game--that player will be the captain of your team and your goal will be to guide your team to victory through 80 different challenge events. These events include timed games, goal-limit matches, and so on. In addition to gaining reputation for your budding team, you'll be unlocking new kits, new balls to take out on the pitch, and new gamebreaker moves. There will also be a team chemistry system built into this mode, which means you'll need to make sure everyone on your team is getting their foot on the ball, lest your reputation score suffer.
On the multiplayer front, FIFA Street 3 will feature single and multi-card player via the Nintendo DS's wireless connection, as well as online play for two people, using Nintendo DS friend codes. There's also a music-based rhythm game called Kick-ups, which plays like a soccer-themed version of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. The idea here is to keep your player juggling the ball: To do so, you have to tap on contracting geographic shapes in time with the music in the background. It starts off simply enough, but as you improve, the shapes, patterns, and rhythm of the game change to become progressively more difficult.
We sort of hate to admit it, but while the soccer in FIFA Street 3 is fine, we had more fun with the Kick-ups minigame than anything else in the game we saw. Perhaps EA should think of taking Kick-ups to the next level and make it a game all its own…Still, for soccer fans looking to take an arcade version of their favorite sport on the go, FIFA Street 3 is shaping up to be a good option. The game is due for release in mid-February.