Nintendo's 3DS Japanese launch on February 26 has seen the highly anticipated handheld hit the streets of Tokyo with a suite of eight titles. While the Japanese launch lineup is 10 titles short of the 18 slated for release at the US launch on March 27, it offers a diverse set of experiences. We picked up the whole launch lineup to see how it has come together and how it showcases Nintendo’s new handheld.
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition
Capcom’s portable brawler is one of the highest profile titles available for the new 3D platform. The game has made a smooth transition to Nintendo’s handheld, offering the full suite of content seen in the console game, right down to the online multiplayer, as well as new modes and features exclusive to the 3DS. The game’s visuals are impressive, carrying over almost all of its console cousin’s fidelity, but they lack the animated backgrounds and some effects. In addition, the game’s frame rate does take a hit when 3D is enabled, but thankfully, gameplay isn’t really affected too noticeably. The 3D effect works well and the controls are responsive, although, as we noticed previously, it’s possible to shift the 3DS out of the optimal 3D viewing angle during gameplay. The touch-panel control shortcuts work well and aren’t too disruptive if you choose to rely on them. In terms of exclusive 3DS modes, Super Street Fighter IV features a 3D battle mode that moves the viewing angle to just behind your fighter’s shoulder and a figurine battle that ties in with the Nintendo 3DS’s Street Pass online feature that allows you to connect to other 3DSs while on the go. Overall, we’re pleased with how Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition has turned out; it offers a solid portable Street Fighter experience and a strong showcase for the Nintendo 3DS’s capabilities.
Professor Layton and the Mask of the Miracle
Layton and Luke have gone 3D in more ways than one here, as the pair of puzzle-solvers has moved from 2D sprites to fully cel-shaded 3D models to take advantage of the hardware's new visual effects--and it's a transition that looks really good. Beyond that, you can also go into a sort of first-person mode while sniffing out potential puzzles in each village. You're still tapping on static backdrops looking for a red exclamation mark to appear, though now it's a more visually extravagant process. The audio seems substantially improved as well, with less of a repetitive MIDI jingle from previous games and more of a rich soundtrack to set the stage for the mystery that's sure to unfold.
Puzzle Bobble 3D
Square Enix’s single-player puzzler brings everyone’s favorite bubble-popping dinos Bub and Bob to the 3DS in a retro puzzler with 3D flourishes. The game is a single-player experience that lacks any online connectivity, including Street Pass. The game features two modes, Puzzle and Challenge, which focus on the Puzzle Bobble fundamentals of matching three bubbles of the same color to clear a board before time runs out. The new wrinkle on the formula in Puzzle Bobble 3D is that you’ll need to collect keys to free your dino buddies from captivity. The game’s graphics don’t tax the hardware with their clean and simple designs. The 3D elements to the visuals are subtle with elements of the main playfield and background giving a sense of depth, but we haven’t come across anything too flashy. As launch titles go, Puzzle Bobble is one of the more modest offerings for the 3DS at launch; the game is certainly fun, but it doesn’t do much to showcase what the hardware can do.
Nintendogs and Cats
We put our 3DS into sleep mode and tested out the game's pedometer function. After strolling around Tokyo for a bit, we came back to our hotel to find a happy dog who looked thoroughly pleased to have just gone for a walk. The dogs themselves look pretty nice, as well. The 3D effect isn't terribly pronounced in this game, though your puppy is shown in much better detail than in the original Nintendogs, which immediately helps to form a closer bond with the virtual pup.
Winning Eleven 3D Soccer
Here's a game that's pretty madly in love with its own visuals because when you start up a match, you're treated to several minutes' worth of shots of the players taking to the field and getting ready for the game. But it's not without reason: Winning Eleven for the 3DS looks great, with detailed player models that are instantly recognizable to their real-life counterparts. Playing a game from the standard camera angle produces a very subtle 3D effect, and it's not until you jump into the extensive instant replay option and zoom in on the players that you can really get a sense of people popping off the grass field. As for how the game plays, you'll find a pretty good game of soccer here, and the analog slider helps you move about the pitch with much more ease than the D pad.
Sengoku Musou Chronicle
Tecmo Koei Games’ 3DS launch offering is another entry in its long-running Sengoku Musou series, which is Dynasty Warriors to the US. The third-person historical brawler mixes up the franchise formula a bit and lets you import yourself into the adventure. You’ll be able to choose a male or female character you can customize by entering a name and answering a variety of different questions. The game is big on narrative and has a lengthy, voiced buildup before handing control over to players. Once you get control, the game plays like a Dynasty Warriors game and has you hacking and slashing at mobs of enemies. You’ll have regular and special attacks that you can combo together to take out the enemies that come rushing at you. The visuals are close to par with the console games, with a subtle 3D effect that translates into a sense of depth as opposed to anything more dramatic than random elements flying at your face. The end result is pretty subtle, especially in the many wide open areas we’ve seen in the early levels of the game. While Sengoku Musou Chronicle looks and feels familiar, the 3D effect and Street Pass connectivity support allow the game to showcase some key features of the new hardware.
Ridge Racer 3D
Namco’s 3DS entry in its venerable racing franchise serves up a dense offering of content that appears to be on par with its console efforts. The game features a robust single-player mode that offers a variety of modes, ranging from Time Attack to Grand Prix, as well as multiplayer modes and Street Pass support. The game lets you personalize your experience by using a Mii or a photo of yourself for a virtual license that will track your progress in the game. The multiplayer options are interesting and have the potential to keep players coming back to the game; we just haven’t tried them enough yet. The visuals aren’t as sharp as we were hoping, especially in light of the graphical muscle displayed in some of the other launch titles, but the game moves well most of the time. The frame rate is a little twitchy in places, and the level of detail isn’t where we were hoping to see it. The 3D effect is mostly subtle throughout the game, although you’ll hit points on the track where confetti will fly at the screen, which is enhanced by the system’s 3D capabilities. Ridge Racer 3D appears to be a solid launch title that’s a decent showcase for the 3DS hardware, even though it’s a little rough around the edges.
Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D
Dinosaurs 3D is a game that forms an odd first impression, as the keyboard you use to enter your gladiator dino's name does not support touch input; you have to use the D pad to enter letters. That misstep aside, what follows seems like a pretty authentic look into the nasty, brutish, and short life of a dinosaur. Like a real dino, you have a light attack and a heavy attack, and you just sort of spend your time pounding the crap out of other dinosaurs. Also, you collect sticks from the ground and try not to get killed by a meteor. As for how the game looks, it's actually a rather impressive game. Highly detailed environments and believably detailed dinosaurs really stand out from the backdrop. There tend to be a lot of visual flourishes during fights, though, and that led to us getting pretty dizzy after a short while with the 3D slider turned all the way up.