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3DS Launch Lineup

Nintendo are notorious for their trend-setting innovations in the videogame industry and forays into cutting-edge technology. Always one step ahead, the big-league Japanese publisher continue to make waves year after year by pushing out consistently top-notch hardware along with a line of first party software that’s unmatched in quality. Their latest device – the Nintendo 3DS – provides a glasses-free 3D experience, a more significant visual upgrade from the standard DS, and the assurance that some great Nintendo franchises will make their way onto the platform. The system’s launch lineup looks to pull in those who questioned Nintendo’s standing with third-party developers, with a wide range of releases setting the tone, while the major Nintendo-developed franchises are nowhere to be seen. We’ve prepared a brief synopsis for each of these launch titles, along with some editorialized comments in hopes that it might benefit (and hopefully, entertain) you, our loyal readers.

Nintendo

Nintendogs + Cats: Not only are videogames a fulfilling substitute for a child’s parental figure but as technology increases, they’ve become great alternatives to having real-life pets. The great thing about having a virtual pet is that the owner no longer needs to care for their fluffy companion the way they would a real animal. The other added benefit is that the digitized pet will return the same level of affection as the real thing without you having to get off your couch and won’t try to eat you alive if you don’t feel like feeding it anymore. Plus, there are cats!

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Hideki Konno, 3DS hardware director and producer of Nintendogs + Cats sat down with Iwata during last year’s E3 conference for a session of Iwata Asks, an ongoing series where Iwata looks to discover what goes on over at Nintendo. It’s typically an informative series and provides a surprising amount of insight. Anyway, in the feature, Konno explained Nintendogs + Cats’ origins. Similar to Pikmin, which Miyamoto thought up while tending to his garden, the premise of Nintendogs + Cats came through Miyamoto’s observation of his dog and cat interacting and how interesting that was. Like literature, the best stories are always based on life experiences – like observing animals lying around the house.

PilotWings Resort: Nintendo’s initial output consists of three simulation games, a bit unexpected for a company that typically falls back on platforming for their launch titles. PilotWings may have been the most likely of the three to please the hardcore gaming crowd, before it was revealed that all of the characters are Mii’s and the whole game takes place on Wii Sports Resort’s Wuhu Island (also appearing in Wii Fit Plus). Out of the three, however, PilotWings seems like the one that would most likely benefit from the 3D display. We’ve been asking for this for long enough that the casual-centric characters and location shouldn’t be a problem, it’s just good to see more of the series at this point. Having just returned from a 15 year hiatus, PilotWings is going on vacation yet again, but this time it’s bringing you along with it.

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Despite dropping all of your favorite characters from the Nintendo 64 game in favor of user-created Mii’s, this may well be one of those games that bridge the gap between the core and casual audiences. The mission structure and medal-reward system looks much like those found in the prior games and the improved depth-of-field provided by the 3DS’s tech should work in the game’s favor.

Steel Diver: In some ways, launching a Nintendo system without an entry into a highly-regarded franchise makes a lot of sense, allowing more tech-oriented software to hit the shelves before being blown out of the water by a Mario or Zelda title. Steel Diver is one of those titles that would’ve been overlooked had Nintendo’s first-party offerings been any more varied. A submarine simulation game originating as a tech demo for the Nintendo DS’s touchscreen, Steel Diver makes a lot of sense for a 3D portable title, as much of the gameplay centers around depth and slowly navigating your way over the ocean floor. There are segments where you’ll throw down against enemy subs, allowing 360 degree motion control of your submarine’s periscope via the 3DS’s built-in gyroscope.

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This concept also sounds right at home on the 3DS, as the system uses a similar method of distributing light through different methods to produce its 3D effect. While that might be reaching a bit, there seem to be some reasonable connections between the functionality of the device and the content of Steel Diver, even if it all sounds more like a proof of concept than a full-fledged release. At last year’s E3, Zelda producer Aiji Aonuma mentioned it as his most wanted 3DS title, telling IGN, “I just look at that and I think that the way it’s put together, everything about it just really works with the Nintendo 3DS environment.” Later in the interview, he also admitted to being “trapped in a Zelda cage”. We’re unsure if someone trapped in a Zelda cage is a reliable source, but we’re going with it. Because journalism.

Capcom

Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition: In an interview with Edge Magazine, Street Fighter producer Yoshinori Ono said he feels as excited for the launch of the Nintendo 3DS as he was for the Dreamcast. Considering the Dreamcast was the console that brought the Arcade experience to your living room and the number of top-notch fighters Capcom released on the ill-fated console, expectations run high for their work on the 3DS. The downside? Zero percent chance of arcade peripherals. You’d look pretty silly playing a game with a controller ten times the size of the system, wouldn’t you? Just ask Capcom; they’ve learned this the hard way.

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EA

The Sims 3: The 3DS version of The Sims 3 is a simple, straight-forward port of the long-running PC franchise. The game includes a checklist of 3DS-specific features, although none of them are particularly noteworthy.

Madden NFL Football: Football and 3D make for a good combination. After the underwhelming DS versions of the Madden franchise, it was great to see the graphics kicked up a notch. From what I played at an EA press event, the game is fun and even includes an arcade-style 5 on 5 mode. It was like Blitz without the big hits. All is not well with this game, however. For some reason there is no multiplayer mode of any sort. The most substantial mode is the season mode, which is so 1998. As it stands, the 3DS launch title appears to be entertaining, but there’s a reason why there isn’t a number at the end of the title.- by AK

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Konami

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D: The second sports offering made available on Nintendo’s handheld, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3DS promises to bring this “second-tier” soccer title into the forefront despite the absence of direct control found in its console counterparts.

LucasArts

LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars: Turns out Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, isn’t. Looks semi-decent compared to console counterparts and provides options for buying into additional characters. And although it’s not in the name, the game unsurprisingly features 3D. The real test with Lego Star Wars III will be how well the addition of large-scale ground battles hold their frame-rate under the pressure of 3D visuals.

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Namco-Bandai

Ridge Racer 3DS: Like fighting games, racing titles are limited by the strict control methods available to developers on handhelds. There’s little room for auxilary inputs or any of the simulation-heavy realism that’s often found in console racing games. However, Ridge Racer‘s place in the pantheon of racing titles is found somewhere in between simulation and arcade style racing games, never so clearly defined that any of the entries in the series ever became the premier example of how the style should look, but also adhering to a general quality that’s been consistent since the series burst onto the scene in the 90’s.

Sega

Super Monkey Ball 3D: The Nintendo GameCube means a lot to me, holding many nostalgic memories. Most of my time at University was spent crowded around a 14” CRT TV with a group of friends, or being blown away by the atmosphere of titles like Metriod Prime. Super Monkey Ball was born on the GameCube. The controls were well respected by the analog stick and there were no gimmicks to spoil the series. However, since Super Monkey Ball 2 there hasn’t been a sequel to do the series justice. The upcoming 3DS version from Sega offers more of the same classic gameplay. The addition of wireless gaming is a nice touch, while the other modes are nothing new to long-time fans. The motion controls will no doubt be poor like earlier handheld entries, and tilting the screen to move will affect the 3D display. Thankfully, the analogue stick (nub) will allow a sense of control missed since the series glory days on the GameCube. Sega has one last chance to make this bunch of monkeys great again. – by SR

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Square-Enix

Bust-A-Move Universe: You can only do so many things with bubbles, but do them well, and nobody says anything. Bust-A-Move Universe features a brand-new gameplay element called gimmick bubbles. Ironically, the gimmick bubbles seem to be one of the few concepts tied to the new handheld’s perspective that could look to improve an existing formula. The rest of the launch lineup’s use of 3D are mostly more visual-oriented (rather than gameplay-oriented), something that probably won’t seem so clever after hundreds of 3DS releases.

Tecmo Koei

Samurai Warriors: Chronicles: The beauty of Samurai / Dynasty Warriors is that any release could be a totally new game or a port of an old one and nobody would ever be able to tell the difference. There must be at least a couple of these games by now, so it’s likely this is a port of one of those. And again, it will be indecipherable which one it is anyway, so don’t sweat the details. Tecmo Koei certainly doesn’t. The greatest thing about Samurai Warriors is that you won’t even have to play it.

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Dyno-might

Looking for a good dinosaur fighting game? You’ll have to scan the endangered species list. If you’re willing to scavenge through the jungle of Amazon’s used games section, there are still a few worthwhile dino-fighters. Maybe SNK’s excellent 16-bit brawler King of the Monsters strikes your fancy? Or how about the vastly under-rated, Atari-developed 2D fighter Primal Rage? And if you’re looking for an opportunity to replicate your favorite Monster movies, you’ll definitely want to check out Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee. You should be able to bag all three of these cult classics used and still come out way below Battle of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D’s retail price.

Ubisoft

Asphalt 3D: Asphalt 3D is yet another entry into this middle-of-the-road racing series, which, much like Ridge Racer, never reached a fanbase based on excessive critical acclaim, but has remained a consistent alternative for fans of portable racing all the same, ever since the series started burning rubber during the Nintendo DS’s launch window.

Battle of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D: There’s never been a better concept on paper that’s been as poorly executed with each attempt as the premise of dinosaur fighting games. Battle of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D, apparently a port of the clunky Wii fighting game Battle of Giants: Dinosaurs, looks to follow in the tradition of the many dino-brawlers that preceded it. The problem seems to be that the developer’s too often rely on the strength of the concept and forget to build a technically sound fighting game underneath the lovely idea of a Velociraptor lunging at a Tyrannosaurus, assuming their best Reptile-pose midair, and blinding the combatant with venom.

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Rayman 3D: We’ve always sort of had our suspicions about UbiSoft, mostly because they’re French, but for one or two other reasons as well. They’ve got a comfortable publishing strategy going. Pump out pointless dancing and self-help titles and then release a new version of Rayman 2: The Great Escape whenever a new platform opens its legs. This is the port of the Dreamcast version – a huge improvement over the Nintendo 64 version used for the DS port, Rayman DS. What is worrying is that there seem to be few improvements here beyond using the DC version and featuring 3D output. That’s fine for most launch games, but on a platform where you can already play roughly the same game, sans “visual enhancements”, why bother?

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars: UbiSoft’s most interesting launch title is an isometric turn-based strategy game loaded with Role-playing game elements. While we would’ve gladly taken an Advance Wars or Fire Emblem, it looks like we’ll have to settle for Shadow Wars for the time being. UbiSoft Sofia, the game’s developer, claims Shadow Wars will feature over 24 hours of gameplay, multiplayer missions, skirmish modes, and so on. Pretty standard stuff. Advance Wars sure would be great in 3D, wouldn’t it?

Featuring contributions by Anthony Karge and Shane Ryan

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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