I've had a bumpy "will they, won't they?" relationship with the Nintendo 3DS rivaling that of Ross and Rachel or Jim and Pam. It was love at first sight when Nintendo revealed the handheld at last year's E3, but I quickly learned the device wasn't being truthful when I read less than glowing reviews of its 3D effect. Still, I was fixated on its promising library of games including Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, a new Paper Mario, Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle, and the awesome potential of a Game Boy Virtual Console. Then, I saw the 3DS' American launch line-up was missing all of these enticing titles and sighed.
At first glance, the 16 games are mostly familiar but forgettable names that do nothing to guarantee my day one purchase. A little research, however, reveals a trio of worthy titles with very different purposes. Now the question isn't "will they, won't they?" but "Can I afford all three of these come March 27?"
Nintendo's last handheld launch was missing a vital ingredient: a first-party retail game capable of showing off what the DS was all about. Super Mario 64 DS was fun, but as the machine's first big title, it shouldn't have been a port that failed to use the fancy new touch controls adequately outside of mini-games. Fortunately, Nintendo seems to have rectified this mistake by releasing a new installment in a familiar franchise that makes great use of the 3DS' new features.
Something for them: PilotWings Resort
PilotWings Resort looks to strike the perfect balance between demonstrating new technology and providing an instantly fun experience. The game doesn't stray far from PilotWings 64, which tasked the player with shooting targets, flying through rings, and snapping pictures in a variety of vehicles. People are already reporting that the 3DS' visual effect greatly improves your accuracy and depth perception for carrying out those objectives.
Players familiar with Wii Sports Resort will immediately be accustomed to the new PilotWings' setting: Wuhu Island. When you weren't competing against one another in various sports, you could fly around the island in a maneuverable sea plane just exploring and taking in the sights. With no goals to pressure the player, you were free to just enjoy yourself with the sense of flight. I imagine PilotWings Resort provides an equally carefree experience, making it easy to pass the 3DS around to your friends and family so they can quickly learn what the device is all about.
If you're looking to show off your new 3DS right out of the box, I imagine PilotWings Resort will be just the game to do it.
Something for us: Super Street Fighter 4: 3D Edition
I was skeptical of Capcom bringing Street Fighter to the 3DS from the start. The game comes barely a month after Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and attempts to exaggerate 3D with an optional over-the-shoulder view point. Still, Street Fighter is one of the biggest names in the 3DS' launch line-up, and it seems Capcom is doing more than trying to sell the game based on its pedigree alone.
Super Street Fighter 4: 3D Edition's most distinct new feature allows players to map special attacks and combos to buttons on the touch screen. This compensates for the handheld's limited controls as well as to make the game more inviting to newcomers. Eliminating the learning curve that comes with demanding lightning-fast inputs could make for a really interesting multiplayer environment. Now, novices can jump right in and focus on learning when to use special moves rather than struggling to execute them in the first place. I'll finally be able to pull off Guile's super combo!
With so much potential for an inviting multiplayer scene, Super Street Fighter 4 3D Edition looks like the go-to launch title for those who don't need to convince their friends to become early adopters.
Something for you: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars
It'll cost you nearly $300 to get your hands on a 3DS and a game. With that much cash on the line, you might just want to invest in an experience to which you can devote hours and hours. Developer Ubisoft Sofia promises Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars will deliver up to 45 hours of tactical role-playing combat similar to that of Advance Wars and Fire Emblem. I'm sure it will be fun to fly around Wuhu Island every now and then or prove my dominance with Ryu when the opportunity presents itself, but nothing satisfies me and my wallet more than a lengthy RPG, even if it doesn't push the latest technology to its limit.
Shadow Wars doesn't make much use of the 3DS' unique qualities. The game will feature 10 multiplayer missions where players can compete against one another, but they have to share the same 3DS. It has no online multiplayer or StreetPass features, and it only uses 3D to spice up the presentation. That doesn't bother me, though, since portable RPGs I can play for dozens of hours without relying upon new technology and gimmicks already make up the majority of my DS collection.
If I'm strapped for cash come March 27, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars will probably be the only game my new 3DS knows for some time, but at least it will keep me busy.