2017 was a weak year for the 3DS. While there were a few heavy hitters, this marked the first year Nintendo themselves slowed down releases for the system. Is this a sign a new portable system is coming, or the end of the DS series as we know it?
Metroid: Samus Returns
There was almost no competition this year. With this being the first Metroid release since Metroid: Other M a year ago, it’s one of the most exciting Nintendo releases yet. The game was a retelling of Metroid II for GameBoy, and despite being a remaster, the game felt all new.
Colors: Black, Red, Silver (Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate), Gold (The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D)
MSRP: $199.99, $229.99 (bundles)
Nintendo is one for constant hardware iterations, and they finally got the 3DS right with the New XL. Despite the confusing name, it actually does feel all new. The entire system is streamlined and it feels like Nintendo finally wrapped their minds around how they want the 3DS to be, and this is the final (hopefully) result. All of the features implemented into the 3DS up until now are present on the 3DS from hardware changes to the software.
The first thing you will notice, obviously, is how big the unit is. I had a DSi XL and while it is as bigger the larger screen made games look pixelated. The New 3DS XL isn’t just a 3DS on steroids like the 3DS XL, it has all new features. Secondly, is just how sleek it looks. This is probably Nintendo’s sexiest handheld since the GBA SP. The round edge accompanied by the slim form factor just made it look sleek and impressive. Once you flip it open you will notice something…what the hell is that rubber nubby thing on the top right corner? It’s the “C-Stick” and I put quotes there because it’s not a stick but a nub, hell not even that. It’s like a rubber nipple. The addition of a second stick is an absolute #1 must-have on the 3DS…I can’t make this point any clearer. Nintendo pretty much took the Circle Pad Pro and melted it onto the New 3DS XL as it includes the ZR and ZL buttons as well. The first handheld with two shoulder buttons built-in…now we just need more games that support them! More on that later.
Everything else is pretty much in its proper place button wise except there is no longer a WiFi switch on the side. WiFi is a software toggle now and the power, wifi, and charging lights are all grouped up in a row on the bottom right corner. You can see them easily with the lid flipped down. One of my favorite features is the SpotPass LED located on top of the right hinge. It lights up green when a SpotPass notification is available and is also your low battery light. The Game Card slot is tucked away on the bottom of the device along with the stylus and power button. The power button is a small button under the LED lights so you don’t accidentally hit it.
I actually like the new 3D slider on the right of the screen. It’s symmetrical to the volume slider, like older models, but is more flush with the system and doesn’t feel so cheap. One minor gripe is that the New 3DS XL does not use a standard SD card so the one in your older system is useless here, instead, it comes with a 4GB microSD card and it is not accessible from the outside. You must unscrew the bottom plate to get to it near the battery. That part I don’t really care about as most people will either never need to upgrade because they buy physical games, or you will upgrade once with a 32 or 64GB card if you are a digital person. There is also an NFC battery in this thing for the amiibos, but everyone will use that feature. That’s pretty much all there is to the new hardware…well it’s actually a complete 90% overhaul but for the better.
Let’s talk about the screens. They look great, while not as high resolution as you think, they work fine for 3DS games. For people with bigger hands, the XL size is perfect and honestly, the 3D is much easier on your eyes as it’s a bigger target. The 3D effect is much-improved thanks to the head tracking built into the system via IR sensor. Now it’s not flawless, it doesn’t work well when you are laying down and gets finicky in the dark if you move around too much. The hardware has a faster CPU, mainly doubled that of the original model, as well as double the RAM and 1GB internal memory. The CPU is clocked at 268Mhz and is dual-core with one core reserved for OS operation. It also has 256MB of RAM and 10MB VRAM. You may laugh at this compared to say the Vita, but Nintendo is known to keep older hardware for cheaper prices. That’s not to say the New 3DS could have benefited from an entirely new chipset as seen in newer phones, which makes this the biggest downfall of the New 3DS.
Playing games on the system using the C-Stick is weird at first. It doesn’t move around as it reacts to pressure. You just push it…mush it? You move your thumb around on it and the camera turns, it’s hard to explain but it works well and after an hour you forget it’s not a moveable stick. Playing games like Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate andResident Evil Revelations with it makes the games that much more enjoyable. The extra shoulder buttons are a little hard to get to as they aren’t contoured into the system, but rather just sit on top and are rather small. The other complaint is that this system does not come with a charger. Yeah, you heard me. Nintendo banked on previous 3DS owners buying this system, so you’re going to have to throw down $10 or so for a generic charger if you have never owned a 3DS before. Stupid move on Nintendo’s part, but there’s nothing we can do.
With all that said the New 3DS XL is what the 3DS should have been in the beginning. The larger screens look crisp and bright, the battery lasts a whopping 7.5 hours (with WiFi off and power save mode on) during most games, the faster CPU will bring in better-looking games, and the entire form factor is sleek and gorgeous.
The 3DS is still going strong and this year there were many great games for this little system. Nintendo shows that it can still dominate the handheld market with its first-party games and a number of loyal third party developers.
Shovel Knight isn’t just any old 8-bit platformer clone. Shovel Knight does it exactly like we all remember back in the day but with a touch of today’s better controls and level design. Shovel Knight is very hard, but just the right amount of hard that only a few areas require constant restarts but they are oh-so-satisfying.
So here I was thinking this game was going to be something completely new and exciting when I realized it was pretty much a port of A Link to the Past. That’s not really a bad thing since many younger gamers have never played that game before. What I also didn’t like was just how easy and short the game was. The dungeons themselves aren’t really all that hard but more confusing and some puzzles are really hard to figure out. With that said the game is enjoyable but some may not like it.
It all comes down to feeling like every other Zelda game out there. There’s not much to set this apart, and when you’re done with it you will just shrug and move on to the next game. The dungeon layout and the bosses are clever and fun but I just wish there was more to this game. One thing I also didn’t like was having to buy the equipment to keep it. If you rent equipment and die it will be sent back to Rovio’s shop in which you have to go back to your house and rent it again and return to the dungeon you were at. At least there are warp spots which are a serious lifesaver. In all honesty, if these weren’t here I doubt most people would be able to stomach getting around.
Most dungeons involve a certain element or weapon. The boss in each dungeon also requires this weapon to defeat it. The sand rod, fire rod, ice rod, bomb, and various other weapons from past Zelda games make an appearance. However, the story involves Sages being turned into paintings and that’s where the whole “Link Between Worlds” thing comes in. This feature is actually quite gimmicky and the game would have been fine without it. It’s used as a segue between puzzles or just used briefly to get around. Flattening against a wall and shuffling side to side isn’t exactly a game selling feature and I felt it was poorly used here.
The game’s 8 dungeons may actually be enough for most people, especially Zelda fans. The most frustrating part was how to get to each dungeon since you can easily get lost or spend hours just wandering around aimlessly. The lack of direction has been abundant in the Zelda series and I feel needs to change. However, once again, some fans may be happy with this and that’s fine.
Overall, A Link Between Worlds is one of the best games available on 3DS and a fine Zelda game. It’s the only issue that it’s the same type of Zelda we have played numerous times and not the revolutionary Zelda we have come to expect from games like Phantom Hourglass. The 3D effects don’t really do much for the overall experience (like 99% of 3DS games) and can be just as enjoyable with the 3D turned off.
Luigi’s Mansion was a cult hit back on the GameCube but didn’t see much commercial success. The 3DS seems like a perfect home for the sequel so Nintendo went for it. You play Luigi who is tasked with dispersing a small town of ghosts with the help of Professor E. Gadd. You take your Poltergust 5000 and suck and blow anything in your path. Be it cloth on walls, rugs, pulleys, or using your other powers to reveal hidden objects or even your flashlight to help battle ghosts. There are quite a few elements in play here and they are done fairly well. Ghosts don’t just stand around and let you suck them up. Some are protected by objects or are inside other objects and require coaxing out in various ways. This with the inclusion of puzzles makes Luigi’s Mansion a fun trip.
It isn’t without its problems and there are more than meets the eye like most recent Nintendo games. Sure the game looks great and plays well but it gets repetitive halfway through and gets frustrating. You’d expect tougher ghosts to come into play at some point, but instead, you get the same ghosts with bigger life bars and more thrown at you. As you progress you find cash throughout the game to upgrade your equipment so this isn’t a problem. I was nearly maxed out towards the end of the game. The issue is redundancy and constantly revisiting the same areas just to fight different ghosts. Some puzzles are hard to figure out and some require insistent backtracking that gets very dull. The game had the Mario charm thrown in, but I expected more variety. After the third area, you really start getting tired of the game, but that doesn’t mean its terrible.
There are some hidden items in each area and they aren’t too hard to find if you explore every little area. These range from gems to cash to a hidden Boo in each level. It feels less like a collectathon and more like exploring an area. The objectives are clear and your map is useful. With that said, many objectives are also repeated throughout like chasing down a ghost dog to find a key and getting back parts from various ghosts. It just got old and I just kept telling myself, “Not this again!”
Dark Moon is one of the best looking 3DS games out there. The game has high-resolution textures, great-looking models, and some impressive lighting effects and physics. I almost felt like I was playing the Wii U. The 3D effects are nice but don’t add anything to the gameplay. I loved the attention to detail from Luigi’s voice to his animations. The game has great production values but could have used a better variety of gameplay elements.
Final Fantasy has had some strange offshoots like Chocobo Racing, Kingdom Hearts, and the TBS Tactics. A rhythm game is probably the only genre Final Fantasy hasn’t touched and it’s one that the game belongs in. Final Fantasy is full of some of the best video game music ever created. While later titles aren’t exactly up to par, there are plenty of songs here that fans will love across all 13 core titles.
The basic gameplay is broken up into 3 stages that are randomized. BMS is Battle Music Stage. Usually, one song from each game is picked that was used in a battle, usually a major boss fight. Your four characters stand in front of bars similar to a horizontal Guitar Hero. The entire game consists of only 3 tap types. Hold, tap, and slide. The speed and combination of these 3 can make things really difficult on the Ultra mode but the standard model is just way too easy even for beginners. EMS or Event Music Stage is a song picked during some sort of popular or well-known cutscene and the said scene plays in the background to the music. It’s great seeing Rinoa and Squall waltz in Final Fantasy VIII or watching Aerith’s death scene in Final Fantasy VII. The game is mixed up a bit where the ring you tap flies around the screen as you follow it to complete the required taps. The final stage, FMS or Field Music Stage, has your leader character walking down a re-rendered field from each game collecting chests and the field music from each game accompanies it. This stage consists of one bar that you can move up and down to follow waves. There’s a third boring stage where you tap a crystal in the center of the screen as bubbles fly into it, these are for the opening and ending themes in the main mode which are as boring as ever.
This may sound simple, but the other half is leveling up your cute chibi FF characters and equipping items and weapons to last through the harder difficulties. Characters with higher HP won’t die as easy (meaning you can mess up more) and this includes their armor (they won’t take as much damage when you do mess up). Characters with higher luck infield stages will find more items. This is a unique twist on the rhythm genre and helps push it forward in a way that’s never really been done. Thanks to the many extras such as fully rendered trading cards and DLC there’s a lot to be had in this package. If you like the lesser-known songs in these games the Dark Notes mode will help you here. You can acquire new songs vita StreetPass or battling friends in multiplayer for the highest score. These are all set to the hardest difficulty so practice is needed.
With such a content-heavy rhythm game it begs the question as to who this title is for. Rhythm game fans will appreciate the mechanics and use of the touchscreen, but may not care for the orchestra and chiptune heavy music. Final Fantasy nuts may love this game but not really like the fast-paced rhythm action. It’s something that can appeal to anyone who even hates RPGs, but the Final Fantasy only music may turn Rock Band and Guitar Hero fans away. Despite who this game is made for, whoever picks it up will enjoy a simple yet rich game full of detail, content, and attention to detail that hasn’t been seen since the earlier days of Final Fantasy.
Castlevania has struggled for years in the 3D department. Lords of Shadowwas the first solid Castlevania that was in the 3D that did the series justice. Some hardcore fans shame the game, but I think it is one of the best action games of this generation. Mirror of Fate brings that same awesomeness to the 3DS with great combat and solid platforming.
You play as four protagonists through the whole game. Simon, Alucard, Gabriel, and Trevor. The game has simple 2D platforming with jumping and swinging, but the combat is solid enough. You have two attack buttons and a special power button. The special powers vary from axes (CV1 anyone?) to passive powers like being invincible for a short time or turning into a werewolf (Alucard). The combat is punchy and powerful and feels great. However, the game is incredibly hard. It requires a lot of skill and mastering the combat to get through the game because it can just get downright tough, but it’s beatable. Apart from the combat you are mainly solving puzzles and finding secrets.
Puzzles involve pushing and pulling objects into the right places, flipping switches in sequential order, and sometimes even labyrinthine mazes. The map is very useful since you can place notes and it will tell you if there’s a secret or something useful nearby. Upgrading health and magic seems like a standard affair but you have to find these chests and make an effort, they aren’t handed to you. There was some annoying backtracking which felt a bit cheap, and the fast travel system is nearly useless since you never know which level you will end up in. I did get lost a few times and the puzzles can be real head-scratchers, but platforming fans shouldn’t struggle too much.
The story is pretty short and there’s no reason to really come back. People who never played Lords of Shadow won’t really get the story since the ending is extremely sad. The graphics are amazing and these are the best 3D effects I have seen on the 3DS thus far. They pop out and just make the whole game come to life. I honestly didn’t see much that wasn’t in 3D in some way.
Overall, Mirror of Fate is a solid yet difficult platformer that will make any Castlevania or platformer fan happy. The story is interesting, the 3D effects are amazing, and the combat is solid. Just be prepared for some backtracking and short game time.
Here we are again. Another Mario game to prove how good a new Nintendo system is. Super Mario 3D Land is another addition to the New Super Mario Bros./Galaxy formula that pushed Mario into a new generation. Honestly, I’m tired of it, but it still proves to be solid and entertaining.
The game has 8 worlds to play through and each stage is completely different, so at least there’s variety. Each world feels like a mini one from Super Mario Galaxy mixed with a New Super Mario Bros. level. The whole point is to just get to the end, but there are 3-star coins in each level. Here’s the problem with collecting all those: There’s absolutely no reward for doing so, it’s just to scratch the completionist OCD itch. Mario has his usual NSMB abilities like the fire flower, Tanooki Suit, Boomerang suit, and the white Tanooki suit. Honestly, the game lacked any new abilities which is a shame. I found that the Tanooki suit was vital to winning some levels and to even getting to some star coins.
At the end of each world, you fight Bowser, but there’s no variety to it. You work your way up to him then you just avoid his attacks until you get to the button that knocks him into lava. Every so often you will fight Bowser Jr. or the Koopa Twins, but they are all very easy. Speaking of easy, the first 6 worlds are a breeze with nearly zero challenge. The enemies are easy to avoid, and if you die more than 5 times you get the White Tanooki suit which makes you invincible through the whole level, they basically just let you cheat your way through. I really hated this, but at the last word, I found that I needed it because the game went from super easy to extremely difficult in no time flat. It took over an hour to beat the final Bowser level.
The 3D effects are pretty nice and work well here. There are a few instances in levels where 3D will benefit you to see the level layout better, but just like most 3DS games, it’s just for flash, and not gameplay. I did find the graphics to look crisp and very pretty for a 3DS game, but they still look like Super Mario Galaxy and haven’t changed one bit, I’m bored of it. There are no extra modes, and once you beat the game it’s hard to have a reason to come back. The story in Mario games is pretty simple so I won’t even go there.
The severe lack of challenge through 70% of the game just really brings the experience down. Enemies are a breeze to avoid and there’s just nothing new to the overall Mario formula to make it groundbreaking like Mario used to be. Nintendo has been riding this formula for so long that it’s a wonder people keep buying it. I thought this would be kind of like Mario 64 in the sense that it revolutionized the genre and console, this game had that potential. While the game is just plain fun, I wanted a challenge. I wanted something new like more abilities, a new art style, new enemies, and just a larger challenge. When you hit world 7 you will be in for a world of hurt because the game is just so damn hard. It’s the way the level is laid out, enemies are placed in tricky spots, but it’s not the fair type of hard.
Overall, Super Mario 3D Land is a fun game, but not the genre changer like everyone thought. It sticks with the same tired NSMB/Galaxy formula that everyone is getting tired of. There’s no challenge 70% through the game and the bosses lack any variety. There are no extra modes and the star coins offer no reward. What we have is just a fun Mario game with great graphics and 3D effects, that’s all.
The 3DS had some awesome games this year so it was a tough choice. There were a surprising amount of solid third party games this year as well. The best 3DS game obviously has to use the new hardware well, but also be a solid game that doesn’t rely on gimmicks.
Revelations is not just a solid RE game, but the graphics are stunning for the console. The story is interesting and the 3D effects are fantastic. This won over for me because of how great of an experience it is. This isn’t just an RE console port, but a whole new experience that just rocks solid.