Posted on March 28 2011 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
This feature gets doubled up for good reason, and if you don’t want to skip to the end let me start off by saying that Steel Diver, despite Nintendo’s claims of being worth a 40$ price tag, simply isn’t worth the money. When you sit down and play this game you need to keep a few things in mind: It mostly takes place on a 2D plane, nullifying most of the 3D effects, and it also is completely controlled by the touch screen.
I went into Steel Diver optimistic because Nintendo has a solid track record with most of its games, but this one just doesn’t feel as though it belongs on the 3DS. It was clearly designed for the DS and simply ported over. That isn’t even the core of the problem. Before we get into it, here is what Steel Diver is all about. In campaign mode the story goes that some bad guys have invaded a rival nation and now the whole world is in trouble. Sounds like the entire Middle East region of the world to me, and how one invasion means the world is screwed is beyond me. However… that’s it. That’s the story. Nothing else. No problem, games don’t have to have stories to be good.
Once you get past that, there are 7 missions to choose from and one training option, where you can learn the basic controls for all 3 types of submarines. To break this down, they are basically the short and fast sub, the medium speed sub, and the big boy that is slow but can launch 4 torpedoes. To beat the game 100% you’re supposed to play each mission with all 3 subs, but for the purpose of this review, while experimenting with all 3 subs, I mostly just played through each mission once to get to the end.
The missions have some interesting quirks, some obstacles to avoid and some enemies to destroy, but the controls can make it a bit frustrating at times. Even once you get used to moving two different sliders to control all your motions (game seems that it would have been a lot better had it utilized the thumb pad instead) you realize that to destroy the enemies requires precise torpedo launching, and they all have “too long” of a reload sequence. This is likely to simulate realism, but in reality the game isn’t realistic anyways so why does it matter?
In the end, it’s easier and faster to just skip most of the enemies. When you get to the end of each mission you get to do some Periscope Strike Missions. This is where it takes advantage of the Gyroscope and requires you to literally turn your body in a circle to look around. It’s actually pretty fun the first few times you do it, but by mission 7 you will have already grown tired of it. In addition, if you use any other submarine but the smallest it becomes very easy for you to get shot down as there is really no way to avoid oncoming fire without “diving”. If you dive, you can’t really spot ships anymore (despite the fact most submarine torpedoes are actually fired from under water in real life) and with such a limited time limit, you won’t have time to down all the ships if you continually end up diving.
That’s about it for the campaign. In addition you can replay many of the levels in order to race against time and beat previous records, which breaks this game down into a slow racing game that takes place underwater. Your goal is simply to get from one side of the map to the other.
There are two other “games” that come along with it. One of them is Periscope Strike that give you three modes of gameplay, but they are are practically the same old “shoot different targets” stuff. The 3D effect here is brilliant, but in essence it’s the same mode that is at the end of every mission in the campaign, and it never changes. It’s fun, but since there is no variety, when you try to replay the same Strike mission it gets old fast.
The last mode is a strategy game that is similar to Battleship with a few extra moves. When you’re moving your submarine and a boat attacks you, you have to choose what depth to sink to. Guess wrong and you get hit. Given that I won the entire game against the AI with just my submarine as my boats eventually killed off their sub, I don’t really understand the strategy aspect. I am sure there is more to it that I am not comprehending, but I won’t figure that out until I play against real players, and this assumes others in my area even have the game for me to worry about it.
In the end, Steel Diver is not a bad game, but it’s not the sort of game you would expect to see on the 3DS. Nintendo says it’s worth the price tag, and I am sure they paid way more to make the game than was needed, but I can’t help but feel the criticism is warranted – this is the sort of game I expect to get from the Ipod App Store for no more than 5$. Their isn’t enough content at all – I beat each mode of the game in under a few hours – and that lack of content is what holds the game back. Between the often frustrating controls and the lack of replayability, the game as a pure 3DS title is worth a pass until it reaches the discount bins. The game has it’s moments of fun, but it’s far and few between.
Getting back to the 3DS itself the big question is if it was worth getting day one, and for others worth getting anytime soon. To be honest it is only worth it day one if you can afford to get games such as Ridge Racer AND Super Monkey Ball or Rayman 3D. While these may not be top flight titles, they are well worth getting a 3DS early to experience, as is Pilot Wings Resort. So if you have the 250$ plus an extra 80 to 120$ to purchase more than one game for it – it’s worth it. For others the value will be seen when the e-Shop opens in two months. If you want to wait, get it then for all the downloadable content.
Others are waiting for Ocarina of Time or Kid Icarus. Bottom line is the 3DS is an amazing piece of hardware and even in a weak game like Steel Diver, the 3D effect really can grow on you, grow on you so much that you just expect any other game on any other system to instantly have the 3D effect, and when it doesn’t it simply doesn’t feel “right.” While in Steel Diver the 3D is more of a gimmick, I have to say it made the game more visually pleasing. Seeing schools of fish twist and turn, and distance judging on the Periscope was practically a must. Just like the touch controls, the 3D has a lot of potential to be much more than “oh look what we can do.” It can, and should, take gaming to the next level. To me, it was worth it. To you? Maybe not, but it doesn’t hurt to know I wont have to sweat it out when the big titles come hoping local stores have it in stock. I had to call 4 different stores to get mine yesterday, and when I got there it was the last one left.
This machine is going to be in high demand, and even as demand starts to dwindle and used ones become available, big time releases like Ocarina of Time and Kid Icarus are going to be system sellers, so much so that it’s likely the supply gets strained yet again, just like it is now. It’s comforting knowing I wont have to worry about it anymore.