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Steel Diver Review

– Ed Acosta

Our Score: 2 / 5 – Mediocre

Steel Diver, what can I say about you?  Like a heavy piece of steel, you’re slow.  Sure, I know subs by nature are slow moving beasts, I’m not dumb.  But they just don’t seem to translate well into a good game here and it’s not the only factor either, this game lacks content to keep you coming back.

Steel Diver is a collection of three submarine games; Mission, Periscope Strike, and Steel Commander.  Mission is the heart of the game where you will spend most of your playtime.  The story scrolls on the top screen while you’re picking your sub; it’s some generic plot that takes place in 19XX about a coalition of the best sub pilots the world has to offer. They are working against some rouge nation to prevent the instability of the world or something.  That’s it, that’s all.  Someone call Stephen King and tell him he’s done.

The persective here is the same as any side scroller, you’re looking at the right side of the sub moving it towards the left and right side of the screen. Along the way to your endpoint you encounter different obstacles.  Subs, mines, ships with depth charges, branching paths, different floor elevation, and volcanoes are what you’ll navigate around in the blue depths.  You take command of one of only three submarines, the Compact and nimble ND-01 Manatee piloted by Captain Luc Fisher, the average midsize ND-03 BlueShark with your Captain Ben Triton. Surely, last but not least, make way for the powerful world destroyer that is the ND-05 Serpent with Captain Dante Cruz at the command.  Essentially ND-01 is a tiny sub that can move quickly and doesn’t have much in the way of firepower, the ND-03 is your everyman choice, and the ND-05 is slow and powerful.  Now to move on and unlock new missions you have to beat each level with each sub.  Right off the bat, there are 7 missions with mission 6 and 7 being locked.  So before you get to them you have to play the game a total of 15 times, ugh.  It wouldn’t be so bad if the action wasn’t so slow and boring.  Sub to sub combat is lacking, none of the subs follow you after you pass by.  It’s far easier to just pass by them ignoring them completely.  Shooting torpedoes is a pain because you have to line up your sub and as you’ll read later, that’s not fun.  N… O… T… fun.  There is also a ghost system, which encourages you to make it through the mission in the fastest time possible.  I found this to be a little more enjoyable but the controls make for an unpleasant ride.

Periscope Strike makes use of top screen, as through you were staring up a periscope, and the 3DS’s gyroscope by having you spin around to find enemy ships.  Think sitting in an office chair and spinning yourself around.  This mode is playable as a standalone mode, but is also featured at the end of each campaign mission.  Spin, find ship and press B to fire; that’s it.  This mode does unlock decals that are used to make your sub pretty, I have an orca on mine.

Finally, Steel Commander is basically Battle Ship. You can play against a computer or a friend via download play. This game is definitely best played with a friend since you will do your best to outsmart them and sneak a peek at their screen.  Good times by all.  So like battle ship, you place your ships on your side of the board and guess where your opponent’s ships are.  Here though the ships are initially placed for you, then you get to move the ships each turn.  Subs can attack ships with the periscope game and other subs with that same game but underwater.  Ships can attack ships in much the same fashion and attack subs with depth charges.  The ship has to pick a depth for the charge and the sub has to pick a depth to avoid.  If the depths are the same, sub is hit.  You don’t see the other player’s ships on your screen so you have to guess where they are on the board ala battleship.  Overall it’s a fun little multiplayer game that also supports single cart download play.

The 3D is great however.  This game makes great use of it and gives you a feeling of having a remote-controlled submarine swimming in a fish tank.  The depth is there and combined with the objects in the foreground, you really do feel like you’re looking into a fish tank.  Well played Nintendo, well played.  Menus have a nice subtle depth to them that makes it easy on the eye and there are nice little touches in the game like little fish that sometimes swim around your sub when you get close.  When your ship gets damaged the touch screen will sometimes spring a leak and you have to use the stylus to tap that leak away.  The spray looks ok but the resulting wet screen looks pretty believable.

So here we are to my second main issue with this game, the controls.  I’ve already explained the periscope controls so let’s move onto the Mission controls.  The touch panel controls the sub, there is no button support here.  Everything is done within the touch screen.  There are two sliders that control depth (surface and dive) and one for speed (full throttle and reverse). It’s not that the sliders don’t work, they do make sense.  My problem is that you have to use the stylus and control one at a time.  It’s a pretty painful way to play if you ask me.  The subs are slow off the line and will gradually get faster, but not by much.  You place the slider dead center to stop but since its water there is less resistance so you’re going to keep going forward for a while.  The best tactic is to slam it into reverse when you want to stop and kind feather the slider forward until you stop.  There’s a little wheel that can adjust the pitch of the subs nose which you need to aim up or down since torpedoes rocket out the front of the sub.  It’s this slow “control movement one slider at a time” speed that partly makes the game so un-enjoyable.

Overall this game is a good demo for what the 3DS can do.  A game that uses most of the 3DS features so you can show your family and friend’s what this little device can do.  As for an actual game, there’s nothing here to keep you wanting to come back.

Retails for: $39.99, recommended purchase price: $14.99


Nintendogs + Cats Review


– Ed Acosta

Our Score: 3 / 5 – Okay

Nintendogs + cats.  Need I say more?  The game is pretty straight forward, adopt a puppy then tend to his or her needs.  If you’ve played the original Nintendogs you know how it goes.  You have three titles of the same game to choose from.  Each version has a different set of dogs but all can become unlockable eventually. There are differences though from the start, and the thing that stick out the most are the graphics.  The world is in 3D and the graphics are far superior to those in the original title.   You can see fluffy fur and not just a flat texture, the eyes are slightly larger and more expressive, and the textures themselves are of higher quality.

The house around you has gone for  a graphical overhaul as well.  It feels like your actually in a room than an empty space with a window to the outside world. Later on you cam buy furniture and various other items to customize your room for the pups to interact with.  The game gives you all the same options of buying toys and accessories for the pups and evil kittens to play with.  Balls, Frisbee’s, wind up toys, etc.. the animals intereact differently with them all.  You can only have three dogs on screen at once but that doesn’t mean you can’t own more.

Just put them away at the Pet Hotel until you would like to play with a different set.  One would think with all the extra power in the machine, why is three the limit?  Press the whistle button or speak out your dog’s name and they will run over to you and you can interact individually.  Now’s your time to teach Fido some tricks.  Paw, shake, rollover, attack… ok that last one isn’t a recognized trick but a man can dream right?  I felt as if the voice recognition was a little more precise than before.  It seems to do a better job when you say the command a little different.  The first Nintendogs was a pain because you had to say it exactly the same every time which made for playing in loud places almost impossible.  It’s unfortunate that they again put a restriction on the amount of tricks dogs can learn in a day in an effort to stretch out the playtime of the game.  I don’t approve one bit of this method but it does work, at least when you remember to play.

Now it wouldn’t be all that much of a game if you couldnt do some competing with your eager little pups so Nintendo has included the dog competitions once again.  This time around they have replaced the agilty course with a Lure event where you reel in a brightly colored lure for your dogs to follow.  Imagine an old time greyhound race with the rabbit lure and you get the premise.  The pups follow the lure along a path and you have to reel it in at the right speed so your dog doesnt catch it or lose interest in it.  The better you two get, the higher the ranks you go with more obsticles in your way like jumps and criss crosses.

Frisbee events are the exact same.  Throw the Frisbee out and hopefully your pup runs fast enough and catch it.  the further out the pups catches it, the more points you get.  It’s fun but your dog does need practice before trying the harder levels.  Obedience events are also back but this time around you use the 3DS’s camera for an AR mix to the obedience trials.  You set up an AR card on the table and your cute little doggie appears in front of you!

Now you two do your best to impress the Mii made judges with the tricks you have taught him or her.  Just like teaching your dog tricks, your only allowed to compete in each event twice a day per dog.  So if you want to play longer than a few minutes a day, save up for more dogs and have them all do their maximum number of events in a day.

To find some rare stuff you need to take your dog out for walks where they can find presents and make friends.  It’s also how you reach the training areas for frisbee and lure.  If you remember, the first game had random maps created so you had to create a path around town and back for your walks.  It was neat but annoying when you ran out of the maximum number of steps you could take.  It’s much better this time around with no route choosing.  You watch from behind as your dog runs up the street seeing Mii’s walking by with other dogs or on the sidewalks just chiling.

The town feels populated with the Miis around and not so lifeless.  by the way, yes your dog poops and yes you want to clean it up.  You can also use the 3DS’s pedometer to go on a walk as well.  Go to the Pedometer option and choose your dog.  Shut the 3DS and put it in pocket or bag.  When you come back to the game later it will show you how many steps you took and depending on the amount, your puppy gives you a surprise!  It’s a nice way to earn extra steps for your street pass and stuff for your Nintendogs game as well.

After your power walks, your puppy can become a mess and trust me, after 8 hours and over 2.5k steps, your dog will be a mess.  So go to your supplies menu and whip out the shampoo.  It’s bath time for the mut and it works in the exact same manner as the previous games.  Although you can use the circle pad to rotate the camera around the dog and get his other side as well.  Lather him or her up and then use the shower head to wet’em down.  No need for special long or short hair shampoos either, just use regular good old fashioned dog shampoo.

All in all, the game can be a good time.  You just have to get over yourself if you think it’s below you because it’s not manly and violent, it can be a pretty deep and fun game if you want it to be.  If you want to show off the 3D to family, this is the game to do it.  Which is going to excite your mother more?  A submarine or a cute puppy?  I think we all know the answer.

Retails for: $39.99, recommended purchase price: $24.99