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.