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Hands On: Nintendo's First-Party 3DS Titles

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As promised, after writing about my hands on impressions of the actual 3DS system and what I considered one of the standout titles available to demo, now I'm going to discuss the other games that I tried. And I tried literally everything.

First up, I'll discuss the first-party titles from Nintendo I played, which included Pilotwings Resort, Nintendogs + Cats, Steel Diver, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Kid Icarus: Uprising.

As soon as they opened the floor up, I made a beeline for the Zelda section. I had been blown away by watching the opening of the game with Link riding Epona through Hyrule Field in 3D at E3, and couldn't wait to actually play the game. The thing is, once you get right down to it, it's just Ocarina of Time. The graphics are sharper and more detailed, and it's in three glorious dimensions, but it's still the same game. Of course, Ocarina of Time is a great game, so that's not the problem. I just wonder if people will pass it up because they've already played it before. It plays well with the thumbstick and face buttons. You can use the touch screen to open maps and switch between items, or use the shoulder button if you prefer. I had a little trouble working out how to lock on to enemies during my first play, but later when I went back, I worked it out. One nifty feature is that when you activate your slingshot, you can aim with the thumbstick or use the accelerometer to move the 3DS around physically. It's a small touch, but nifty. I wasn't able to find out any more about the game, as far as whether they'd incorporated any of the system's other features into the remake. I've heard they've tweaked the abysmal Water Temple, but aside from that, I believe it's just going to be the same game. There is still no official release date yet, which seems odd, because you'd think it would be a launch title. Hopefully they're just being cautious and it will be, because I feel that if this launches too far down the road, there will already be more new 3DS titles people will want to play more than a remake.

Pilotwings Resort sees you flying over popular Nintendo vacation spot, Wuhu Island, last seen in Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit. You can use a plane, jet pack or hang glider and choose between missions or free play flying. The jet pack looked cool, so it was the first thing I tried, but the controls are really awkward and take some getting used to. But since the demos all timed out after 2-3 minutes, I didn't have time to get used to anything. Basically, you turn the jet pack to point up or out with the thumbstick and then push the button to move either up or forward. But I didn't have time to screw around, so I swapped for the airplane. The mission I played through was level one, and you flew around the island following a path to fly through floating rings. At the end, you're scored by how well you followed the path and how many rings you caught. As I am not adept at flight sims, even kiddie ones, I only scored two stars. And my Mii frowned sadly at this. I did, too. During my second go 'round later in the day, I gave the hang glider a try, and that was also a lot of fun. You don't have to worry about moving forward, just steering into the rings and the thermal updrafts. Landing took some getting used to, but it was still fun. Even if I didn't score any better with that vehicle! The graphics are cartoony, but sharp and detailed. And as I mentioned, you play as the Mii you created. The 3D looks spectacular as you fly around the island. If you've played Wii Sports Resort, imagine the flying game as its own title, but in 3D. Sadly, there's no multiplayer, so dogfights are out of the question, but you can take 3D pictures of the scenery which you can save to the SD card and share with friends. I was told that Pilotwings Resort is due out during the launch window, which is from the March 27 launch of the system to E3 in June.

I was also eager to try Nintendogs + Cats, having been a big fan of Nintendogs when it was released. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to the demo, and it was even still in Japanese! You could choose from three pairs of cats and dogs, and then play with them in a random environment. The inside of the house was nicely rendered and the 3D gave it added depth, but the animals themselves were the really impressive thing. The graphics are improved greatly, giving the dogs more detail to the point they actually look furry! There were a few dress-up accessories and toys to play with, and it turns out the animals do actually behave pretty realistically. When I called the dog over, he ran right up to me and let me pet him, while trying to do the same only elicited hisses. Well, eventually, he came over. But it took some coaxing, just like a real cat! (In case you couldn't tell, I'm a dog person.) Throwing a ball, the dog is all over it, and the cat just ignored it. At least until it decided that it wanted to try batting it out of the dog's paws. There wasn't much to the demo, but you could still get the sense that the interplay between the dogs and cats is going to be very interesting. The only thing that threw me was that in order to keep the animals in 3D, they stay on the top screen when they approach to be petted instead of switching to the bottom one as in the original. This led to an initial disconnect as I adjusted to petting nothing on the touch screen instead of the animal itself. A hand appears to pet the dog or cat, but it was a little weird at first, not petting directly on the animal. I was told that there is no release date set yet for Nintendogs + Cats, although I would have thought it would be a launch title. The fact that they didn't even have an American demo has me a little worried it might be a little further down the road, though.

Steel Diver was the one I was least excited about because it's a submarine game. And as I feared, steering your submarine through the obstacle course of a level was slow and awkward. It is a sub, after all. They're not the most maneuverable vehicles. The 3D effect is used really well, even with it being a side-scroller. There is depth to the levels, and even the bubbles that emerge from the tail of your submarine have depth to their cloud. The controls are all on the touch screen, and in a nifty touch, as your sub is damaged, a red light will flash over the control panel, and if you spring a leak, you actually have to hold your finger or the stylus over the leak until it stops. The Periscope Strike mode was much cooler, and it has you holding the 3DS up and moving it around in a circle to simulate looking through a submarine's periscope. There are swarms of enemy ships around you, and you have to torpedo them while avoiding their own attacks by diving when necessary. I found this to be much more fun than the mission modes. There is also Steel Commander mode, which is the multiplayer aspect of the game, but I wasn't able to get any information out of the Nintendo rep regarding any details. Steel Diver is also due out in the "launch window."

Last, but not least, was Kid Icarus: Uprising. I know a lot of people are excited about the return of Kid Icarus, but I've never played any of his games, so I don't know. I can't compare this to any previous game, so I can't say whether or not it's truly faithful. Just wanted to get that out of the way right off the bat. The demo starts off with Kid Icarus flying through the skies and shooting at enemies in his path. The graphics are nice, and the flying looks great in 3D. You really get a sense of how close the enemies are to you. The flight path in this level was predetermined, so you use the thumbstick to move around the screen and avoid attacks while aiming with the stylus on the touch screen and shooting with the shoulder button. Unfortunately, he eventually lands, and then you experience ground combat. Walking around was kind of awkward, and nowhere near as fluid a motion as the flying. You can shoot from a distance or perform melee attacks up close. Eventually, I made it to the boss, and just ran around in circles while shooting at it, eventually defeating it. I was told that it's a very early version of the game, so perhaps they'll work out the stiffness of the walking (especially the animations), but they can't really fix my major problem with the title. The way you have to hold the 3DS was really uncomfortable. You hold it in your left hand, thumb on the stick and finger on the trigger, while using your right to aim with the stylus on the touch screen. This means that there's a lot of pressure on your left hand, and the corner of the 3DS digs into your palm. Maybe you'd get used to it or find a more comfortable way to hold it, but in the 2-3 minutes I had, I couldn't find one. Because, as I mentioned, it's still early on in development, Kid Icarus: Uprising will not be out in the launch window, but Nintendo is promising it in 2011. At some point!

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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