The 3DS launch library covered most of the genres, from racing games to fighters, but what about adventure games? Is LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars just a good adventure game for the fledgling system because it doesn't have much competition? Or is it a good game in its own right? I took some time to defeat loads of LEGO enemies and smash everything in sight into tiny little LEGO pieces to collect in order to find out for you!
I will say right up front that I have no idea what's going on in the story here. LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is based off of the Clone Wars animated series which I never actually watched, having been turned off by the prequel trilogy films. So the traditional silent cutscenes were mildly entertaining for their comedic effect, but I barely knew who half the characters were. And the crawls before each level explaining what was going on weren't much help either. All the talk of separatists and republics just confuses me. The crawls did look really cool in 3D, though!
The visuals are good, with nicely detailed environments and characters, although the top-down perspective limits the depth of the 3D effects. There are a few shooting levels, which look a little better in 3D, but overall, the 3D doesn't add much, if anything, to the game. In fact, the CGI cutscenes didn't have much depth to them, either. But the graphics are good, and there's a nice lighting effect on the environments as you run around with your lightsaber. The traditional Star Wars theme music and sound effects appear, and honestly, just those few notes of that classic John Williams score are enough to bring out my inner child.
Gameplay is the traditional LEGO running through the levels smashing everyone and everything in sight to collect the little LEGO studs and anything else you might stumble across. (It did seem a little easier to get the minikits in Story Mode in this game than in past ones.) It's simple, but that's good, because the instruction booklet only includes information on which buttons do what. It's like they assumed everyone had already played one of the LEGO games before, so they'd know what to do. The touchscreen isn't really used very often. You can tap the character you want to switch to, but it's only really helpful in Free Play mode where you have a full roster of characters. Otherwise it's easy enough to use the L and R bumpers to cycle through the three or four in Story Mode. I did enjoy using the touchscreen to activate jedi powers, although you can also just press a button if you prefer. The only time you seemed required to use the touchscreen was when you used your lightsaber to cut through a door, at which point, you simply use your thumb or finger to trace the path laid out for you (Usually a circle, but sometimes a horizontal slash). Oh, actually, you do need to use the touchscreen for the annoying hacking minigames. I say annoying because they're not terribly challenging (aside from the first time where you have to figure out what's required of you because as I said before no instructions), and it requires the finesse of the stylus over your meaty digits. So before activating a terminal, I would pull out the stylus so I'd be prepared when the minigame started. I will say that the James Bond-meets-Star Wars music that plays during them is pretty awesome, though!
As with the previous games in the LEGO adventure series (Star Wars, Batman, Indiana Jones, etc.), you first play a level in Story Mode before opening it up to Free Play with the ability to use enough characters with the abilities to uncover all of the secrets. The 3DS version has fewer levels than its console counterparts, with just 13 of them, but there's still plenty of gameplay because getting 100% in each one will take some time. I managed to breeze through Story Mode in about 8 hours, which isn't much, but half the fun of the LEGO games is going back to find all the secrets, so I expect that to add at least another 8-10. Also, each level has three acts in it, but when you go back in Free Play, you play act by act, making sure you collect everything in each one. I appreciate that because it means that you don't have to scour an entire level just to retrieve that last minikit.
LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars isn't exactly a standout of the 3DS launch library, but neither is it a bad game. It's exactly what you'd expect it to be, and if you enjoy the LEGO games as much as I do, then this is just going to be more of the same. Which is to say, fun. I happen to really enjoy them, so this was a great time for me, and one of the launch titles I spent the most time with (mostly because the levels sometimes took around a half-hour to complete!). It's a shame they couldn't include more of the levels and features of the console versions (like multiplayer), but what they left in is still a fun romp! (Although if anyone knows what the Street Pass feature does in this game, please enlighten me... Remember, no instructions. I even passed someone and tagged them, and it didn't seem to actually do anything!)
The reviewer played a copy provided by Nintendo and completed Story Mode in about eight hours with 30.6% completion (meaning there's still a lot more left to go back and find!).