Let's begin this review with a quick history lesson, shall we? Rayman 2 has appeared on many systems, including PC, PS1, N64, Dreamcast, PS2, DS, and iOS. In fact, the version of Rayman 2 that appeared on the original Nintendo DS was right along the system's launch in 2004. So what does Ubisoft do for the launch of the new Nintendo 3DS? Why, release another port of Rayman 2, now dubbed Rayman 3D, of course.
And while I do in part intend that history lesson as scathing commentary against Ubisoft, I also cannot deny that Rayman 2 is still one my favorite 3D platformers. So it has saddened me that the most recent two ports of Rayman 2, on DS and iOS, were practically unplayable thanks to terrible touch-screen controls for the game's virtual analog stick. But now on the 3DS, with the system's analog nub, Rayman 2 can finally be done justice on a handheld. But does the limbless hero's finest adventure still hold up after all of these years?
At the time of Rayman 2's original release, most 3D platformers strictly followed the blueprints of Super Mario 64: each level has an assortment of missions, and completing enough missions gave the player access to the next set of levels. Rayman 2 strayed from that formula, instead making each level its own objective and favoring more linear level progression. This made Rayman 2 light on content compared to some other platformers, but the more singular focus also allowed Rayman 2 to have some of the best level design of the time.
What really made the game spectacular were how Rayman's abilities could be used in each level. Jumping, climbing ledges, and slowing his descent with a helicopter jump were all fairly standard genre abilities, but Rayman's ability to shoot projectiles stood out. With projectiles Rayman could attack enemies, activate switches, use the momentum of a projectile to guide floating platforms, and even use them as a grappling hook. All of these abilities are used to great effect throughout the game for puzzles and gameplay variety.
The question is: does the gameplay hold up to this day and make it a worthy 3DS purchase? The answer is actually a bit tricky. I played Rayman 3D alongside its Dreamcast counterpart for comparison, and must say that I believe Rayman 3D is the better version. The Dreamcast visuals are slightly crisper, but the 3D effect genuinely improves the experience. On the Dreamcast I frequently relied on the helicopter ability to help position myself with each jump to a new platform, but on the 3DS I found myself able to accurately judge the distance between platforms and feeling more sure of myself in each of my jumps so that I hardly used the helicopter at all. It was the kind of precision typically found in a 2D platformer, and made the whole game feel much more natural to play.
However, the 3D effect isn't without its faults. Frequently I noticed ghosting in the 3D image, where I would see ghost images of objects on both sides of it. No matter how far or close I held the system, how I tilted it, or how I adjusted the 3D slider, the ghosting effect seemed to always be there. This is an issue I have not encountered in any other 3DS game, and can only assume it is from forcing poor 3D implementation on a game that did not original use a 3D effect. The other issue with turning the 3D slider on was that foreground items became very distracting. Part of Rayman 3D's charming art style is that there are lots of floating particles in the air, and thanks to the wonders of 3D these particles can get highlighted in the foreground and distract from the action. This distraction isn't limited to particles, as it also applies to shrubs, fences, and any other object that gets between Rayman and the camera. A small phallic mosquito-like creature that buzzes around Rayman in a few levels can be more difficult to deal with than any boss battle. I still played Rayman 3D predominantly with the 3D effect turned on, but there were certain rooms and levels that caused me to temporarily turn the effect off.
Another unfortunate part of Rayman 3D is the lack of bonuses. The Dreamcast version added a number of online multiplayer bonus levels, and since Rayman 3D is a direct port of the Dreamcast version, it is puzzling to see these bonus levels missing from the package. The PS2 version also added a number of story levels that were not carried over to the 3DS port, and would have been nice to include to make Rayman 3D the definitive version of the classic. Yes, they are bonuses, so it doesn't effect the main experience, but considering that they were present in the original, and with so few 3DS launch titles featuring multiplayer, they really should have been included in the 3DS port.
If you have played Rayman 2 before in any of its console forms, there really isn't any reason to bother with Rayman 3D. The controls are slightly improved, but the content is otherwise the same. However, for those who haven't experienced the game before, or have only attempted the DS or iOS versions, Rayman 3D is still a fantastic platformer. Rayman 3D already shows that the platforming genre has much to benefit from the 3DS, and whets the gaming appetite for what is to come from the system when platformers release that were developed with 3D effects in mind.