Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Top Ten Nintendo 3DS Retail Games of the System's First Year

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary in North America of the little handheld that could, the Nintendo 3DS. It started slow out of the gate (publishers canceling games, little online content to speak of, etc.), but it picked up a significant amount of steam with a well timed price cut and a sizable amount of appealing games. The latter is the subject of today's top ten. There have been plenty of titles released for Nintendo's glasses-free system, but which ten do I deem the best of the bunch? These games have the most replay value, the best production values, the greatest gameplay (of course), and the most bang for your buck.

10) Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D

The Mercenaries Mode that originated in Resident Evil 4 and popped up in Resident Evil 5 landed on the Nintendo 3DS with its own style of arcade action. There were an abundant array of missions to tackle that took players straight into the path of axe-wielding terrors, chainsaw-carrying crazies, and infected that infested the various levels of Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. The goal of each game is simple. Take down all of the enemies in a given level within the time limit. The better your time and the longer your combos last, the better your score will be. The "one more play" nature of the game, the cooperative online play, the numerous unlockables like load-outs and characters such as HUNK and Barry Burton (where's my Leon, Capcom?), and the achievement-like medals to attain added to the enticing package. Capcom's MT Framework made The Mercenaries 3D one of the earliest lookers of the system. While it has been surpassed by later releases, this game still remains a graphical beast worthy of a play-through.

9) Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy

Despite having an HD game called Ace Combat: Assault Horizon that wasn't too interesting (or good for that matter), Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy has nothing to do with that title. In fact, it is a remake of the second installment of Ace Combat. The bite-sized missions with plenty of well placed checkpoints allow for a great pick-up-and-play mindset. Making aerial maneuvers around fighters trying to flank you and shooting them down with machine gun bullets or missiles always feels good, dodging bogey fire at the last possible moment makes you reminisce about the movie Top Gun, and listening to the chatter of your captain and rival fighters keeps you from feeling lonely in the deadly skies. The campaign of Assault Horizon Legacy demands you to play it at least twice just to experience all of the 20+ missions the game has in store for a flying prodigy like yourself. It's a shame Namco relinquished all of their marketing money on the skunk that was Assault Horizon and not the superior 3DS entry. Live and learn, I guess.

8) Dead or Alive: Dimensions

Dead or Alive arrived on Nintendo's 3DS in a big way with what could be considered a Greatest Hits collection of the fabled franchise. The story mode was an extremely loose tale of past Dead or Alive games all combined into one convoluted, confusing mess, but damn, I'd be lying if I said that smashing perfectly curved girls and brawny men through walls and off balconies wasn't fun! Unlike the next game on this list, Dead or Alive's battles take place in a three-dimensional arena. As stated, you can knock your opponent into other areas for a massive amount of damage. From low punches to high kicks and throws, the arsenal of moves is grounded more in reality than say, Street Fighter (what, with its giant green, red-haired monsters and all), but it is a nice change of pace. This version of Dead or Alive offered free downloadable costumes on a daily basis, an exclusive Metroid: Other M-themed arena, online play, and various doodads to collect. Like attempting to have an intelligent discussion on a gaming message board, to say that this game lacked content would be an ill-advised move.

7) Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition

Take it outside, inside, within the walls of your fragile mind-- wherever with Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition. Somehow Capcom managed to take all of the content of this port's bigger HD brothers and fit it all inside one miniscule game card while adding some exclusive nuances like StreetPass battles and collectible figurines. The cast of 35 or so fighters is present, the stages are there (albeit with static backgrounds), the numerous modes? Check. And the anime cutscenes that bookend Arcade Mode for each character have arrived on this version of Super Street Fighter IV as well. The option to set harder to pull off moves to the touch screen is a godsend to a genre scrub like myself, and the 3D effect is quite pronounced especially in the over the shoulder viewpoint. There is currently no better fighter on the 3DS market, so if you've got an itch for a competent fighting game, snatch up a copy of 3D Edition today.

6) Star Fox 64 3D

Star Fox has returned, and while his past efforts have been either poor or not well received (Star Fox Assault was fun; deal with it.), Fox McCloud returns to the cockpit of his Arwing, to the ground in his Landmaster, and for one time only under sea in the Bluemarine. Being a remade version of the Nintendo 64 original, you can be assured that the graphics were upgraded greatly. The sensational shimmering of the water of Corneria, the magnificent explosions, and the many polygons of backgrounds, building and nature architecture, and ships, bosses, and other enemy fighters all look tremendous even without viewing them in stereoscopic 3D. The voice work has been redone with all of the classic actors from the olden days. Nostalgia overload right over here. Also new is the battle mode. Sadly, this game came out before Nintendo became a tad more serious about online with their handheld, so you can only play with local friends or bots. Whether you're riding alongside a train bound for a supply depot on planet Macbeth, searching for a secret weapon in Sector X, or taking the fight to Andross directly in Area 6, there is a multitude of memorable action in Star Fox 64 3D.

5) Mario Kart 7

Mario Kart revs up onto the Nintendo 3DS with sixteen all-new tracks such as the melodic roadways of Music Park, the Donkey Kong Country Returns escapade of DK Jungle, the boulder-dodging romp through caverns and alongside cliffs in Rock Rock Mountain, and the best version of Rainbow Road yet. Speaking of best versions yet, we haven't seen Nintendo nail online as well as they did with Mario Kart 7 and the ability to set up communities where like-minded players join together with their own set of rules and racing conditions. Don't like that infuriating blue shell? Don't play with it. Feel the need for speed? How about setting the items to Mushrooms Only? The choices are up to you. New to the series is kart customization, gyro driving, and racing underwater and gliding through the air. The subtraction of Mission Mode stings a bit, but the total package of Mario Kart 7 allows for a seemingly endless amount of racing exuberance. Put the pedal to the medal, and steer clear of items.

4) Resident Evil: Revelations

I would advise players to indulge in this game with an empty bladder as there are some portions of Resident Evil: Revelations that can and possibly will send you jumping, gasping, and squealing like a little baby. Not that there's anything wrong like that. Who could resist when an albino monstrosity with one loose tongue drops down from the ceiling or saunters out from a bathroom stall? The episodic nature of the title constantly switches between traditional old-school Resident Evil survival horror and the more recent action-oriented gameplay of Resident Evil 4 and 5. Then there's Raid Mode which is a loot lover's best friend. Playing through missions either alone or with a partner via local or online play, wiping out B.O.W.s together, and being rewarded with new guns and upgrades make for a highly addicting experience. And if you aren't a fan of aiming with either the face buttons or with gyro controls, there is always the Circle Pad Pro attachment to utilize. Point being, there is a lot to love about this dark and disturbing portable ride.

3) Kid Icarus: Uprising

After twenty years or so of being on hiatus, angel Pit is back under the guidance of the goddess of light, Palutena, in Kid Icarus: Uprising. Developed by the creator of Super Smash Bros. and his team at Sora, Uprising is one part rail shooter a la Star Fox 64 and Sin & Punishment and one part ground battling. The developer stated in an article from Nintendo Power that he likes his games to have a lot of freedom. Not that you are placed into an empty area and can go anywhere, but giving players a plethora of tools and trinkets to play with and enjoy. It is like a buffet. Players can get as much or as little of everything as they want. With hundreds of achievements to unlock, idols to collect, online action, and plenty of flying and ground sections to adore, players can do just that making Kid Icarus: Uprising the meatiest 3DS game on the market. Expect a full review on Friday.

2) Super Mario 3D Land

Nintendo EAD are masters at their craft. If you need any proof of that, I point to their latest effort, Super Mario 3D Land. The premise of the game is simple enough. Combine the gameplay of a 2D Mario with a 3D Mario to create one exemplary experience. That is exactly what the fine blokes at Nintendo EAD did. The game reintroduced mechanics from past Mario games such as Super Mario Bros. 3's Tanooki Suit and airship levels. Just when you believe you have beaten the game by completing the first eight worlds, you are blindsided with reality. You have a set of eight special worlds featuring some of the most challenging gameplay of Super Mario 3D Land to sink your teeth into. While the 3D effect isn't absolutely necessary to play the game, it is extremely useful for judging jump distances. Plus, it is just awfully cool to view whether in pop-in or pop-out 3D.

1) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

Now don't complain because I listed a remake as my number one game. You cannot just bat an eye to the best game ever made. And how do you improve upon the best game ever made, the original Ocarina of Time? You upgrade the visuals, lock in the framerate to actually be steady this time around, add in a difficult Master Quest and Boss Rush mode, throw in some optional gyro controls for excellent aiming, and make great use of the touch screen. Gone are the days of repeatedly and annoyingly pausing the game just to equip and take off those blasted Iron Boots in the infamous Water Temple. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time holds up to this day, and that is no small accomplishment. A game that was initially released in 1998 somehow plays just as well in 2012. That is just the magic and gameplay prowess that Nintendo is known for, and it makes Ocarina of Time 3D not only the greatest release of the Nintendo 3DS' first year, but also one of if not the best game of all time... which it is.


The Nintendo 3DS amazingly turned its fortunes around and is now a wonderful success story in an era where smartphone gaming threatens dedicated portable devices' existence depending who you talk to. There are without a doubt more worthy titles to look into that are worth a look such as Pilotwings Resort, Pokemon Rumble Blast, Tetris: Axis, Cave Story 3D, Tales of the Abyss, and Ridge Racer 3D. The future of the system looks even brighter and E3 hasn't even arrived yet. No matter which genre you enjoy the most, there seems to be a title in the 3DS library that is right for you.

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