Today the Nintendo 3DS officially launches in the U.S. You've already read the review, but what about the games? Sixteen are available for purchase today, and we've had our hands on the majority of them. We've rounded up our thoughts on these titles to provide a handy guide for launch day.
Madden Football: EA's powerhouse NFL franchise is somewhat less so on the 3DS: It doesn't even get a number (just "Madden Football"). On the other hand, the depth effect of Nintendo 3DS gaming seems to suit sports games perfectly: the field seems more expansive in 3D. NFL junkies will appreciate the improved graphics and animation, but it's a seriously pared-down experience: no franchise mode, no minigames...not even multiplayer (no joke). For the hard-core fans only.
Pilotwings Resort: Easily the 3DS' flagship game, Pilotwings Resort does provide some impressive 3D flying fun in a trio of apparatuses. While the mission-based challenges are fun, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of them. However, plenty of time can be wasted flying around the island and trying to discover hidden items and areas. Be careful not to max out the 3D setting here, it's tough to see straight when it's turned all the way up.
Lego Star Wars III: Here's the nice surprise about the Clone Wars-themed Lego Star Wars game: not only is it good, but it feels just like a console game. You could argue the game doesn't need 3D at all, but the birds-eye-view levels almost become little dioramas with the 3D slider turned up. With its plethora of characters and extras, this is a launch game that'll last a while.
Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition: Having Street Fighter IV in the palm of your hands is certainly something to get excited about and the game does a great job at shrinking the console version down to a portable size. While the fighting controls perform well, we're just not sure this is a game that needs to be in 3D. Sure, the background depth-effect provides a nice amount of eye candy, but in a game where button mashing can unsync the player from 3D, we think most people are better off playing in 2D.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D:This is the real must-have sports launch game for the 3DS. While Madden might still be choice for NFL nuts, Konami's excellent port of its solid footie franchise feels silky-smooth on the 3DS. While 3D isn't necessary in order to enjoy the game, the added depth actually helps perspective on a crowded field. Not only are tons of teams available, but this one's got local one-on-one wireless play, too.
Super Monkey Ball 3D: We love the Super Monkey Ball franchise, but the 3DS version seems a little sparse. The 70-plus levels don't get significantly challenging until about halfway through the game. There are two minigames, though: a Mario Kart-like racer that feels like a whole separate game, and a 4-player mini-brawl that'll kill a few minutes, provided you can round up three other 3DS owners.
Nintendogs + Cats: There's no denying Nintendogs + Cats is the cutest launch game available for the 3DS launch, but we're just not sure it's worth a purchase for those who've played the DS original. That said, the dogs do look and act more realistic than in the past, so for those looking for a healthy dose of adorable, Nintendogs + Cats is worth taking for a walk.
Rayman 3D: While we had a few issues with some ghosting when playing in 3D, Rayman is a solid platforming adventure game for the 3DS. It's just a port of the classic title Rayman 2: The Great Escape, so for those who've yet to have the pleasure of a playthrough, having a go in 3D is definitely a bonus.
Steel Diver: At first glance, this side-scrolling submarine shooter feels like a weird throwaway launch game. Give it a little time: the controls and level challenges get surprisingly tricky, and the 3D tunnels show off the 3DS 3D effects excellently. A 3D motion-controlled periscope-shooter mode will just make you dizzy fast. Bonus: a turn-based strategy game mode feels like shades of Nintendo's old Advance Wars.
The Sims 3: It's the Sims, but in 3D. To EA's credit, this handheld version feels more robust than previous handheld Sims games, but, well, we just can't get excited about The Sims anymore. Do you know anyone who can?
Ridge Racer 3D: Namco's racer gets trotted out for every game system launch we can remember, and it's here to welcome the 3DS, too. We initially soured on the old-fashioned car controls, but the game's got plenty of race modes, unlockable cars, customizable upgrades, and even a mode that will custom-create a race circuit based on how much time you'd like to play. Once you let the 3D race tracks sink into your eyeballs for a few minutes, it's also one of the most immersive launch games around.
Asphalt 3D: The second of two racing titles available at launch is Asphalt 3D, a more arcade-like experience than Ridge Racer 3D. Fans of the Burnout series will notice a few similarities, including elimination and survival races. We can't help but notice that Asphalt doesn't run as smooth as Ridge Racer, but each title's 3D is experience is among the more satisfying out of all the launch games.
Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars: Be warned: Shadow Wars is not like any of the Ghost Recon games you're probably used to playing. In fact, it's actually a turn-based strategy game where players manage different classes of Ghosts. Each mission has a different objective, and the 3D turns the game into a sort of dimensional board game. There's not a whole lot of action here, but turn-based fans will be served well.
Bust-a-Move Universe: Unfortunately, this might qualify as the most disappointing game of the launch lineup. It's the same charming bubble-popping game that's been on the original Nintendo DS and the App Store, with 3D background effects that do nothing to change the game. Buy a used copy of an older version instead--next time, it'd be nice to see a real 3D puzzle game on the 3DS.