Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Download Play: 2 Players (download from one card)
Playable in 2D or 3D
Touch Screen Control
As a launch game, Steel Diver intrigued me prior to release given the premise of controlling a submarine on a series of missions. The only game that I can think of that closely resembles this premise is the Seawolf series of arcade games. Well I have had the chance to play the retail version of Nintendo’s sim-sub game, and overall I would have to give them credit for trying something new.
Visually, the game is pretty solid, but not overly spectacular. The environments have some nice effects (e.g. volcano lava, swaying under water plant life, etc.), but many of the areas are somewhat bare, and not overly populated with graphics. Add to this that given that the total number of levels is small, there is not a lot of variance in the appearances; the majority of these levels have the same look and feel.
In terms of the 3D effects, they are somewhat evident, but they don’t enhance the gameplay in any manner. Given that the game is played as a side scroller there is no reason to really have a depth of view. Don’t get me wrong, when you activate the 3D slider you can see a difference, but it is not something that makes or breaks the game’s mission modes. On the flip side, it was cool to play the first person Periscope Mode in 3D as you can watch missiles fire out into the distance at enemy ships, and you can go underwater and watch your prey sink under the chilly cold waves above.
The sound in Steel Diver is pretty good. You’ll find some nice music that manages to set the mood. As for the sound effects, they add to the gameplay, such as the sounds of your sub’s levers moving, the waves crashing, and the sounds of your torpedoes launching as the captain of the sub announces their launch. Overall the sound is pretty good and it sounds nice coming out of the improved speakers of the 3DS.
Interestingly enough, this game is a combination of genres. It is a side scrolling game with simulation and puzzle elements thrown in for good luck. It also has a turn based multi-player mode for a little 2-player action.
The story plays out in the form of the game’s Mission Mode. Here you are a member of an elite submarine squad. You’ll choose from one of three subs, which differ in size resulting in different characteristics from the variance in each subs dimensions. These differences can range from such things as speed, maneuverability, and torpedo selection to name a few. You will have to make your way through seven missions, which is not a lot, but I should note that each mission varies in size and scope. That being said, you will find that the Mission Mode is short overall, so don’t expect an epic adventure.
Control is assigned to the touch screen below. You use your stylus to move two separate levers. One lever controls your speed and forward/backward motion while the other lever controls your vertical motion (dive or surface). You will also find a pitch wheel (angle of tilt) on two of the three subs. These controls do take some getting used to, given that they take a bit of time to ‘kick in’. They are not instantaneous given your submarine is underwater. You have to take this into consideration when navigating the various levels and compensate for it.
As you traverse each level you will have to find your way through each underwater environment while navigating around various obstacles. For instance, you’ll face homing missiles, underwater mines, underwater volcanic eruptions, and rock walls to name a few things. If any of these hit your submarine they will start to drain your damage meter. Should you let this meter empty it is game over. To assist in your adventure, you have a few defenses at your disposal such as torpedoes, a ‘shielding’ system that disrupts enemy homing missiles signals, and the ability to surface to replenish your air and damage meter. The latter is not as easy as it sounds, as you cannot always surface in time. You will also find that as you take damage your touch screen will also show ‘leaks’ in your hull and you have to use the stylus to plug and stop the leak. A nice little touch indeed.
There are also a few boss battles to be had, which I found surprisingly well done. To make a game like this, and have a somewhat strategic boss battle was a nice change in the gameplay. Finding the right opportunity to fire a torpedo and slowly chip away at your enemy’s health is very rewarding.
There is also an interesting Periscope Mode. Here you will find that you can use the 3DS’s motion sensing ability (or stylus to move an on-screen dial) to spot and fire at enemy ships. The view is first person, and you have to take into consideration the speed and size of the ships you are trying to sink. There is even different weather for this gameplay mode. It is really crazy to actually have to spin your body to control the view on-screen. This mode was quite addicting and a great break in the short Mission Mode.
There is also a standalone multiplayer turn-based strategy game. Given that I had this game prior to the 3DS system and game hitting store shelves, I did not have a chance to try this out. What I can say is that Nintendo was smart and made this mode a Download Game Mode, letting two players use only one copy of the game. Good choice on their part and a loud round of applause for this decision.
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