Search Results for Category: Nintendo DS/DSi/3DS

Ten More Top Nintendo 3DS Games

Last year I released a list of ten great 3DS games – and they are still all solid, recommended games.

With Holidays 2013 coming up fast, there will be a lot of new 3DS (and I suppose 2DS) owners that will need some guidance on the best way to spend their gamer cash. Read more

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

Review Lagoon’s Top 3DS e-shop Games

With so many gamers getting their first taste of 3DS gaming with the recent release of the 3DS XL, it’s about time we started ranking our favorites to help guide the newcomers towards to best games the platform has to offer.

In this article, we’ll look at 3DS’s e-shop games, excluding Virtual Console games (which we’ll cover in another article) and retail downloadable games, which made their debut alongside the launch of 3DS XL with the release of New Super Mario Bros. 2, available in both physical and downloadable versions.

Let’s get started! Read more

Review Lagoon’s Ten Great Nintendo 3DS Games

3DS Games
So … you’ve been holding out on getting the Nintendo 3DS handheld until the screens got bigger – and now that the 3DS XL is out, many people are jumping into Nintendo 3D land for the first time. Now is the greatest time to put together my own Ten Great Games for the the 3DS.

Before we get started, I’d like to point out that this isn’t the “Top 10” list of any kind. These are ten games I feel are worthy of your time, money and consideration; that produce great value for your gaming dollars. I don’t use Metacritic or sales numbers for these determinations; I use my own experience as a 30 year gamer and a trusted name in the gaming community. Read more

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

3D Solitaire: All Aces or a Big Joker?

Solitaire games are a dime a dozen.  To pass this title by on the eShop isn’t just understood; but expected.

The term “Solitaire” with relation to card games goes back to the mid-18th century. In other countries, this “solo card experience” is known by other names; Patience, Success, Kabal – in early origins, the outcome of a game of Solitaire has roots into fortune telling.

Currently, there are more than 100 distinct Solitaire variations; but the most popular one (thanks to its inclusion on every Windows computer since 3.1) is known as Klondike.

In Klondike Solitaire, the player attempts to sort a 52 card deck by suit and in order into four piles of cards known as foundations. Cards can be moved between the columns, or to the foundations. The cards in the columns must be built down (from King to Ace) alternating color. When the player gets stuck he can click on the deck in the top left of the game screen.

Klondike comes in it’s own variations; often known as Flip 1 or Flip 3; that is, when your stack of cards is in an unplayable and you turn from the deck – you turn 1 or 3 cards at a time. If you can play the card facing up, you can play the card below it – and continue this until you’re “stuck” again – then you flip over more cards. Once the pile “runs out”, you flip the discard pile back over and do it again. In some variations, when the deck has been fully expended, the game is over if you cannot play.

In Zen’s 3D Solitaire for the Nintendo 3DS, you have both variations of Klondike; Flip 1 and Flip 3.

So what makes 3D Solitaire worth your time? Isn’t it JUST another standard Solitaire game? How can you bring anything new to the table (so to speak)?

Many of you probably know the name Zen from their excellent cross-platform Zen Pinball package. If you do, then you know that Zen’s products are top notch. If you don’t, let me explain what I mean by “top notch production values”.

If you have a mobile device like a smart phone or tablet, go download some no name Solitaire package and play it. There are dozens to choose from regardless of your chosen platform. Or, fire up the Windows’s version. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

It’s … Solitaire. Lowest common denominator. Enough to get you by. Sure sure, maybe you can change the back of the cards, maybe add some music … whatever. But – is it both functional AND beautiful? Just how functional is it? Will it auto-place an Ace for you if you select it? Will the game give you a hint if you’re stuck? Can you undo your last move?

There are premium Solitaire games out there for all systems too. Some are beautiful and functional – but they will often set up back $4.99 and up (Hardwood Solitaire comes to mind).

But none of them are in 3D 🙂

Zen’s 3D Solitaire is a fully-realized Solitaire game. All the “little features” (like the above mentioned) are there in spades (pun intended). The game gives you the option to play in 3D with the control pad/buttons – or use the traditional drag and drop of the touch screen (in 2D of course). As you play, you get points for your actions – basic points for basic actions as well as points for “awards” or achievements – such as fast flipping cards, etc. It adds the element of chase – both score and awards.

The game features three full 3D environments to play in – the first one, Lost City, comes pre-unlocked. The other two (plus the ability to play with your own 3D photo) are unlocked later – not through vicious, pricey in app purchases – but by earning points playing the game.

These aren’t simple “backdrop” or card back changes like on other Solitaire games. These are like changing tables in pinball; the core of the game is the same, but everything around it changes. The 3D backdrop (which is loaded with little appreciated details and animations) is simply incredible and has to be SEEN in real 3D to be appreciated.

Part of top notch production values; attention to detail. Not just with the graphics but everything. The entire EXPERIENCE with 3D Solitaire is smooth and silky. Cards animate smoothly – transitions are like butter. Even the way your pointer (when playing 3D) moves hasn’t been left to chance. Sure, they could have cheapened out – but it flows with silky animation – giving the entire experience a floating, almost surreal feel that only 3D games on the 3DS seem to be able to provide. No cheap 3D gimmicks here (unless you count the logo flying into your face when the game loads up). I didn’t understand how Solitaire could be “enhanced” by 3D, but I get it now. I played for a couple hours and suffered no eye strain or discomfort playing.

When playing in 2D (on the bottom screen) with the stylus, the top screen is almost like a 3D screen saver – showing you your score floating there along with other notices while you play. While it seems logical to play a game like this in 2D with a touch screen – I found myself almost immediately changing back to 3D play – using the D-Pad and buttons were a little odd at first, but within a few minutes, I was flying through the UI; completely comfortable.

The hint system is even top notch. When you get stuck, tapping the HINT button will cause all available cards that can be played to sway, ever so slightly. It is representative of the entire game experience. No corners cut on this game.

The high score system seems crazy here; after all, it is Solitaire. But you’ll want to keep track – since scoring has been cleverly inserted into the game mechanics. There are no online leaderboards – so no score attacks with your friends, but that’s ok. Solitaire is kinda a personal score attack sort of game anyway.

The audio is pleasant and never grating on your ears. Both music and SFX levels can be independantly controlled (THANK YOU, Zen!) so you can get the mix you want.

When you find yourself on the losing end (which if you play Klondike Flip 3, is a lot) – there is a hot button to get you into a new game quickly. Another nice feature they could have left out and no one would have been the wiser. Proof that Zen understands the games they make and their users, too.

If you get the impression I’m truly digging this game, they you are reading this review correctly. But, you all know that no game is perfect and I feel responsible to report back issues with the titles I review; even the favorable ones.

There are times when you’re SO CLOSE to the end of the game, you get stuck – having made a critical error just a few moves back. 3D Solitaire has an undo system, but it is only a single move. Rarely does the Solitaire player catch his mistake in one move – making the undo system less useful than it could have been. If I could knock this game for ANY reason – call something “lazy” about it – it would be the lack of multiple undo. Maybe Zen can give us an update? It doesn’t have to be a full game’s worth – maybe five levels of undo? Penalize us points for it? Something …

Klondike AGA (Amiga)

Not so much an issue, but an omission that could have pushed this game through the roof. In the old Amiga computer days, there was an INCREDIBLE shareware Solitaire game called KlondikeAGA. Not only was it a fine game of Solitaire, but it also allowed gamers to create their OWN card backs and graphics for the game. This spawned a HUGE community rallying around to ensure their “pet” content was represented. Naturally, 90% of it was porn (nothing says Solitaire like nude women on the backs of the cards), but the other 10% had some incredible content; from TV shows like Dr. Who to movies to video games – you name it, there was a card set for it. Had Zen offered this up (maybe they didn’t want to deal with the porn), it could have given this game a cult status that would have made them a ton of cash. I’ve seen it happen and Solitaire is a TIMELESS game – the community would grow over time.

Another omission that would have made this game even BETTER would be to allow us to stream music from the SD card while we play. Most of us use Solitaire to relax and being able to stream some of our own tunes (it really makes a difference; see Wii’s ExciteTruck) would be great. You already let us use our own picture .. how about our own music?

I mentioned the lack of online leaderboards earlier. I totally get why this would be omitted in a $3 title – but if you add a community of card theme traders in a future update, a leaderboard with friends would make sense to add as well.

I would have ZERO problem recommending this title at $4.99, $5.99 .. even $7.99 if I could have community features I mentioned above. Just steal fizzy lifting drinks from KlondikeAGA, throw on leaderboards – and we’re good 🙂

A top notch title from a top notch publisher that is 100% worthy of the paulty $3 asking price. Very little is left to chance in this title and those with a casual fancy for Solitaire will be in heaven – while the score chasing clan will have a little something extra. “Budget gaming” isn’t about $.99 cr’apps on mobile stores; it’s about little slices of quality with long lasting appeal and extreme attention to detail. Zen Studios has given us a very nice, portable-friendly high quality title – and we should all reward them by owning this title.

Zen Studios
Nintendo 3DSWare eShop

This is much better if you watch it in 3D on the 3DS from the eShop.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

50 Nintendo DS Games To Own Before They Are Gone

With the Nintendo 3DS taking off, it is going to get harder and hard to get a hold of great, lesser-known Nintendo DS games.  The Ultimate Whore of Used Games, Gamestop, is already drastically reducing shelf space for Nintendo’s last generation hand held; if you can even find used games with boxes anymore it is a miracle.

Remember; while some of these may have been big sellers and had a following – most of them you may have never seen in the wild or even heard of.  If you can find them, many of these games go for well under $10 – some I’ve seen as low as $1.99.

Before the final curtain falls on the Nintendo DS in the retail market (and some of these great games start costing you $50+ on eBay),  you might want to bring this helpful list with you next time you’re selling your soul to Gamestop. Read more

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

Thor: God of Thunder (3DS)

As the latest incarnations of super heroes movies go, Thor wasn’t the worst or best entry thrown into the hat.  Better than Captain America, worse than Iron Man but at least Chris Hemsworth was more or less likable and despite all the CGI – you always had Natalie Portman to look at.  In the end, it all worked out.

But regardless of how good or bad the movies are – the video games based on them typically turn out mediocre at best.  The ones that blatantly steal a working game engine and methodology from a AAA title are usually at least playable.  The rest of the rabble tend to fall into “stuffed into an overused side scroller 3D engine that sucks” category.

When it comes to action adventure gaming, it’s hard to argue with the near-perfect execution of Sony’s God of War series; which is why every other game robs it blind.  Games like the popular console title Wolverine and the latest PC action game Blades of Time work well because they are riding on the shoulders of Kratos and the rest of the Greek Gods. Fortunately, Sega stole fizzy lifting drinks right out of Sony Wonka’s Chocolate Factory when they created Thor: God of Thunder. Read more

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

Resident Evil: Revelations Review

When it comes to franchise games, experience lends a lot to a review and legitimizes the reviewer. Admittedly, I was a bit late to the Resident Evil party. I joined in on the fun at the self-titled fourth installment of the game on the Gamecube – and gave it another partial play through on the PS2 when it hit that platform.

I’ve spent many a nights falling asleep with the sounds of the Merchant in my head; so much so, that I almost turned into this guy: Read more

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions (3DS)

Namco has a lot of video gaming properties out there.  However, Pac-Man and Galaga have obviously been Namco’s biggest money makers because we continue to see the games released again and again – for one system or another.  We’ve had the games in “TV controller” form, Xbox Live renditions and of course in portable and mobile formats as well.  Not to mention the often horrible “name whoring” ventures where the good names of these classic games are sullied – Galaga: Destination Earth, I’m looking at you.
With this in mind, it is easy to understand why a lot of groaning and moaning was put out when Namco announced Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions for the Nintendo 3DS.  After all, haven’t we seen all these games before … and, couldn’t we get them a bit cheaper than $40?

The drought of 3DS software is simply undeniable and when a game – any game – comes out for the system, people take notice.  Unfortuantely, the press has been everywhere from unjustly cruel to downright incorrect in reviewing this title, so I guess it is up to me to give the game a fair shake.

To set the record straight up front – this is not simply another “classics collection” being rehashed for a new console.  There is considerable original and “modern” content as well.  In fact, there is more “new” content than classic content.

Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions (P&GD from now on) offers up two “new” games – Pac-Man Tilt and Galaga 3D Impact, both designed from the ground up for the Nintendo 3DS.  The modern favorite overhaul of our little yellow pizza-missing-a-slice friend makes its Nintendo debut – I’m talking of course about Pac-Man: Championship Edition which graced many other consoles over the years.  Next up, Galaga Legions – an Xbox Live port of a more modern take on Galaga (fans ofGaplus take note – Namco sure did).  Rounding off the collection, straight up ports of the classic Pac-Man and Galagaarcade games.

So that’s six games – two of which are arcade classics, two Xbox Live ports and two original games.

There are a couple of nice bonuses too – we’ll get to those later.

Not bad so far, right?

Let’s start at the proverbial bottom and work our way up by looking at the two arcade classics; Pac-Man and Galaga.

In the classic gaming circles, there is a saying; Pac-Man gets all the love, Ms. Pac-Man gets all the play.  And why not?  Ms. Pac-Man kept all the addictive play of the original, but brought so much new to the table; changing mazes, trotting fruit, smarter ghosts … what’s not to love?  Compared to Ms. Pac-Man, the original is more an effort of endurance and pattern memorization than actual fun game play.  Yet, anytime some new collection comes down the pike, it’s always the original that gets included.

Unfortunately, even classic game players would rather play Ms. Pac-Man (I’ll take the speed up chip version, please) than Pac-man which makes the inclusion of the title in this package more about nostalgia than quality game play.  Hey, I’m all for nostalgia; by all means, include Pac-Man – just give me Ms. Pac-Man too.  Sadly, there is no Ms. Pac-Man to be found here – speed up or otherwise.  What we do get is a very faithful rendition of the original Pac-Man game.

Galaga is another story.  Galaga (and the venerable Ms. Pac) are still found TODAY in arcades – in a multi-game cabinet – still making money.  Galaga has enjoyed a very rich history of imitation over the years through some incredible games like Deluxe Galaga (Amiga) and Warblade (PC/Mac) and many other generic shooters.  Galaga is a game of memorization, tenacity and even a bit of strategy – and that hasn’t changed over the years.  The Galaga included in this package appears to be very faithful to the original – including the wave patterns, shot patterns, alien ship movement – even the Wave 10 “the bugs don’t fire on the way in” is included here.  I haven’t tried the “stop bugs from shooting” glitch, but it wouldn’t shock me to find out it was there.  For those that remember early emulation missing the “ship explosion” sound, don’t worry; it is intact here.

In addition to the games themselves, you are offered options on how to view the games as you play; upright cabinet, cocktail cabinet – or simply on the screen without a bezel.  The two former modes offer a true perspective of the game – with slanted perspective (based on your viewpoint playing the game on the real machine) and even some through-the-glass distortion of the screen.  It is very cool to see.  The latter mode offers no other onscreen effects or content – it is the straight up game as you would play them in a modern emulator.

Along with the mode changes, you can play the games in 3D – on Galaga the starfield is “further away”, and your ship and the bugs float on top.  Text and other display elements have 3D depth as well.  On Pac-Man, the maze has more depth along with the text and other display elements.  It is very non-gratuitous and offers something to the game.  If you’ve played the 3D classic games from the eShop, you should know what to expect here.

Finally, both games feature achievements – each game has 16 challenges to master; anywhere from eating all the ghosts on a single energizer in Pac-Man to fashioning a dual ship inGalaga (even shooting your captured ship gives an achievement).  The game itself plays on the top screen, while your achievements (both pending and complete) appear on the bottom screen.  Touching a ? box will show you the achievement you are to earn, while completed achievements show up as a little icon that is somewhat related to the achievement itself.  This can be done during game play, too – which is quite handy.  When an achievement is earned, there is no popover or even sound indicator that you have gotten one – the icon just replaces the question mark.  It is a little lackluster in presentation, but it is a nice addition and I found myself struggling to get them.  You can also turn on “self-test” or the power up sequence animations for each game – give you a little more feeling from the arcade.  US and Japanese bezel art is available as well.

Next up, Galaga Legions.  This is a pretty pure Xbox Live port of the game.  I really didn’t care for the game then and it hasn’t gotten any better with time.  As an Xbox Live game, the graphics are improved, but the gameplay simply doesn’t work for me.  Similar to Galaga game play, you place auto-fire satellites to help you fight the swarms.  Again, it is presented in a 3D enhanced manner with achievements to accomplish as well.

Frankly, what drew me to this package initially was Pac-Man: Championship Edition (CE from now on).  While the basic core components of Pac-Man are here (evade ghosts, eat pellets, get energizers, eat ghosts, eat fruit) the presentation and variation push this title into Gold Status for me.

In CE, the widescreen maze contains pellets and energizers as well as the standard ghost “home base”.  Exits flank all four sides of the screen, allowing wrap around access to the other side; perfect for shaking the tailing ghost.  When all the pellets (and energizers) are gone from one side of the screen, a fruit appears.  Eating it will cause the maze on the completed side to SHIFT into a new maze and cause new dots and energizers to appear.  This “back and forth” process ensures the action never stops – clear one side, get the fruit, clear the other side, get the fruit and so on.

The ghosts are a lot smarter this time around.  If you’re hoping that patterns will set you free, guess again; the developers keep the game frantic as heck – especially as the game speeds up over time.  Ghosts do have particular BEHAVIORS that can give you an edge once you learn them, but you aren’t going to get them to fall for a banana in the tailpipe.

There are a couple more extras too.  Energizers can be “daisy chained” – meaning that as long as you can keep the ghosts blue, they will continue to go up in value when you eat them – maxing out at 3200 points.  But, as long as you can keep them blue, you can continue to score multiple 3200 point ghosts.  Pac-Man always had a greed element to it, but now it is simply ridiculous.  The longer you live, the more the pellets are worth.  They start at 10 points, but slowly creep up.  This keeps you from being more risky than usual – despite how many lives you have stocked up because dying resets the multiplier on the pellets.  You might think the 3200 point ghost is worth it to get dead over, but do make sure you do the math first.  The final goodie in the game is the ability to scrape the edges of the maze for a speed boost (no, I don’t know how dragging yourself along a wall makes you FASTER rather than SLOWER – but hey, what do I know).  Suffice to say, if you “push” against the maze as you’re moving, a little streak appears behind your Pac-Man and you move slightly faster.  This can be essential to slipping a closing in ghost.

Along with the changes, the game has been decked out in full neon glow with slick aesthetics and effects including color cycling.  The pumping techno beat really gets you into the groove while you play.  Several game modes will keep you busy, too – the greatest one, of course is the 5 minute “ranked” mode (more in a minute).  You have 5 minutes to score attack yourself to a high score.  The game ramps up in speed very quickly – and by the end, the ghosts are hauling some serious ass around the maze – and so are you.

The 3D effects make the game even more trippy and awesome to play.

If you think this sounds bad ass, it is.  Frankly, the 500 point Xbox Live edition is what really nudged me into getting a 360 to begin with.  Yes, it’s that good.

Next up, the Galaga 3D Impact shooter.  This game is a motion-controlled, 3D, cockpit view shooter which features a very nice “streaming” background over which to play.  The 3D effect is excellent – really lending itself to the “depth of space” illusion necessary to pull a game like this off.  You move the 3DS up, down, left and right to “shift” your view and targeting reticle.  This is a bit awkward because you have to be careful with how you move or you lose the 3D head-on perspective.  It will take some getting used to, so be patient.

If you simply ABBHOR motion controls, you can use the analog pad to control the “camera” view as well.  I found this completely unusable, and decided my time was better spent learning how to do the motion control correctly.  The bugs fly up to and sometimes beyond your view – but they never really “stop” so you can shoot them (like on the arcade game).  They do fire back and can ram you.  Unlike the original game, you have a shield that will take damage instead of experiencing an outright death from a collision with bug or bullet.

Much like other games, your A button “rapid fires” but the longer you fire in succession, the “hotter” your gun gets and it will eventually crap out on you until it cools down.  This is much like the turbo on Excitebike or Excitetruck.  Use it wisely.  The B button will allow you to “charge” and shoot a blue capture ball that will grab enemies and bring them to your ship – which in turn fills a gauge.  As the gauges fill up, your ship upgrades – for example you get a shield on the R button which lasts a few moments then has to “recharge” (the capturing system has to recharge too).  Chests appear (in space?) that can be shot open to score more shield or rank markers.

All in all, it’s a pretty decent shooter once you get the hang of the motion controls and there is a lot of variety including different bugs, boss bugs, etc.  Beats the crap out of other Galaga-esque shooters.

Last but not least, the new namesake game – Pac-Man Tilt(PMT from now on).

PMT is a side scrolling platformer that couples traditional controls with “tilt” (side to side) controls.  You use the analog stick to move your Pac-Man and you use the tilt control to move the environment and create situations to help Pac through the level.  The tilt mechanism is fairly subtle – and since you only have to tilt left and right (like a steering wheel), you never lose the 3D perspective.  You also don’t have to wrench the 3DS 180 degrees to get the tilt effect either.  A little metronome like graphic in the bottom left shows you “how much tilt” you have going on – and it maxes out long before you turn the 3DS a full 90 degrees.  This won’t stop you from flailing around like a mad man for the first few levels as you get used to the game, but it’s nice that the turning radius is small once you get the feel for it.

As with any Pac-Man game, PMT is about eating pellets, fruit and energizers (which are stored and manually activated instead of instant acting) – and of course, consuming ghosts.  Not all of these actions are required to complete a level (especially the early ones), because your main goal is to get to the finish line at the end – most everything else is just gravy (and in this game, the gravy is a higher score).  Finish the level with enough points and you can earn a medal (bronze, silver or gold).

To keep you replaying levels and actually TRYING hard (instead of just racing through to the end), every level has an indicator on the bottom screen that tells you how many ghosts, pellets and fruit are on the level – as well as how many you have achieved so far.  When you get them all, a little PERFECT icon shows up.  Think of these as carrots for level completion – not unlike the 3 coins per level on New Super Mario Bros. on the DS.  Did I mention there is a timer running?  Yes, each level has a countdown timer to complete the level under.  You don’t “lose” if you don’t make the time, but you lose a lot of “bonus points” if you finish the level with nothing on the clock left.  Add all this up, and you have a serious recipie for “just one more game” addictive qualities.  Sure, you may get through the level, but not seeing that medal makes you crazy (at least it does for me).

Let’s talk about the levels now.  The levels get progressively more intricate as you play (which is how it should be).  On the first couple of levels, you’re going to learn how to get around, how to tilt yourself into a ball (I couldn’t help thinking about Metroid or Turrican) to break through barriers and how tilting affects your abilities to jump and run.

As the levels progress, you’ll get swinging platforms, shock zones (yes, you can die in this game), pinball flippers, turbo boosts, transport chutes – all sorts of fun things.  Tilting helps you navigate certain terrain, cause swinging platforms to swing higher or farther – even affect your jumping ability to get to hard to reach spots.  There are even platforms that you’ll “control” with the tilt – moving your Pac to different areas of the level.

What?  Pinball plungers?  You got it – you can use plungers to shoot your Pac high into the air to reach hard areas.  Gates?  Of course – pressure plates, fruit requirements, timed runs – yeah, we got gates.  There are many more level modifiers to make your journey more interesting the longer you play.

Ghosts appear as mostly as level obstactles – patrolling smaller areas, waiting for you (much like the Pac-man Worldgame series).  You store up energizers and can activate them on command – making the ghosts a little bit easier to deal with.  Of course, in pursuing the “perfect” level score, you’re going to have to use the energizers sparingly and smartly.

If you haven’t already figured it out – PMT is a score game (as it should be) and not a “levels” game.

Graphically speaking, PMT is very cartoony and appealing.  The camera moves in and out based on the needs of the player – but it isn’t done so often you want to kill the dude with the camera.  The music and audio are spot on – never annoying or repetative – and all your favorite sounds are here.

Now that we’ve covered the games included, let’s talk about the bonuses.

A fun-but-only-watch-once special 3D anniversary video is included – celebrating Pac-man.  I imagine they used it to fill up the cart, but it’s a fun bonus never the less.  It is narrated and subtitled on the bottom screen – and runs about 5 minutes or so.  Some great use of 3D effects.

Obviously, the greatest bonus is online leaderboards.  Thank God Namco took the high road on this one and included full, online, friend-aware leaderboards.
Daily and weekly scores are also kept – to see how much better you’re getting.  Every game is represented with your best score.
In the case of CE and Galaga Legions, only the ranked modes (the 5 minute game and adventure mode, respectively) is submitted for high scores against your friends and the world.  Console players take online leaderboards for granted – and they really make a difference in score attack games like these.  While I’m happy to beat my personal best in CE, I’m much more happy beating my friend’s high score (Alex, I’m talking to you).  The online leaderboard process is pretty painless.  The only thing worth mentioning is that while all the games are covered, the leaderboards are isolated from each game – meaning you have to go back to the main menu of the game, selected the scores table – then you can get access to the leaderboards.  A little kludgy, but I’m so happy they are there – I’m willing to forgive a little.

Speaking of forgiveness – we must take a moment to talk about the short comings of the package.

As mentioned before, the leaderboards are isolated from the games.  It lends a level of … disjointedness … to an otherwise very pleasant experience.  It gives you the feeling that every game in here was developed by a different team and that high scores online was a last minute add on.

While I love the bezel art on the classic games – and the 3D effects are great – I’m quite disappointed that there are no “landscape” modes for playing these vertically oriented games.  This makes the actual game play area seem small – even on the larger 3DS screen.  Being able to rotate the 3DS sideways and fill more of the screen (even with the off controls) would have been appreciated.  I’m GUESSING it has to do with the 3D effect perspective limitations – but they could have offered us a 2D only mode for this.  Fortunately the top screen is a bit higher resolution, so the games still LOOK great; they are just small.

I would have liked to see more “Pac-Man & Galaga“.  Pac-Man Arranged would have been nice and Galaga Arranged (droooool) would have been better value than a 3D movie added on.  I would have killed forGalaga 88 (or 90 as it were) in this package.  Of course, I would have really been happier if they had thrown in Ms. Pac-Man classic along with the original Pac-Man.

Finally, the games offered no “two player” modes – not even the classic games.  I would like to be able to hand the 3DS back and forth to my wife or son to challenge me to some Galaga love.  I understand it makes no sense to play on wireless – but “turn taking” is part of the arcade experience.

Part of the problem with this package is the saturation some of the content has already had; Pac-Manand Galaga are playable just about everywhere – TV, consoles, computers … even phones.  CE has been available on Live for some time and is even available on the PSP already (just isn’t as good there, though).  A lot of people still haven’t played CE, but if you have already played it to death, even the 3D and game modes might not be alluring enough to you.  I personally feel Galaga Legions is a wash – which leaves us with Galaga 3D Impact and Pac-Man Tilt.  The former is fun but not what I would call a true selling point.  The latter, on the other hand, is a top notch, well fleshed out, quality and fun to play platformer with some new interesting elements and controls that I think most people would appreciate.

The online leaderboards promise to lend itself to tons of replay and score chasing – but they could have been better implemented.  It isn’t a show stopper by any means, but it would be unresponsible not to mention it.

The bottom line is that this is a solid title for classic gaming fans and platformer lovers alike.  There is a lot of replay value, great use of 3D, polished presentation and good-to-great content both old and new.  Pac-Man Tilt and Pac-Man Championship edition alone are nearly worth the price of admission alone – and coupled with some sound extras, I can definitely recommend this title to pretty much everyone.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

Nintendo 3DS eShop: DSiWare Transfers from DSi to 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS eShop is officially open for business.  In this article, we’ll discuss how to move your DSi settings and content over to your 3DS.

Getting Started

On your DSi, go to the Shop.  You’ll need to get the free Nintendo 3DS Transfer Tool and have it available.  This appears on your system like any other DSiWare title.

On the 3DS, you need to jump to your Settings, then Other Settings and finally System Transfer.

Full or Custom?

Once you begin the transfer process, you will have two options:  Full or Custom.

Full transfer does exactly that – copies everything (INCLUDING YOUR WIFI CONNECTION ID!!) to the 3DS.  It copies your photos too.  Of course, it transfers you DSiWare titles too – whether you’ve got them downloaded or not.  Those that are not in residence on your DSi will have their “download ticket” transferred to the 3DS – enabling you to download the title on the 3DS from the eShop.  Once transferred, all of this information is REMOVED FROM YOUR DSi!  You have been warned.

Custom transfers allow you to pick (albeit one at a time) what you transfer over.  You can elect to just transfer over a single DSiWare title or just the photos, etc.  I recommend doing this a couple times – just to see what your options are other than doing a full system transfer.

How Does It Work?

First off – this is not a peer to peer event.  You MUST have access to the internet on BOTH machines to make this happen – so you must have the internet connection up and running.

In Full transfer, you will see a running count of how many things have been transferred vs. how many are left e.g. 20/33 or 10/25.

The top screen is your “progress indicator” – Nintendo style.

As the transfer initiates, a scrolling field of pikmins running appears.  Once the connection has been made properly to the internet, the pikmin run to a large icon representing your content on the left side of the screen.  This might show up as an icon (if the DSiWare was on your DSi at the time) or a ? box (if you bought the game, but it isn’t on your DSi system at that time).

As the transfer continues, the pikmin will pick up appropriate sized chunks of your item and drag it across the screen to the right side, representing your 3DS.  Once the pieces are all put together, the pikmin will flip the icon over into a present icon, and it will now appear on your main screen.

In Custom mode, you will have the opportunity to transfer another title or quit.

Transfer times vary depending on if you’re transferring a ticket or the actual game – and it wiill totally depend on your connection speeds.

Regardless of which mode you use, some DSiWare cannot be transferred.  See below.  Also, in either mode, if you lose connectivity or get an error (or if you just forgot to plug one of the units into power and one of them died in the middle) the process on the 3DS will resume.  Very nice!

Where Are They?

If you moved tickets over instead of the full game, you might wonder: how do I know what to redownload?

Not a problem.  Nintendo buried what you need, but we show you right where the list of your authorized purchases are.  (Hint: Look under Settings / Other):

What We Like

The pikmin party is fantastic.  if you have a large title to transfer or your connection is slow, the pikmin run past a percentage indicator to let you know how far along you are.  This is fantastic Nintendo flare and it is what we’ve come to expect from them.

The fact we can do this at all is huge.  Most of us were expecting to take it in the tailpipe and lose our DSiWare content when we moved to the 3DS.  Big thanks to Nintendo for making this possible.

The process is easy and effective.

What We Don’t Like

The process takes a long time even with a fast connection.  The animations are cute – but if you have 75 items to move over, then plan to make an afternoon or evening out of it.

Some items will not transfer over – presumably due to licensing issues.  While the originally published list was a laundry list of titles, the “final” list represented a much smaller set of untransferrables.  However, even if the item isn’t on the list – the games may still not transfer over.  At the time of writing, I was unable to transfer the one real game I care about: Pinball Pulse.  Perhaps the games haven’t been added yet (in fact, the DSi will tell you that you can’t move the game over because it isn’t in the eShop).  Let’s hope this gets fixed quickly.

Here is the last list of untransferrables we saw:

* Asphalt IV
* Earthworm Jim
* Flipnote Studio
* Let’s Golf
* Nintendo DSi Browser
* Oregon Trail
* Real Soccer 2009
* Real Soccer 2010
* Sudoku Student

This really should have been a different process.  You should be able to hop on Club Nintendo, click a few buttons to transfer ownership and be done with it.  Unfortunately, you have to go through a huge ritual.

Finally – Nintendo requires that DSiWare be run from system memory — again.  You cannot store and run games from the SD card — again.  Didn’t you guys learn anything?  Sigh.  Let’s hope we get an update to this issue soon.

I’d love to hang out, but I want to see what Dragon’s Lair looks like on the 3DS …

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

Pirates of the Caribbean – The Video Game (3DS)

Is anyone else getting tired of “Lego” themed games?  I mean, I understand the IP and I get what they are trying to do with it; making family friendly skinned platformer/adventure games using safe, bloodless, no-way-to-lose themes like Legos.

I get it.  Maybe if we weren’t whoring version after version in the SAME IP space over and over again – maybe I would be more tolerant.  But it seems we have to have a Lego version of not just ONE Pirates of the Caribbean or Indiana Jones or Star Wars – but each movie PLUS a “greatest hits” version for each one too.

Based on the above, I wasn’t all that interested in “Lego Pirates of the Caribbean – The Video Game” – but we all know that 3DS software has been a bit anemic so far, and I wanted something new to play.

Let me start off by saying if what you want is a less Lego and more “pure” Pirates of the Caribbean experience – albeit in 2D – I seriously recommend the Nintendo DS platformer versions of Pirates of the Caribbean (Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End).  The first one is exceptional – and while the latter one is pleasant enough, they changed up the formula a bit and it wasn’t kind to the game IMHO.  They are native Nintendo DS games, so they may not look as pretty, but they are representative of some of the finest platformers on the DS family.

But enough digression … how does the latest Lego engine matched with the Pirates IP fare?

For those unfamiliar with the Lego family of games – let me give you a quick overview.  Those comfortable in the Lego world may skip ahead.

As mentioned above, Lego games take more serious IPs like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc. and model them into the Lego world as adventure/platformers.  The games often take minor liberties with the storylines and add a little more humor and quirkiness into the game and its missions.  They also remove some of the stumbling blocks to making the games more casual-friendly; for example, while you “die” in the games (you have a health meter), there is really no penalty for it.  You spawn back to life and carry on.  Sometimes you could be moved back to a previous “checkpoint”, but overall – there is no way to really “screw up”.  Eventually, everybody wins; and for some gamers that is a huge turn off.

However, Lego games are more about experiencing the storyline and finding all the hidden stuff littered throughout the game.  Hidden rooms/areas, hidden objects/collectibles – some locked away behind places you cannot get to until you replay the level with some other character – offer the more story-driven game the replay value it needs.

Regardless of the IP represented in the Lego game, these standards are pretty much upheld – offering a consistency across the Lego game universe.  You know what you’re getting going in – regardless of platform or IP – love it or hate it.

That being said, Pirates of the Caribbean – The Video Game (from this point on known as “POTC”) falls into the “greatest hits” Lego game meaning that the game covers the first three films of the Pirates series as well as dabbling briefly into the new fourth film coming out this summer.

The game begins (and continues) telling the story via cut scenes (thankfully – SKIPPABLE cut scenes; an offer not afforded on the Wii version of the game – just hit the START button during playback) where you take on the action at various scenes of the films.  You’ll start off in the blacksmith’s shop at the beginning as the Orlando Bloom character – trying to awaken the smith and get a sword made.  As you know from the movie, Captain Jack Sparrow eventually shows up and you will have to fight him.  During the initial combat with Captain Jack, you’ll use on-screen “quick time events” (QTEs) to progress.  This lends to the drama of the scene – and fortunately combat resumes to standard button mashing later on.

During each scene, you will engage in combat and solve basic puzzles.  Puzzles range from simply figuring out how to get from A to B by rebuilding Lego structures (or destroying an existing one first and harvesting its pieces) all the way to gaining control of on-screen non-player characters like dogs and parrots and using them to assist you.  There are gears and pulleys, pressure plates, explosives and more to align to progress through each level.

Almost all scenes have “something extra” outside the normal mission parameters to accomplish – normally in the way of gathering “collectible” items, uncovering hidden coins (coins are the means of currency across all Lego games) or performing alternative tasks for some other gain.  Some “areas” of a scene may be off-limits to the character(s) currently at your disposal.  These “locked” areas are what keep you coming back to play the level again later – after you’ve unlocked another player character that can fullfill the requirements.  Jack Sparrow also has a “magic compass” that will show you where some hidden items are.

As you adventure, you’ll pick up new party members based on the film’s cast and availability during that scene.  As you get new players, you get new “abilities” needed for upcoming puzzles.  The game will make sure you know who is needed for what challenge – so if you’re worried about having to figure that out for yourself, don’t be concerned.  When you move near the objective, the player required will flash on the bottom screen and you will use the L / R shoulder buttons to toggle through them.  What I find COMPLETELY annoying is that you cannot just touch the character on the touch screen.  What’s …. THAT all about?  I’m cool with being able to do it with buttons, but why not allow both?

Your character has a “health” meter, which as always in Lego games seems pointless – since you just keep respawing after death with no penalty.  Falling off the edge of a large drop will kill you outright and a hit from a guard’s weapon will deduct damage.  Players appear to have different skills – Jack Sparrow is a better sword fighter than any of the other characters I’ve unlocked so far.

Folks – it’s a Lego game – you know what you’re getting in game play (for the most part).  What we will focus on next is the 3DS implementation.

How Does It Look?
Visually speaking, POTC is a visual treat for your 3DS – in either 2D or 3D mode.  The game was created really to be played in 3D and you’ll find something missing from the ambience.  The 3D is never gratuitous or overbearing and simply adds to the depth of the game you’re playing.  Quite handy for the 3D jumps you’ll be making throughout the game.  Funny how much better it looks than the Wii version.

You will find some very minor frame rate issues in a couple of levels.  The game never stops or stutters, but you can definitely tell the framerate takes a hit.  Fortunately the issues are far and few between.  Still, it would be irresponsible to not mention it.

The engine itself is very well done.  Rarely do you see any issues of getting stuck on the geometry, seeing things stick through other objects, bleed through, object tearing or other such typical “new engine” issues.  It is much appreciated when they maintain the illusion of the game.

The advanced lighting functionality of the 3DS really shines in this game and it is worth noting when comparing it to the Wii or DS version – lighting makes a difference.  It is a very nice show-off game.

The rendered cut scenes look fantastic – again, far better than the Wii edition (which uses the engine to render the cut scenes).  They are skippable too – which is always great.  It must’ve been overall cheaper to use a bigger cartridge for video clips than to spend the man hours creating the cut scenes with the engine.

How Does It Sound?
Everything is here you would expect – the ripping POTC movie theme music, the swashbuckling sounds of the sword fights, etc.  The “Lego engine” sounds are all present and accounted for as well (building Legos, getting coins, etc).

The music loops noticeably at times if you spend long enough on a level.  Not everyone notices things like that, but it stands out to me.  It isn’t awful, but worth mentioning.

If I had any complaint about the audio presentation it would be the slightly quiet volume throughout.  Playing it in a quiet room offers no resistance, but if you have anything else going on, you’ll probably need headphones.

Anything Else?
Well, I’m still confused about something.  Why is there any significant “load time” with a cartridge-based game?  I understand “Loading …” with a DVD or CD or UMD.  But what’s the deal on a handheld?  The load times between levels on POTC are long; too long for a portable game system.  Yes, yes the game looks and plays great – and some people are willing to wait.  But 40 seconds at a time?  That’s kind of crazy if you ask me – if I wanted those kinds of load times, I could play UMD games on my PSP. 🙂  These load times happen between each major level change.

Overall, this game is a solid addition to the 3DS line up.  It looks and plays great, the 3D is worthwhile and it has very good replay potential.  If you’re a big fan of the Lego universe, this is a no-brainer top-notch entry in the series.  Even if you’re not, the slight change up in focus to more puzzle solving over action platforming might win you over.

As a bonus, you won’t be ashamed to show your console-playing friends your version of the game.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+