3DS games round-up: Nintendogs + Cats, Steel Diver, Dead or Alive: Dimensions review

A trio of 3DS games for your extra-dimensional pleasure...
Photo of 3DS games round-up: Nintendogs + Cats, Steel Diver, Dead or Alive: Dimensions
£39.99 each

With a trickle of releases coming out for Ninetendo’s new glasses-free handheld 3D games console, we thought we’d take a peek at some of the new releases.

Nintendogs + Cats
Aimed at the casual 3DS gamer, Nintendogs features 27 breeds of virtual dog to nurture, with some cats thrown in for good measure. As with a real dog, your virtual canine companion must be stroked, walked, fed and watered, groomed and so forth.

Naturally, there’s a big cute factor here. When your puppy licks your virtual hand, sneezes, then rolls over and plays dead, all of this elicits predictable bouts of ahh-ing – although training your dog can provoke a few less fluffy noises and words.

As this reviewer’s wife noted when she wrestled the 3DS off him to have a go, it almost seems easier to train a real mutt than a Nintendog at times. The game employs speech recognition so when a command is verbalised, the dog obeys it. At least, that’s the theory… but sometimes right paw is confused with left paw, or indeed beg appears to be mistranslated as sit there and ignore me.

Still, there’s an undeniable pull to get your pet fully trained, and as this is the sort of game that’s designed to be played in short sessions every day or two, any frustration experienced is minimal. As well as training, there are also competitions for the dog to conquer, such as lure chasing. These are great fun – although we’d like to have seen more of them included.

As expected, there’s a ton of stuff to buy and collect, such as new doggy toys, food, shampoos, even berets and sunglasses for those who think catwalks should be renamed dogwalks. All this might sound familiar to DS owners, because this is essentially the same Nintendogs game. There are, naturally enough, new items and extra touches here and there, and of course seeing the dogs in 3D makes them even cuter.

Nintendogs remains a great family oriented title, even if there isn’t a huge amount of difference between the 3DS and DS versions.

Steel Diver
Steel Diver isn’t a game about a robot with flippers and a love of reef diving. Rather, it’s an alternatively named submarine title. The world is in danger from a rogue nation and a league of super-sub captains has been formed. You’re one of these pipe-smoking, uniform wearing underwater tube dwellers.

Two things quickly become apparent on the initial mission. Firstly, the 3D effect in Steel Diver is a bit pointless. Sure, it makes the environment look a bit flashier, but it serves no purpose aside from adding a touch of depth. The second point is a more critical weak spot in the game’s hull: that of the controls.

Nintendo has opted for a touchscreen-only scheme, with sliders for speed and depth, alongside virtual buttons which discharge torpedoes and counter-measures. The trouble is that dragging the throttle on the touchscreen is sluggish. Coupled with the inertia of the sub, it makes directing the vessel unnecessarily tricky.

Quickly switching depth and speed while firing off a salvo is an exercise best conducted by an octopus captain with multiple styluses. For us mere mortals, it’s all rather frustrating – particularly when it comes to later missions, which demand some fiddly negotiating of narrow undersea chasms and multiple depth charges that are raining down.

A simple periscope-based mini-game makes better use of the 3D effect and also employs motion controls, with the periscope moving as you turn. However, this is a short diversion, and the third mode of play – a turn-based strategy variant along the lines of that barnacle-encrusted classic Battleship – doesn’t do much to extend Steel Diver’s longevity (the main campaign mode is very short indeed).

Dead or Alive: Dimensions
The world of Dead or Alive, as ever, is filled with fast and furious combos, daft overly dramatic cut-scenes and flashes of ninja underwear. But the 3D effect isn’t just given over to lending an extra dimension to the game’s famous bosom physics, with cleavage heaving under unfeasibly tight tops.

The 3D graphics allow fighters to circle each other in three dimensions, and also give the excellently rendered backgrounds some real substance. Even though this is essentially still a 2D fighter when it comes to landing hits, the illusion that it’s fully 3D is a compelling one.

Dead or Alive: Dimensions offers much more than visual depth, however. The fighting boasts a detailed system of counters, throws and holds, all accessed via the four face buttons. The controls are slick and the slide-pad makes pulling off quarter-circle moves laudably simple.

There are a wealth of play options including tutorials, with teaching new moves and tactics also smartly integrated into the chronicle story mode. Tag team play is on offer as well, alongside the usual arcade mode, backed up by both local and online multiplayer.

The presentation isn’t perfect, as some of the cut-scenes are scrappily put together and overly lengthy. It’s also true that the plot of the story mode makes little to no sense, but that won’t come as a surprise to beat-’em-up fans. Overall, Dimensions is an (ahem) ‘well-rounded’ package with some classy 3D visuals that definitely don’t disappoint.

Company: 3DS games round-up:

Positives
  • Nintendogs' cuteness; Dead or Alive's slick combat.
Negative
  • Steel Diver's appeal is hard to fathom.

Verdict

Unfortunately Steel Diver sinks largely without trace. Nintendogs + Cats is a great casual title that drips with cuteness, although those who've played the DS version will have seen the majority of the game before. Dead or Alive: Dimensions is a quality beat-'em-up that makes good use of the handheld's 3D effect.