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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Steel Diver

I've been playing Steel Diver for the 3DS the last few days.... bought it awhile back, but only got into it recently.

It's weird, when I first heard about it, I thought, "enh... this doesn't sound very good..." and the more I heard about it (2D design all stylus controls) the more convinced I was that this was not a game for me.

But then I saw some gameplay footage and read some reviews-- both positive and negative-- and even the negative reviews made me interested! the same thing happened with Super Monkey Ball 3D, the negative reviews actually made it sound better to me & helped convince me to buy that game.

Right now I have 4 3DS games: Pilot Wings Resort, Ridge Racer 3D, Super Monkey Ball 3D & Steel Diver. And aside from Ridge Racer 3D, the 3 other games are really fun, but light in gameplay content.

Steel Diver is one of the worst for content amount. There are only 7 levels in the main campaign mode, and each level imposes a time limit, meaning that *by design* it's meant to be raced through. Levels have to be completed in either 10 or 15 minutes, with the final level 20 minutes. Add it all up and by design, the game MUST be completed in 2 hours 20 minutes. That's horrendous gameplay value. Now, it also forces replays-- you have to complete the first 6 levels using all 3 subs (so play each level at least 3 times) to unlock level 7. But forcing replaying the same levels over & over (while in this case it is fun) is still a poor way of extending gameplay.

There are a couple of other modes: periscope mode, which is pretty fun but not very deep, a racing mode where you have to get through a course by a set time limit, and Steel Commander which is like the boardgame Battleship mixed with the periscope mode. It's a turn based game where you use a sub to hunt the opponents' supply fleet, while they try the same with yours. You each have fleets of ships which are mostly sitting ducks for the enemy sub, but they can drop depth charges which can damage the enemy sub (you have to guess the subs depth between 50m, 100m, 150m and hope it's right) Steel Commander is a fun mode, but a lot of it is watching unskippable cut scenes of your ships being cut to pieces, and you can't do anything about it.

The overall game pacing is slow... it's (intentionally) clunky to control the sub, and the movement is slow & sluggish. Which is ok if you go in knowing that. In stark contrast, the periscope mode at the end of each level is over way too quickly-- less than 30 seconds to take down as many ships as you can-- and while each mode is good on their own, put together like this, it's awkward to go from such a slow-pace to such a frantic one.

Some reviewers call this a sub sim... control-wise that's sorta true, but there are a lot of goofy arcadey elements that make it fun to me. With the 3-D effect, it looks like you're playing in an aquarium. While I'd like to see just a bit more in the graphics, it does look cool... like you're playing with a little toy submarine. And the voiceover work takes it all very serious, which also makes me chuckle. There's even a boss battle where you fight a giant sea creature, having to torpedo it until it's health bar depletes-- but it doesn't die at the end of the battle, it practically taps you on the back going, "Good game, catch you next time!" before swimming off. It's a very Japanese game, which I find to be quite amusing. Maybe it's just me.

So the various modes do add to the gameplay value of Steel Diver. I'm surprised how much this game which didn't look very interesting, has won me over. I wish there was at least 2x as many levels-- there should have been 15 or more (30?) levels.

Pilot Wings Resort, Super Monkey Ball 3D, & Steel Diver are well-crafted, solid games but they seem like they were rushed to make the 3DS release date. The big question is, is it better to have a solid game that's short, or an OK game that's long? I always pick quality over quantity, but I have to say I think that full retail games should have at least 5-6 hours of gameplay value.

I wouldn't say it's worth the full retail price, but I have to admit Steel Diver is different & fun. Watch some gameplay videos, especially make sure you can see the stylus in action, so you get a proper idea of what it's like to play.


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