Nintendo’s latest foray into one of the markets it once dominated had a bit of a rough start. When the 3DS debuted in early 2011, the launch library wasn’t impressive and its $250 price point was a bit of a turn-off for many consumers. But with an $80-price cut and the recent release of some solid titles — both retail and downloadable — it looks like Nintendo’s newest handheld has finally hit its stride. The games listed after the jump all make excellent use of the system’s unique capabilities. Other developers could take a cue from these titles when it comes to making the most of the hardware. Well, let’s get to it, shall we?
The original Star Fox 64 is quite possibly the best rail shooter of all time. The grace with which you can swerve the Arwing at the last minute to avoid a head-on collision and instant gratification that comes with the release of a barrage of hyper laser shots will remain etched into my mind as some of the most satisfying sensations I’ve ever had behind a joystick. So I was pleasantly surprised when the game’s redesign for the Nintendo 3DS didn’t just faithfully recreate the experience I had grown to love since 1997, but improved it in one major way. The tight-knit controls are still there and, to make things better, the bombardment of enemy fire on team Star Fox is made all the more engaging when you add an extra dimension to the experience. Area 6 is a particular joy. If you’ve ever made it to this part of the original Star Fox 64, you owe it to yourself to try it in 3D at least once. Yes, it’s a little dizzying. But that’s the point.
Just race through Mario Circuit with the 3D on and you’ll agree there’s no other way to play this game. Right after the first couple of bends, there’s a grove of trees where pink foliage sprinkles down and there’s no way you would want to stare at a flat image of the scene. Hell, even the retro courses have been fitted with elements that make them much better in three dimensions. Remember the enormous Bullet Bills — or is it Bullets Bill? — in the Airship Fortress track from Mario Kart DS? Yeah. Try not to wet yourself when you could swear one of those bad boys was about to explode right in your Mario Kart-ing face. One thing, though: I wouldn’t recommend using the gyroscope controls in tandem with the 3D. It’s not easy to keep the 3DS placed correctly in relation to your eye line and maintain the effect. This led to plenty of rescues via Lakitu on my part.
As Shigeru Miyamoto has said, this is the first game made specifically for the Nintendo 3DS. And you can totally tell. As I wrote in my review, there are puzzles where the 3D doesn’t just enhance the experience. It’s required to 100-percent the game. Even when it’s not totally necessary, the extra dimension helps you gauge some of the trickier platforming segments in the game with great ease. If you enjoyed those stages in Super Mario Galaxy 2 where you ran around on cakes and cookies, just imagine how much you could salivate if you thought you could pick one of those s’mores right out of the screen and nom away. Oh, wait. Super Mario 3D Land does just that. So keep your bib at the ready. These may be Gamecube-era graphics, but those flying wafers still look delectable.
3D Classics: Xevious
Moreso than the Excitebike or Kirby ports that are also available through the 3DS’ eShop, if you’ve downloaded Xevious and aren’t playing it with the 3D slider on, you’re doing it wrong. With the other 3D Classics titles, certain elements pop out of the screen or you can see some extra rails on stadiums as if you’re experiencing things from a different perspective. But with Xevious, you can’t help but sense a bit of vertigo when you turn the 3D slider up. It’s almost like the ground beneath your ship sinks into the top screen and you’re thrust high into the sky. It takes a few seconds to get used to it, but once you do it feels like you’re really in control of a harrier on a mission. It’s funny that this 8-bit game does a better job of making you feel airborne than some of the flight simulators that came after it, but that’s probably why it’s considered a classic.
Honorable Mention: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
Okay, so I wouldn’t recommend playing most of this Nintendo 64 remake with the 3D on. Aiming with the gyroscope is leagues better than using the circle pad and, as was the case with Mario Kart 7, it’s tough to keep the system in just the right place to maintain the effect without blurring everything else. But crank that sucker up for the cutscenes. If you’re a true Zelda-phile, there’s really nothing better than watching the History of the Triforce segment as told by the Great Deku tree with the effect at full volume. The end credits are also quite beautiful in 3D, particularly the party at Lon Lon Ranch. Kinda makes you want to get up and dance with all those wacky characters. If you give in to that urge, please make sure you’re somewhere crowded. And email us the video.