Published on April 6th, 2011 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Steel Diver Review
Developer: Nintendo, Vitei
MSRP: U.S. 39.99
“The year is 19XX and a power hungry rogue nation has invaded its neighboring countries.” A unique team of elite captains known as the “Steel Diver’s” are hired to fend off this bully of a country. Steel Diver launched alongside the Nintendo3DS just this past week. Developed by Nintendo and Vitei (Theta, Rock N’ Roll Climber) the game takes us on an undersea voyage through many levels of gameplay, but also offers a unique showcase off the damage that submarines can do when left to the depths of the ocean. This title screams arcade at first glimpse, but as players move through the campaign, they will discover just what it’s like to wade through ocean depths and plunge into its dangers.
One of the first things that you will notice about Steel Diver is that it is the game is almost fully played with the touch screen. Besides the use of the gyro for the “Periscope Strike”, which a 360 degree bonus game where you shoot enemy ships and submarines, there are no buttons used other than the ones that are on the lower touch screen. Using the new and improved stylus, the buttons on screen are touched in accordance with necessary maneuvers and attacks. The function to tilt is also available on some submarines, giving even the heaviest of underwater battle tanks to option to make mid-water halts to avoid missiles and mines. The map of the level can also be interacted with, tapping it for zooming in or out.
The controls give the game some of its best and unique qualities. At times, it felt as though I was systematically progressing through the level with the slide-bars and tilt wheels. The easiest thing to compare it to would be something similar to what a dj would be doing on stage. Hit the slide bar. Spin it. Slide it back. Boom! In this case, the “boom” was missiles spraying an enemy ship with holes, but still holds the same fulfillment. When touching the center of the inversion wheel, it also brings the sub back to a level stride.
There are three main submarines that are featured in the game. The smallest being the ND-1 Manatee. This is the quickest of the three, but also sports the least amount of shileding. This sub is the only one to feature an up-firing torpedo, but only has a single firing front. It is great for taking down those massive ships from the underbelly of the beast.
The midsize undersea destroyer is the ND-03 BlueShark. This is the middle of the road for design, but has the tilt function available in order to fend off nearby enemies that are just a hair above or below. This becomes a great tool to use in tight quarter battles where jolting upwards is not the most effective move.
The largest of the crew is the ND-5 Serpent. It has a full wheel to tilt and four missile silos. This is the heaviest and slowest. Although it is not the most mobile forward or back, it does have some great dive capabilities. The Serpent has been known to absorb many proximity mines and missiles. This is something that the Manatee can only take so much of.
The gameplay itself does have its learning curve. A suggestion for new players would be to try out at least all of the ships so that you can really get a feel for what you are working with. Even though you might get a feel for one specific sub, mine was the Manatee, don’t get too attached. In order to progress through all of the levels in the campaign, you will need to complete each one with each of the submarines. While this may seem like a chore at times, it did allow for familiarization with all of the vehicles and was actually pleasing to do so.
Something else that players might find equally pleasing is the over all level design. The smaller aesthetics of the game really gave Steel Diver its own style. There are things like rolling lightening clouds in the distance, to giant sea creatures roaming the depths of the ocean. Although most of the scenery is taken away in the ‘Timeed Trial‘ levels, they still represent unique design. While these were great additions, there could have been a little more involvement with things like weather effects and more ocean life to ensure the games immersible effects.
The game offers some great replay value. If it is going to be a title that you pick up every now and then to chip away at, there is no doubt that it will keep you coming back to knock out some the challenging levels. Not only will you have to deep dive into each sub during the campaign, but there are time trials and other modes to keep you occupied. Steel Commander is the download and play multiplayer included with the game. This “Battleship” type game gives you control of a fleet of ships alongside your submarine. The grid is set up to advance your ships and take out the enemy squad. This can prove to be quite fun, but also displays the limited connectivity that you wouldn’t expect to find with the Nintendo3DS.
Steel Diver plays like a lengthy arcade title. There are a few modes that offer some extended gameplay, but do not carry the depth you would find in a multiplayer experience. Also, with expectations like a time limit on each level, online leaderboards would do quite a bit to see where you stand against other players. The game feels like its stuck between a digital download and a retail release. Although it does have its limits, it does have a good amount of challenges and levels to complete. This is a great title to go back to and play, but does little to boast the 3D capabilities of the Nintendo3DS.
+/–Showcases 3DS Capabilities
–Could have been DSWare