The launch window software for the Nintendo 3DS console has been fairly hit-and-miss. Titles such as Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, Dead or Alive: Dimensions and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D have brought the familiar home console experience to the handheld system, very few games have managed to utilise the unique features of the Nintendo 3DS in any meaningful way. There is plenty of hope however, and as a first-party title Steel Diver is an oddity that comes close to filling that gap.
Steel Diver is an odd choice of game for Nintendo, hardly fitting with their modern ethos of immediate, accessible videogames designed for everyone. It’s a game that draws on knowledge of 2D Platform games and the connotations that has for the slow-response controls of heavy machinery on a single-plane. Working your way through caverns and past mines, taking down screen-filling enemy ships, Steel Diver is a fairly challenging endeavour.
The entire game is controlled via touchscreen. Two sliders are available, one controlling acceleration and reversing, and the other for altering your pitch. Players can fire missile in a direct line upwards from the centre of their vessel, or torpedoes directly forward from the nose. Players must judge the timing of movement in correlation with environmental hazards and the need to take out enemy units and any damage sustain wrestles control from the player til the leak on the touchscreen is plugged by tapping it repeatedly.
It’s a challenging game, designed to tax the player with every new mission. There’s plenty of content here for those who take things slowly, tackling a mission at a time, but for any series gamer picking up the game at full price Steel Diver is unlikely to last more than a few evenings. That’s a shame, as if you find it compelling enough to invest such effort it’ll come as a great disappointment when the game ends, as there really is nothing else similar available on the market at present.
The visual quality of Steel Diver is hardly groundbreaking, delivering a flat, lifeless depiction of its subject matter that never even attempts to push the hardware. The stereoscopic 3D effect is a welcome addition, but doesn’t redefine the way you play the game. The most interesting aspect of the design is actually the touchscreen, interpreting the submarine controls as a surprisingly stylish yet functional command menu.
With the Nintendo 3DS failing to deliver a game that capitalises on the hardware, every new release is scrutinised for it’s worth as a stereoscopic 3D title. Steel Diver has been criticised heavily by many for not being that title, and it’s true that it doesn’t push the console beyond the current crop of software, but it is a very unique gameplay experience, and for that Nintendo deserve commendation for investing in something a bit different.