In the Nintendo 3DS game Steel Diver, you become the pilot of a submarine, and very convincingly. This is one of three first-party launch titles for the Nintendo 3DS (the others are Pilotwings Resort and nintendogs+cats), and, unlike the other two, it is an original creation. The game doesn’t follow much of a storyline, but instead has the player pilot one of three models of submarines through various missions and time trials. Every mission is followed by a short minigame called “Periscope Strike.”
Four components compose the majority of control in Steel Diver: forward-backward lever, up-down lever, missile buttons, and pitch control. Each of the different submarine models have distinct strengths and weaknesses according to the way they control. The smallest sub can be maneuvered easily, while the largest model has more fire power. I enjoy the feel that each vehicle brings to the table. The control in general is difficult to master: the sub (whichever you are using) moves at a snail’s pace. However, it is highly gratifying to reach that point at which you control the sub with ease. Also, if you can appreciate the intensity the game delivers through its slow pace (as opposed to succumbing to frustration), it’s a worthwhile endeavor to practice. The Periscope Strike minigame utilizes the motion control of the 3DS: it has the player physically move to see and fire missiles at enemy ships.
Realism is the best word to describe Steel Diver in the area of sound. The clicking and clanking of the control panel as it’s being used and the accompanying response from the submarine itself draw you into the world of Steel Diver more than anything else: except perhaps the 3D graphics…
A first party title released with the launch of a new system must show off that system’s unique new feature(s). In this case, of course, it’s the 3D graphics of Nintendo’s new handheld. Steel Diver happily doesn’t disappoint there. The effect is mild enough for me to turn the depth slider all the way up, but powerful enough to immerse me in the game. Plain and simple, the graphics are just pretty.
Steel Diver isn’t without its share of problems. And if it’s got one problem, it’s a glaring lack of features. The Periscope Strike minigame lasts an average of about 30 seconds and simply begs to be fleshed out. I see missed opportunities for the use of StreetPass throughout. The lack of content creates a major problem for the $40 price tag. Is it worth it? I have to say no. I was lucky enough to get away with the game for $10 after promotions were applied, and that’s getting a lot closer to the value.
Steel Diver is a fun diversion, no doubt about it. Just don’t expect more than 10 hours of play time from it.
Steel Diver is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Mild Violence.