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Nintendo 3DS Review: The Sims 3

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The Sims 3, as a franchise, is a massive success.  It has been ported to system after system, updated, expanded, and tweaked.  Now, it’s a launch title for the Nintendo 3DS, but it may not be one that you’re going to want to leave the store with at the same time as you pick up Nintendo’s latest handheld.  Obviously the problems with the title have nothing to do with the game’s concept and despite what you may be thinking, the problems are also unrelated to the graphics (3D or otherwise) and unrelated to there being “missing” components from previous releases.   The problems are with the layout, and we’ll be talking about them more later.

By now, we all know what The Sims is all about – you create people, create a home for them, and take them through their hopefully not too mundane lives.  Your Sim will make friends, have a job, cook dinner, and learn to play chess.  It is almost entirely brilliantly fun.  I have been known to spend hours building my Sim the perfect, expandable,The Sims 3 dream house at the start of the game, before I’ve ever laid a single finger on my Sim in the game world.  The Sims is a tested, tried, and utterly brilliant.  Who knew that controlling the lives of someone else could be way more fun than controlling your own, but let’s face it, it can be.

While the version of The Sims 3 that was released to the Nintendo DS was a semi-sanitized E for Everyone game, for the 3DS, the folks at EA have given you a T for Teen version, similar to the console and computer releases.  Also included back in the game is stuff like the ability to put in landscaping.

Listen, we don’t want to insult you by giving you 500 words on the overall generic stuff that could be used to talk about The Sims 3 on any platform.  The Sims franchise has been around for more than a decade, it’s a life simulator and each successive entry into the series has given you more options, more tweaks, and more to do.  It is also one of those titles which has traditionally worked better on a PC or Mac than it has on a console or handheld because there is so much to control and so many possible tweaks and a keyboard and mouse offer the ability to manipulate the extensive array of choices you’re provided in greater detail, with greater finesse, and with far greater speed than any console or handheld controls we have ever come across.

On the Nintendo 3DS you’re faced with that same issue all over again.  If you’ve ever played the title on a computer you’re going to feel pretty handicapped playing it on the 3DS, and, even if you haven’t played it on a computer, you’re still going to get a sense that it’s all very stilted when it shouldn’t be. 

In this version of the game, the top screen, the 3D one, is useless at least 75 percent of the time.  You’re almost only ever changing things or manipulating anything based on the bottom screen, which is a shame because the graphics on the top screen and the title’s use of the 3D technology is great.  But, great or not, your life, menus, and choices, are almost all thereThe Sims 3 on the bottom, not the top.  We in fact got so focused on the bottom screen that at one point when we needed information and pressed the correct icon we fumed that nothing appeared to tell us what we wanted to know.  Yeah, the information was up top and the game trained us so well to not look there that we didn’t check it.

The other major problem – the one outside of ignoring the pretty 3D graphics – with the bottom screen-centeredness of the title is that there is, unlike on a big TV or computer monitor, an exceedingly limited amount of real estate on a handheld screen.  Necessarily, bringing up readable menus and sets of choices on the bottom screen takes up nearly all of the bottom screen every time.  You can’t focus on the top screen however to see what’s happening because you’re constantly needing to read all the monitors, menus, and choices the bottom screen offers.  That leads to incredibly erratic and frustrating gameplay, no matter how many options you have for your Sim.

As for one nice 3DS inclusion, you can take a picture of yourself and have your Sim look like you (think of it similarly to the EA GameFace option which appears in many of the EA Sports titles).  Additionally, new to the 3DS is the ability to send butterflies out into your world and set off an earthquake via Karma Powers.  You earn these.  There is also a StreetPass inclusion for the title – be close enough to someone else with the game and Sims will transfer between the two 3DS systems, so you can turn on the game one day and find all-new folks in your town.

In short (relatively speaking), on the 3DS you find a version of Sims 3 which contains great graphics, excellent use of the system’s 3D capability, lots of customization options, fun sound effects, and a whole lot to do, all of which is completely hampered by a disappointing interface which will seriously mar your enjoyment of the title and may just make you wish you’d stuck with a computer version.

The Sims 3 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Crude Humor, Mild Violence, Sexual Themes. This game can also be found on: Nintendo DS, PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360 and Mobile Phone.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
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