New hardware is always exciting, and the Nintendo 3DS is actually quite a beast when compared to the Nintendo DS. Updated graphics, a 3-D display and an analog stick rather than a directional pad should all be pluses for sports gamers. However, I can only enjoy two of those upgrades because I have had zero luck seeing 3-D on the 3DS at any demo events to this point.
Nevertheless, let’s talk a bit about Madden NFL Football, a launch title that will be on store shelves when the Nintendo 3DS comes out on March 27.
It’s great that the 3DS has an analog stick. It’s even better that the analog stick attached to the device feels better resting under my thumb than the PSP analog nub ever did. If anything, this at least helps to create a handheld Madden experience that’s actually worth checking out. (I’m not sure if any of you ever played Madden on the DS, but I could never get beyond the graphics and controls.)
On the field, the game is being based off the Nintendo Wii version of the game. Screenshots should do a good job of showing you that the developers have done a good job porting the Wii graphics to this portable device. While Sony’s new portable (called NGP for now) deserves to steal the show for its graphical capabilities, the 3DS Madden graphics should help to show that the 3DS is not just some DS with 3-D graphics.
Yes, those are really 3DS graphics.
Beyond the impressive graphics, the gameplay is about what you would expect from a launch title on a new device. I was not “wowed” by the game, but it’s a very safe bet that gamers will be able to jump in and almost immediately get a handle on the game.
Since there is only one analog stick, there is no “hit stick” functionality or any of that, but certain tackle animations still result in the screen shaking. Otherwise the game should feel familiar to any user that has played a Wii or DS version of the title in the past. If that’s not clear enough for you, throwing, running, jumping and kicking all work like they should in a Madden football game. As long as you come in with your expectations in check (see: don’t expect pinpoint realism or console-like polish), there’s no reason you should be appalled by what is here.
Getting back to the controls, the nicest part about the 3DS controls is what they can accomplish before a play begins. While many gamers talk about the most efficient way to change defensive assignments and so forth on the PS3/360, I can still safely say that the 3DS stylus trumps the controls in those versions of the game. I realize this feature is nothing new for the series on a “touch” platform, but it still acts as a window into what the device does best for this title. You simply have to click a defensive player, and then drag the stylus around the screen to switch up what zone or assignment your player is going to cover on the play. It’s still just as ingenious and intuitive a feature as it was on day one.
No one will call you out if you like to dabble in 5-on-5 play from time to time.
And, really, the unique capability of the DS, and now the 3DS, is still what bothers me most about Madden on this platform. It’s certainly hard to avoid falling into the realm of needless gimmick when creating a specialized version of a multiplatform title. It’s also quite easy to simply stick to doing the safe thing and creating a standard Madden experience for 3DS users. But if the best thing I can say about the on-field gameplay is that I enjoy changing up defensive assignments or creating hot routes on offense, it’s not such a ringing endorsement anymore.
I don’t for a second think I am the target audience for this game, so it’s hard to take the game to task for being something it is not trying to be. But I see little glimpses of potential, and it makes me wonder about what else could be done on this platform. Would this game be more exciting if it were a text-sim-style title that leaned more towards NFL Head Coach rather than Madden? At the end of the day, all I’m trying to say here is that it would just be nice to have a reason to look at this game and say “I want to play that for (insert reason here).”
While the game lacks online play or any sort of a franchise mode, Madden 3DS has in-game saves (insert joke here), good graphics and a full-on season mode. And when launch day rolls around for the 3DS, I have no doubt that this title will be a safe pickup if you just want a title that shows off the 3DS’ graphical and 3-D capabilities. However, I can’t help but be somewhat confused by this version of the game. The devoted gamers amongst us will probably have their eye on the NGP version of the game when that time comes, and the more perfunctory amongst us will probably target the iPad or iPhone version of the game. So why not do something different on this platform in the future?