Thursday, July 21, 2011

Third Rate Game Play: Steel Diver

Game: Steel Diver

System: Nintendo 3DS

Developer: Nintendo EAD and
Vitei (Rock ‘n Roll Climber)

Publisher: Nintendo

Player: Alex

Experience: Played through Mission 6 and a match of Steel Commander

The history of Steel Diver begins many years before the original concept of Steel Diver came about. Argonaut Software had begun developing a 3D engine for otherwise 2D consoles and handhelds when it approached Nintendo in the early 1990's. Among those in the company were Dylan Cuthbert (who would later form Q-Games) and Giles Goddard, who is now the head of Japanese studio Vitei. While still working with Argonaut Software, the two programmers helped establish the Super FX engine and unveiled it with the smash-hit Star Fox.

Following Star Fox’s completion, Cuthbert and Goddard helped create Vortex, a 3D mech shooter which was published by Electro Brain. While Cuthbert would later work with Nintendo on Star Fox 2, Giles Goddard joined Nintendo’s internal teams and was the Lead Programmer for Stunt Race FX. As a member of Nintendo EAD, Goddard went straight into developing Nintendo’s next gaming masterpiece, Super Mario 64. Another big project for the Nintendo 64 for him was 1080 Snowboarding, released early 1998. While he worked on smaller jobs within Nintendo EAD, his next large project would come with the release of one of Nintendo’s few 64DD projects: Doshin the Giant. This god-simulation game was well received, but the 64DD was not, so Goddard worked alongside the original team to port the whole game to the Nintendo GameCube. Ultimately, the GameCube version of Doshin the Giant would appear in Japan and Europe only, whereas America got another oddity from Nintendo of Japan: Cubivore.

After bringing Doshin the Giant to GameCube, Giles Goddard decided to leave Nintendo and form his own small development company, known as Vitei. Since the company was formed, Vitei has provided additional support to Nintendo products, and it is behind the development of Theta, a Japanese-Only Nintendo DS puzzle game, and the worldwide WiiWare game Rock ‘n Roll Climber focused on the Wii Balance Board. Steel Diver marks the company’s third known game in development.

Before Steel Diver shifted to full development, the game was merely a technical demo for the Nintendo DS during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2004. Shigeru Miyamoto, General Producer for the game, said that he wanted the game to be made based on his desire to make a game-specific controller, similar to Capcom’s Steel Battalion. The Submarine Demo was later available through wireless downloads in other Nintendo events. The demo would not move toward full-game development until Nintendo of America requested that the game be created to build the DSiWare software lineup. However, partially into development, Nintendo of Japan decided to shift development from DSiWare to 3DS as a retail product. It was not until E3 2010 that the game would finally reemerge as Steel Diver.

“Steel Diver is a new action-packed submarine combat game from Nintendo that immerses players in the 3D action with unique game controls and lush 3D environments. The player can choose from three different submarines, each with touch-screen control panels that players will have to master to guide them through treacherous undersea caverns while engaging enemy submarines, dodging depth charges and battling massive sea creatures. Steel Diver also takes advantage of the built-in gyroscope of the Nintendo 3DS system. The combination of 3D game play and one-of-a-kind controls makes for an immersive combination that must be experienced to be believed.”
“Playing Steel Diver is like driving a car with a clutch. You have to learn how to do it: "If you don't do this, it won't move." "Oh?" "If you don't do this, it won't stop." "Okay, I see." It's really fun to do several things at once that you have learned.”
– Shigeru Miyamoto, General Producer for Nintendo EAD
“You can really enjoy reading each other's hidden motives in [Steel Commander]. Imamura-san and I played this mode a lot as we were developing the game as packaged software for the Nintendo DS system. We really got into it. You can also play the computer in Steel Commander mode, but there's a special enjoyment that can't be duplicated when you play against a real person. As long as you have one cartridge of the game, you can use the Download Play feature, so I hope people will enjoy squaring off against each other.”
– Tadashi Sugiyama, Producer from SDD of EAD

Steel Diver is one of Nintendo’s three 3DS launch titles, alongside Nintendogs + Cats and Pilotwings Resort. The game is an arcade simulator game which consists of three main modes, each with their own unique gameplay twists. All three modes consist of controlling ships and submarines, whether by using the touch screen interface or the 3DS’s gyro sensor controls.

In Mission Mode, players control one of three submarines, each with their own sizes, speeds, and control mechanics. For example, the smallest submarine can shoot horizontally and vertically but can only control movement in the same manner; meanwhile, the largest submarine can shoot up to four torpedoes forward at a time and must be steered using a wheel. Mission Mode consists of two selections: Campaign and Time Trial. In Campaign, players go through seven missions to thwart an invading country from taking over the land, whereas Time Trial takes players through a number of obstacle-infested pathways. To boost a submarine’s abilities, special decals can be applied to each submarine and make missions easier to complete. Furthermore, missions come complete with three developer ghosts, against which players can race for the top time.

The second mode, Periscope Strike, is a mini-game in which players use either the touch screen or gyro sensors to control a periscope and ultimately fire torpedoes at foes. There are three levels available to select within this mode, although a bout in Periscope Strike appears after each completed mission in Campaign. The third mode, Steel Commander, is a strategy game spanning nine maps; using a grid system, players move units in an attempt to eventually sink the opponent’s supply ships. While this game is meant to be played for multiplayer purposes, the mode does allow for AI opponents for singular experiences.

The Nintendo 3DS launch was not too successful, partially due to the lack of major products available to purchase when the handheld launched. Steel Diver was seen as the B-grade title of Nintendo’s releases, and many reviews gave it a negative look in relation to its apparent limited content. At the same time, a number of fans have been praising the game for its extra, hidden content, including an enhanced hard mode and its emphasis on time trial ghosts. Still, the issue between price and content remains with this game.

Vitei’s titles for the future are unknown, as this last game was released only a few months ago. Meanwhile, Nintendo’s releases on 3DS are certain to become more intense over the next year. Currently, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D remains the only major retail 3DS game since the 3DS launch, but plenty of other games are on the way. Whether they are original IPs such as Steel Diver is a different story.

The mild sales of Steel Diver will most likely prevent any sequel for the future, but weirder things have happened when it comes to Nintendo’s previous franchises.

In an attempt to show the entirety of the game, we take a look through each of the game’s modes, starting with Campaign, moving through some Time Trial levels, and then concluding with a match of Periscope Strike and Steel Commander.

Throughout the playthrough, we examine each of the three types of submarines and examine how the ghost and decal systems work for the main game. No Gyro sensor controls are used for the sake of recording.

Steel Diver is a disappointment for one big reason: it could have been a really hefty experience. Instead, the game has great content but forces you to play through it too often. The end result is a somewhat overplayed feeling just as you reach the end of the Campaign mode. I was unable to beat the game before completing the episode, but at the very least, it is fun if a bit too shallow.

The recording was modified so as to make the top screen larger for display purposes. This turned out to be a great improvement to the recording, although editing took a little longer than anticipated. Still, it was a success of an episode and showed off what we wanted to, including an unexpectedly quick win in Steel Commander!

The big problem, however, came from the commentary. After recording Rayman 3D, we were apparently in “examination” mode rather than “entertainment.” Those who are looking for a deep look into the workings of Steel Diver should be quite happy with this video, but if you are looking for a humor-filled adventure, this will not fit your desires well. There are parts that are funny, but they are few and far between. The funniest segment was the Time Trials section, for those who still wish to find the funny diamond in the rough.

It is a disappointment, much like the game, that the episode had it all except that touch of 3RM humor. We will try to keep 3RGP videos from being as descriptive as this one was in the future, unless people prefer seeing extended reviews over our squabbling.

3RM Says: I'm certainly an advocate for diving, particularly in the bath.
Much safer, I, what is that?!

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