How many times can you release the same game? Ubisoft would like to know.
First thing's first, Rayman 3D is not a new game. In an eerie parallel to the DS launch, Ubisoft ported one of their console Rayman games to Nintendo's latest dual-screen handheld. Despite the obvious pun, this isn't Rayman 3, but rather Ubisoft chose to port Rayman 2: The Great Escape to yet another Nintendo handheld. While Ubisoft did decide to use the Dreamcast version as the source for this iteration, instead of the N64 version that served as the origin of the DS release, there are few differences between the two versions. Eleven years after it was first released, this game is creaking in its invisible joints.
Rayman 3D is a straight-forward 3D platformer. As the game progresses, Rayman, a jointless collection of blobs, gains new powers, allowing him to move deeper into the game's rather whimsical stages. Rayman's unattached hands can be flung like weapons or launched at rings. He can swing from his invisible arms, and his propeller-like ears can be used to glide slowly towards the ground.
I remember killing this boss when I was in middle school
This game does still show some of the charm that made it a highly regarded title. However, it features a reliance on collection to progress. While it isn't usually hard to find enough Lums (small fairies) to gain access to the next level, the era of the collectathon is over. There are some hidden paths in levels, and some racing mini-games, but the game is a mostly linear progression through a series of levels that all present similar challenges and feature little to explore.
Not only did Ubisoft decide not to add any additional new content to this re-re-release (N64 ported to Dreamcast and Dreamcast ported to 3DS), they failed to fix the camera, which was the one complaint that dogged the game when it was first released back in 1999. Often times the camera is not pointed in the right direction, and getting it there can be difficult, if not impossible.
These rockets have legs! It's so wacky!
Compared to the rest of the launch lineup, Rayman 3D's visuals seem to be a half-generation behind. Considering it is a port of an early Dreamcast title, and much of the 3DS launch lineup seems closer to GameCube-quality visuals, it actually is about half a generation behind. Michel Ancel's visual style is still charming, and the characters are unique, but the technology is just too far behind the 3DS' capabilities to be considered even remotely acceptable.
The use of 3D is passable, but clearly tacked on. Particle effects that manage to flitter into the foreground become blurred, and the 3D effect can be easily lost. It would be logical to conclude that the addition of depth would make a platforming game easier, but the effect is not implemented well enough to offer such an advantage. Turning it off did not dramatically change the gameplay experience.
The game's sound is well meshed to the world of Rayman. All the characters mumble, as is not uncommon with games from the late ‘90s, but the style in which their mumbles mix half-words does fit the eccentric cast. The music is also slightly off kilter, and matches the world's environments.
Rayman 3D controls well, which can easily be explained with a quick look at a Dreamcast controller; the button layout of the Dreamcast is almost identical to the 3DS. The Circle Pad controls Rayman's movement, the shoulders control the camera, and the face buttons perform actions such as jump and attack.
Rayman 3D features a decent number of stages, though it seems low compared to modern platformers. The core game can probably be completed within 15 hours. While there are bonuses in each stage, they require going back to collect every doodad and they aren't worth the effort.
Don't forget that Lum or you're coming back later
There have been innumerable ports of Rayman 2, and yet there is no doubt that this is the most cynical. It's a shame that Ubisoft didn't try to improve on this classic in any discernible way. With the exception of some very minor graphic upgrades and the addition of mostly functional 3D, this is the same game that came out on the Dreamcast more than a decade ago. The camera still proves erratic, the stages are small by modern standards, and anyone who cares to play this game has played it many times before. Platformers have moved on since 1999. Rayman hasn't.