Saddle up with this rootin' tootin' eShop rodeo.
The very idea of Riding Stables 3D does not inspire confidence. Its description on Nintendo’s website talks about "an exciting 3D horse adventure" complete with 11 mini-games, including feeding and grooming. At face value, most gamers would skip it without a second thought. Going into the review, I had the same idea. I was proven wrong to a degree; Riding Stables is a shockingly competent Nintendogs clone that adds more depth to the proceedings, courtesy of the ham-fisted but amusing story.
At the outset, you create your own horse from a variety of breeds, colors, and more. After playing with this horse for a bit, you then spend the majority of the game helping other people, completing quests that involve completing mini-games with other horses, only occasionally coming back to your created equine. This separation from your created animal is disheartening, since it removes the compassion element from this style of game. After all, who cares about other dudes’ horses when you have your own you want to take care of.
The mini-games at the heart of the game are all short, lasting around a minute or less. While they aren’t that compelling, they use a wide variety of the 3DS’s control methods in different ways. Feeding involves using the gyroscope, while teaching your horse tricks is done through a simple, lackluster Elite Beat Agents-style interface. You can even mount your horse and engage in some first-person archery. Sadly, only 11 mini-games are available. Considering this is the entire basis of the game, it gets old fast, despite the fact that the story continues long after its welcome.
The story revolves around your struggling home stable engaging in a competition with a nasty, rival horse tycoon for the ownership of some kindly dead old man’s horse ranch. It’s cartoony, with over-the-top characters, but outside of the humorous setup and presentation, the story won’t hold your attention for long, and isn’t helped by some weird and awkward dialogue.
Riding Stables 3D makes fantastic use of some 3DS-exclusive features, namely Play Coins and StreetPass. Play Coins can be used to unlock more items, which is helpful early on. The StreetPass is sort of like Super Street Fighter IV’s, but with your horse instead of figurines. Your horse competes against anyone else who has the game, and earns new items if it wins. I wish I could actually run into people with the game, because on paper, the StreetPass feature is very cool.
Overall, this game tries to do a lot, and is so close to being a success. With some more mini-games, a better written story, and refined use of the 3DS features, Riding Stables 3D could have been a true diamond in the rough on the 3DS eShop. Instead, it’s not much more than a curiosity for anyone with a penchant for horses or silly plots.