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3DS

North America

Steel Diver

by Neal Ronaghan - April 3, 2011, 3:15 pm EDT
Total comments: 13

7

A game that can be explained as "vaguely reminiscent of Silent Service" doesn't have a large audience.

Steel Diver is a weird, unorthodox game. There's really no other way to describe it. The controls seem deliberately difficult, and the general progression through the game is peculiar. Still, it's fun and rewarding in its own way, though it is certainly not for everyone.

The controls are where a lot of the game's uniqueness comes from. You control a submarine through a variety of missions, lasting around 10 minutes each, by using dials and switches on the touch screen. You set how fast you want to go forward or backward with one dial, and then how fast you want to submerge or dive with another. You have three subs to pick from, each with slightly different abilities such as firing torpedoes upwards or fine-tuning the pitch of the ship to more accurately attack enemies. It's definitely obtuse, but it's easy and enriching to use once you get the hang of it.

The goal of each stage is to reach the end as quickly as you can. Along the way, you have to maneuver through tight underwater passages, dodge torpedoes and floating mines, and defeat enemy subs and creatures. The weird part about the main missions is that there isn't any kind of score mechanic. Instead, you're ranked by your time. There are eight additional Time Trial missions, along with Developer Ghosts to race against for each mission, and while they're fun, they don't offer much of a difference from the main levels. Also, to unlock all the game's levels and content, you have to beat each mission with every sub. While they control slightly differently, the missions are identical with each vehicle.

At the end of each mission, you enter Periscope mode, where you move the 3DS around yourself in a similar manner as for Face Raiders, but without the augmented reality aspect. Instead, you're looking through a periscope just above the water's surface scouting for ships to shoot torpedoes at and destroy. The goal in these mission end-caps is to destroy as many ships as you can in the time limit. Your rewards are decals, which after you collect a requisite number of them, are unlocked so that you can put them on your submarine. The decals have the effect of changing the game a little bit, such as negating water currents or making your torpedoes more effective. In order to even unlock decals at all, you either need to be an idiot savant at the game, or replay each mission in its entirety several times. You can play the Periscope mode outside of the missions in three different levels; however you don't earn any decals that way. It's just another high score mode.

The final mode in Steel Diver is also probably the best-kept secret about the game. Steel Commander is a Battleship-esque mode where you have to move your ships around a grid-based environment and try to destroy your enemy's supply ships without getting yours destroyed. You can't see your enemy ships unless you land on their spot, or use sonar to pinpoint their location, which reveals yours. Submarines attack by using the periscope, and your other ships attack by dropping depth charges at one of three different depths. You can defend against the depth charges by picking a different depth than your opponent. This mode is very fun, and the variety of maps and degree of strategy give it longevity. Sadly, the only way to play this mode is against the computer or via Download Play. Hot-seat or online multiplayer are sorely missing.

Graphically, the 3D presentation is wonderful. As corny as it sounds, it feels like you're looking into an aquarium, as there are multiple layers of fish and underwater foliage. It's especially cool when an enemy fires a torpedo from the back layer, seemingly coming towards you.

Steel Diver is most definitely a niche title that most people won't care for, but it's a good game in its own right, despite its brevity. The mechanics, while a little obtuse, are interesting, and the three different game modes are varied and fun. It's just that there is a large focus on replaying the same content with minor differences. If you happen to have someone around who you can play the Steel Commander mode with, you'll likely get some longevity out of this game. Aside from that, it's a quick romp with minimal rewards that is worth a look but not much else.

Summary

Pros
  • Battleship-style mode is great fun
  • It's like looking in an aquarium!
  • Weird but fun controls
Cons
  • Limited multiplayer options
  • Little content
  • Unlocking decals is a chore

Talkback

MaryJaneApril 03, 2011

Thanks for the review; I'm probably going to pick this game up now because of it. The only con I read for myself was the lack of online multiplayer, but considering that I had no idea that the game even had multiplayer, it's pretty forgivable.


Any word from Nintendo that they could be adding online content to launch window games when the eShop launches?

circasurviverApril 03, 2011

Hey Neal with people complaining about Pilot Wings and Steel Diver being short on content, do think Nintendo would ever release DLC missions for either of these games? Seeing how these games don't have any Wifi connection, is it even technically possible?

NeoStar9XApril 04, 2011

Neal did you unlocked the Expert Mode? Or race against the developer ghost images?

Quote from: NeoStar9X

Neal did you unlocked the Expert Mode? Or race against the developer ghost images?

Yea, though the Expert Mode doesn't seem to be too different. Some levels are more different and difficult than others.

The ghost stuff was okay, I guess. Nothing amazing.

This review reinforced the decision I've already made: to buy the game, but wait until the price drops to do so.

Quote from: circasurviver

Hey Neal with people complaining about Pilot Wings and Steel Diver being short on content, do think Nintendo would ever release DLC missions for either of these games? Seeing how these games don't have any Wifi connection, is it even technically possible?

No.

I'd love to be surprised and have Nintendo have the hooks in these games for it, but I don't think they put them in. It's kind of a bummer.

circasurviverApril 06, 2011

Quote from: NWR_Neal

Quote from: circasurviver

Hey Neal with people complaining about Pilot Wings and Steel Diver being short on content, do think Nintendo would ever release DLC missions for either of these games? Seeing how these games don't have any Wifi connection, is it even technically possible?

No.

I'd love to be surprised and have Nintendo have the hooks in these games for it, but I don't think they put them in. It's kind of a bummer.

Yeah that's kinda what I figured. I'm interested in both games but will probably wait for a price drop.  Great review BTW!

leahsdadApril 16, 2011

In an obtuse and overreaching way of thinking, I kind of saw this game as an innovative little experiment in side-scrolling bullet hell shooters, i.e. Ikaruga or (as more people might be familiar with) R-Type.  A lot of the same game mechanics are there:  avoiding obstacles with strategic movement or strategic shooting, moving your ship in between projectiles, boss battles at the end of levels, etc..  And yet it's hard to call these "bullet hell" because the pace is very slow and deliberate.  There aren't screen filling waves of projectiles to dodge--  there are maybe 4 or 5 on the screen at any given time.  But because movement is slow in response, 4 or 5 projectiles represent a significant challenge.  As a result, there's a lot of strategy that goes into movement....because you can't make instant, immediate changes in course or speed (like real subs and ships, of course) you have to plan your movement in advance, and at the higher difficulties you have to plan the possibilities of changes ("I'll move forward at full speed, but I'll move down if a projectile appears from the top of the screen, reduce speed if it appears from the left, ....)

There is literally no game like this, and to be honest, there has never been a game like this before.  Everyone complains about Nintendo never making anything new.  Well, this is clearly new.  Luckily, it's also really fun.  And even though they're only somewhat similar, I would say fans of bullet-hell shooters would most likely enjoy this game, though that comparison is somewhat like saying fans of video games would most likely enjoy watching Battlestar Galactica on TV. 

Oh, and in my mind this game is the most beautiful game on the 3DS, though it's a shame that when people see screenshots they'll fail to understand this.  It's only when you see this on 3D, with the "aquarium" effect going on, that this game really impresses. 

KDR_11kApril 16, 2011

R-Type isn't bullet hell, the bullets just add a little flavor to the obstacle course of the terrain and enemies.

champion88April 17, 2011

From a value standpoint, I normally assign 1 hour for every $2 to the price.

Is it likely for me to get 20 hours out of this game, if I try to unlock and complete everything???  (all Expert levels and time trials.)


Also, how hard are the time trials to complete?

I know some games that are only moderately challenging, where the time trials are insane!  (Example:  Donkey Kong Country Returns)

KDR_11kApril 17, 2011

For me the only money-time relationship I use is that if a game keeps me interested for one hour per Euro spent then it was a good game. That's just if I'm unsure whether I like a game though, I can like games that are way below that ratio if they're just fun enough.

KITT 10KMay 20, 2011

I liked this game. I have disagree with the part of the review saying that the controls are "difficult". I don't think they are at all. I'm sure some people will think they are and everyone will have their own opinion to weather they are or aren't. But needless to say this was one of my first three games I got for the 3DS and I am happy with all 3, (Madden and Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs are they other 2). The only things I wish for with Steel Diver is that there's more subs and levels in the game. All in all, it's a good fun game that I'd recommend to someone looking for a game.

LucarioJuly 30, 2013

Picked it up for $7 brand new!!!
Like-a-glove!(jim carry ace ventura)

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3DS

Game Profile

Steel Diver Box Art

Genre Action
Developer

Worldwide Releases

na: Steel Diver
Release Mar 27, 2011
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Steel Diver
Release May 12, 2011
PublisherNintendo
eu: Steel Diver
Release May 06, 2011
PublisherNintendo
Rating7+
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