VGBlogger 2011 Holiday Review Guide: Nintendo 3DS, DS & Wii

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Before your embark on your Black Friday holiday shopping spree (or do the smart, safe thing, and sit on your ass and shop at home from your PC), browse back through our full slate of 2011 game reviews to help guide you towards the games you should be buying and the games you should be staying away from, in this case those for Nintendo’s powerhouse trio of the 3DS, DS and Wii. If you don’t do all your shopping in one day, don’t worry. We’ll be updating these guides as reviews continue to post throughout the remainder of the year, so keep checking back here and we’ll continue to do our best to steer you in the right direction. If you have any questions about a particular game you’re considering, whether we’ve reviewed it yet or not, drop ’em in the comments and we’ll be happy to get you the info you need to make your decision.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii): “As a one-shot experience, Skyward Sword is another triumphant example of Nintendo’s magical–albeit steadily aging–game design philosophy. With some fine-tuning to certain controls and a little extra thought and care put into its final acts, this could have been an all-timer. Unfortunately it never quite ascends to those lofty heights, but the tried and true Zelda formula, further elevated by intuitive motion control, a gorgeously presented storyline and some of the smartest dungeon and puzzle layouts to date, still places Skyward Sword in an elite class few games are able to reach.” Read the full review here.

Nintendo 3DS Hardware: “Leading to the real question at hand: should you buy a Nintendo 3DS? My answer is equally simple: yes, you should – but probably not right now. If you’re a tech junkie and/or a serious gamer with the disposable income to throw at it, the 3DS is a great buy with enough quality content to keep busy with until the system comes into its own.

But, for the average consumer, the system’s feature set and game library clearly have some growing up to do, so the wiser option is to wait it out until the holiday season rolls around, then see what new games have come out and what the outlook is for the future, that of which we’ll likely have a better idea of after Nintendo’s E3 press conference next week.” Read the full review here.

CM4’s Catalyst Slim Cover (3DS): “Obviously, the Catalyst Slim Cover is not the case of choice for a young 3DS owner who is likely to drop, ding, slobber, snot and goo up the device in ways only kids can. It just isn’t built to offer that level of protection. But for more savvy and sophisticated 3DS users who want something that balances style, performance and comfort with a solid defense against the daily grind, this is the case to beat. I just can’t imagine playing my 3DS without it!” Read the full review here.

DualPenSports (3DS): “Is DualPenSports a game you will want to sit down with and play for hours on end? Possibly — but probably not. But that’s really not a negative in my book. For me, DualPenSports is a game that always manages to find its way into my 3DS on a daily basis. I rarely, if ever, play it for any longer than 15-20 minutes at a time, but that’s why I like it and that’s why it works. I’ll start off with a daily routine of the ‘Today’s Challenge’ and the tap exercises to warm up my fingers; I’ll pull it out a little later for a few rounds of archery; I’ll sneak in some basketball or baseball sometime after that, and so on and so forth throughout the day. By the end of the day, I’ll have played all of the sports at least once, and I’ll immediately be looking forward to improving my scores and moving up the ranks the next day. If this type of in-short-bursts gaming is something you look for in a portable game, DualPenSports is not to be missed.” Read the full review here.

Tetris: Axis (3DS): “Fever mode by itself has completely changed my outlook on contemporary Tetris, and once again the legendary puzzler that just won’t quit has become an unshakable obsession of mine. Yes, the look of the game is a bit stale compared to past versions, but the sheer volume of content is staggering, the newly introduced modes add greater substance than expected, and things like achievements and global score rankings only prolong the addiction. If you have the cash, Tetris: Axis most definitely has the stash.” Read the full review here.

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (3DS): “Bottom line — The Mercenaries 3D is a game that you will either play through once, put down, and then forget about in a matter of hours, or that you will spend days and weeks with, compulsively replaying every stage to beat your previous high scores, try out new characters, and unlock extra costumes and skills. If you can appreciate games that forgo story and conventional level progression and simply challenge you to compete against yourself for personal gratification, this fantastically addictive game will be worth every penny you pay for it. But if you expect greater substance from your video game experiences, the straightforward gameplay and limited variety will leave you wanting a whole lot more, and you are probably better off saving your cash for Revelations.” Read the full review here.

Dream Trigger 3D (3DS): “All factors considered, Dream Trigger 3D certainly is a one-note shmup orchestra, but the one note that it plays sure makes beautiful gaming music. And with over 100 achievement-style challenges to shoot for, and more than 50 different stages to unlock in the structured world play mode and then replay for fun in time attack, free play and versus modes, there is ample content here to make it worth the while for arcade shooter fans and anyone craving something fresh and unique to play on their 3DS.” Read the full review here.

Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions (3DS): “Individually, every game in this collection is deserving of a standalone Nintendo eShop release, each featuring unique gameplay characteristics, dedicated online leaderboard space, and seperate achievement medal lists. Pile them all together, toss in a 3D Pac-Man animated cartoon short, and the result is a six-pack of arcade gaming goodness.” Read the full review here.

Driver: Renegade (3DS): “There isn’t much here that will keep you busy for long stretches of time, but as a tag-along racer to whip out for a few spins around the block while on the go, this game does offer enough tire-squealing, engine-revving wheelman entertainment value to warrant at least a test drive. Driver: Renegade is a good portable driving game overall, but with a little more care and a little more effort it could have been a great one.” Read the full review here.

Dead or Alive: Dimensions (3DS): “On its own, Dead or Alive: Dimensions is a good 3DS game. It effectively utilizes the 3D screen, has a variety of modes to keep players interested, including a good online option, and has enough replay value to keep gamers coming back to collect all of the figurines and alternate character costumes. However, having played previous Dead or Alive titles I know what Team Ninja is capable of and this is not on the same level as Dead or Alive 4. Perhaps that’s a little unfair considering that I’m comparing a game released nearly six years ago on the Xbox 360 to one released on a handheld, but Dimensions seems to be more of a “best of” title that just rehashes all of the previous games in the series. There is no new gameplay here, just the same gameplay that existed in other mediums on a new system utilizing new technology and functionality. So depending on your experience with the Dead or Alive franchise and your expectations for this title, this is definitely one you’ll want to try before purchasing.” Read the full review here.

Pet Zombies (3DS): “Not to sound like one of those sappy (but noble) child or animal rescue commercials often seen on TV, but zombies deserve a better life. They are people after all – or at least they were. Why not adopt a zombie–or five–of your own and show the world that gamers can raise the dead with love and affection? And by affection I do mean the motherly nurturing that only a good shock collar or flaming torch can provide.” Read the full review here.

Cubic Ninja (3DS): “Cubic Ninja isn’t all that it could have been, but I do give it high marks for trying something different from any other 3DS game currently available, and for daring to be original on a platform that is thus far too dependent on ports and the usual franchise rehashes. Overall, it is a joy to play for what it is and while it lasts, and you should most definitely give it a whirl if you happen to stumble upon it while scavenging the bargain bins. But the lax difficulty and the limited data sharing implementation leave this game feeling more like a missed opportunity than the sleeper special it had all the potential to be.” Read the full review here.

SpongeBob SquigglePants 3D (3DS): “Obviously, a game like SpongeBob SquigglePants isn’t meant to be played in extended sittings. If you stick with it for half an hour or more at a time, the gameplay does lose steam and become a bit of a snore. But in short spurts, when you’re out and about with only a few moments to spare or hanging around the house in need of a quick pick me up, it is the quintessential video game time waster.” Read the full review here.

Asphalt 3D (3DS): “Asphalt 3D may not be a world beater, but for a launch racing game it serves its purpose as an early showcase for the benefits of the 3DS Circle Pad controls and 3D graphics capabilities (not including the 3D effect), and if nothing else, it succeeds as an accessible, pick-up-and-play time waster you won’t mind cruising around with until the 3DS game lineup kicks into high gear.” Read the full review here.

Puzzler Mind Gym 3D (3DS): “Taken in short sessions a day at a time as intended, Puzzler Mind Gym 3D’s simple logic challenges are reasonably successful in their attempt to keep players entertained and mentally sharp. Just not for very long. Within a matter of days you’ll already have grown tired of repeating the same challenges over and over, without ever achieving a sense of accomplishment for sticking to a self-enforced regimen. I think this game would be great as an eShop app to have around for quick cranial crunches, but there simply isn’t enough here to justify it being a $40 retail product. Please, don’t be duped into paying for a full-priced membership to this brain training gym.” Read the full review here.

Rayman 3D (3DS): “The sad thing is, that through the sloppy port job and faulty camera system, Rayman 3D shows glimpses of its former greatness and remains faithful to the series’ distinct personality traits, as displayed by the dream-like art style and color palette, silly gibberish dialogue, and charming character animations (it never gets old watching Rayman grab his floating torso and dribble it like a basketball when you leave him standing idle). But sadly the flaws are too many and too significant to ignore, and seeing those flashes of brilliance only makes the lackluster porting that much more disappointing. What you’re left with is a poor repurposing of an old favorite. I say don’t bother.” Read the full review here.

Bust-A-Move Universe (3DS): “At its core, Bust-A-Move Universe is a fun and bubbly match three puzzler, and it would have at least been acceptable as a cheap, downloadable eShop app. But its addictive gameplay, colorful graphics, and upbeat personality are wasted on a wobbly structure that gives you far too few modes and far too few options to work with. You’d be better off tracking down an old DS copy of Space Bust-A-Move on the cheap.” Read the full review here.

Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D (3DS): “Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D isn’t a complete waste, and if you grew up (or are still growing up) playing with dinosaurs like a lot of kids, this game may satisfy your inner child on a primal and nostalgic level. But as an overall game, it is shallow and boring, with too few redeeming qualities to deserve recommendation. So unless you have an undying childhood fascination with dinosaurs, give this game a pass.” Read the full review here.

Conduit 2 (Wii): “Because of these bugs and a couple other shortcomings, Conduit 2, like its predecessor, is a game that leaves a lot of potential on the table. Yet through its troubles, it still succeeds in its delivery of an upper-tier Wii FPS experience where the first game could not. If you only intend on playing through the campaign, you’re probably better off with a rental. But let me be clear: Conduit 2 is a great all-around game with arguably the deepest combination of single-player and multiplayer of any Wii FPS.” Read the full review here.

ExerBeat (Wii): “Motivation and dedication are more important than anything else in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and this constant flow of rewards and achievable goals does its part to inspire both. But do you know what the best part of all is? A lifetime membership to the ExerBeat fitness dance club will only set you back $20. That’s a tremendous value for all the perks and all the rewards that come with it, and a small price to pay to get in shape…and have fun doing it!” Read the full review here.

Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time (Wii): “After only a few hours, it became clear to me that Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time is a game where the style and humor and presentation far outweigh the substance and execution of the gameplay. There are fun times to be had, but I don’t see enough staying power for this game to hold up beyond a family game night or two.” Read the full review here.

PokéPark Wii: Pikachu’s Adventure (Wii): “That really is all there is to do in this game, and that’s too bad, because the concept has loads of potential and the game world is just bursting with untapped Pokémon spirit. Sorry to break it to you so bluntly, Pokémon fans, but this isn’t the Wii adventure you’ve been waiting for.” Read the full review here.

Mario Sports Mix (Wii): “Simply put, Mario Sports Mix plays like a first-generation Wii game with antiquated waggle controls that only make gameplay feel clumsier in place of a traditional game pad. Of course, you can avoid the waggle by playing with the remote turned sideways, but then it becomes a question of “why am I playing a shallow, arcadey Wii sports game without using the console’s main selling point?”” Read the full review here.

Rango – The Videogame (Wii): “Rango, the new Nickelodeon animated flick from the director of the Pirates of the Caribbean series and starring the voice of Johnny Depp, is in theaters. Have you seen it yet? I haven’t, and I doubt I ever will – though the reception has been surprisingly positive so far. But I have played EA’s tie-in game, and, for a change, it’s actually pretty darn good. And not just ‘good for a movie game’ good, but good on its own merits as a mascot-style action platformer.” Read the full review here.

Thor: God of Thunder (Wii): “The Wii version doesn’t fare a whole lot better, but it at least tries to do some interesting things with motion control. In spurts, it is fun to uppercut enemies into the air with an upward swipe of the Wii Remote, juggle combo them with a few melee strikes, and then slam them back to the ground with a downward remote thrust. It’s also more enjoyable being able to aim at the screen and flick the Nunchuk (or remote) to throw Thor’s hammer, and there is at least some form of variation to the combat scenarios as tougher enemies have elemental shields you must counter with your own powers and certain environmental hazards require use of specific powers to clear. The Wii version even tosses in a few on-rails flight missions reminiscent of Sin & Punishment. ” Read the full review here.

Plants vs. Zombies DS (DS): “Specific to this version of the game, PopCap did a great job adapting Plants vs. Zombies to the DS platform. There are significant technical shortcomings for sure, including heavy slowdown during particularly hectic zombie waves and an overly busy HUD on the touch screen that partly obscures your view of the top row of your lawn. The slowdown is the biggest disappointment, but it’s really just an eyesore, as it rarely limits your ability to control the action — this isn’t some twitch shooter where even the slightest framerate blip can throw you off. But in general, the stylus-controlled interface is perfectly suited for dragging and dropping plants into place and tap-collecting sunshine and coins, and overall the DS presents what I think is the most complete version of the game in terms of playability and content. ” Read the full review here.

Kingdom Hearts Re:coded (DS): “If all you crave is more Kingdom Hearts, and the mere promise of more fun, varied action-RPG gameplay is enough to scratch your Disney-meets-Final Fantasy itch, Re:coded will surely entertain. But personally, I’ve reached a point where I want more from Kingdom Hearts than a constant stream of spin-offs that retread the same plot points within the exact same Disney worlds, and only reward you with one small story revelation at the very end. If you’re in the same boat, you’ll enjoy your time with this game, but ultimately it will leave you feeling unsatisfied.” Read the full review here.

Monster Tale (DS): “Monster Tale is, overall, a unique gaming concoction of retro and modern ideas, with strong niche appeal for players who find more value and enjoyment from a system’s unknown, innovation-first gems than its hyped franchise blockbusters. The game controls splendidly and captures the look, feel and personality of a classic Nintendo mascot game, and the sprite-based graphics are expressive, fluidly animated, and bursting with bright, clean colors. The developers certainly used every crayon in the box on this game!” Read the full review here.

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation (DS): “That being said, I would have no hesitation recommending Dragon Quest VI to any gamer – it is an excellent game that has taken WAY too long coming to North America. Now that it is here, we can start the debate on which game represents the pinnacle of the Zenithia trilogy. As for me… hmmm… it has been too long, I’d have to replay the other two again. But that is okay, since all three are very good games!” Read the full review here.

Camping Mama: Outdoor Adventures (DS): “Camping Mama is a fun but frivolous game, coming together more like a ‘Miscellaneous Mama’ amalgamation of parts from previous titles rather than delivering a focused collection of camping activities. If you’ve played with Mama before or enjoy stylus-based mini-games, chances are you’ll still get a kick out of Majesco’s latest offering here, and despite the loose camping theme I can totally see this game putting a great, big smile on the face of any Boy or Girl Scout. Being a Boy Scout myself when I was younger, I really wanted to embrace this game. But in the end, Camping Mama is far too familiar to earn our highest badge of merit. ” Read the full review here.

Kirby Mass Attack (DS): “Not many games for the system really push the boundaries of controls the way that this game does. It could not come out for any system that did not have a touch screen. There is a fair amount of replay value to collecting all the hidden coins and the game takes a long time to finish, but many players will get frustrated in their efforts to wrangle a horde of Kirbies that appear to have no sense of self preservation and will let enemies murder them and their brothers unless they’re babysat. It’s a fresh game that definitely takes a risk in the way it is controlled, but how well it pays off for you is going to be a matter of taste and how much tapping you are willing to do.” Read the full review here.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!