The dawn of a new year means 365 days of new gaming action to look forward to, and the pressure’s really on for Nintendo in 2012. Not only is the company launching its new Wii U console at the end of the year; there’s also a need to keep pushing with the 3DS, which suffered at launch a year ago due to a high price tag and a generally weak launch lineup. Some real gems have emerged since then, particularly on the first-party side of things. Super Mario Land 3D continues to be the best reason to own the system.
With Sony bringing the PlayStation Vita and its console-quality portable gaming to the masses in North America on February 22, the 3DS will be facing some stiff competition this year. There’s hope though. At least a few big-ticket games are fully confirmed and presumably arriving on schedule, which means that there’s some quality 3DS content to look forward to this year. Then there are others that aren’t so confirmed, but we’re all wishing and hoping that they firm up soon. Here are some of our most-anticipated from both sides of the fence…
The Binding of Isaac
To be fair, The Binding of Isaac is technically unconfirmed as a 3DS release. The hope is that Nintendo sees it being mentioned in lists like this and carries forward with approving the game for release on its portable platform. Edmund McMillen’s currently PC-only Roguelike (with shades of The Legend of Zelda) has been submitted to the handheld-maker for release approval. The hope is that it comes soon and that the port is ready for a fall release. McMillen is on record as a big Nintendo supporter, and hopes are high that this 3DS release will eventually happen.
It’s kind of crazy to think that this 2007 PlayStation Portable puzzler is such a highly anticipated 3DS release, and yet here we are. Sega’s underrated puzzle-platformer was great on the PSP and it should really shine with the 3DS. The object of the game is to navigate through a series of environments by jumping between 2D and 3D layouts to play with perspective and bridge otherwise inaccessible locations. Crush 3D is already available in Europe and it’s coming to the U.S. soon, on March 6.
Kid Icarus: Uprising
Kid Icarus: Uprising heralds the long-awaited return of one of Nintendo’s most vintage mascots, Pit. The hero of the NES classic Kid Icarus hasn’t been seen much since that original game and its Game Boy sequel; only the odd cameo and all-star lineup appearances. Uprising is the first new Kid Icarus game since the early ’90s, and it sports a fresh new 3D look and approach to gameplay, complete with online multiplayer. Look for it in North America on March 23.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
The next Kingdom Hearts release puts players in control of two of the series’ past protagonists: Sora and Riku. The story follows them as they visit and awaken a series of worlds as part of their Mark of Mastery Exam, the completion of which will mark them as Keyblade Masters. Early gameplay videos have shown the same sort of action-RPG play that fans of the series have come to expect. Dream Drop Distance arrives in Japan in March, and it’s confirmed as a North America release for sometime later this year.
Luigi’s Mansion 2
Nintendo revealed Luigi’s Mansion 2 at E3 last year. The sequel to the cult favorite GameCube launch title, the game casts Mario’s green-clad brother as a ghostbusting do-gooder armed with a spirit-sucking vacuum cleaner. The new game will see Luigi exploring multiple mansions (instead of the previous game’s one). It is also expected that the sequel will have more of a puzzle focus, one that likely takes good advantage of the 3DS’s unique display capabilities. There’s no release date set for this one yet; all we know is that it’s coming in 2012. Halloween, or thereabouts, seems like a safe bet.
Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D
Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D is a portable remake of the Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater console game. It’s a prequel to the events of all other MGS games, putting players in the shoes of Big Boss back when he was just plain old Naked Snake. Portable isn’t an ideal format for this style of Metal Gear game, but that doesn’t matter to fans like me who are screaming for some quality stealth action on the go. The remake will add touch screen inventory access and gyroscope controls, and it’s coming to North America on February 21.
Monster Hunter 4
Nintendo revealed last year that Capcom is prepping a 3DS release of Monster Hunter 4. The series is HUGE in Japan, and it’s also big with discerning action-RPG fans who prefer a portable game that breaks hundreds of hours worth of play into bite-sized, minutes-long sections. The trailer reveal at TGS last year showed some gorgeous 3DS visuals in action, giving fans plenty to look forward to. It may be a little optimistic to put this down as a hoped-for 2012 release, but we’re a hopeful bunch here at Digital Trends.
Some of you might take issue with the selection of a vintage PC game for this ‘most anticipated in 2012′ list. I mean, let’s face it: Myst was new when CD-ROMs were still a freshly released technology. The game has been ported to any number of platforms, including the Nintendo DS. Whether you’ve played it with every new port or never touched it before, the game remains one of the most clever and challenging puzzle-based adventure games that’s ever been released. Don’t expect the 3DS version to change things up TOO much, though fans can expect to explore the newly added RIME Age. Myst comes to the 3DS on March 27.
I’m not sure how many are convinced that Paper Mario really will be coming to 3DS this year, but it would be a smart move on Nintendo’s part to make that happen. Fans want to play this game, and badly. We don’t know a whole lot yet. Turn-based combat will make a return, and it will of course take advantage of the 3DS touchscreen. A 2012 release is expected, which means that we’ll very likely be hearing more soon, as the year’s trade shows start to ramp up.
Professor Layton Vs. Ace Attorney
This is one of those mysterious “2012 release” titles that doesn’t have a proper date yet, but it’s such a cool mash-up that I couldn’t possibly ignore it. The 3DS will ALSO be seeing a new Layton game, Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle, but it can’t compete with an adventure pitting gaming’s premiere lawyer versus gaming’s premiere… uhh… logic puzzle-solver. As you would probably expect from a mash-up like this, the game will feature of mix of the Layton puzzle-solving and Ace Attorney trial investigations. Expect plenty of colorful, anime-style weirdness.
Resident Evil: Revelations
Last year’s Resident Evil: Mercenaries offered some fun, arcade-style action, but Resident Evil: Revelations is the narrative-driven survival-horror-style adventure that fans of the series have been waiting for. The story follows Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine in a story set between the events of RE4 and RE5. Revelations is coming very soon too; the game arrives in North America on February 7! Are you ready for more zombie-fueled mayhem?!
Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is yet another Japan-only 3DS release for now, with a February 16 release date. It’s a popular series here in the West though, and Square Enix would do well to release it. Also, it’s important to note that Theatrhythm is a FINAL FANTASY RHYTHM GAME. The story is built from the same Chaos/Cosmos conflict used in the Dissidia fighting games, which allows it to spread across the entire history of the series. Expect to encounter plenty of familiar characters, locations and music as you play. Now, how about that U.S. release confirmation? Eh, Square Enix?