It was only last week when the timeless classic The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D arrived on the 3DS to breathe much-needed new life into Nintendo’s latest handheld. Now another big-name franchise, Capcom’s horror-shooter Resident Evil, has come to ride that wave and continue this string of hits.
But does it succeed?
In a lot of ways, good and bad, Resident Evil The Mercenaries 3D is kind of like counter-programming to Ocarina. Granted they both appeal to core gamers but Zelda is a whimsical, all-ages, fantasy action-adventure affair. Meanwhile, Resident Evil is about brutally killing zombies and zombie-like creatures in spooky ghost towns and third-world countries. Also, while Zelda is a deep, fulfilling experience with dozens of hours of content, Mercenaries 3D is mindless action that can be breezed through in a day.
It’s important to make the distinction between Resident Evil Mercenaries and Resident Evil proper. While the more recent Resident Evil games have had increased emphasis on third-person shooting action, they have managed to maintain some of the suspense, and more importantly, the length of the earlier games. Mercenaries, originally in a minigame in those other recent games, is simply about putting those shooting mechanics in an arcade-style, score-attack setting.
Truth is they are fun and addictive mechanics. The 30 missions have you killing as many zombies as possible in a variety of ways before the time runs out. The more you kill in a row, the higher your combo, the higher your score. There’s a bit of strategy to the proceedings as well. Littered across the maps are markers that give you additional time when broken. More time means more zombies to kill means higher chances of getting that classic Japanese S rank. However, if you die you lose and the more time you have to kill the encroaching hordes the more time they have to kill you.
Also, since this game is based on Resident Evil 4 and 5, most of the zombies are either Spaniards or Africans making the whole “kill as many as you can with your military equipment” premise kind of weird but... Japan... so whatever. If a giant bug erupted from someone’s neck while they were threatening me with an axe I’d probably shoot it too no matter what color the neck used to be.
What was once a console gaming experience controls fine on the 3DS. The circle pad is a fine substitute for an analog stick when it comes to moving and aiming. There are a handful of other control options including axis-inversions and even the ability to aim in third or first-person. The controls kind of have to work though in a game all about its mechanics with no plot or anything else to back it up.
Playing through these missions gives you access to five more playable characters from the series, in addition to the initial three, each with their own arsenals. While some may feel safe with Chris Redfield’s standard pistols, grenades, rifles and shotguns, I prefer Krauser’s knife and bow with infinite arrows. It’s strange that popular Resident Evil 4 star Leon S. Kennedy isn’t here though. Capcom says it’s because of that upcoming Resident Evil: Raccoon City game from the SOCOM developers but I’m still working on a theory that Leon and Chris are secretly the same person. When have they ever been in a game together?
Now that sounds like a lot of positives for a game that I ultimately wouldn’t recommend. There are flaws like weird presentational quirks like having to go through two menus to change missions and being able to see enemies on the map would’ve been nice.
The war on horror? I get it.
However, the biggest problem is just the sheer lack of content. I admire how this game takes the mechanics and production value of a console game and marries them to the mindless, short burst of action style of gameplay that excels on a handheld. That still isn’t enough though to compensate for how little there actually is to do in Mercenaries 3d. There are 30 missions that are usually each maybe five minutes at the most and less than a minute at the least. Playing them again online or locally with friends is incredibly fun and totally worth doing but still won’t extend your game time that much.
There are some other noble attempts to pad out the experience like the unlockable characters, costumes, new load-outs, and a whole host of skills you can level up and apply to characters. Weirdly enough you can even use the play coins you earn by walking around with your 3DS to buy some of this stuff.
Finally, packaged with Mercenaries 3D is a brief, and I mean brief, demo for the upcoming 2012 release Resident Evil: Revelations. It’s pretty and plays fine but it’s too short to make any real judgment on it. Still, it promises to be the substantial, single-player experience fans expect from the franchise.
I rarely complain that a game is overpriced. One, I have no concept of money and value and two, if a game is fun I usually don’t have a problem paying however much for it. That’s why reviews that say “wait for a price drop” tend to bother me. Plus trying to create a “length to perceived value” ratio for games is a little weird too.
There’s also this whole controversy what with there only being one save slot and no way to delete it so far. Apparently it’s a conspiracy to destroy the used games business. I didn’t really care because this isn’t a linear, story-filled campaign that must be played in sequence. Any mission can be played at any time for a higher score once unlocked. Playing a used copy with someone else’s save data wouldn’t really ruin the experience. If anything it’d just give you some high scores to try and beat.
However, I understand the dangerous precedent it could set. Having this limitation in other games, like Zelda to bring it back full-circle, would be horrible. It’s just that’s not Mercenaries 3D biggest failing by a long shot.