Nicktoons MLB 3D
3DS | 2K Play / Black Lantern Studios | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America)
Related Game: Nicktoons MLB
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22nd March 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
As in the previous title, Nicktoons MLB 3D features over 170 MLB stars with 20 fictional characters taken from various Nickelodeon properties. Jimmy Neutron and Hiro Mightypaw bring the roster count up to 25, but it seems like they miscounted once again in claiming there are actually 27 -- unless they're counting the two announcers, but that would be pretty stupid. At any rate, with the exception of Powdered Toastman and maybe your favourite Nicktoons character (just because), there's nothing special about one character over another. Yes, you do have stats to differentiate strong runners from heavy-hitters, but anything in the way of special moves is nowhere to be seen once again. The same goes for the stadiums; none of them are unique in what they offer and just feel like halfhearted creations with nothing being done to extend the referenced property any further.
Whether you like it or not, Nicktoons MLB 3D is a crossover that strictly sticks to usual baseball principles and skips out on creativity, lacking a lasting sense of personality beyond the borrowed interest. Once you start playing, it's highly likely that you'll be more against the game than for it. Just like before, you're given the choice of playing using touch controls or buttons, but using the latter to pitch, direct teammates, and hit the ball is still the best way to play (see: least problematic). The only thing that's really changed in terms of the structure is the outfield, which is now presented as a full 3D environment instead of a simplified, top-down map. As a result, players are given more control during the fielding phase, using the Circle Pad or the +Control Pad to direct their active player. From what I could tell, they've also removed the tug-of-war events, which was a good move since they were unnecessary clutter that could've easily been done away with. The character introductions have also been removed along with the trivia blurbs. Other than the above, nearly everything else -- from the Turbo system to base steals -- has remained the same, much to the game's disadvantage. The developers haven't made the necessary changes to give the formula more weight and provide legitimate reasons for younger players to want to go up to bat.
Getting down to the minute details, there are some additional changes that you'll take notice of if you have any experience with the DS release. Some are for good, while others have just made things worse. First off, I was happy (for the younger audiences) to see they no longer give you the opportunity to accidentally tell your teammate to run off the base while the basemen has the ball in-hand. What they didn't fix, though, is the technical issue with certain players not reacting instantaneously when you hit the ball. They still need a push (of a button) sometimes even when the ball is far out into the field, which is plain silly.
Furthermore, two new things have crept into the 3DS release that weren't really problems in the original. For some reason, the pitching process is significantly slower this time, which is somewhat in keeping with the slow pace. And I don't think I noticed this the first time, but with some characters like Invader Zim, the inability to move left or right while in the bounding box becomes an issue; the concern being that your rival can exploit this and send the ball to the very opposite end of the Hot Zone box to make it harder to score a hit.
Because the in-field was a lot narrower in the original, there was a challenge that came from just hitting it past the core team of basemen. Add onto that the slower movement of the runners existing in that version, and you should be able to detect why the spreading out of the field in the 3DS version has contributed to a reduced level of challenge. Compounding the situation further, the AI isn't that great at all, with silly decisions being an almost norm for them. Just as an example, if there are runners on 2nd and 3rd Base who are both trying to go for a steal, why in the world would you want to throw the ball to 2nd? Thankfully, the game isn't completely devoid of challenge for youngsters who get a good handle on the fairly accessible layout. The new Showdown option allows for a more competitive environment for skilled players, which normally would add some fun factor as there was a concern over motivation before. But through a host of other issues, the developers surprisingly made Nicktoons MLB 3D even more weak.
A big problem I have with this so-called "upgrade" is the inferior presentation values. In the first title, they were workable though they didn't meet expectations. Here, the visuals and technical flaws detract considerably from the flow and the appeal of the gameplay experience as a whole. There are frequent delays as characters throw and hit the ball in a very choppy fashion. As if some of the animations weren't already a bit of an issue, the resulting framerate reductions are a big turn-off. Whenever someone tries to steal a base, for example, they abruptly jump a few inches ahead without any sense of transition. Adding to the list of gripes even further are fields with unstable textures, bland-looking (though slightly improved) environments, worthless 3D incorporation, crowd applause failing to substitute for actual life that the visuals lack, as well as the repeated mistake of not using music to add to the overall feel. I admit the game could still look worse than it actually does, but that in itself isn't an excuse for the concerning amount of issues to be had with this aspect of the game.
Just for the point of emphasis, I actually went back to the original DS release to compare how the presentation changed in the new version. Simply put, the animations were better, and although sluggish gameplay was still at fault, it didn't render the game a complete bore. Here, though, the flaws are more evident to the point that the quality of the experience has suffered greatly. But you know, at least they actually did something about the move to the 3DS that would make it a bit more worthwhile. New content has been added in the way of additional mini-games, characters, and stadiums, which is a lot more than you can say about the 3DS port of Cars 2: The Video Game.
In the way of bonus features, the still-boring Distance Derby mini-game is joined by two new mini-games: Rock 'N Roll and Frosty Freeze Toss. The former is just dull, and as for the second, I just couldn't get it to work. This mode has you using an AR Card printed inside the manual, but whether I zoomed in close and slowly moved back, or tilted the system to fit it on the screen horizontally, the card simply could not be detected. Perhaps it wasn't implemented properly? Whatever the case, the mini-games most definitely do not keep you playing, but instead have the opposite effect.
Even though I wasn't very pleased with how the DS version of this collaboration turned out, I never viewed it as a lost cause. I genuinely saw potential for this concept to grow, so when I discovered that 2K Play was going to be developing a follow-up for the 3DS, I was hoping they would get their act together and treat the license more appropriately -- for their own sakes. Sadly, Nicktoons MLB 3D sets an even worse example than its earlier handheld counterpart. Nicktoons MLB 3D is a flawed game through and through, with the poorly-executed presentation being its biggest downfall. Besides that, the fact that the original game is, for what it's worth, a slightly better experience really demonstrates the developer's failure to recognize this as a second chance to get it right. Even though it doesn't fall deeply below the bar, Nicktoons MLB 3D is still in no way worth purchasing, regardless of your interest in the sport or the license itself.
14/30 - Below Average
Gameplay 5/10 - A few minor changes, fielding has been revised, old flaws still not fixed, new issues, handheld release still feels like a wasted opportunity
Presentation 4/10 - Regular framerate issues, choppy animations, 3D usage doesn't amount to anything, lacks life and personality among other things
Enjoyment 1/5 - Slow pace and presentation issues contribute to a lack of fun factor, nothing special, flaws are more noticeable here than in the original
Extra Content 4/5 - Two new mini-games but none are worth playing, a few new stadiums, same bonuses like before, new Showdown option
Equivalent to a score of 47% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System