When the 3DS released in spring 2011, Nintendo didn't really have a new title from one of its flagship titles to go with it. With everyone waiting around for a new Mario or Zelda adventure, the company had to come up with games that would show off the 3DS hardware and at least get people's imaginations going for what the system could be capable of.
Enter Steel Diver for the 3DS. This is the kind of game that happens when you take several tech demos and throw them together loosely into the same game. It's not that Steel Diver is a bad game, it's not. It's just it really does feel like Nintendo was hurting for games that could show off the 3DS and this is one of the ideas they came up with to feel the void. The story really doesn't add much to the game at all.
So let's talk about the gameplay. Steel Diver is a little but a puzzler, a little bit a turn based strategy game and a little bit of a a first person mini game. Like I said, multiple different tech demo concepts tied together.
The central part of the game is Mission Mode, which puts you in charge of one of three different submarines. There are seven missions to complete and each has its own objective. You make your sub go by using the stylus to move two levers, one for speed and one for depth. You can also tilt the ship using a wheel apparatus in two of the subs. You will move the sub through puzzles on the screen all while blasting away at enemies.
The game does offer some satisfying action and the few boss fights can be fun. The first person periscope mini game is a fun diversion for a few minutes at a time and there is a multiplayer strategy game packed in as well if you want to play with your friends.
Again, the game is not terrible. We just can't get over the fact of how disconnected it all feels. You're essentially buying three games that are just OK instead of one great game. To make matters worse, if this game was made to show off the 3DS system capabilities, then I'm not sure what Nintendo was thinking. The 3D has some cool moments like when enemy ships or torpedoes come at your face, but in all honesty you don't need the 3D turned on to play the game. It offers no real tactical advantage to the gameplay. You might say, "Oh wow, look at that" for a few minutes, and then you'll turn the effect off to save battery life and your gameplay won't be affected.
For a launch title, Steel Diver is sufficient. But with all of the other games that have released since then that actually use the 3DS capabilities for something more than just a demo, there's really no reason to go out hunting for a copy. Just leave it at the ocean's bottom.