Hands On: Circle Pad Pro & Resident Evil: Revelations
Alright! I’ve had the Circle Pad and Resident Evil for a week now and they both made very good impressions; now it’s time to see how they weigh in.
The Circle Pad is smaller than I was expecting. Not by much, and it’s still big, but nevertheless I was a little surprised. It’s also quite light, and since the 3DS isn’t centred the weight is “shifted” to your left hand. That doesn’t necessarily make it uncomfortable, but it probably explains why it includes a wrist strap to attach to the 3DS. Otherwise it feels good. The contoured base didn’t force me to hold it with some strange, alien claw gesture, and Circle Pad and shoulder buttons sat more or less right where my thumb and fingers lay. That actually might make it a bit too large for children, or fully grown people with small hands. That’s not the only disappointment though: it’s powered by replaceable battery. I had thought this could be the perfect opportunity to introduce an external “Battery Expansion” for the 3DS – the Circle Pad Pro would house a larger lifespan rechargeable battery which would complement the 3DS’s own battery. No such luck. Instead we rely on good old dependable AA battery – but the battery cover doesn’t just pop off, oh no, it uses a flat head screw to stay in place. The only connection between the 3DS and Circle Pad is through the magic of Infra Red.
Resident Evil is another matter entirely – being a game and not an accessory is one of the defining features that differentiates the two. I realised that I’m not very well versed in Resident Evil lore (the only game I’ve played to completion is Resident Evil 4) so although I knew Jill and Chris, I wasn’t sure if there was some backstory I was missing or if this was filling in some backstory for another part of the franchise. The story’s twists and turns didn’t really surprise me at all; for the most part they were either obviously foreshadowed or simply clichés that I’ve seen before. However it made me think about the way mystery is presented in a lot of game narrative, that is: often the key to “solving” the mystery is simply getting to the game’s next milestone. In Resident Evil all I had to do was reach the next checkpoint for a cut scene to provide the next part of the narrative, and often it’s a support character that provides new information or receives the flash of inspiration – that way there is someone to talk about it. This is very similar to a lot of “mystery” Crime shows – in effect the watcher is in the role of a game’s protagonist, you are privy to all the information that is presented, but there’s nothing you can do to assist the cast in solving the mystery, you just have to wait until they work it out themselves. A good mystery will keep you guessing until the final clue, so that the protagonist’s reveal is your reward. Very rarely, in games, does the player’s character come to any conclusion (Half Life’s Gordon Freeman holds a PhD from MIT but has everything explained for him. Everything. How to open doors. Also every RPG ever.) and rarer still does the player’s realisation actually get to affect the game. I feel that Heavy Rain actually falls into that last category, where in many scenes, your decisions became the “truth” of the story that was being revealed before you. However, since Heavy Rain also cheats you out of actual facts and feeds you false information, it gets no special commendation. Resident Evil won’t get any special commendations for it’s story either; it’s not terrible, it’s just not rewarding enough, although the episodic format kept me engaged and offers neat stop/start points so as not to lose track of your goals.
Narrative rant aside, the only other major point of discussion is the controls. Here’s where the Circle Pad Pro shines. Since I had played the demo a few times through already, I decided to use the Circle Pad from the start. The difference was noticeable immediately and, although I tried a few chapters without, I was glad to have the ease of movement it provided by the end of the game – especially when trying to contend with underwater swimming (really, I’m spooked enough as it is, I don’t need to deal with clunky controls while Im trying not to run down the breath gauge).
Visually the game really impresses and the 3D doesn’t feel like an afterthought so, other than a few of the more frantic fights, I kept the 3D “turned up to max” for most of the game. The game also offers a secondary “Raid Mode” to incorporate some co-op play and make use of Street Pass.
I really enjoyed Resident Evil, but I find it hard to come up with a recommendation. It feels a little too action-y compared to the earlier Resident Evil games, and the “tank” controls might be too much of a challenge for newcomers to the series. Fans will probably pardon the cheesy dialogue and story clichés, but no doubt many will find these grating or tiresome. Ultimately, I feel it’s an enjoyable game, a great action shooter for the 3DS. I think it’s worth playing, and there’s a demo available on from Nintendo eShop to see if you feel the same. The Circle Pad is certainly not a necessity for Resident Evil, but if you can get them bundled together to save some dollars then I highly recommend doing so. I’m eager to see Konami turn out something equally as good with Metal Gear Solid, and will anticipate additional Circle Pad Pro games.