E3 2014: Code Name: STEAM for the 3DS is the delightful surprise no one saw coming
On day two of E3, Nintendo held yet another closed-door presentation for us media types (because the company's quirky like that). The big news going around centered on a super secret 3DS title. No one really knew what it was, and while a 3DS remake of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask would've been cool, I honestly think we got something just as sweet: a weird, colorful, and unique original game. Titled Code Name: STEAM, the project is in development by Intelligent Systems and seems like a nice change of pace from what we're so used to seeing these days.
At its core, this is a turn-based strategy title. On top of all the tactical gameplay, however, there are shooter elements thrown in for good measure. This mish-mash of styles actually makes for an interesting package that looks like a legitimately solid dose of fun. The more I saw of Code Name: STEAM in action, the more I wanted to get my hands on it and take it for a spin.
Unlike most strategy games, this particular game doesn't feature a zoomed out isometric perspective. Instead, Code Name: STEAM places the camera directly behind your character, much like most modern action games. According to Intelligent Systems, this is to create more immersion and link the player and character together, rather than forcing you to act as a mere overlord who issues commands to his underlings.
Verticality plays a big role in Code Name: STEAM. While you'll encounter numerous enemies that attack you head on, you'll also find that a lot of them like to be perched up on higher ground. Fittingly, the game is designed around this sort of combat, and you can dish out damage to threats that are towering over your.
Code Name: STEAM is fairly intuitive, offering easy-to-grasp mechanics. Don't mistake this for being a mindless pseudo-strategy game, though — there's nothing deceitful about its intent to make you plan out your actions methodically. Several micro-systems come into play the entire time. You've got main weapons, sub-weapons, powerful Overwatch attacks, and multiple units to control. How you survive each level is entirely up to you, and you can approach the game's missions in different ways.
The enemy AI in Code Name: STEAM is no slouch. Alien creatures will do their best to take you out, employing different strategies to get the jump on you. Enemies will team up, hunt you down, and attack with everything they've got. In addition, they can also use weapons, so don't think for a second that you'll be the only one doing all the shooting.
I couldn't possibly talk about Code Name: STEAM without delving into its graphics. Visually, the game sports a rich, vibrant, colorful look to it. While the character and environment designs are rooted in steampunk themes, the splashes of color that seep through every single inch of the levels themselves are a welcome departure from what we're so used to seeing in this particular tonal direction. Intelligent Systems meshed the steampunk look quite magnificently with what the company admitted was an overarching Silver Age of comic books inspiration.
Despite the fact that Code Name: STEAM is a difficult game, it doesn't take itself too seriously. In fact, there are several crazy Japanese tropes seen throughout. Aside from the guitar-heavy riffs that play out during battles, the characters themselves are also blissfully over-the-top. One scene saw a character unleashing a special move, but not before the screen showered him in a patriotic red, white, and blue screen complete with a wacky version of the American flag. Also, Abe Lincoln is a part of the game, which is kind of amazing in an outlandish sort of way.
No one expected something like Code Name: STEAM to be the big surprise from Nintendo at this year's E3. When you really think about it, though, that's pretty great. This is a brand new title that's not afraid to do its own thing and do it in a crazy way. It's hard not to get behind Nintendo and Intelligent Systems with this one.
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