After getting back into Resident Evil 4 it was just silly that I hadn’t played Mercenaries 3D yet. This game takes the tried-and-true Mercenaries mode from Resident Evil 4, 5 and 6 and makes a full game out of it. Dropping the need for a single player campaign, it features dozens of missions that are designed to flesh out the gameplay with no context other than “training”.
For those unfamiliar with Resident Evil, or Mercenaries Mode in particular, it’s a score-based challenge that involves putting yourself in as much danger as possible. Enemies will endlessly spawn in an arena, and you are rewarded by keeping a chain of kills going without stopping. There is absolutely no logic behind the structure, but it works for the sake of an engaging videogame experience. Positioning, timing, ammo management, and accuracy all come into play, in that order. What makes it scary is that if you die, you’ll get 0 points. It’s an awkward, yet exciting balance where you HAVE to take risks to get a good score.
There’s a few things different about this experience on 3DS however, the first being the downsized game engine. Somehow the environment and player movement runs smoothly (nowhere near 60 FPS, but still okay), but the enemies are a jittery mess. They look like cardboard cutouts flopping over the 3d stage and it’s just bizarre and cheap, like animated gifs pasted into the game. Luckily, the hit detection is on point and their strange animation doesn’t create any problems with aiming. It’s just slow with missing frames, maybe a new form of the Las Plagas virus.
The environments oddly enough, are where I found inconsistencies with hitting things. The levels look much sharper than the characters and objects, but they are a lie. A lot of gaps between posts and structures are actually invisible walls, and I’ve wasted so many bullets finding out new places to not hit an enemy. In terms of atmosphere though, I think it does a good job recreating the 3D gameplay even with some added flaws. It is just really cool to see these iconic stages from Resident Evil 4 and 5 on the small screen. The RE4 village in particular was a thrill to see in 3D and I would’ve bought the game for that alone with how cheap it is.
Pretty convincing, and most of all fun. The textures look a bit crap in that screenshot but in full 3D motion it did not bother me. The environments feel solid and I had the 3D slider up the whole time. I also love the novelty of seeing other characters appear in the village, just as a Resident Evil fan. How would the story have played out if Claire Redfield was sent to save the President’s daughter?
This game has a very addictive arcade structure, with multiple rewards and unlockables. You have 8 different characters with alternate costumes and weapon sets of their own, and a crapload of different stages with sub-goals and rankings. Even though the graphical presentation is cheap and dirty, it’s a very meaty game in terms of gameplay content. Considering how the “story” aspects of Resident Evil have gone since RE5, this is the best thing Capcom can do with these mechanics. Go nuts.
The game is fun to play but there are still problems with the gameplay. Firstly I was disappointed to find it had no gyro aiming, especially since Resident Evil Revelations on 3DS had it (still the best version of the game for this reason). I guess Mercs 3D was released too early, before Nintendo showed people how to do everything on the system. I also hate the cumbersome way to select levels in the menu. After beating a mission, you stay “in” that mission for some reason, and the game won’t go to the next one until you exit the menu, and come back in on that page. Not that big a deal, but it just feels stupid like you’re walking out and back into a room. Easy fix with the touch screen, which the game uses to good effect for switching weapons during gameplay.
The harder this game gets, the more flaws emerge in the engine. There’s an awkward lag when “events” are around you, it’s hard to tell what happens but I think it messes with button priority. Sometimes you just won’t fire your gun or eat a herb if there’s a Quick-Time-Event scheduled. I can normally deal with this just by factoring it into the gameplay, but this game has a bizarre lag before a QTE that does not show the button prompt for the first few seconds. This just means a bit of confusion every so often when your normal input becomes a QTE. There’s also one horrible QTE that goes for about 10 seconds and involves mashing Y, then B, then A, then Y again until you actually want to die.
It is not fun to mash buttons on a handheld. The game is just a lot different in the later and expert stages. The graphics are so bad on the enemies, it’s hard to even see the weak point on a particular boss, and it’s difficult to see where the armour is on some late-game regular enemies. If I can’t tell I just shoot them and let the clang sound effect tell me. The game can also become a clusterfuck when a lot of enemies are on-screen. That’s nothing new to Mercenaries, but in this game the worse graphics add a new dimension of horror to it. Suddenly you can’t see where you’re going, can’t aim, can’t reload and you’re left mashing the Y button to revive yourself so you can die in a slightly different way. I think a lot of these later levels are designed for Duo Mode, to be fair, which I haven’t played. I searched online a few times and didn’t find any players but I imagine it would have been really cool at launch.
Mercenaries 3D isn’t a must-buy, but it’s an entertaining package if you like the gameplay in Resident Evil 4 and 5. I would like to say 6, but that game became way too melee combat heavy and Mercenaries 3D barely uses close-range combat. That’s another thing that disappointed me, there is no dedicated knife button. It seems to be a personal weapon saved for Krauser. Bit of a shame, and another shame that Leon is not in the game. Barry almost makes up for it (I want to B rank everything with him) but you’ve got Chris as the star even though Resident Evil 5 never touched a Nintendo system. Oh well, I bet Capcom will start porting it after they are done porting Resident Evil 4 to every gaming system on the planet. If they can’t make another masterpiece like Resident Evil 4 again, I would love to see a game like Mercenaries 3D with an uncompromised engine. THIS is something they CAN do. You don’t need a bunch of different directors yelling at each other about story, just pure gameplay. It makes me sad that they’ve completely removed these gameplay mechanics in Resident Evil 7 instead of embracing them. Going backwards, Capcom. Oh well, just press Down + B and there’s some fun gameplay on the eShop down the hall.