Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
Hardware launches aren’t always filled with quality games. Not every launch title can be “Super Mario 64” or “Halo,” after all. But there are some games that absolutely should have spent more time in development. “Asphalt 3D” for the Nintendo 3DS is one of those games.
The “Asphalt” games have been around for a while now. In fact, “Asphalt: Urban GT” was a launch title for the original DS many moons ago, and it wasn’t that bad for its time. More recently the series has found a home on cellphones.
In fact, before receiving a review copy of “Asphalt 3D,” which retails for $40, I purchased “Asphalt 5” for the iPhone on sale for 99 cents. Of course, “Asphalt 3D” has far more content than the mobile games have, but it’s still something to consider.
The concepts behind “Asphalt 3D” aren’t bad at all. It’s a fast-paced, arcade racer that takes a lot of cues from the likes of “Burnout” and “Need for Speed.” There are tons of tracks and licensed cars (and bikes) to buy and upgrade, and lots of nitrous on the tracks to pick up and use for boosts.
But where the game falls apart is its performance. If you’re the only car on the road at the time, the game runs pretty well and gives a good sense of speed. But when there are a lot of cars on the screen at once (such as at the start of every race) the frame rate suffers massively. It’s painful to watch, whether you have the 3-D effect turned on or not.
The game also puts quite a bit of emphasis on its crashes, with which it tries to copy “Burnout” pretty blatantly. This would be awesome if it worked, but the crashes typically look terrible. Cars will go through each other or sometimes flip out unnaturally. It’s not just that the physics are unrealistic — it’s that the game practically breaks.
The same thing even happens with certain jumps and shortcuts in the game. At least one shortcut in particular causes your car to spaz out midair before placing you back on the road without any momentum at all.
The bummer, though, is that “Asphalt 3D” could probably be a pretty good game if it weren’t for problems like this. There’s a pretty good variety of event types (with the exception of “Money” and “Drift” events, which feel poorly designed and frustrating), a great selection of cars to unlock and some pretty nice 3D effects (even though many world textures look ugly).
The game supports local multiplayer and StreetPass, which means if you have “Asphalt 3D” data on your 3DS and walk by someone else who also has “Asphalt 3D” data on their 3DS, you will exchange data such as track times. This is nice, but it’s a real shame online multiplayer isn’t a supported feature (or at least would be, if the game were better).
I’ve been hard on the game, and it definitely has a ton of problems and probably isn’t worth your money. But it’s more disappointing than anything, as there were plenty of times when playing the game that I thought, “This could be a lot of fun.” It’s just a bummer the development team didn’t give it the time it needed to become something great.
As it stands, racing game fans would be better off buying “Ridge Racer 3D,” which The Daily Toreador should be reviewing soon, or waiting for the upcoming “Mario Kart” game, if nothing else.