As a loyal Nintendo gamer for the past 20+ years, I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs with them. One company that’s remained close to the Nintendo brand for years is their subsidiary Intelligent Systems. They may be the only developers who have their name attached to at least one game on every Nintendo system in existence (including the Virtual Boy). Between Fire Emblem, Super Metroid and the Warioware titles, Intelligent Systems has given us many hours of entertainment to be thankful for.
Code Name S.T.E.A.M, carries on the Intelligent Systems tradition for unique puzzle titles. With a bizarre storyline, unique combat system and an even more bizarre cast of characters, S.T.E.A.M. definitely won’t be the most cookie cutter title you play this year.
Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo
Release date: March 13th, 2015
Rated: T for Teen
Consoles: Nintendo 3DS
Is it a comic? Or is it a video game?
Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is a game with a sense of humour. If you ever played the near-20 year old Sega Genesis title Comix Zone, you may remember how you were sucked into the pages of the comic book and dealt with some pretty funky things courtesy of the author’s imagination. S.T.E.A.M. is a video game that’s framed like a comic book, though the subject matter is very different. In this game, the S.T.E.A.M. team (which stands for “Strike Team Eliminating the Alien Menace”) is an all star cast of fictional and non-fictional historical figures who enter a Steampunk version of the past to eliminate the invading Alien Menace. Led by the Wil Wheaton-voiced Abraham Lincoln (whom in this decade has already been a successful Vampire and Zombie hunter,) the team includes the likes of Red Badge of Courage protagonist Henry Fleming (voiced by Firefly’s Adam Baldwin) and John Henry (voiced by Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Michael Dorn.) Yes, in this game Star Trek fans, Worf has to take orders from Wesley Crusher. That’s just one of the many fun and weird things about this title.
How are we fighting the aliens?
If you don’t know what you’re getting into, the game is bound to throw you off right from the getgo. Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is a turn based strategy game in which you move (and fight) your enemies using Steam in four person teams. This is going to throw you for a loop right away as you try to navigate the map and realize it’s costing you what little firepower you have to fight the aliens. Thankfully, the intro sequence should help things out a fair bit. The game requires strategy at every turn, as each member of the team has unique abilities and how you stack them in battle will definitely be the key to success. With 12 team members in all (and a 13th if you beat the game while collecting 100,000 medals,) there are dozens of team combinations you can use.
Often making one false move on the map can result in peril, and to make things harder, there is absolutely no overhead view in this game, so at times you have no idea what you’re looking at, or where your foes have gone. I don’t know if this was an oversight in development, or on purpose, but it makes things that much more difficult. As you progress, you’re going to have to evolve the way you fight too, and you have to juggle your squad up like an anxious NHL coach. The AI in this game is sharp to say the least. Unlike Nintendo’s other turn based king (the Pokemon series,) you really just can’t cruise through this game with the same team. Your foes will figure you out and put an end to your night rather quickly. Once you’re in the swing of things, experienced gamers can expect a 10-15 hour single player campaign.
The amiibo bonus for this game is arguably the best yet for a Nintendo 3DS title. If you purchased amiibo of any of the Fire Emblem characters, by the way, they can be unlocked in this game as playable characters. That means that if you really get hooked to this game, you’re going to want to keep a really close eye on when Ike, Robin and Lucina amiibo come out. Marth has already come and gone, however, Nintendo just announced a few days ago that he’s going to be redistributed later this Spring. It is worth nothing here that the Fire Emblem additional characters are independent from the regular roster, so they aren’t included in the 13 characters available that I mentioned earlier.
But does it work?
Here’s where things get a bit sticky. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the combat system of the game, or the storyline, and I admit that it took a lot of the fun out of it for me. One of the biggest complaints I have is that enemy turns can take a long time, and you have to sit through them all without any sort of speedpass or fast forward feature. I’m usually a bit more forgiving when this happens in RPGs, but it really killed the pace for me in places. However, by the time you get the game, you may not have to worry. Nintendo announced a few days ago that they’re planning on releasing a patch that will allow you to speed up enemy turns.
One big bonus in this game is that even though the game is so complicated and may be tough for a casual gamer to pick up and enjoy, the controls are pretty welcoming and are pretty simple to get into. The comic book-y tone of the game really does well to capture the odd sense of humour. It reminds me more of the campy nature of something like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and less like its steampunk counterpart Bioshock Infinite. Character interaction couldn’t have worked any other way, however, and it definitely works here.
When it comes down to whether this is a game for you however, there are a few things you need to consider. The subject matter isn’t so important this time around as the type of game this is. If you’re into turn based strategy titles and you’ve really enjoyed the Fire Emblem games, chances are you will really like this game. This is one of those risk-taking titles Nintendo likes to throw out at us every once in a while (remember Wonderful 101?) and while I’m usually all for them, this one didn’t resonate with me as much as others have in the past. That doesn’t make this a bad game by any means. I think that from a fundamental standpoint, this game is very well put together for its target audience, and I think that those of you who like games like the XCOM series will agree. I admit I’m just not in said audience.
Bonus Question: Do you need a New Nintendo 3DS to play this game properly?
It’s the million dollar question that plagues every 3DS title that will come out from now on. The short answer to this is: No. While the C-Stick helps you with the camera angles here and there, you can just as easily use your stylus to accomplish the same thing, and can also use the A, B, X and Y buttons to shift camera views too.
In the End…
To be honest with you, I’m not really sure what to make of Code Name S.T.E.A.M. and I don’t think I’m alone in this. It’s truly rare that you see this much separation in opinions on a game in the community overall. S.T.E.A.M. is truly a unique title, but for some gamers, that may not necessarily be a good thing. I have a soft spot for all things Steampunk, and visually, the game speaks to me. I really enjoyed the ambience that the musical presentation brought to the table too, but whereas many of my fellow reviewers online talked about the difficulty they had putting the game down, I was sort of the opposite. It was difficult for me to enjoy the game if only because the engine and gameplay style didn’t appeal to me. It sounds petty, and as a game reviewer, I understand that these are the types of games you do end up playing once in a while. That’s why I haven’t let my opinion sway from enjoying the overall presentation.
This game is tailor made for you strategy fans and I think you’re going to have a great time with it. This should hopefully tide over you Fire Emblem fans too. While it isn’t a lengthy RPG, the use of the series’ characters, and the influence from its developers in this game should keep you busy until the next chapters of Emblem come calling in 2016 and beyond.
Gameplay: 3.5 / 5
Graphics: 4 / 5
Sound: 4 / 5
Controls: 4.5 / 5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3 / 5
Overall Rating: 3.8 / 5 (76%)
Code Name S.T.E.A.M is now available exclusively for Nintendo 3DS
Thanks for the honest review. I still want to pick it up and try it out but, I will try and keep my enthusiasm in check.
@oldschool No problem – Thanks for commenting! I feel like if you enjoy the XComs of the world, you’ll likely get into this game more than I did.
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