Nintendo’s hand-held 3DS lacks good games

A lot of us in the press have written great things about Nintendo’s new 3DS hand-held game system. It plays 3-D games without glasses. That’s astonishing.

But Nintendo didn’t do enough to launch the thing in March, when the only must-have title was “Madden NFL Football.” And why buy the 3DS for “Madden” when you can play “Madden” on Xbox 360 and PS 3?

Nintendo’s marketing campaign is limp, too. I know a parent with two kids, and he loves games, and he didn’t realize the 3DS existed until I told him a month ago. (Nintendo should have advertised more in newspapers, ahem.)

Sales of the 3DS have been so unsatisfactory, Nintendo dropped the price from $250 to $170 at the end of July.

But that still leaves a problem: Where are the excellent games to stick into the 3DS?

The splashiest titles are kid-friendly, faithful remakes, particularly “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D” and “Star Fox 64 3D,” which I’ll review in a moment.

But how many parents can afford to buy another hand-held system, plus $40 games, when their mortgages are under water?

Adults could love the 3DS. But grown-up games, such as “Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D” and “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars,” have landed with a shrug.

“Mercenaries” is especially disappointing. It’s like a series of police obstacle course levels, where you shoot lunging zombies. Meh.

“Star Fox 64 3D” is a kiddie remake of a 1997 Nintendo 64 game — which itself was a reboot of a 1993 Super Nintendo game.

You pilot the spaceship of a fox named Fox, firing weapons at dinky little rival spaceships. Seriously?

“Star Fox 64 3D” suffers from the same wet blanket that smothered June’s “Ocarina of Time 3D.” It’s too retro.

The 3-D effects and illustrations are sweet. If you loved “Star Fox” 14 or 18 years ago and want to relive it, more power to you.

But to me, “Star Fox 64 3D” (like “Ocarina 3D”) squanders high tech 3-D to remake a cobwebbed hit from two decades ago. Been there, done that.

Some industry observers don’t think the 3DS can turn into a winner, because systems traditionally fail after fuzzy launches.

Nintendo isn’t giving up and shouldn’t. This winter brings “Super Mario 3D Land,” “Mario Kart 7,” “Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D,” “Pokemon Rumble Blast” and “Need for Speed: The Run.”

Those are sequels. The 3DS needs a new series that plows into pop culture, as Xbox did with “Halo” and iPhone did with “Angry Birds.” And it craves a steady stream of terrific games. So far, is there a trickle?

If a friend ever asked about 3DS, I’d say, “Dude, it has a fantastic version of Netflix. You can stream movies on it!”

But does that sound like a powerhouse strategy to convince someone to spend $170 on a hand-held gaming device?

(“Star Fox 64 3D” by Nintendo retails for $40 for 3DS — Plays like retro retread. Looks good. Easy. Rated “E 10+” for fantasy violence. One and one-half star out of four stars.)

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@review journal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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