The 3DS booth is pretty packed at GDC this year, but a Capcom representative was nice enough to get me some hands on time with the amazingly gorgeous Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. It was the first time I'd gotten playable time with the game, and I'm very impressed with how well it plays. Even as a long-time fan of Resident Evil games, Mercenaries is easily among the smoothest and best playing games in the series. And yes, you really can move and shoot.
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is, as described by the Capcom representative, a celebration of the 15 years of Resident Evil history. If you played the Mercenaries mode in Resident Evil 4 or 5 then you should be familiar with the basic mechanics. Kill a lot of zombies in the time limit, and build up as high a score as possible. While this is the only objective in the demo, Capcom promises a slew of new ones for the game, and a much more fleshed out experience than that which made up the original Mercenaries mode. Along with this, I was told the two stages available were only a small portion of the eventual 30 in the final product. There were four playable characters playable in the demo, but there will be more of those in the final game as well. I, of course, played as Hunk.
If you're familiar with the controls of Resident Evil 5, you'll have no trouble jumping right into Mercenaries. You move with the slide pad, aim with the R button, and shoot with X. Y is action, and B is mapped to an item for quick use, not that you often need it, as one of Mercenary's biggest improvements is the move of menu items to the touch screen, allowing quick and eays access to your weapons and items. For those who found Resident Evil 5's menus cumbersome, this is a very nice change. The rest of the gameplay works pretty similarly to what you've found in previous entries in the franchise, although you can also move and shoot. Yeah, I said it. If you hold both shoulder buttons you can move with the slide pad with your gun drawn. This doesn't mean you can aim, only strafe while you shoot, but it's a big change in the way the game plays, and gives you a lot more control over your situation.
Speaking of Resident Evil 5, there is very little difference between the HD console game and this handheld powerhouse in in-game graphics. In fact, depending on whether you prefer the 3D effect or the HD textures, it could be argued it looks even better. Capcom's MT Framework Mobile (also used in Super Street Fighter IV 3D and slated to be used for NGP development) is an incredible tool, and console-level visuals on a handheld device are no longer just a dream. Not only are the details incredible, but the animation is fluid and believable, and the framerate is rock-solid, even with the full 3D in effect. Also, unlike the original E3 video of the new engine, the 3D effect is much less painful on the eyes.
I really enjoyed my time with Mercenaries. In addition to being an incredible example of the power of the 3DS, it is a great evolution in the gameplay of the franchise, and simply fun to play. If you are concerned with coughing up $40 for this launch-window game, you may want to re-think your position on the topic. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is shaping into a great title for the 3DS, and a must-own game for fans of the franchise.