Steel Diver first revealed in 2004 as an early tech demo for the Nintendo DS to demonstrate its touchscreen capabilities and was simply titled "Submarine". In the demo, the player had to control a submarine with a number of different buttons, switches and a map that were represented on the bottom screen. The player could control the submarine's speed, diving depth, angle and shoot torpedoes. Shigeru Miyamoto would later described the game as being "almost like you have your own submarine pet in an aquarium". Although little more information was released about the game after it's initial showing and announcement, work continued on the game and in 2010 in the wake of the 3DS unveiling in 2010 it was re-revealed as Steel Diver and announced as an official, full retail game.
The game was originally scheduled to come out on March 17th, 2011 in Japan and on March 27th, 2011 in North America as a launch title for the 3DS. It was also a speculated launch title for the European 3DS launch and while the game did meet its target North American release date, it missed it both of the target dates for Europe and Japan presumably due to the Sendai earthquake which occurred on March 11th. This saw the game delayed until May 6th, 2011 in Europe and May 12th, 2011 in Japan and Australia.
The game takes place in the year 19XX (presumably sometime during the 1900s) when a power-hungry nation goes rouge and invades its nearby neighboring countries. With the stability of the entire world now at risk a secret organization known as the “Steel Divers” is formed from the best and brightest of the world’s navies to combat the threat.
The game has three different modes of play:
The gameplay of this mode is most similar to the original 2004 demo that was shown of the game. On the top screen, the submarine is seen along with the surrounding area from a side perspective while on the touch screen the submarines control panel is displayed. Players take control of the submarine using the touch screen by altering the depth, speed and orientation of the submarine but they must also hold the screen to plug leaks which occur when the player sustains significant amounts of damage.
Missions mode itself consists of two modes:
- Campaign - In this mode players select one of the three submarines (as well as an optional decal to equip to the sub) and one of eight missions (although 7 and 8 are locked until players complete 1-6 with all three submarine types) and complete the set objectives of the mission, usually by avoiding obstacles such as rocks and mines, destroying enemy submarines and boats and defeating bosses at the end of the stages. Upon completing all of the missions with all three submarines an "Expert Mode" is unlocked which increases the difficulty of the stages by adding more obstacles and enemies to the stages.
- Time Trials - In this mode players once more select between the three submarines and are required to reach the end of the stage within a set time limit.
There are also AI ghosts to race against in each of the missions and time trials and players are awarded medals for beating the AI's time through the stages.
The submarines players may select from are:
|ND-01 Manatee||Captained by Luc Fisher, the Manatee is a small, compact sub that is capable of firing missiles both horizontally and vertically. Unlike the BlueShark and Serpent, the Manatee does not require the player to turn a wheel to alter the submarine's orientation as it is changed automatically for the player.|
|ND-03 BlueShark||Captained by Ben Triton, the BlueShark is a balanced, all-round sub that is capable of firing two horizontal missiles in rapid succession. To change the orientation, the BlueShark uses a medium sized pitch wheel.|
|ND-05 Serpent||Captained by Dante Cruz, the Serpent is a large, powerful sub that is capable of firing four missiles in rapid succession. Due to its size it is a much slower sub with limited manoeurvability and uses a large wheel to change its orientation.|
At the end of each mission in the campaign players enter into a 30 second mini-game version of the Periscope Strike mode and for each enemy that they destroy are awarded a random decal. There are 32 decals that can be acquired, each providing their own unique effect when equipped and their emblem is displayed on the side of the submarine. For more information on the decals see the accompanying guide outlining each decals effect and the number the player must collect in order to activate the effect.
This mode changes the gameplay completely giving players control of their submarine’s periscope to target and destroy a set number of enemy ships and submarines in as quick a time possible. There are three categories within this mode:
- Enemy Ships - which features various enemy ship types for the player to destroy.
- Enemy Ships in a Storm - which is exactly the same as Enemy Ships except in stormy weather conditions.
- Enemy Submarines - which the player must destroy various enemy submarines
In this mode, players may either control the periscope with either the gyro-based controls of the 3DS or by rotating a wheel at the bottom of the Touch Screen and select to fire their missiles by pressing the corresponding fire missile button.
This is the games multiplayer mode that can be played either against an AI opponent or as local multiplayer via download play. The mode is a light turn-based strategy game in which players face off against their opponent on a hex grid by commanding a their submarine, supply ships and battle ships positions on the map. Players achieve victory by either destroying all of their opponents supply ships or by destroying the enemy submarine.
The game map is split into two halves and the submarine is the only ship capable of entering into the opponents half of the map. If an enemy ship is found by the submarine the game switches to Periscope Mode and the player is given 4 missiles to take out the enemy ships. If the submarine is found by an enemy ship then both players select a depth (the submarine the depth to sustain and the ship the depth to detonate a charge at) and if the two match then the submarine sustains damage.
IGN gave Steel Diver a 7.0/10, praising it for its addictive gameplay, but gave caution that the slow paced gameplay is not for everyone. The game currently has a 57 rating on Metacritic.