EA is certainly getting a fair bit of mileage out of The Sims 3. The most recent iteration has appeared not only on its traditional stomping grounds of PC and Mac, but also PS3, 360, Wii, iOS, Android, N-Gage, Nintendo DS and now, finally, the Nintendo 3DS. With the increased graphical prowess of the 3DS over previous handheld incarnations, and the whole '3D' thing, The Sims 3 should in theory be the best portable Sims experience yet. Except, unfortunately, it's not really.
The Sims 3 offers some basic Sim creation tools, that are definitely cut down from the computer version. Nonetheless, you can achieve a decent approximation of yourself or a friend through a 3DS-exclusive feature, that allows you to take a photo of someone's face, which is then translated onto the Sim using face recognition. We found that it only sort of worked, completely failing to deliver a decent likeness of our face, and only occasionally getting some minor features right on other faces we tried, both in real life and from images on the internet. Amusingly, using a photo of Zachary Quinto from Heroes resulted in a knock-off of Spock. However, more usefully, you can then call that photo up on screen to adjust facial features yourself.
You can choose a life goal for your Sim, which you can of course choose to follow or not follow, but you'll often find yourself forgetting all about it as you get caught up in the minutiae of daily life. The Sims has always been about managing the mundane, but you'll find yourself doing even more of it in The Sims 3 on 3DS. Equipment around the home somehow always seems to be breaking, forcing you to mop up puddles, or set yourself on fire repairing computers. You barely find enough hours in the day to take care of all this, and get your Sim to work on time, and try to get a relationship going with the attractive cop who arrived way too late to take care of that burglar, and then fined you for the prank call. And then, when you finally do get one of the random opportunities the game sometimes delivers you to gamble on a high-paying risk at work, and end up losing your job, it's incredibly frustrating to have to build yourself back up again.
Management of your Sim is also made difficult by the absence of the familiar 'needs' bars. Instead, you're given a small selection of 'moodlets', which are icons that show what is immediately affecting your Sim's mood. This means, if they're suffering from being too tired or hungry, you literally do not know until it's so late that it's affecting their mood. This means you have to micromanage even more than usual, making sure they're constantly fed, get their proper sleep, and their hygiene is kept up. Obviously, you should be doing this anyway for the well being of your Sim, but you're basically forced to do it in the 3DS version, leaving little time to explore the rest of the game, which includes two town hubs to socialise with other Sims in shops.
There are some 3DS-exclusive features, including StreetPass which allows you to exchange Sims with passers by, which is nice but nothing very exciting. The way the game utilises the two screens is somewhat interesting, with the top-screen giving a cinematic view of your Sim, which can be adjusted with the slide pad and L button, and the bottom screen giving you a live map-view of your surroundings, as you interact with the touch-screen. It's not a bad set-up, and works well enough for getting your Sim around. There are also some really weird environmental effects that you can induce on the 3DS version, that include earthquakes controlled by the motion sensors and wind storms blown using the microphone, that weirdly sometimes drop bags of money around your house, but they don't have a lot of visual impact on-screen and are largely superfluous additions.
The game's visuals are a step up from the DS version, but still suffer from jagged lines and a kind of shaky frame-rate. The cinematic camera pretty much relies entirely on you to give you a decent view, meaning that all too often objects can obstruct your line of sight. The 3D effect on the top-screen is extremely light, only succeeding in making the entire image move back into the screen slightly, rather than give any kind of depth to the environments as a whole. The Simlish speech has made it into the game intact, as have many reasonable Simlish songs and tunes, but overall the presentation is merely average, as with the rest of the game.
Unfortunately, The Sims 3 fails to impress on the 3DS, and in fact somehow manages to omit features, which end up making the game more frustrating, when it should be quirky and addicting. The charms of the Sims end up becoming lost, and while you can still extract a Sims-like experience thanks to the workable interface and presence of the town hubs and goal system, this really isn't the best platform to be doing it on. You're already living your own life in 3D, and no matter how boring you may think it is, it has to be more interesting than The Sims on 3DS.