I'm a big fan of Intelligent Systems, the company behind some of my favorite games of all time, including the Fire Emblem series. I recently finally got back to playing and finishing Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. on 3DS, a game that got decent reviews but quickly faded into obscurity. It really annoys me that people whine about not getting enough new IPs, and then completely ignore a fun and solid game like Code Name: S.T.E.A.M..

Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is part of a sub-genre of tactics games that I wasn't familiar with where you take turns moving around a 3D level and shooting and avoiding enemies. You have a finite amount of actions you can take (in this game, movement and actions cost energy in the form of "steam"), and progressing through a level requires a combination of exploration, attacking, and defending. New characters (and equipment) are introduced regularly throughout the adventure, and each character falls into a typical class (scout, heavyweight, sniper, etc.) with character-specific abilities.

The art style and setting are quite unique. The game takes its inspiration from steampunk combined with classic American comics, and the characters themselves are drawn from mostly American literature, including John Henry, Tom Sawyer, the Lion from The Wizard of Oz, and Tiger Lily from Peter Pan, all led by Abe Lincoln himself. The enemies are grotesque aliens drawn from the monsters of the works of Lovecraft, which I wasn't familiar with, but meshed just fine with the seemingly random mishmash of other elements.

The game's story is pretty silly but enjoyable, and the difficulty level of the main campaign isn't too high (especially once a particularly powerful character is joins the team. There's a lot of variety in the levels and the characters, and a decent amount of variety in the enemies. The music is pretty good, and the graphics, while tending to be dark and foreboding in general, look better than static screenshots would suggest, although not amongst the best on the system.

The game supports the first four Fire Emblem Amiibo and tapping one will add that character to your roster (along with some great reworked Fire Emblem series music to accompany them). Apparently most of the Fire Emblem characters pale in comparison to the regular roster, but having them does add to the replayability. The game's replayability is high in general since levels can be replayed with harder challenges or completely different teams, and there are also three collectibles scattered around every map. One significant inconvenience is that you can only replay a chapter, which consists of multiple maps, rather than a single map, but being able to replay a map with any unlocked character makes this questionable design decision a bit more palatable.

The game includes local and online multiplayer, although I didn't dive too deeply into that. For me Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. took some time for me to get into, and then I was really chugging along, and then it felt a little dragged out towards the end, but overall I really enjoyed the game and it's too bad it didn't find a wider audience. As a first foray into this sub-genre this was a good introduction, and I'm sure I'll be coming playing more games like this one eventually.

Fight the alien menace in Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. links:
- Official site
- Entry at nintendo.wikia.com
- Entry at fireemblemwiki.org
- Review at NintendoLife
- Good FAQ at GameFAQs