This March marked the first major release for the Wii U since launch, as "LEGO City Undercover" was unleashed unto the masses. The game was very well done, and featured expansive, open-world gameplay, as well as some thoroughly entertaining writing. As if to serve as a companion piece to that expertly crafted game, the same developer/publisher team of TT Fusion and Nintendo have come together again to offer up a prequel to "LEGO City Undercover," with "The Chase Begins" on the Nintendo 3DS.
As the name implies, "The Chase Begins" kicks off right at the beginning of Chase McCain's career, offering players some insight into the roots of LEGO City's best police officer. We follow Chase on some of his famous first cases, and even get to see how Rex Fury establishes himself as the city's biggest scourge. As you progress through the game's main story, you'll get to see Chase develop, and acquire new skills and costumes in a manner very similar to the Wii U game. With each new skill, Chase will have access to new missions and activities throughout the city, and allowing players to explore until their little heart's content.
With gameplay that is almost identical to the Wii U release, players should feel right at home with "The Chase Begins." Chase had free run of the city, but at the same time is almost constantly on the hook to stop the next crime that's in progress. As players explore the city they will discover new areas - some that will be familiar to anyone that has played "Undercover" on the Wii U, and some that will feel new. If you've already explored LEGO City with Chase, then you'll be familiar with lots of the destinations in "The Chase Begins," but they might look a bit different. Since the game takes place before the Wii U release LEGO City is still being put together, and certain areas of the world are still under development, or completely different. It's little things like this that make this game a nice compliment to the Wii U release, instead of just a straight port. On the whole, it is rather impressive how much of the city from the Wii U game has been replicated on the 3DS, and while the game might not have the same draw distance, a good amount of content made the cut.
One of the most important things that is the same though, is there is a lot to do. As Chase explores the city, he can complete various side missions, or look to assemble groups of items, or just spend his time collecting LEGO pieces and building things around town. There's never really a shortage of things to do, and if you want to spend hours and hours exploring a LEGO based city, then "The Chase Begins" is a great way to do it.
Clearly, it's not fair to attempt to compare the graphics from a handheld release to that of a console game, but "The Chase Begins" actually holds its own... mostly. Up close the characters, vehicles, and settings all look really great, and feel very much in line with the Wii U release. However, as you start to pull out, the game seems to chug a bit when filling in the entire world. For example, as you drive over a hill in the game, things will start populating around you as you pass them, as opposed to being there already. This delay takes you out of the game a bit, as you never really know when a scene is done drawing itself on the screen.
While it's easy to overlook some of the small discrepancies between the two games, one of the most enjoyable things about the Wii U release is missing - the voice acting. Looking at a game like this makes it clear just how much that helps to bring life to characters, and create a connection for the player. While the entertaining writing is still present and the cutscenes help bridge the gap just a bit, it just doesn’t have the same charisma as "LEGO City Undercover."
"The Chase Begins" accomplishes what it sets out to do quite well, but the timing of the release feels a bit unfortunate. Overall, it's an enjoyable game, but it can't really compare to the superior Wii U entry into the franchise. Had this game come out prior to the Wii U release it would likely have bolstered both experiences, but since it landed after, it's hard to recommend this one over its big screen brethren. That being said, it is still a hearty, and enjoyable 3DS title, and anyone that is a fan of the LEGO games will enjoy exploring LEGO City, particularly if they haven’t had a chance to spend time with the Wii U release yet.