Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 is one of the best representations of 3D on the handheld, but that’s not what I find interesting about the game itself. Rather, I like how it attempts to be like its console brother – and actually goes some way to achieving this goal. Intentions and execution, however, are different matters.

Once you change out of the default, player-focused camera (which is horrible), Pro Evolution fans will immediately recognize much of the gameplay they’ve enjoyed on the big consoles. Perhaps that’s part of the beauty of the sport – its relatively simple at its core. On the other end of the spectrum, this game attempts to replicate some of the sports’ sophistication on the pitch by offering feints (no linked feints like the console version, however) and other controls from the franchise’s arsenal. Unfortunately, the 3DS is missing two shoulder buttons, so it doesn’t have the kitchen sink of controls the series is known for.

I’m not terribly concerned about a few missing dribbling techniques. However, this 3DS version also has some more serious gameplay flubs. Defensive coverage is slightly harder because defenders don’t back off as well as on the console version. Combine this with some poor defensive angles taken due to the imprecision of both the analog nub and the spotty AI, and PES fans will have to make some adjustments. Overall, I wasn’t as comfortable using the nub since its natural resistance and sliding motions sometimes created unexpected player movements.

The game looks good for a handheld sports title, and the 3D isn’t too distracting or hard to keep in focus (it works best in the VerticleWide camera setting). It actually adds something to the experience when you pop a long through ball into space, go up for a header, or target a rocket into the upper corner.

Just like the controls try to mimic the larger console offering, the game’s feature attempts to add some depth via the UEFA Champions League tournament and the Master League franchise mode. Unfortunately, multiplayer is restricted to local wireless play.

Most handheld sports games (and launch ones, at that) have a hard time presenting gamers with a compelling feature set or satisfactory gameplay experience. Pro Evo 2011 for the 3DS goes some way toward alleviating that problem, but in the process comes up with new ones all its own.