RollerCoaster Tycoon is a series that still ignites a flame of passion in gamers all around. Like many popular PC series that began in the ’90s, this one eventually made the transition to 3D as RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, exactly what we have here today on Nintendo Switch with the Complete Edition. As the first entry in the 3D realm, RCT3 took the core elements of its predecessors and gave them a new lease on life, along with some (at the time) new features. The result was a pretty sweet package that fans loved. But now that it’s been 16 years since its initial release, does this iconic “gem” of a tycoon sim still shine today?
Spoiler — mostly.
A blast from the past
RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is both relatively simple and complex at once. You’re given the task of either running existing amusement parks or creating your own from scratch. In the various scenarios, there are objectives to complete that typically involve having a certain park value and/or having a certain number of guests inside your park at once. The building mechanics simply involve you plopping down pathways for guests to walk on, vegetation and scenery objects to make everything look good, and, of course, rides to keep the spirit of fun flowing.
While many rides are pre-designed and simply involve your placing and maintaining them, there are quite a few that allow you to go a step further and actually design them. As the name suggests, coaster building is the main attraction, but you can also design other rides such as a go-kart track or jet ski course, for example. For the truly adventurous, you can even go ahead and design entirely new looks for guests and even custom buildings to further give your parks that personal touch.
Essentially, RollerCoaster Tycoon functions more like a blank canvas. Though, you can always pop into a pre-built scenario to simply expand upon what’s already there. Regardless, it’s bound to sap away your time one way or another as you get sucked into the satisfying rhythm of seeing your guests cheer and leap with the more rides you add and layouts you design.
Park management is also a big part of the experience, and you’ll need to do it properly; otherwise, guests won’t be happy. For example, you need to have a good number of restrooms put in logical locations. Even small details like having enough trash bins are essential to keeping things running smoothly.
Of course, staff also play a major role as folks like mechanics and janitors will be milling about constantly to make sure the rides that cause your guests to inevitably throw up are operating and there’s someone nearby to clean it up before it gets gnarly. Fun! All of this requires money though, and it can get expensive quickly. So, there’s strategy involved as well as you need to make sure that your park doesn’t get stale. That way, more guests will be attracted and profits will rise.
Placing concessions like drink and food stalls, along with other money-grabbers like souvenir shops, will not only keep guests in the park longer but will generate additional revenue for you to pump into park beautification and expansion. Guests take note of just about everything, from wait times to scenery design, so having an eye for logic as well as creativity is good for business.
If you played RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 back when it was still fresh, then you’ll be pleased to hear that the Switch edition is just as you remember it. All of the content from that package has been reproduced here, including the full Soaked! and Wild! expansions. Those two expansions give park builders a healthy amount of new gameplay depth to explore.
The Wild! expansion adds the extra layer of taking care of animals, in addition to park guests. In fact, guests even are affected by the condition of the animals and prefer to see them looking happy and healthy.
Summer is drawing to a close here in the Northern Hemisphere, and while most water parks (and amusement parks in general) have been closed this year due to the pandemic, you can still go ahead and build your own with the Soaked! expansion. Including awesome water slides, swimming pools, and other water/tropical-themed elements, Soaked! makes for an excellent addition on top of the core park building tools that are included in the base game.
Altogether, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition offers a lot of classic bang-for-your-buck action, offering the same great game from 16 years ago. And that right there is both a strength and a weakness.
A little dusty and rusty
For the purists out there, hearing that RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 has been untouched in its conversion to Nintendo Switch is probably good news. But as some gamers are beginning to realize when revisiting older games these days, some mechanics just don’t age very well. With that said, while I’ve found RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 to be really fun (and slightly addictive), it does make me wish some improvements had been made.
For instance, having to place one path tile at a time makes building the park take longer than being able to drag out a whole line at once would. And not being able to copy/paste the same building is a bit of an annoyance. You also can’t undo/redo your last move, which makes fixing mistakes a little more tedious. It would’ve been nice if the selected element/character were highlighted better too. These are little quality-of-life improvements that we’ve seen modern titles implement, like Planet Coaster — the unofficial successor to RollerCoaster Tycoon 3.
Speaking of improvements, there isn’t anything here that takes advantage of the Nintendo Switch hardware. For instance, this would’ve been a stellar opportunity to implement gyro-pointer aiming and/or touchscreen functionality in lieu of a mouse and keyboard. Sadly, you’re stuck with buttons and sticks. Even though I’ve found using a controller to be passable, having more options would’ve been nice, especially for Switch Lite players where the touchscreen is always there. Strangely enough, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 has already been available on mobile devices for a while, so it’s a real head-scratcher how at least touch controls were overlooked here on Switch.
Considering that this is just a straight port and not a remake, the visuals also remained unchanged. It runs at 1080p docked and 720p handheld, so it looks sharp, but texture quality and model complexity remain stuck in 2004. That said, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3‘s sub-cartoony aesthetic still manages to hold up well enough even today, especially in handheld mode.
There’s still some flavor here
Despite showing its age visually and mechanically, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition still comes out swinging because it was already a good game to begin with. That’s why it has served as the foundation for modern park building tycoon sims. If you’ve played any, then it should be nice to see where a lot of what we have today got its start.
Taking your park from a small plot of land to a bustling (non-COVID) hotspot is still satisfying. And the inclusion of the two expansion packs will allow your creative juices to flow even further. It is a shame that this doesn’t have the modern convenience of sharing custom content (or parks) with other players online. However, at least with the Switch you can simply take your console over to the home of a buddy who just so happens to have an engineering degree, and he’ll be sure to hook you up.
Considering that the Switch still does not have any good park tycoons from the modern age, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition is the best you can get for now on the hybrid. It’s not Planet Coaster, but it’s still fun — and leaps and bounds better than the disappointment that was RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures. Interestingly, when I reviewed that game back in 2018, I did say that it lacked elements that even RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 had. Guess somebody was listening.
Regardless, in a time when visiting real-life amusement parks is highly questionable (if not outright impossible), it’s nice to still be able to enjoy them in virtual form with RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition.
A review code was provided by the publisher.