Note - Due to vision issues, I'm unable to cover 3D aspects of 3DS games.
Fractured Soul is easily the most exciting eShop game I've played, and easily its most hectic. You'll have to be on your toes 99% of the time (with the only break being the between-stage graphics), and it's definitely a game you'll want to be super-alert to fully enjoy. Why is that so? Well, you've got important action taking place on both screens simultaneously - there's no top-screen gameplay/bottom screen menu mix here. Both screens display the action at once, just with different parts of the puzzle being shown in each.
Let's use a jigsaw puzzle of a beach as an example - the bottom portion would show some of the sand and the ocean, but you'd need to see the top portion to the get the whole picture. Only instead of a beach, this game is showing you different parts of what's going on in the world - with one giving you a solid-state player and another kind of a ghostly one that can pass through some things. You can alternate between either screen with any shoulder button and you'll need to do some frequently to get through the game. It's split into two styles; one's a Mega Man-style side-scrolling platformer, and probably the toughest one on the 3DS - easily the toughest one I've played, and another is a side-view (but not scrolling) shoot-em-up.
Each gameplay style uses the parallel worlds in a different way. During the side-scrolling Mega Man-esque action stages, you'll start off with the bottom screen being your solid-state character, but a point will come where you can't progress - like climbing to the top of a ladder to nowhere...until you look at the top screen and see the platform you know you need to use, so you hit a shoulder button and lunge towards it. There, your solid-state form switches to the top screen and the ghostly form can go through things like electrified doors.
That stuff can be tricky at first, but then you get used to it and the challenge escalates. You'll go from things like that to then mixing them up with time-sensitive platforms on each screen that disappear when you're on them for a few seconds. There will be times when you think you can make a jump on the bottom screen only to find that it can only be made by switching to the top screen due to that environment's unique gravity. Later, you'll have to contend with jumping on platforms from screen to screen while shooting enemies AND having a laser beam headed towards you at all times. The shoot-em-up stages basically have you alternating between waves of foes between the screens. One might start on the bottom screen, then require you to go to the top to finish them off. You'll also find yourself in situations where the only way to evade all the fire is to swap screens.
No matter what kind of stage you're in, expect a lot of trial and error. The side-scrolling action stages are hard, but I think the shoot-em-up parts are even tougher since you usually have less time to alternate between one screen and the other before something important is going to happen. It's a challenging game in both stlyes, but controls responsively for each, so once you get used to everything, it becomes a war of attrition. There's some frustration that comes from that though, and this may not be the game for you if you easily discouraged. Progress means either mastering the stage or at least memorizing the troublesome spots bit by bit. Some stages give you checkpoints, but not all of them, so growing to rely on them isn't the smartest strategy. You can continue as much as you like, but unless your skill level improves, you can't just go through the game bit-by-bit knowing you'll eventually reach the end. When you do, all the anger, sadness, and heartache felt with the losses is all worth it because you FINALLY conquered the stage...and now get to do it again to either top the leaderboards or to unlock bonus stages.
Visually, Fractured Soul looks fairly good. It's about what one would expect if you had a Mega Man X game with polygons, and reminds me a lot of the PC game A.R.E.S. It's got the same kind of human-shaped cyborg character designs, metallic levels, and a very high level of detail. The intricately detailed environments are both a blessing and a curse because they can become distracting if you let them, and you absolutely cannot allow things to distract you in this game. However, they're quite beautiful, and it's hard to knock a game for looking too good.
The audio is basically what you'd expect from a sci-fi game as far as the sound effects go, but the music is much faster in tempo. There's nothing epic here like a Star Wars, but instead, you've got a lot of fast-moving songs that really fit the speed of the game. Really, it wouldn't make much sense to have a lot of epic stuff given the nature of the game. It would fit the visuals, but nothing else, and the faster music helps keep you at the ready - especially if you've got ear buds in.
All in all, Fractured Soul is a really well-crafted and polished game that manages to do justice to both side-scrolling action platforming and shooting. Anyone who loves the Mega Man series will love it, and I'm sure shooter fans will as well. At a mere $12, it's an easy recommendation with a caveat - there's a huge learning curve to the back and forth dual screen gameplay, and it would definitely be better to try a demo out (assuming one is made available at some point) if you think it'll be too much to handle. The frenetic pace is the only major issue I had with the game, which is otherwise one of the eShop's best buys. It's also one of the most replayable, as leaderboards and unlockable bonus stages give you more motivation and content than most.
This review is based on a digital copy of Fractured Soul for the Nintendo 3DS provided by Endgame Studios.