By AlisterCat 0 Comments
I have spent some time with my 3DS now and felt like blogging about my experience with it. Hopefuly this will help some of you decide if you want a 3DS.
I just graduated (well, the ceremony is a month off but I have finished my degree) and this is a really bad time to buy a new console. I'm unemployed, I have little money and time to play all the games I already own. Once in a while you need to treat yourself though, so I bought a 3DS as a graduation present for myself (my parents can't buy me things so I buy them myself).
Why the 3DS? Why now? Well, I already own a lot of consoles. I'm a casual collector, so I had to get one eventually. Then Ocarina of Time came out. I already own the original, and the gamecube version, but a remake in 3D presented a new way to experience a classic that I have played countless times.
Shiny, Sexy Carapace
The Nintendo DS launched as their next generation handheld, moving away from the gameboy brand with one of the ugliest console designs ever. Feel free to disagree, but they moved from the bulky grey box with two bad screens to the DS Lite and DSi, arguably two of the best looking console designs. The Nintendo 3DS draws most of it's design from that of it's predecessors, rather than the original DS.
More so than the DS, the 3DS has a certain weight and sturdiness making it feel much less fragile than the DS Lite. Both the interior and exterior of the device have a gloss finish making it a fingerprint magnet, but it gives a certain illusion of added quality you might not get with a matte finish. It is incredibly similar to the finish on the Xbox360 slim models, and equally as reflective.
Following from the DS, the 3DS features two screens. Prior the release, I found it incredibly strange that the top screen on the 3DS is larger than the bottom screen, and widescreen format. In practice though it isn't noticeable at all. The top screen benefits more from being larger and widescreen as it is the main display for games. The screens are very bright and clear, making sure your games look their best. There is a power saving mode and several brightness settings for the battery conscious amoung you, but personally I would rather play the 3DS looking its best and spend more time charging.
One the subject of controls, they feel great especially the shoulder buttons. Everything feels appropriately spaced and sized. The circular analogue 'pad' is the new addition and works just how you expect it to. I expected it to be stuff but movement is very fluid. There is also the trusty D-Pad underneath as an alternative to analogue control.
Clearly Nintendo believes that 3D is a key component of this console, even naming it the 3DS goes a long way to proving that. A lot of people have dismissed 3D as a gimmick, and Nintendo understands that too. Only the top screen displays in 3D, and there is a 3D depth slider to the right of the screen allowing dynamic changing of the 3D effect or even turn it off. Glasses free 3D is a reality and a very impressive feat.
The impressive example of this technology is mired by problems however, and make it a qualified experience. Positioning is incredibly important. Angle and distance play a huge role in seeing the 3D image correctly to avoid ghosting or incredibly funky imagery. It takes me a couple of seconds but I eventually 'lock' in to the sweet spot where I see everything correctly and it looks fantastic.
This creates a very strange situation where your time spent playing the 3DS is very static and fixed. Moving even slightly can disrupt the 3D effect and cause you to search for that sweet spot again making it ideal for playing in bed for example, but not on the go. Switching from 2D to 3D though is a perfectly legitimate option, and makes the slider such an important feature of the 3DS.
The actual use of 3D can be described as supplementary and not integral to the experience. Worrying about the 3D on 3DS feels comparable to people complaining about optional Kinect support in Xbox360 games. It isn't a requirement. Menu items animate in 3D space, 3D environments have depth inside the screen and send particles flying out at you (and in the case of virtual console games, a very subtle 3D effect on a gameboy colour frame pops up).
Swiss Army 3DS
Consoles in today's market tend to be feature rich (often nothing to do with games) and the 3DS is no exception. There are 2 rear facing cameras for taking 3D photos with the camera app, browse the internet, browse their 'eShop' and download 3D movie trailers (though there is no video app, each trailer is its own app... which is crazy). The system comes preloaded with some videogame based apps too including Face Raiders which uses the front facing camera to take a photo of your face, map it to a flying orb and allow you to shoot freaky versions of yourself around the room.
One of the biggest features is the Augmented Reality apps, making use of the rear facing cameras to place objects in to the real world. It is very impressive, but aside from busting out the included AR cards to show off to people who haven't seen it there is little value in them beyond the initial experience (which is impressive, don't doubt that). Even though they made the effort to include several shooting games in this app I don't think I am going to return to these for a good long time.
A second major feature, but much more subtle, is the Streetpass and other networking functions of the 3DS. No longer restricted to WEP internet, the 3DS connects to the internet much more easily and it benefits greatly from this. You can maintain a friends list, each with a 'gamer card' (they dont call it that... but it is) with the persons Mii and live status telling you when they are online and what they are playing. It isn't as deep as an Xbox Live friends list but it keeps you connected to a larger community of players than you could experience before.
Streetpass allows you to passively interact with other 3DS users by simply walking past them, earning you rewards (including characters for a very surreal RPG-esque game buried in the system) and some games such as Street Fighter IV 3D make use of this functionality in the context of the game. The rewards don't end there though, a built in pedometer keeps track of your steps and rewards you with play coins to spend in games that support this feature.
It might all feel a little gimmicky but to see them trying to take advantage of portability in such cool ways makes it hard for me to make snide comments about the whole thing. Passive networking is a nice surprise, and while I haven't been able to streetpass with anyone yet I am sure that will change once the console has been out a year longer and people are buying more of them.
The 3DS suffered from a weak lineup of games at launch, as a lot of consoles tend to do. There was nothing I wanted to play. As I said at the start, it was Ocarina of Time that prompted me to buy the system. Ocarina makes a great case for the 3DS. It incorporates motion controls and 3D, but both so subtle and completely optional. The graphical quality is very nice (though not as advanced as say the Vita) and shows what the 3DS is capable of but since it is based on an N64 game doesn't show the full potential of the system (though by Luigi's Mansion 2 looks pretty great graphically).
It could be considered something of a scam, since the only games I was looking forward to prior to the E3 lineup reveal were remakes. Ocarina. Starfox. Snake Eater. I am being resold my childhood. Games that I already own being sold right back to me for full price. Hardly a good reason to buy a system. I revel in nostalgia though, and while the bombcrew dismiss remakes heavily I am always happy to relive those experiences.
The only other game I bought besides Zelda is... Zelda. Surprise, surprise, another re-release. Trying out the Nintendo eShop I purchased The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening for way too much money. Like I said before though, I am prepared to repurchase games. Virtual Console games leverage technology commonly seen in emulators: save states. I can produce 1 save state at any time which is ideal given the incredibly bad save/password systems of gameboy colour games.
The lineup on Virtual Console on offer at the moment is not huge, or great. Zelda is easily the best of the lot and also the most expensive. Apart from direct re-releases though some games are being revamped with a 3D touch. The example given out for free is Excitebike, which has unique depth slider functionality. The slider not only adds depth to the game, it also shifts the perspective more and more horizontally. It is a very cool application of 3D, showing it can be used.
Skip to about 1 minute in this video to see the effect.
I guess there isn't too much else to say. The battery life isn't great but it hasn't been an issue for me so far. I am having a great time with the 3DS. Experimenting with it's gimmicky features is interesting, but I am here for the games. It isn't a great time to buy a 3DS because there are very few good games. I bought it for Zelda, and for Potential. I am going to buy Starfox, Mario, Paper Mario and Luigi's Mansion 2 but most of those are too far off to recommend buying one now. The 3DS is a good piece of hardware, but it doesn't have the software support it needs. Waiting for a redesign is not why you should hold off, it's waiting for good games to come out. Zelda was enough for me, but not for the average person.
Thanks for reading, I hope this has helped some of you thinking about buying the 3DS.