Blog #044 - Review: A Week With the 3DS

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.

Why?

My Console Collection

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.

DS, DS Lite and 3DS

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.

Dueling Screens

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.

Controls

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.

Threeeeeeeee Deeeeeeeeeee

This guy is so cool... right?

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.

AR-GAMES (kirby)

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.

Mii

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.

Videogames!

MAAAAAARIO

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.

What else...?

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.

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Blog #043 - I Went to Church, Spiral Knights, Zelda Poster

Been a busy week. Handed in my final University project. Went to church. Played some games.

Church

Gareth, RIP

This week I ventured in to a church for the first time since my childhood. My family is not religious, and neither am I but this was a special occasion. Last July my best friend died of Cystic Fibrosis (google it). It wasn't unexpected, but devestating to his friends and family. To tie it in to games, he was a huge gamer. I may have blogged a little about it back at the time but even as he lay there in hospital slpping away I was telling him about Pokemon Black and White, all of the Wii stuff coming up like Goldeneye for Wii. He bought Company of Heroes to play with me just before, and an unopened copy of Red Alert 3 lay on his desk ready for us to play co-op together.

This week I was invited by his family to attend a memorial service a year on for those taken by Cystic Fibrosis. It was a very humbling experience, mostly because of people#s attitude towards religion. 5 or so years ago I was very much defiant against religion but now... not so much. I don't believe it myself, but the ceremony reminded me that as much as people can call it lies, brainwashing, stupidity and a force for evil (given everything that Christianity has caused) there is so much application of religion for good causes out there.

They talked about god in a way that made me feel uncomfortable, but they were people who had cared for people with this terminal illness, and consoled their families. If people need religion for comfort, or to spread good will then I am very much OK with that. I don't wish to hassle them with the same tired arguments about the faults of their religion. They had people of different religions, and even had a Buddhist monk speak.

Quote of the day: "You can't catch God in a net..."

Spiral Knights

Spiral Knights

Free to Play games are new to Steam, and who can say no to free? I tried Spiral Knights and I love it. Unlike a lot of the MMOs released Spiral Knights doesn't seem to be competing with WoW in the same way. It's much more of a casual game (though it can get really hard). The art style is very cute, and feels like a combination of Crystal Chronicles for Gamecube and Zelda.

Since it's free to play it doesn't matter how long it holds my interest so I won't give it a critical analysis. It's senseless. The game has been worth my time so far, and when it stops being worth it I will stop playing. Taking a casual approach to this kind of games helps rather than getting super invested.

Zelda Poster

Yet another design, yet another videogame inspiration, yet another tired art style. Delicious colour pallet though. Makes me hungry for some black cherry cheesecake. Day #168 of my daily design challenge, to celebrate the release of Ocarina of Time 3D for 3DS. I tried to go against the style of the game. Really tempted to go and buy one tomorrow and get this.

As always, love to read your comments.

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Blog #042 - ME3 Design, LA Noire's Effect

It's been a long day...

Mass Effect 3 Design

Been watching press conferences all day. It is now 4am in the UK. While I was watching the Sony conference I started work on my daily design, and so excited by Mass Effect 3 I put together this design. Won't call it a poster because it's just shepard from the ME3 box art, but still... here it is.

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LA Noire

I am in love with that Omni-Tool Blade

I finished LA Noire for a second time just before Sony's conference started. I used a guide this time round, I'm not ashamed. I wanted to see a perfect run. Not terribly different from my flawed run of the game but I didn't mess up that badly. I did wipe all my save data and start fresh this time so I have none of the cumulative achievements.

Cole has been through a lot

This game makes me feel different inside. Different from how games normally make me feel. I felt connected to the characters, I cared about them, their actions, the decisions they made. It was hard for me to play as cole sometimes. Through Mass Effect and many modern RPGs I have become accustomed to choice. A choice I did not have in the storyline of LA Noire. It's really hard to accept some of the things that happen in the game but rather than complain I have given it thought and tried to see it from the game's perspective, or more the writer's.

In any case, I feel it is an important game, and I would happily play something with the same great writing and character development.

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Blog #041 - Graduation Show with Videogames!

Poor Bulbasaur...

I have basically finished my third year of University, hopefully earning myself a BA degree. We decided to put on a graduation show in a local gallery space for industry people and family/friends to come and look at our work. Most of the stuff I submitted was not actually done on the course, but in my personal time and some of you may have even seen it on here before.

I was determined to get something game related on the gallery wall. I was hoping for Pokemon, but that was shot down. In the end I managed to get 3 videogame related pieces in (and many more in my printed portfolio which was available on a table). As a designer games, their character and their style are a huge inspiration, and I wanted to reflect that.

Smoke & Mirrors

We created a brand for the show under the title 'Smoke & Mirrors'. It doesn't mean much, just an element of mystery, and ties in to this trailer we created.

Setting Up

There was a lot of variety at the show. We even had motion tracking projects we coded to use Playstation Eye cameras that were projected on to a wall. There was a lot of printed and video work there too. While I was hoping for more of my work to be featured, I was happy to see that my Dead Space 2 design made it in along with my Pyramid Head design, my Red Dead Redemption poster as well as my 'Gentlemen's Guide to Beards and Moustaches'.

Here are some photos of the setting up of the show and some of my pieces on the wall. Plus one of me for good measure.

If you want to see more of my videogame art/design see my collection here or visit my daily design blog, where I post something new every day.

Whatcha' been playin'?

LA Noire (second best game this year next to Portal 2), Amnesia: Dark Descent (I got scared and stopped), Phoenix Wright (every night, every day), Magicka, Hoard, Infamous (thanks Sony) and 40 hours of Fable 3 on PC. I completed it on Xbox360 and just had to have it on PC. It's a fairly typical port and grossly unoptimized but looks good. Still hideously buggy. I have a fetch quest for an NPC that doesn't exist. My wife might as well not exist. I can't run while holding hands with people. Still, after 40 hours I have completed it and cleared most of the side stuff. Might get the DLC since I can't help but see everything in my games.

Really in the mood for some RTS action. Think I might play some Company of Heroes again.

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Blog #040 - Majora's Mask Poster, Steam Sales, Hitler

I have almost completed my degree, so I haven't had much time for the site or blogging. I'll post a blog about my graduation show soon, as I managed to sneak in some of my game art (though I didn't get a Pokemon on the gallery wall like I wanted).

Majora's Mask

I was looking at a lot of World War 2 posters and ended up making a poster inspired by these authoritative designs. The message comes from British Air Raid posters that stressed "Be Prepared", but the design is more nuclear warning. In any case, I do a daily design blog and have to make something creative every day, so why not? Here it is:

Please leave comments, I love to read them.

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Steam Sales

There's going to be a moon and a mask at the Rapture
Oh Gabe...

Valve is making an effort to take money from me all year round, instead of just during the 2 main sale periods. It started with Hoard, one of their new 'daily sales'. 50% is good, right? Then more... and more... and then Ubisoft week hit. I ended up buying some games, some bundles, and gifting a few too. This is not good for someone who is graduating with no job, and who knows when I will be able to find one? I know, I need self control... but they are almost giving some of these games away.

It's one of the biggest joys of PC gaming. Even at retail games are almost half the price of console games but in these digital sales the price doesn't impact my enjoyment or need to play the game in any way. I buy it, and maybe play it a year later. It's both good and bad for my life, my wallet and my hobby.

Hitler

On the subject of the World War 2 posters I was looking at, I found some highly amusing/disturbing Disney cartoons about Nazis and Hitler. The animation is great, and as funny as you would expect but so racist. They don't flinch at trying to demonise the German's and their allies. In a time of war, I understand, but the racial aspect... just doesn't play. In modern middle eastern conflict there is a lot of racial hatred and animosity, but not to this extent. Here they are, for your enjoyment. I still find them amusing and entertaining in the end, just not so much the racism.

Also, I never thought I'd hear Donald Duck say 'Heil Hitler'

Edit: I found some more. These are great. If you find anymore do share them.

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Blog #039 - My Videogame Art/Design Collection

I have been running my Year in Design blog for a while now. 136 days to be exact. Every day since January first, and will continue until the end of the year.


Blog?

I'm an up and coming designer, and unsatisfied with just my education I have been doing these daily designs to do as much work as I can. I do work based on what inspires me, and in a lot of cases that is gaming. A bit less than 1/3 of my designs so far have been videogame related. I've posted a lot of them here, and some of you may have seen them.

Are Videogames Art?

Cheeky title, not what is meant by this blog at all. I'm not sure if 'art' is the right word, but I have 40 designs pieces. Nobody reads my blog really, so I thought I would do a compilation of the 40 videogame related pieces I have done so far. To view the high resolution version of each you'll have to visit the blog, I can't upload them here.

Art/Design

They are in random order. Some are good, some are OK. Some are bad. Let me know what you think!



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Blog #038 - Red Dead Poster, Portal 2, Monkey Island

What do all these games have in common? Nothing! Nothing I had in mind anyway, except I'm going to write about them in this blog.

Red Dead Redemption


I may be a year late, but I was thinking about Red Dead Redemption and I have 2 designs to do today for my daily design blog. Looking at vintage movie posters (mainly mean streets and the birds) I wanted to make a movie poster for the game. Initially I thought of doing it in the style of a western poster but that has already been done, so I didn't go with the obvious choice.

Personally? I had a lot of great ideas about the smoke forming mexico, the wedding ring being on the gun.... but I didn't combine them efectively enough. There's too much text and too much dead weight around in the composition.

Here it is. Leave comments and feedback, I love to read them.
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Red Dead Redemption 

Love the game.

Portal 2

 Amazing Artwork
Portal 2 finally arrived. I went through it in one 8 hour sitting and enjoyed every minute of it. I could go on for an eternity about how enjoyable I found the story, characters, overall writing and gameplay but I won't. I got stuck a few times because I hadn't seen a surface I could shoot a portal on, but generally the game was easy enough. Like Jeff said on the bombcast, games are thrill rides. I want my thrill ride. Portal 2 makes you feel smart enough without challenging you too much.

Really enjoyed the section with the old test chambers and most of all, Cave Johnson.

I made a portal 2 poster during the wait which you can check out here.


I also just made this. A poster in the style of the safety posters during the 50s section of Portal 2.
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 Safety First!

Tales of Monkey Island

Guybrush Threepwood
I have had these forever after buying all 5 chapters in a Steam sale. I have wanted to get in to Telltale Game's adventure games for quite a while but they aren;t the most exciting or engaging games. Apart from being stumped on a puzzle or 2 I have had a very pleasant experience. Love the characters and world they have set up. The graphics are nice but the style of animation is so disjointed it bugs me sometimes.



I might do an illustration of Morgan soon. She has an impossibly thin waist.
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Blog #037 - Limbo Art, Portal 2, Tony Hawk

Finishing so many games this week...

Limbo

I started and finished Limbo today. Fantastic game with a lot of style. Very short, but it didn't repeat itself too much or outstay its welcome. I do a daily design and inspired by Limbo here is day #120. The broken swing set represents the boy and his lost sister.

Also, here is the Portal 2 poster I made yesterday. Please leave comments, I love to read them.


Limbo Art 

Portal 2

I ordered portal 2 on Wednesday as a present for finishing my dissertation. First class. Didn't arrive Thursday. Fine. Friday no post due to the royal wedding. Really annoyed. Saturday, nothing. Pissed off. Sunday, no post. Annoying, but normal. Then I realized it is a bank holiday on Monday, so no post then either. I will receive it, at the earliest, on Tuesday. I should have just bought it on steam. So I played through Portal 1 again and made the Portal 2 poster I posted above.

I am very impatient at the moment.

Tony Hawk

The Tony Hawk TNT made me want to play some Tony Hawk again. I never usually say this, but I'm pretty good at Tony Hawk games. I think Project 8 is great, so I started playing that but my disc is scratched. Disc read errors and crashes stopped me from enjoying it much. I was thinking of getting the PC version of THPS3 but I remember I still have the PS2 version, and I have my PS2 all set up to play because of Persona 4 so... I should really play that some more.
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Blog #036 - Anatomy Of A Portal... 2

Ordered Portal 2. Waited. Didn't arrive. Played and finished Portal 1. Didn't arrive. So I made some portal 2 fan art.

Portal 2 Poster

I am a big fan of Saul Bass and made a Portal 2 poster in the style of his Anatomy of a Murder poster. I'm really pleased with it, but that always wears off.
I do a daily design blog, and this is design #119, Check it out. Give me feedback, I love it.

Here it is. Please leave comments, I love to see what people have to say.

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Anatomy Of A Portal 

Other Jazz

I finished Pokemon White, second run of Dragon Age 2, Clash of Heroes (amazing game) and started Tales of Monkey Island. Gears 3 beta is pretty great.
I'm not here to give game impressions, that's not why people read my blogs.
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Blog #035 - Jeff on a date with Chie

It's day #100 of my design challenge, and I decided to do something I've been thinking of for a long time.
I've been playing Pokemon Black and White (up the elite 4), Dragon Age 2 (second run) and Persona 4... which is probably what prompted me to do this.

The Date


I did an illustration of Jeff on a date with Chie, and how I imagine it would go. He is far too obsessed with his steak whereas she loves steak so much that she has already finished, and she's fed up of waiting for him. Please post comments, I love to read them. The high resolution version is much better.

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 Jeff on a date with Chie


Edit: Here is the original drawing. I'm not so good, which is why I do Photoshop and not sketches but it helped me set the scene.
 Original Drawing








For reference:
  
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