05
Apr
11

my first week with the 3DS

So I decided to do something I’d never done this week and bought a video game system at launch. I’m the proud owner of a new Aqua Blue 3DS, which is supposedly the “girlier” of the two colors as my girlfriend and the folks at my favorite non-Geekspeak podcast have been reminding me. Doesn’t bother me much, as I’ve been getting the blue version of every Nintendo handheld since the GBA SP:

 

my president is black and my handhelds are blue

Since I’ve spent a pretty good amount of time with the device, I thought I’d do a wrapup/review of what I think of it. You don’t have to read it. But you’re already here, so you might as well.

The 3DS came pretty damn late from Amazon the day after release, but in all honesty it got here way faster than it should have – I was originally slated to receive it Wednesday the 30th, then Tuesday the 29th. But I got it Monday the 28th. Nothing to complain about there, except for the fact it showed up an hour before I had to get to class. Poor timing, that. At any rate, I had a chance to play around with it before I had to throw myself into writing a presentation for the next day. I noticed right away that the 3DS is way smaller than I was expecting it to be, and I blame misleading photographs online for giving me that perception. I went straight from the original DS to the 3DS so I can’t really compare it to the DS Lite or DSi, but it is significantly smaller than the original. The three-tone color scheme doesn’t bother me like it seems to bother other people, but then again I don’t really care what the thing looks like as long as it works. So I was more concerned with what it could do than anything else. I dropped it into the very convenient and lovely charging dock and picked it up to start playing.  Here’s some of the features I used:

Mii Maker: It’s everything you liked about making Miis on the Wii and really not much else. There are some added wrinkles this time around, like the fact that you can now make a Mii from a photograph of yourself. I tried it and got something that looked really nothing like me whatsoever. Pang tried it and got the same thing. Some people have more luck with this than others, but for me it just wouldn’t work. I think it has to do with lighting and your individual facial features. I ended up having to remake my Mii to look a bit more like me. If you like, you can download my Mii to your 3DS with the QR code below (another cool feature that works very well and lightning-fast).

Face Raiders: This was what Nintendo decided to show off the 3DS with on Jimmy Fallon the other week, and it was probably the right decision. It hits on a lot of what the 3DS can do – pictures, facial recognition, augmented reality, and of course 3D. Most importantly, it’s bundled in with the system and might even be a significant selling point for some folks. You take a picture of yourself/someone else/whatever, and then you can map it on to a little buzzing flying helmet thing and shoot tennis balls at it. If there’s a better use of this technology, I’d like to hear it.

AR Games: AR is nothing new – iPhone apps have been doing it for a while – but there’s something undeniably charming about having a little posable 3D representation of Mario popping out of your friend’s chest. The real stars, though, are the games that you can play with the cards – target practice is a lot of fun, even if there does not appear to be any challenge to the game. Definitely a nice use of the tech, but I’m looking forward to seeing what else can be done with it. More cards? Functionality in specific games? Whatever, I just want to see a bit more of it.

Online/Friends: Nintendo finally (sort of) gets it right (almost) this time around by having one unified Friend Code for the entire system and all its games. You also get to see a neat little list of all your friends and their Miis to see who’s online and playing. However, there’s no way currently to communicate with your friends – no voice or video chat (despite the fact the system is capable of doing it), and in fact no actual text chat either. You get 16 characters to share your thoughts and feelings with the world, and that’s about it. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

Mii Plaza/Streetpass: This is one of my favorite features of the 3DS – the ability to meet other 3DS users and transmit Miis and other data wirelessly without Internet connections has limitless potential. In practice, though, you’re really limited in terms of your surroundings. If you’re in an area where there aren’t a lot of 3DS users, you won’t be seeing everything Streetpass can do. I’ve personally only had 3 hits on the Streetpass so far – one for Super Street Fighter 4 3D and two Mii exchanges – which is not terrible for one week. Protip: Look for “nerd gatherings” like comic book conventions and Renaissance fairs, as well as any heavily populated area like a mall. If you find someone, it’s like a fun present.

DS Backwards Compatibility: There was a lot of hue and cry over the fact that DS games didn’t show up “perfectly” on the 3DS screens. These fears are pretty much unfounded. Some DS games look a little fuzzy, but overall the effect is marginal. I tested Pokemon Black, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and several demos on the device and found that in all cases the graphics looked just fine and certainly comparable to something like the DSi XL. You can start DS games in 1:1 “true resolution” mode if you want, but it takes up a ridiculously small amount of screen real estate. Just let them load in the default mode and you’ll be fine. No need for alarm here.

But what about the games? I’ve played two. We’ll be talking about them on the next Re-Play Radio, but I wanted to share a few notes here:

Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition: For some reason, people seem to be obsessed about comparing this to the iPhone port of Street Fighter 4, saying that there’s no reason to charge $40 for this game when the (admittedly pretty good) iPhone edition is often on sale as cheap as 99 cents. The fact is, this is like comparing apples to smaller, less feature-rich apples. The iPhone version of the game is good but limited by the platform – several frames of animation are missing, most characters are missing, there are no pre-fight intros, no Internet multiplayer, and of course touchscreen controls bring their own problems. The 3DS version is basically a portable version of the console game with 3D effects and a new over-the-shoulder view added, as well as a Streetpass-enabled passive fight mode. Therefore, the best comparison is whether this version is worth $40 when the console version can be had as cheap as $20. That is a much more difficult question to answer, but trust me when I say that not only is this game worth $40, it’s also the best game available at launch. Online play is smooth as silk, and although the 3D effect noticeably affects the framerate, it’s very pronounced and effective with clearly defined layers and depth. The thumb slider works very well, and it passes the Hadouken test with ease. The much-ballyhooed touchscreen special controls are far from gamebreaking (who’s really going to play this at a tournament level anyway?) and in fact work really well. Overall, this might be one of the most complete versions of the game, but if you already have it on the console it might not be a must-have.

Pilotwings Resort: Arguably Nintendo’s showpiece for the system, this is basically Pilotwings with Miis and 3D. You fly various crafts throughout the same island from Wii Sports Resort in a series of increasingly difficult challenges, as well as a fun (and challenging due to time constraints) Free Flight mode. However, if you get frustrated easily, this is not the game for you. In fact, the difficulty curve is very steep – once you get into Gold, it becomes a very different game. Despite the Wii Sports-like facade, this is probably a terrible choice for casual gamers picking up the 3DS. It’s a very well-made game, with great music, gorgeous graphics, and solid 3D. It remains to be seen whether it will be a game you continue to revisit as the 3DS library grows. Personally, I might be trading it in sooner rather than later, as I lack the masochistic streak necessary to enjoy the game to its fullest. If you like a good, stiff challenge and some light flight sim gameplay, though…you will probably want to check this out. Any problems I have with it are really on my end.

I’ll be updating this blog with further impressions as more features of the 3DS are unlocked (a good percentage of its features are currently embargoed until May) and more games are released. If you’ve got questions about the platform, your own thoughts, or just want to share your Mii or your Friend Code, feel free to do so in the comments.

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