I made it abundantly clear last week what my stance on Nintendo currently is and probably will remain, even if some others don’t share the same opinion. To sum it up again: I love me some Nintendo. Now that I’ve finally got my hands on a 3DS and played around with it a bit, I’m ready to give a semi-short rundown of what I’m feeling so far with the system and where it could go. Here are my impressions of the Nintendo 3DS so far.
I got my 3DS just about a week ago today from Best Buy. I was aware that the price was ready to drop from $250 to $170, but I also knew that if I got it now I’d get 20 free games, something I can’t easily turn my back on. Still, I’m not stupid, so I checked with multiple employees and got them to confirm to me that I’d be able to actually get the difference refunded to me as long as the price drop happened within 30 days (it happens on Friday). With that in hand, I headed over to Costco to snag Ocarina of Time 3D. Those without a Costco membership or a friend who has one, you are definitely missing out as instead of $40 I paid less than $35.
At this point in time I’ve had a chance to play around with all the features of the 3DS except for actually playing Ocarina of Time. I know I’ll be sitting for a while and so I haven’t had the chance to devote the proper amount of time just yet. Despite that, I’ve messed with the Augmented Reality cards, Netflix, Pokedex 3D, the Mii Creator, Nintendo Video, and the shopping center feature. All of that compiles together to give me a pretty good idea where things are headed.
First, let’s talk about the 3D functionality of the system. I am notorious for getting motion sickness without much provocation whatsoever. I can get sick sitting in a parked car. Just last week I started playing Bioshock 2 and had to stop after three minutes because my head was spinning. There’s just no telling with me. Despite hearing the complaints about the 3DS’ 3D function giving people headaches, I haven’t had any problems at all. I’d go so far as to say that I’m genuinely enjoying the feature, and I didn’t expect to like it. It’s comfortable for me and I really like the depth-of-field that it’s adding to certain aspects.
And in the features included in the hardware, they’re really pushing this, too. Just the slightest hint of a raised menu header goes a long way to make me, unexpectedly, smile just a bit. The place to really see how far the 3D can be taken is in the Nintendo Video section, an extremely puzzling application that makes some sense, but yet no sense at all. The Nintendo Video channel is a constantly rotating selection of 4 videos that take advantage of the 3D the system can generate. The big star is the Ok-Go music video, which goes a long way to demonstrate how cool a 3D device can be. But partnered with this is a video from College Humor about a guy who has adventures in Pizzaland or something, a trailer for The Smurfs, and a really short explanation of what Nintendo Video is supposed to be, i.e. that it will remove old videos and put in new ones at random times. It seems that one of these slots will always be for a 3D movie trailer, something I couldn’t care less about, and the video about the pizza guy was cute but showed most definitely that live-action scenes look strange in 3D.
This sort of crops up again with the 3D camera. The system has two cameras on the back that let it take pictures in 3D, and while the 3D is nifty to see, the camera itself is pretty low quality. The only way to get excellent results is to be standing in a desert at noon, because I can have every light on in my house in the middle of the day and the image still looks, frankly, like crap. Even so, I got my wife to swoon just a bit when we managed to get a picture of our dog since it does look cool to see him popping out of the screen a bit. This is all a novelty, like the Game Boy Camera (including stickers and junk to clutter photos with), but if I could see the enjoyment of the Game Boy Camera all those years ago, I can see the enjoyment here, now.
Speaking of novelty, the AR Cards are something that’s worth looking at in terms of where the future could be going. Setting down these special cards will make little things pop out of them when viewed through the 3DS, such as target boxes or a dragon or things like that. After playing with it a few times, I was finding both the fun and the severe limitations of the hardware. For example, fighting a dragon that’s supposedly popping out of your table is something that’s really cool, but in order to achieve this effect you have to keep the 3DS close enough to the card and keep the lighting conditions good enough that it doesn’t stop suddenly and need to recalibrate. This wouldn’t be so hard if you didn’t need to physically move around while pointing the 3DS at the card, and of course moving the 3DS out of that slim window where the 3D works perfectly just sort of lessens the point.
All that aside, I can see where Augmented Reality can go and I like it. Implementing more and better games into the real world is cool and is the next step toward virtual reality, something we’ve been crying out to become real for over 30 years now. How this can be implemented into games is something I’m not clever enough to know, but I have confidence that some indie developers will come up with some really creative games to show us how best it can be used.
Creating a Mii is still as simple as it was on the Wii by the way, except now you don’t have to mess around with the mostly imprecise Wiimote, instead navigating with the stylus. I want to note there that so far the touch screen has been bugging me pretty badly as I don’t really like pulling out the stylus all the time and just want to quickly tap with my thumbnail or forefinger. What makes me really ticked is that most of the time this doesn’t work, so I have to keep tapping progressively harder until it decides I’ve pounded sufficiently hard enough before responding the way I want it to. Calibrating the touch screen seemed to lessen the instances of this, but it still happens on occasion, at least when going through menus. Then again, I may just be holding back because I’m afraid to damage my system.
Anyway, the Mii Creator is actually a bit better than the Wii version since there are a bunch of new pieces to play with. Granted, it’s still lacking clothing options like the Xbox 360 dashboard offers for your avatars, but the new facial expressions and head shapes are a good addition. You can take a picture of yourself with the inward-facing camera and let the 3DS try and make a Mii for you, but those usually need some reworking. As of right now I haven’t used the Street Pass feature, so my Miis are just sitting around doing nothing until further notice.
I’m pretty excited for more applications to appear though. Having Netflix on the 3DS is great for me because I have the option to watch TV shows and movies while snuggled up in bed next to a sleeping wife without fear of waking her up due to noise. This app is exactly just Netflix on a handheld, so there’s not much to say here other than I’m happy to have this.
And since I’m such a stupid Pokemon fan, I had to have the 3D Pokedex application as well. It’s a strange piece of software as it’s really just a Pokedex that happens to display 3D Pokemon. I’m a bit sad it only includes the 150 or so Pokemon from Black & White versions, but with luck it will update to include all of them. What keeps me most addicted to it is the fact that you don’t start out with all the Pokemon. You start with 16 and get new ones periodically throughout the day. I just got Timburr by the way. It’s something small, but it keeps me engaged and returning to my 3DS to see what the new update will be.
Finally, we come to the biggest letdown of the console: The shopping channel. The best way to describe it is “claustrophobic.” I heard from a few places that the shopping interface was pretty confusing, but complaints like that usually don’t hold true for me as I’m tenacious about understanding things and play with other features until I’m satisfied. When I got there though, man was that fear confirmed. The Wii’s shopping channel worked just fine for me with games split into the Virtual Console side and Wiiware titles, then the option to just search alphabetically from there, which is what I usually took. On the 3Ds the categories are extremely random and feel sort of dumb, to be blunt. “Sequels Baby!” is just embarrassing. And having a category just titled “Mario” is almost insulting, especially since there’s not a lot to offer yet that features Mario. And there’s no master alphabetical list!
Even worse, the price of some of the games is just way too high. I want Shantae, but I don’t want to pay $12 for it. Donkey Kong on the Game Boy for $4? Not bad. And Link’s Awakening DX for $8? I suppose I can live with that. The problem is that the console needs people to first be able to afford the downloadables, and then secondly be easy to navigate.
The up side to this is that both of those requests are easily doable. Nintendo is willing to make tough business decisions, such as lowering the system’s price, so if they get enough feedback regarding the 3DS as having a poor interface and trying to sell games at too high a price, they’re in a position to fix both with a simple software update. I’m just curious how long it will take before that happens.
At this exact second, this moment frozen in time, I am happy I have a 3DS. I’m excited for the new games coming out even as early as next month. I’m eager to start downloading some older titles when I get the chance. I can live with a low battery life as I play most of my games sitting near an outlet anyway and I also have no problem buying an extended battery pack from another company (since they apparently work really well). I’m looking forward to how much enjoyment I’ll get from my 3DS, lovingly named Lulabell, even if the console doesn’t make it very far overall.
But what about you guys? Who out there has a 3DS right now? What are some of your impressions? Leave a comment and let me know! I just might not be getting back to you so soon since I have an Ocarina of Time to go fetch.