Monday, December 12, 2011

Initial Thoughts: Nintendo 3DS

It's a little hard to do a review of something you just bought a few days ago, so this is just my initial impressions after playing around with it a little bit.

It's a very popular thing of late to bash Nintendo.  Their choice to go for the family friendly crowd rather than the latest and greatest technology really rubbed a lot of gamers the wrong way, I guess.  As someone who has never cared that much about graphics, it all leaves me shaking my head.  The Wii was an excellent business move on their part, even if it means that the vast majority of the games on the system aren't for me.  Sure, I'd like to see more titles on there for me to enjoy, but the ones I do have tend to be awesome so I have a hard time complaining about it.

My point in all this being that I feel like people have been dogging the 3DS from the very beginning without even really seeing it.  Was its launch price too expensive?  Of course, but most launch prices are.  Was there a severe lack of titles in the beginning?  Yes, of course, but once again that's typical.  Is 3D an overused gimmick?  For movies, yes, but I don't think it's really been explored all that much in gaming yet.

I guarantee you the 3D on this handheld will amaze you the first time you see it, assuming you are not among the few who simply can't see 3D at all.  It requires no glasses and it's just incredible.  I honestly don't want to know how they do it because I prefer to think of it as magic.  It's not perfect by any means - you do have to find the right angle at which to hold the system to get it to line up, and looking over someone's shoulder while they play is pretty much pointless.  However, the good news is that you can simply turn this feature off.  I have found that long term sessions can cause a bit of dizziness, but in general when it comes to handheld gaming I'm mostly looking for quick sessions anyway, so I don't see this being much of a problem.

The whole reason I got it was because they are now offering bundles.  A red 3DS with Super Mario Land 3D, a black 3DS with gold Zelda themed details with Ocarina of Time 3D, and there's also a pink one that comes with Nintendogs + Cats.  I had a slight dilemma at first because of the game I wanted vs the system I wanted.  I really wanted Super Mario Land 3D, but I absolutely loved that Zelda anniversary edition look.  Also, call me silly, but I bought my original DS when it was bundled with Mario Kart DS so I already have a red DS and wanted to change colors for my upgrade.  So I decided that even though I didn't really need yet another version of Ocarina of Time (I have it for N64 and Gamecube) I'd go with the Zelda version.  I can always get the game later.

I lined up my old and new ones side by side so you could get a feel for the size difference.  Granted, they've come out with smaller versions of the DS since my original model.

Much like the Wii, Nintendo has loaded the 3DS with some simple software and games for you to play with.  Miis are still around, and this time, because the 3DS has a camera, you can take a picture of yourself to aid in the creation.  Mine wasn't very accurate, but it did provide me a starting point design that I then edited to make me look a little less freakish.  You have to create one for yourself when you first open the program, and after that you can make as many silly Miis as you'd like.  There is also a Mii Plaza, which uses the StreetPass feature.  Instead of turning your 3DS off, you simply fold it shut and it will enter Sleep Mode.  In Sleep Mode it will look for other 3DSes in the area, and if someone is around you will each get a copy of the other person's Mii in your Plaza. This idea was used on the DS for Dragon Quest IX, and it's a fun feature for them to carry over.

I happened to go to the mall on Saturday so I purposefully brought the 3DS along.  I picked up someone named Kory.  He had a welcome message for me to read, and he also gave me a puzzle piece and I was able to use his Mii in a simple RPG type game all within the Plaza.  It's really simple but a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to trying this out at MAGfest where I'm sure to pick up quite a few more people.  The 3DS also has a built in pedometer, and that helps you earn coins that you can use in these minigames as well.  These features are a little more useful in Japan where far more people actually own 3DSes, but I'm hoping the coin system will make up for the possible lack of users.

The other free game you may have heard about is Face Raiders.  The camera takes a picture of your face and uses it in a game.  This takes some time to set up, as you have to line up the eyes and mouth in just the right spot to get it to work properly.  The reward is worth it though, as you see your expression change from amusement to sadness to anger thanks to the game's animation.  The game itself is pretty simple: You move around the screen which is showing the room in front of you, but with the floating heads in it.  Shoot them to win the game.  The game encourages you to take pictures of other people and collect their heads.  I imagine this won't stay fun forever, but it's highly amusing the first couple times.

You can also take 3D pictures and video.  I haven't tried out the video yet, but the pictures once again feel like magic being performed.  The only problem I see with this is that I don't think there is any way to export them, and of course even if you did the 3D effect would be lost.  There is also a voice recorder which is far more fun than it should be.  You record a ten second message, then you can do all kinds of effects to it, from changing the speed and pitch to adding vocal harmonies or changing the sound.  Naturally, Jak and I kept saying inappropriate things and then giggling like mad when it was repeated back to us in a parakeet style voice.

You also get one AR card in the box with which you can play AR games.  The 3DS's camera scans the card and that unlocks more games for you to play, similar to Face Raiders in that you'll see the actual room you are in on the screen and it also requires you to move around a bit.  I placed the card on my sofa to play, and it made it a little hard to get around.  I think a coffee table might work better, as you could actually circle it.  It's really picky about the distance you have to be from the card, the lighting in the room (standing between the light and the card made the 3DS lose it), and the angle at which you approach it.  It was cool when it worked properly, but this was probably the feature I was the most disappointed in.

There is also an eShop where you can download both original games and virtual console games like you could on the Wii.  For some reason, I was able to get The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords for free.  The virtual console ranges from original Gameboy games to Gameboy Advance, and most of the original games seem as cheaply made as most of the ones on the Wii.  I'm not sure how many of these I'll end up getting, but I like that they are there.  I never had an original Gameboy, so it'll be nice to check out some of those games for the first time.  My main complaint is that Nintendo is still refusing to provide people with demos to sample these games first.  This has to be losing them sales, as I just won't buy a game if I know nothing about it.  The system also comes with a 2GB SD card that you can hold these games as well as your pictures, videos, and sounds on.

You're also allowed to plug in your regular DS cartridges and play them.  Obviously, there's no 3D effects on these games.  I had heard some people complain about the way DS games looked on the screen, but I put in Final Fantasy III and everything looked just as good as it did on the original DS.  I like the idea of being able to take the games of both systems with me when I travel, though I did wish the 3DS cartridges didn't have that little extra nub so I could put them in the same carrying case.

As far as Ocarina of Time goes, its the same game it was on N64 so far, but I do have to admit that the 3D graphics are very pretty and cool looking.  I could, however, see myself turning them off if I wanted to play the game for a long time.  It's a complex game with a lot of aiming involved, and it felt like it might be easier to  do without the 3D.

I just ordered Bust a Move Universe because it was $10 and I can't get enough of any variation of that game.  Mario can wait until I get stuck in Ocarina of Time again.  Trust me, it'll happen, it always does.


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