3DS Two Months On

Blue Nintendo 3DS on display in Nintendo booth...
Image via Wikipedia

How is the health of 3DS looking now, just over 2 months since launch? Well, I don’t know about you but after almost 100%ing pilotwings resort about 2 weeks after the system launched, I’ve barely touched my 3DS on. Except to rub the dust off it of course.

I don’t think anyone can deny how useless Nintendo have been in terms of giving gamers great titles to play in the launch window of the system. In this business games and systems come and go so fast that I don’t think it would be going too far to suggest that some people have simply forgot about the 3DS already. Maybe it’s just that Nintendo aren’t worried as they know they can win back the hardcore in an instant with some big announcements.

With that said, there are good things on the horizon. Big titles are going to start coming in the next month or so, and with E3 about 2 weeks away now, surely Nintendo can’t let that show go by without announcing a plethora of incredible games to get everyone excited about their next generation portable again.

The problem is, the games industry doesn’t work like other tech segments. Unlike apple, Nintendo will never surprise people by saying that a game or system comes out that very day. These things take months and years to coordinate. Unfortunately, this means that whatever they do announce won’t bolster the ailing lineup for the first 2 thirds of this year.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to love the 3DS like I have pretty much all other Nintendo systems over the years, mainly because of the awful battery life and 3D that doesn’t agree with me. I’m willing to give it a shot, and I’m keenly waiting to try out some games. I have pretty much every strong title on my lovefilm rental list currently. As far as games I want to buy and keep, Mario Kart 3D and Animal Crossing remain my top two from the games we know about. I just hope we get those this year, because otherwise it’s going to be a very long wait for some 3DS owners I know.


Pilotwings Resort Review

Pilotwings Resort 3DS
Image by Colony of Gamers via Flickr

I only bought one game at launch and it’s Pilotwings. I’ve swayed back and forward in my mind over how strong a game I think this is. I expected the game to be a kind of fun and relaxing diversion from other games with a fairly casual difficulty level. I was surprised when I found that the game was far harder than I had anticipated. In a way this is a good thing as it forces you to practice and doesn’t allow you to blow through the missions with perfect scores in a day of play.

I found myself stuck on the silver level of missions for a long time and didn’t think I would be able to progress to gold. I decided to give up on mission mode for a while and try to complete free flight mode. This mode is a very relaxing experience in which you have a set time per run to explore the islands in your selected vehicle. The object is to discover and collect locations of places of interest as well as white balloons which are scattered around the island, both of which you have to fly into to add to your collection. Once you find a location it is added to a list. Each balloon starts out white and turns coloured once you fly into it. Greyed out white balloons mean that they can only be collected by a different vehicle. Locations can be found regardless of vehicle. For every 10 or so balloons you collect, you earn another 30 seconds of flight time. This is useful for letting you reach the objectives that are a long way from the main island, such as on the golf resort island.

I actually ended up completing both of these objectives which was a very satisfying feeling. After that, I tried the same missions I had been struggling on earlier and actually found that I was getting noticeably better each time even if I wasn’t getting great scores. Eventually I did enough to unlock the gold class which also unlocks a new category in the free flight mode. One new objective for each class of aircraft. Stunt rings for planes, mii trophies for rocket belts and gold rings for gliders.

Stunt rings are definitely the most tricky of the 3 types as you have to manoeuvre your plane in ways you haven’t been forced to up until this point in the game. Each stunt ring has your mii’s face in a certain position, indicating how your plane should be angled while moving through it. They may be rotating left or right, on their side either way, or most difficult of all, upside down. I’ve found that the easiest way to get the upside down targets is by holding L + R at the same time and then trying to glide into the target that way. The other stunts also use combinations of these buttons. To bank, hold down one of them, to barrel roll, double tap one. You have to be aware of the angle you’re approaching from too, as when you bank or roll you will move in that direction quite strongly.

Instead of going further into detail regarding every other minute aspect of the game, I’ll summarise my experience so far with the game. The gameplay of all of the aircraft is fantastic fun and very addictive, which makes the quest for all of the objectives in free flight mode such an addictive and engrossing experience. The mission mode, while it does get very tricky after the first couple of sets of missions, it is also rewarding. While you’ll probably never get a perfect score on most of the later levels due to the sheer number of parameters the game scores you on, it’s still great fun to try.

It has been criticised by some as being too short but I think the people saying that are those whole are only really interested in the mission mode. It’s true that they could have done more with that part of the game, but counting that and the hours you could spend in free flight mode, I think you definitely get enough hours of play out of it to make it worth purchasing. Even if you don’t want to purchase it, rent it as its gameplay and 3D effect are good adverts for the system in themselves.

Speaking of the 3D, my eyes weren’t comfortable with it on maximum but at mid level 3D you do get a fairly good sense of depth that shouldn’t hurt your eyes in moderation. I just turned the slider to off when I was sick of the 3D but not sick of the game. It’s nice to have the option to do that at least.

When the launch of the system was fast approaching, I was almost resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t have a game for it for several months at least, as there wasn’t really anything else of interest, or at least not worth buying rather than renting, but Pilotwings Resort is definitely the kind of game that will keep me coming back until the library does get up to Nintendo’s excellent standard. I’m definitely glad I took the chance on it now. I’m also glad I got it for £10 cheaper at amazon than the selling price at the GAME store. Don’t support game’s money grabbing ways if you can find it cheaper elsewhere.


3DS – Price and Release Date, Thoughts and Predictions

I’ve been fairly positive about the 3DS up until now, and I still am to a point, but I just have this sinking feeling that Nintendo are going to fool us all into thinking that they’re really giving us a powerful system that will remain thought of as such for years to come. When in fact they’ll simply make it another DS where it comes out and is already behind the technology of the moment.

That’s not to say the DS is a bad system. Good games are what really counts over graphics and such. However, that doesn’t make it ok to not push the envelope as far as online functionality, graphics and storage space are concerned. Graphics probably won’t be an issue at all, especially with 3D the main focus of the system, but even so, the online features have to be so much better than the Wii to win me over, and the same goes for storage. To give around a gigabyte in today’s market when you can get a 32gb iPod Touch just doesn’t really cut it considering how the industry is moving more and more towards digital downloads as an alternative to physical media.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m slating a system I’ve never played and that isn’t released yet, but I just really want to be blown away by it and I have my reservations. I hope they prove me wrong and address all of my concerns before the 3DS comes out.

Speaking of the release date, it was announced last week that the system will be in stores in Japan on February 26th and in Europe sometime in March. The Japanse price will be 25000 yen (about $300) but I would be surprised if they released it for $50 more than the original cost of the Wii in the US. I think it would be risky enough to launch at the same price as there is likely to be a feeling that handhelds should always cost less than their console counterparts, even if they are more technologically advanced.

My guess is that the system will launch at the same price point as the Wii did in both the US and here in the UK at $250 and £190 respectively. It’s still a lot to ask, but since they’re focusing on the hardcore audience at launch, I’m sure they won’t have too much trouble in convincing fans to part with their cash.

Also of note is that the system comes with a 2gb SD card rather than built in storage. In a way this may be a smarter option, as SD cards are cheap and high capacity and therefore may be perfect for storing games and data on. It’s also good because it makes the system more modular. Casual players will never know that the SD card is even removable, while hardcore users who download a lot of games and who require far more space have the ability to upgrade easily.

The confirmation of multi-tasking is also good to hear. What I’d love to have confirmed next would ideally be a new Nintendo Wi-Fi username based service akin to the other two main gaming hardware company’s networks.

Then again, even if the hardware turns out to not be as great as we are all hoping it will be, when Mario Kart comes out, I’ll end up buying it regardless. That’s the power Nintendo has over me and many other gamers and it’s why they’re still not particularly worried about Apple’s rapidly growing gaming business.


E3 Impressions

E3 this year has been exciting, predictable and uninteresting in equal measure. Nintendo have seemingly fully learned their lesson from the casual-fests of the past and this year really came out strongly with a surprise lineup of hardcore titles we didn’t know about. Nintendo seem keen on continuing their foray into the 2D platforming revival with Kirby and Donkey Kong games for Wii, and surprised everyone with a Kid Icarus game. The surprise was not the fact that it was Kid Icarus, but the fact that it was a title for the newly announced and shown off 3DS and not the Wii, as was previously rumoured.

Last years Nintendo conference was actually very strong for the hardcore crowd, following the disaster of the year before, but they went even further this year to entertain the core gamers who generally attend E3. There were some casual titles this year but they kept coverage of them to a minimum which I thought was a smart move.

Microsoft’s conference was in my opinion the weakest of the 3 main companies. While Nintendo have seemingly learned from the past and decided to focus less on casual games and more on the traditional market and Sony have included a good mix of both, Microsoft have gone in the opposite direction which I think is a bad move. Kinect is the new name for Natal. It’s not a terrible name but I’m sceptical of how well it will work for more in-depth types of games. Can the controller free concept deliver on its promise?

I’m also not a fan of the voice control aspect of the device either. Voice control is hardly new and Sony could probably do it with their eye camera if they wanted to, but so far they haven’t shown anything like that. I just think that talking to a machine is always going to make you look silly and feel awkward.

The most important aspect of this whole thing is that even if the device is great and has good support software wise, will the price be low enough to sell units and more importantly get casual players on board. It will likely cost around £100 when combined with £200 for the system itself. £300 seems a bit steep for a casual gaming family. The Wii is considerably cheaper and while it doesn’t offer the same level of technical power and also requires multiple expensive controllers and add-ons to use multiplayer, the initial outlay will put quite a lot of people off I imagine.

Then there’s the problem of Xbox 360 just not being a very appealing name for anyone other than core gamers. They will have to work very hard with casual game advertising in order to really sell this to the wide audience that Nintendo currently enjoys.

Sony I think had just the right mix of traditional hardcore games like Killzone 3 and Infamous 2 along with Twisted Metal, innovative titles like LittleBigPlanet 2 and their foray into full motion gaming with Move. SIXAXIS was their first, unsuccessful attempt but I think they have the right formula this time around. Move is the perfect motion controller, or at least so far. You combine the accuracy of camera tracking with the buttons and accelerometers of the Wii Remote.

Move seems like the perfect fit for sports games such as Tiger Woods and Grand Slam Tennis, both of which I’m very much looking forward to. It’s far from limited to that one category though. Unlike Kinect, which I feel at this point is somewhat limited in what types of games it can be used in, I think Move has much more potential to fit into many different types of games seamlessly.

I think there are two barriers for the Move to overcome. The first is the cost of buying multiple controllers for friends and family groups, but Nintendo haven’t been set back by this problem so far so I don’t see Sony struggling too badly. Of course, Nintendo supply the Wii Remote as their default controller so that does help them but even so. The other issue could be the complexity of the setup. You need the eye camera somewhere in front of your TV as well as the controllers and possibly a subcontroller (nunchuk or duelshock 3) which is similar to the sensor bar but it could get confusing for some.

Moving away from the motion control aspect, I felt the rest of the press conference from Sony was strong. While there weren’t really any surprises, and Playstation Plus doesn’t really offer much that I would be interested in, I think they showed good demos of great upcoming games, and we now have a release date for Gran Turismo 5 which is very exciting for me.

To point out two negative sections of the show, I would say that firstly Sony put too much emphasis on 3D. The technology is still in its infancy and the TVs and glasses are very expensive. Hardly anyone will actually be buying it and I think they should be keeping it low key for the first 6 months to a year of availability because they’re spending considerable amounts of time talking to only a very small percentage of their customers at this time. At the moment Nintendo are the pioneers of 3D because they’re making it available to everyone for presumably a reasonable price.

They also introduced a new PSP advertising campaign. However, they didn’t lower the price and while they did show God Of War: Ghost of Sparta and announced Patapon 3, they only showed it briefly in a video of upcoming games. To me they are sending mixed messages. On one hand, they want us to consider the PSP still alive and kicking, but at the same time, with no price cut and hardly any talk of new games, you wonder if they even believe it themselves.

I think the lack of a PSP2 could hurt Sony badly in their battle with Nintendo and Apple for the next generation of handheld gaming. Nintendo have already stated that they will release the 3DS before the end of March next year. Will Sony have even announced PSP2 by then? If not then it will be likely at least 6 months or maybe even more between the launches of the two systems, and I don’t think they can afford to give Nintendo a head start. Especially because of all the hype and positive press that the 3DS has had surrounding it at E3 and beyond.

E3 was a massive show with so many games announced and shown off. I can’t really go into everything in this post, but overall I think this E3 was a great show with a lot of interesting announcements. 3DS was the big winner and Sony did a solid job. I think Microsoft have something to prove now especially with their motion control. They did announce the slim system with wi-fi but that’s only good to a point. It should have been done years ago.

I’ll have more thoughts soon, and will be back to more regular posts on F1 and all other topics. Thanks for reading.