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.


3DS Launch Impressions

Nintendo 3DS
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t think I’ve made much of a secret of the fact that I have had reservations about the 3DS more than I have for any other Nintendo system I can remember, possibly more than any system launch from all of the manufacturers. The poor launch line-up, terrible battery life for a Nintendo handheld and justified concerns over the 3D effect causing headaches and eye-strain all added up in my mind.

Now that the system is here and in the hands of a great many gamers across the world, we come to the realization that all three of these things are definite problems, albeit some more than others.

The battery life, while not an absolute disaster is still very un-Nintendo like. My DS lite and XL seem to just go on forever, and that’s not mentioning the gameboy series. Those lasted even longer on just AA batteries. Battery technology still remains the bane of gadget makers’ existences. People like Apple, Nintendo and Sony can innovate endlessly on every aspect of their devices, but batteries just haven’t evolved to the same extent. Apple give the illusion of battery innovation, but in reality all they’re doing is just making them bigger and packing them in tighter. This makes them last longer but also has the drawback of being non-user-replaceable. I’m sure the situation will improve with the 3DS lite if that will be the name of the redesign we’ll see in the next couple of years, but I can’t see how it can improve that much, especially if a newer model will likely be slimmer.

Next on the issue list is the 3D effect. Nintendo made a great decision by putting a depth slider on the system. If it had a fixed level of 3D with no off switch or even an adjustable slider with no off then it would have been a terrible move. It’s not that a great number of people are complaining about the 3D giving them problems, but at least Nintendo have given themselves a get out of jail free card in that they can tell people to simply turn the 3D off. They’ve done about as good of a job as they could do to protect themselves from possible lawsuits, and you know someone’s going to try it.

At first, the 3D really impressed me but after that short time, I started to get a headache and felt uncomfortable. This was with 3D at the max setting. I was a bit depressed with my purchase after that and turned the effect off completely to avoid further headaches. When I showed it to my aunt and young cousin they both were fine with the 3D even at max strength. My aunt wears glasses so I was a bit surprised to find that she had no problems with it at all whereas I did. I even went to get my eyes tested for the first time ever, partly due to this discomfort. I was told that my eyes are fine so I’m still no closer to finding out why the 3D isn’t fully working for me which is strange.

When I use 3D now it’s generally only in games and even then, only at less than half of the full effect. It’s disappointing in a way but at least I can still use it to some degree. I would definitely say that it’s personally close to being as bad a situation as I was expecting, so it falls into the same category as the battery life I’m afraid.

The final disappointment is the launch library of games. There’s a couple of gems in the mix, Pilotwings and Super Street Fighter IV, but other than that, it’s very slim pickings indeed. I remember Reggie saying that the 3DS would have the best launch period of any system ever released. Even if he technically means the entire time between launch and E3, I don’t think this is what most people envisioned, as they probably thought at least either Zelda or Kid Icarus would be available at or soon after launch. Even if one of those games comes out before E3, it’s a long time to make people wait for a triple A Nintendo title for their new system. It’s also true that Reggie was talking about the North American launch, but the line-up has been similar here too.

Worryingly, the key title that is being talked about on Nintendo UK’s site at the moment is Steel Diver, the submarine game that got average reviews from most outlets in the US. It’s hardly a blockbuster game and in fact I would label it as quite a niche title. That’s coming out in May here and if it’s being pushed this much then you would have to depressingly assume that there’s nothing else in the pipeline until at least the end of may or early June. Luckily I have Pilotwings to keep me busy, and I plan to rent SSFIV soon, but some gamers, such as my brother, have only the system itself and no games. They can’t even use the web browser as it comes in a later system update. I suppose they have FaceRaiders and AR games, but despite being pretty fun and quirky, don’t have the legs to be more than a party piece to wow friends and family.

Now that I’ve gone over the three main issues with the system, I want to go into the actual aesthetics of the 3DS itself. The system looks quite nice, thinner than I thought as it looks very bulky in pictures, and the 3 tier colour scheme only adds to that effect. I would have preferred a white one but cosmos black is still nice. The blue one is very nice looking when you see it for yourself. The top seems to shift colour depending on the light and angle.

The slide pad is very nice to hold and responsive. The D-Pad can be a bit uncomfortable to use now that it’s down below where it used to be, but if you shift your hand position it becomes manageable. The face buttons and the L + R shoulder buttons are much the same as you’re used to on all the DS models. The power button is bigger and more pronounced than the XL which I like as it’s far easier to press. However, I really don’t like the select, start and home buttons as they feel cheap and hard to press. It looks flimsy and prone to wearing away over time. I hope that doesn’t occur.

The stylus is also modified. It now slots in the back of the system and is telescopic. When full length it doesn’t seem to be much bigger than the original ones were though. There’s also no way to lock it at full length which feels like a poor decision. The tip is now smoother where the DS ones all had a pronounced tip to them but there’s no real difference in feel.

As far as the interface and built in software side of things, I think it’s a fair step up from the DS. At first, the main menu looks almost identical to the DSi but you can modify the number of icons on screen at once. I prefer columns of 3 personally. The top of the touch screen has a variety of icons, the most interesting of which is the friends icon. You have one friend code now and it’s universal for all games. This is great as you can now register someone without inputting the code, by being in the same room as them. You receive their mii and can then see them online and invite them to games. It’s a pretty cool system, and it’s one of the most exciting upgrades Nintendo have made that will drastically improve the online experience. Hopefully gone are the days of playing Mario Kart with more than just your one friend by counting down and then both joining a continental or worldwide game at the same time and hoping for the best.

The built in games are actually quite impressive. As I’ve already mentioned, FaceRaiders and AR games are party pieces for the most part, but are still worth a try. FaceRaiders is the pick of them as it really does interesting things with face manipulation and the gyro of the system. My cousin very much enjoyed shooting me and her mum in the face while we made all sorts of strange expressions on screen thanks to the impressive face recognition. You do have to line up where the facial features are, but even so it’s cool to see.

AR games is impressive but it’s also far more buggy. The cameras are very slow, just like the DSi ones were. It’s like Nintendo have a lifetime supply of VGA cameras that they can’t bear to part with. This hurts the Augmented reality effect, especially in 3D. It’s disappointing that you can lose track of the AR card easily and then have to find it again. The actual game itself though is impressive, especially if you’ve never really seen AR before. Realising you actually have to move your whole body around the card in order to dodge a dragon or hit a target you couldn’t see from other angles is definitely an impressive experience. If the cameras were more responsive then it would be an experience that I’d come back to it more often than my once and only time so far.

I think it will have a very tough task to catch the DS in terms of sales I still think it will be very successful. The DS was practically the perfect device for casual gaming and Nintendo took full advantage of that with Brain Training and various other casual titles. Because of the high price and 3D effect, I don’t think it will ever be as popular with older and more casual players but I may be proved wrong.

It’s been a brave decision to go for 3D the way they have. Especially making the entire marketing push about that one feature. With that said, they’re arguably in the best position of any company out there to try such a bold move. You have to give them massive credit for taking such a risk when they could have easily played it safe with a DS2 with just primarily graphical and other technical improvements. The issue there is that they could still have been in a position to not appeal to casual gamers as much as its predecessor as those people will just say “I don’t need better graphics”.

Overall, I think despite its drawbacks and early lack of real must-have titles, the system has a strong future ahead of it and bags of potential. It’s practically impossible for it not to considering how well Nintendo has understood and dominated handheld gaming for so many years.


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 Launch Information Announced

Nintendo 3DS
Image via Wikipedia

The 3DS was shown off at a special event held by Nintendo Europe in Amsterdam today, with Jonathan Ross hosting. Essentially they didn’t talk about anything very exciting during the majority of the show. Some 3D content providers and wi-fi hotspot partners were talked about and a rather large selection of games shown.

Most of the developers who came out on stage were train wrecks and would have been better off staying back home in Japan, seeing as most of them were from there.

The launch date of the system is the 25th of Mark in Europe which is a week earlier than the US launch. What they didn’t mention during the event is the price, which now that I know what it will be, am not surprised they didn’t mention. I didn’t think they would go above the £179.99 launch price of the Wii, especially because the US price of the 3DS, also announced today was for $250, which happens to be the Wii launch price in that country. Contrary to seemingly strong logic, it appears that the price will be somewhere between £220 and £230, which to me is a joke. Yes, VAT was increased, and yes, we always get ripped off anyway so we should be used to it by now. It just feels like the ripping off is getting worse and worse with each now generation of system. I don’t know what the reason is, I would very much appreciate someone to help me understand this.

While the selection of games on offer does interest me, especially Mario Kart and Animal Crossing, I just don’t know if I can pay this much money for the system at this time. The issue is that I want to play those games so much based on being addicted to the DS and console versions of them in the past, and I do always buy new Nintendo systems and games. I know that the price is unlikely to lower for at least a year after launch and I don’t think I’ll be able to resist that long either. It’s frustrating to know that even if I hold out for a few months it’s unlikely to save me any money at all.

I also am not a fan of the colours they selected. I just want a white version, but all they have is aqua blue and black. It’s more disappointing to know that they’ll probably release a lite version for half the price in black and white in a year or so.

Overall, a very disappointing announcement, even if Jonathan Ross was typically tricky to handle for the Nintendo Europe executives at times, which was entertaining to see. And to think, they had actually convinced me to pre-order one until I heard the price later on in the day.

If I’m honest, I don’t want to be writing this kind of post every single time Nintendo or Sony announces a new system. I just want to be able to talk about cool something is, and once again, they’ve overshadowed that possibility.