I tried out the 3DS yesterday.
I was at Best Buy picking a new portable hard drive up for my wife. Having already snatched up the cheapest on the shelves I had time left to kill and took to browsing about the store. Perusing the aisles devoted to gaming, I turned a corner to find a 3DS demo. My heart jumped for a moment. I love getting new toys, and with a 3DS currently on the way (thanks IGN!) I relished the opportunity to give it a test run.
Unfortunately for me, the demo station was occupied by a rather plump teenager who, despite the obvious age discrepancy between us, looked as though he could sumo me out of the store. Trying to make my presence politely known, I moved in as if to watch. He succinctly shot me a look akin to a feral cat staking its claim over a bit of mouse carcass. The message was clear: he wasn’t leaving until he was damn well ready.
With a sigh, I resigned myself back to my window shopping. I stopped for a moment in the ever shrinking PSP section to read the back of the Tactics Ogre box. I did some mental math, trying to recall the balance on my Best Buy card. Did I have enough for the hard drive and the game? Did I really have time for another time sink RPG? Did I have enough brownie points with my wife to “forget” her hard drive and bring home the game?
“Stew!” My conscience scolded. Yeah-yeah-yeah, I thought, be a good husband.
Setting the game back on the shelf I glanced over at the 3DS kiosk. Pillsbury had departed, perhaps drawn off by the siren song of Doritos and a dank basement bedroom. The 3DS was left wide open. I quickly made my way back to the 3DS and took it into my hands. The glossy finish was covered in thumb prints. I tsked; why didn’t they opt for the matte finish?
“Because they need something for you to upgrade to.” My brain finished. I rolled my eyes. Ever the smart-ass that mind of mine.
I held it for a moment. The weight was nice. Large enough to have some heft, but not so large as to seem bulky. I tried to determine if it would fit in my pocket. Not for theft purposes; I wanted to gauge its portability. Then it struck me that I’d barely played a handheld on the go for more than five years. I decided to actually play the thing.
I entered the Pilotwings demo, trying to think back to my last experience with the series. Had I enjoyed Pilotwings 64? All I could recall was blowing up Nintendo’s version of Mount Rushmore so that Mario’s face turned into Wario. I shrugged inwardly and was flying a bi-plane.
I tried to maneuver, but the d-pad did nothing but screw with the camera. Ah yes, I thought, it has an analog stick. I moved my thumb up to the large round stick and started steering my plane through the rings on the screen. I squinted; the upgrade to the visuals was nice, but the screen felt a bit too small to me. Feeling curious as to just how family friendly the game really was, I steered my plane into a collision course. It smashed into a rock formation and promptly bounced off. A point deduction served as my punishment. If only the world worked in such a way.
It dawned on me that the 3D was switched off. I paused the game and switched it all the way on. The effect added depth to be certain, but I couldn’t call it much of an improvement. I had to focus so hard on the picture I had little attention left to in paltry brain to actually play the thing. I removed a hand to itch my head and when I brought it back I found the image distorted again. I had nudged the 3DS out of its optimal 3D position. I readjusted it and refocused my vision. I began to feel nauseous.
Deciding I had had enough, I switched the 3D off. The screen returned to glorious, flat 2D. You could say I was less than impressed. I would read later that you can adjust the 3D to different degrees. Perhaps that would make a difference for me. Maybe I’m just susceptible to full 3D. Then again, I’d seen 3D movies before and they never made me sick. Either way, I predicted then and there that I wouldn’t be using the 3D too often.
Glancing at my clock, I decided it was time to go. Resetting the 3DS into its security dock I scooped up my wife’s new hard drive and headed toward the checkout, still trying to shake the mild nausea the effect had left on me. Returning to my car, I tried to formulate some impressions on the 3DS. Now granted, ten minutes with a game isn’t much time to come to a good conclusion, but I had a few impressions.
I liked the graphical upgrades, but the screen felt too small. The bottom touch screen was still nice to have, but honestly I barely used it during the DS days. I would prefer a larger screen to show off those shrunken last generation console visuals. The 3D was no-go for me, but honestly I had never counted it as much more than a gimmick. 3D can pass me by for all I care.
The biggest immediate improvement I could see outside of the visuals was the inclusion of an analog stick. But after the PSP spent its entire life span being dogged by only having one, I didn’t see how Nintendo could expect to escape those same issues. Would there be legions of Nintendo fans berating Big N for this decision the same way gamers did to Sony? Not bloody likely; it’s almost an unwritten rule that Nintendo can get away with things no one else can. Milking their key franchises to dust and releasing inferior hardware; for many Nintendo seems to get a free pass.
Did that extend to the 3DS as well? Did it really bring anything new to the table? On the one hand it’s clearly a step up from the DS. It improves on the friend code system, features a better user interface, and obviously has better visuals all around. On the other it’s almost like they just duct taped the bottom half of a DS to a PSP and slapped a $250 price tag on it. The 3DS will be the most expensive Nintendo handheld to date, and in essence the only thing it does is bring the DS up to par with the modern standards by which every other console and handheld is judged.
Even so, you can all but guarantee the thing will sell like solid gold hot cakes, which on its own doesn’t offend me. Chances are I’ll enjoy having a 3DS. I’m really looking forward to having portable copies of Starfox 64 and Ocarina of Time, two of my favorite games. Moreover, the 3DS does look like it will have some strong third party support. All in all, it will probably be a fun portable. That said, the last few years have been incredibly profitable for Nintendo and I think they could have done more with the 3DS than they have, especially at that price point. If I weren’t getting one for work, I don’t think I’d be getting one anytime soon.
The 3DS bothers me because I think it represents Nintendo’s continuing decline into laziness. All they’ve shown as of late is that they’ve given up on being a progressive force in game development. They’re content to simply rest on their laurels, confident in that the fact that simply being Nintendo will garner sales. And if that fails them, they always have the almighty gimmick.