I know I’m reviewing a game system that has been available for well over a year. Everything that there is to say has been said. So why review an old piece of tech? Simply because it’s by far the most exciting, interesting, and joy inducing piece of tech to end up in my grubby mitts in 2016. Also, you’d be right to point out that I’ve said some less than pleasant things about Nintendo over the years. Now is time to make amends.
So what prompted me to go out a buy a 3DS? I’ve joked that it’s all to do with Allison spending too much time on *my* PS4. The truth is that it’s *our* PS4, and that I’m struggling to find games I want to play. It’s great that I can play games like Bioshock and GTA5 with new and improved graphics, but they aren’t new games. There are very few PS4 titles that have gotten me excited.
Beyond that, while I’ve been put off hand held gaming because I simply don’t go anywhere, I have always been interested in having a personal small game system. I had a Game Gear back in the day and loved it. With misplaced optimism, I’ve looked to iOS to fill this gap, but it’s rubbish. Not that there’s anything wrong with iOS, or the hardware that it runs on, it’s just that it isn’t geared towards gaming in the same way a 3DS is. There’s no way that virtual buttons on a touch screen can compare to hardware controls. The iPhone has a fantastic processor and a full HD screen, but that’s meaningless if you can’t control the game you’re playing. I got myself down to Game and bought a New 3DS XL. It is orange.
After 30+ years of gaming, this is my first Nintendo console. The NES never got any traction in the UK, and the SNES was beaten by the Mega Drive. Kids my age played games on computers not consoles. I’ve played some of the classics, but never on a console I owned. From what I gather on YouTube, the childhood of every American my age was awash with Nintendo. I had one friend that owned an NES. That friend later got a Mega Drive. I cannot stress enough how unpopular consoles were for gaming in the U.K.
The 3DS is a difficult console to review because I can’t find anything wrong with it. Really, nothing. As I play it I’ve been day dreaming about what you could do to make it better, and I’m coming up with nothing.
It’s important to remember that the 3DS is a 3DS. It isn’t a portable version of anything else. Replicating an at-home console experience isn’t the aim of the game, so it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t have a 1080p screen, photorealistic graphics, and the latest version of Call of Duty. It’s a 3DS that plays 3DS games. Most of the hardware components are less than the best spec available, but it doesn’t matter one bit. At this point I feel like an attempt to improve it would end up ruining it.
If anything I just hope that my writing skills are good enough to convey the feeling of pure joy you get using the device. In our house we call it Nintendo Joy Face. It’s to look that sneaks on to a person’s face whenever they’re playing Nintendo. As far as I know, it’s a phenomenon unique to Nintendo products. When you get a PS4 one of the first things you do with it is turn off the music on the main menu. When you get a 3DS you turn it up as loud as it will go so you can dance around your living room to the music on the main menu.
There’s a good store system which I’ve been told is actually quite new and is one of Nintendo’s better online offerings. Unfortunately it suffers from the same problem as the PlayStation and Xbox stores, in that it offers games at full RRP. So far I’ve been buying games on cartridges because they’re much cheaper. Mario Golf is the full £39.99 in the store, or £16.99 for the cartridge on Amazon. You can also trade in cartridges when you’re done with them, or share them with your girlfriend to use on the 3DS you buy her because you feel so guilty about buying one for yourself, less than a month before Christmas.
I’m impressed with the job Nintendo have done with encouraging me to carry the thing around with me. There a system which allows two nearby 3DSs to detect each other and talk. The result is in game prizes for you and whichever 3DS carrying person you happen to walk past. It even tracks your steps and rewards you in an attempt to encourage you to get outside.
The games I’ve played so far have all been great fun. I’ve played through at least the main part of Super Mario 3D Lands, blasted through Starfox, greatly improved my handicap in Mario Golf, and done stuff in other games too. Before this experience I was guilty of believing that games on portable systems were small and limited. It might have been like that in the Game Gear days, but it’s not the case now. The 3DS games I’ve played are every bit as complex and full featured as anything you’ll find on offerings from Sony and Microsoft.
I’ve also been enjoying the Virtual Console. That’s where you’ll find popular games of consoles past. Finally I can play legitimate versions of classic games. Punch Out is great, as are Zelda and Mario 3. There are even a few Game Gear games available. I just hope they don’t come with the experience of totally killing six AA batteries every three hours.
In the time I’ve taken to write this article, my game library has grown. I’m playing all kinds of games and loving every second. If my 3DS broke today, I could almost say that I’ve had my money’s worth out of it. It’s by far one of the most joy inducing things I’ve ever owned. If you like video games, you should have one. You’ll love it. In a way, I’m kind of surprised that we don’t all own a 3DS. They’re just that good. But when I think back to the kind of things I’ve been saying about Nintendo on Tech It Or Leave It, it’s not really much of a mystery. Smartphone gaming clearly took Nintendo by surprise. Before the iPhone, if you wanted to play games out of the house, Nintendo was pretty much the only option you had. Now, people are playing more games on their phones, which I think is a shame. Smartphones can’t offer the same experience as a dedicated gaming device. On screen controls will just never be as good as physical equivalents. Perhaps Nintendo should do more to communicate that to potential customers. An iPhone could run Super Mario 3D Lands without breaking a sweat, but there’s no way it’d be playable without physical controls. Take it from somebody who tried carrying around an iOS controller in his bag for a couple of weeks, it’s a road you don’t want to go down. They’re bulky and awkwardly shaped, and the games that are actually compatible with them are barely worth bothering with. It’s much better to have your trusty 3DS and a couple of game carts tucked away, ready to get your Zelda on whenever you’re ready.
In conclusion, the Nintendo 3DS is awesome and you should get one.