After blogging about The Last of Us (no spoilers in the post) recently I seem to have caught the blogging bug again. Who knows how long it will last? I'm like that, I'll get into something suddenly and then a random period of time later drop it like a hot rock because something shiny caught my eye.†
So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give an honest impression of the 3DS purchasing experience from the point of view of somebody who isn't a massively devoted Nintendo fan, at least anymore, I was up until the Gamecube fizzled out. I'm approaching this with a more general set of gaming interests, for which the original DS (although I didn't bite until the DS Lite was £100) was perfect. I got a solid set of titles from third parties as well as some first party titles that that felt fresh and new, such as Animal Crossing: Wild World or Pokemon Diamond or Black, as well as Soulsilver. I love my DS and got a heck of a lot more use out of it than I ever did my PSP, despite having a handful of games on PSP I poured hundreds of hours into I got more overall out of the DS.
So the 3DS seems like a dead cert, right? Well... Maybe not. These are first impressions only, mind.
First up, what prompted my decision to buy a 3DS given my (at times vocal) apparent lack of interest in Nintendo's first party titles?†
Usually my criteria for buying a console that doesn't provide me with 6+ games I feel like I MUST have is as follows: A minimum of one price drop, preferably two and a minimum of 3+ titles I want to play. There are edge cases though, for example I bought my 360 before a price drop almost purely for Dead Rising and Lost Planet (and because I got sick of waiting for the PS3, it was delayed 6 months in Europe) but it worked out because there was enough titles I was mildly interested in but could take or leave. And then obviously long term it worked out amazingly well.
So what was the catalyst for me buying a 3DS? Project X Zone, and both Shin Megami Tensei 4 and Soul Hackers confirmed for European release. As well as a price point of £119 on Amazon.co.uk for the XL version. So as soon as I got paid this month I bought one.†
But it wasn't as smooth a transaction as I'd wanted. Firstly Amazon stepped in and upped the price to £140 the day I got paid, which irked me but I'd already made the decision to purchase and they threw in a free copy of NSMB2. So whatever.
But then Nintendo stepped in and decided that NOT including a charger with the unit was a great idea. Sure, you could pin this on the ill-informed consumer but everybody I had asked had informed me that the 3DS included a charger, so I was very surprised to find out that the XL version did not. That's another £10 I had to shell out for a third party charger as no local stores had official chargers, and only 1 store (out of the 4 I checked) even had 3DS chargers at all.†
So all in all, having been gipped out of £31 over the price I thought I was going to pay I wasn't in the best of moods and was down almost exactly the amount of money it would have taken me to try one of the much praised first party titles that I now probably won't buy at all. Outside of the free copy of NSMB2 I got which I didn't want.†
On top of that, I was then prevented from trying Monster Hunter 3 which I wasn't sure about, having never managed to get on with any previous Monster Hunter games but still wanted to try again. I picked it up on impulse when I bought the charger and was informed by the guy at the counter the game 'required' a Circle Pad Pro. I wasn't sure if it did require it, or simply had an option to make use of it, but now I was unsure and unwilling to risk £35 on it to find out. Why didn't I just buy a Circle Pad Pro? Well, in addition to the money I had to spend on a charger, the store clerk informed me that they didn't have any. Apparently Circle Pad Pro for the 3DS XL are near impossible to find in the UK. Nice. This also meant that I couldn't buy Resident Evil: Revelations, either.
Good job Amazon/Nintendo/My own stupidity!
With that out of the way, I just want to clarify on my lack of interest in first party titles and how it can completely change one's opinion on the machine itself.†
I don't hate Nintendo, or whatever else people want to think, and I despise the fact that any opinion not Pro-Nintendo seems to be taken as Anti. I just feel like having grown up with these franchises, Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Pokemon, and then later Animal Crossing and Pikmin etc that by this point I've seen more or less everything Nintendo has to offer, and their titles are coming across to me as a little stale, in some cases outright boring and yes I'm going to use that dreaded word - 'rehashed'. There have been exceptions, I bought a Wii to play Mario Galaxy (and some other games) and despite being delayed it was one of the freshest and most enjoyable platforming experiences I'd had in many years, especially as generally I don't like 3D platformers much. Twilight Princess on the other hand pretty much cemented my opinion that I was done with Nintendo games for a little while, then stuff like New Super Marios Bros. came along and I just wanted nothing to do with it. So I stuck to third party titles for the remainder of my time with the Wii, while enjoying their handheld offerings on the DS a lot more than the console titles.†
So with that in mind, the landscape of games from my point of view on the 3DS is pretty barron. There are some select Nintendo titles I would want to play but each have something keeping me away. The Mario and Zelda titles I simply don't want, especially re-release titles like Zelda Ocarina of Time or Mario 64 3D, games I didn't much like when they came out in the first place. Then there is stuff like Animal Crossing which seems fun, but I still have Wild World on the DS and that's perfectly fine for me. Kid Icarus (also uses Circle Pad Pro), and Fire Emblem seem fun, but watching back some videos and playing Fire Emblem's demo I don't know if they'd hold my interest long enough to part with £38 and £35 respectively. 3DS games are bonkers expensive here in the UK. And that's pretty much been my attitude to all the Nintendo stuff I've currently seen on the 3DS. It all looks good, but it's either not for me or I've got something similar I'm happy to play in it's stead.
Then we move over to the third party titles. There's a bit more to interest me here.
Firstly there's Resident Evil Revelations and Monster Hunter 3. Both of which require the Circle Pad Pro and both of which are on home consoles as well, so unfortunately for the 3DS I'll be buying neither and just getting Revelations on 360 and Monster Hunter 3 some ways down the line when I eventually buy a WiiU for Bayonetta 2. Then you have stuff like Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, Castlevania: LoS: Mirror of Fate, Liberation Maiden, Code of Princess, Devil Survivor: Overclocked, Tales of the Abyss and Etrian Odyssey 4. All of which look fantastic and I'll probably pick up sometime in the future provided they are available in England, I don't think all of them are. So between that and the three titles I bought the console for, there is actually a good amount to keep me going, even if I don't feel like hunting down a Circle Pad Pro XL. Which are not that hard to find on eBay, but they are all chinese knock-offs and STILL cost upwards of £15, £22 for an official one.
Now we're onto the console itself. With which I am equal parts impressed, unimpressed and bewildered.†
I won't talk too much about the 3D, as that's been done to death. Suffice it to say I have great difficulty seeing 3D with movies, but can actually see it on the 3DS (obviously because it works very differently). However, anything above a very low setting makes my eyes strain painfully and if you don't hold the unit perfectly still you get a bizarre effect which very quickly made my eyes hurt and started giving me a headache. So this feature will remain firmly in the OFF position the majority of my play time. It also drains the battery a lot quicker. Waste of development time and money, in my opinion.
I'm going to go over the physical unit in bullet points, because it got too cluttered:
- The physical unit is reasonably comfortable to hold, the XL is a good size in my hands, although the bottom left corner digs into my palm slightly when I used the thumbstick.
- I don't like portable thumbsticks, they suck and only encourage more 'home console' style experiences that I don't really want from a portable console. But, this has to be the most comfortable portable analogue stick I've ever used. Well done, Nintendo.†If the d-pad was on-top and the stick underneath, it'd be perfect.
- The Start/Select buttons are in an odd position that isn't entirely comfortable, especially if you're trying to hold the unit still for the 3D effect, but that's not really an issue.
- The power button is more or less impossible to press accidentally, which is always nice on handhelds.
- The speakers are of a decent quality, but they don't go loud enough for me, a tiny little boost would have been perfect.
- I was glad to see it support an SD card, and even happier to see the XL unit comes with a 4GB one.
- The stylus is the same as the old DS but the touch screen itself feels a lot more responsive, which is great. Although again, difficult to use the unit one-handed with a stylus while using the 3D effect.
- Cameras suck. I wasn't expecting any kind of quality but I found them largely unable to perform the demo tasks the unit came with. It took several photos to†recognise†my face and generate a Mii character from it, and I found the AR card game thing only really functions if you're able to keep the unit very still. It's interesting tech, but much like the 3D I feel doesn't fucking belong here and was probably a waste of time and money.
- Lastly, want to hammer on again about it not coming with a charger. It's a fucking shambles that the unit doesn't come with one. It's not like you can shove AAA batteries into it. The unit is completely unusable out of the box.
Moving away from the hardware and onto the software side, this is where the unit disappointed me most I think. It really shows that Nintendo don't seem to have any idea what they are doing, and are just doddering along doing what they've always been doing while trying to appear 'hip' for the 'kidz'. The periphery stuff, face raiders, pointless Mii software and other bits and pieces can be happily ignored (especially since the camera is so shit you would never want to use it to actually take photos) so this being unappealing isn't an issue so long as the menus are functional and for the most part they are. It's sometimes unclear when you can/can't navigate purely with the d-pad but that's not too much of an issue as most of this stuff I personally will never ever use anyway.
The eShop on the other hand is a different matter. It's pretty bad. It's been evident for a while that Nintendo doesn't know how to integrate these kinds of services comfortably, but even the Wii Shop was better than this. It's incredibly difficult to find anything, everything takes a long time to load, and even longer to download. It's nice that Nintendo is finally more on-board with offering Demos, but why they felt the need to stick with memory 'blocks' is beyond me. It's got a 4GB SD card jammed into the side slot, just display it in MB/KB, that's got to be a whole lot easier nowadays, surely?†
There looks to be some good games floating about on the eShop but it's very difficult to browse easily and discover things without going on the internet for recommendations, the storefront is abysmal, easily the worst digital storefront of the major consoles that I've used (everything but the WiiU).†
It doesn't help that they follow the same trend as Microsoft, by being more expensive. It would be cheaper for me to go into town on the bus and buy Fire Emblem at the most expensive shop in town than it would be from the eShop, including bus fare. And probably quicker too, with the speed at which the 3DS downloaded demos. All in all, I'd say the eShop itself is utter garbage, the content might not be but if it's not easy to browse then that stops me discovering a lot of it. Also, a good chunk of the content did in fact seem rather unappealing.†
Overall, this might sound like a wholly negative experience, despite being riddled with tiny imperfections, they don't effect the reason I bought the machine in the first place that much: Games! And so far, I've been enjoying the heck out of New Super Mario Bros. 2, which comes as something of a shock because I hated the first one. So if that's a sign of things to come, then maybe there is more to this console's library for me than I had initially though.†
For now, though, I'm going to happily get on with Project X Zone on Friday and see where things go from there. Despite sounding negative, this is actually a pretty positive first impression and the library of games just looks to get stronger and stronger moving forward into next year, even if I'm not interested in things like Smash Bros.
Just be sure, if you buy one, to factor in the price of a Circle Pad Pro XL and a Charger if you want the larger screen on the XL version, which is definitely worth it in my opinion. I find it hard to read from the smaller screen of the normal 3DS (as well as finding the unit itself slightly less comfortable), and some of the better games seem to need the Circle Pad Pro, games like Resident Evil: Revelations, Kid Icarus: Uprising and Monster Hunter 3.
My experience with the 3DS XL has not really done much to change my opinion that Nintendo is something of a doddering grampa who's slowly succumbing to old age (and showing the beginning stages of dementia), but so long as they keep churning out games the fans are happy with, and I can keep enjoying Pokemon and the occasional Mario game. It's all good and I think I'll be a very happy 3DS owner for the next few years.
No pictures this time, I got lazy. Walls of meandering, unedited, and unfocused text for the win.