There's no doubt that the launch of the Nintendo 3DS is one of the biggest gaming events of the year. Of course, accessory makers like Power A are jumping on it right out of the gate, flooding the market with add-ons to "amplify your experience," as the company says.
Power A sent over a a batch of its launch accessories -- officially licensed by Nintendo -- for me to get a look at, and with my North American 3DS in hand, I decided to check 'em out.
"Clean and Protect Kit" - MSRP of $9.99
The most basic of the kits sent to me, the "Clean and Protect" kit is a pretty decent starter package for its price.
After opening your 3DS, you'll realize that the one stylus Nintendo has already slid into the handheld's holder is probably not going to be enough. Over the past week I've already thought I had lost my stylus a dozen times, mostly because I'm scatterbrained. If you're like me, you're going to need spares, and Power A has thrown three in this package. They're identical in nearly every way to the one packed with the system, with one difference -- they say "CHINA" on them instead of "Nintendo."
Also included are games cases. While the cases that ship with the games are fine, they're kind of bulky. If you want to just carry around a few at a time, these little plastic cases that come in this kit seem ideal. They look a lot like similar cases you might have seen for DS games -- one is tri-fold and holds six carts, and there are two others that hold a single game a piece. I've spent years throwing unprotected DS game carts into bags and pockets, and I've never had a problem. But if you're concerned some lint might erase your Pilotwings Resort data or something, these will do the trick.
The screen protectors that come in this pack are easy to slide on, and are cut to fit the 3DS screens. For the handheld's bottom screen, the protector fits right on, sitting on snuggly. I didn't even notice it was on there once applied. On the top, the screen sits flush with the unit; there's no indent, so once I applied the protector, it was immediately obvious it was there. I couldn't not notice it, so I immediately took it off. The protector itself didn't alter the on-screen image, even in 3D, but I'm personally not so concerned with screen protection that I was willing to deal with constantly noticing it sitting there.
You'll also find a lint-free cloth included in the package, and well.. yeah. It's a lint free cloth. It has some 3DS logo markings on it, but it's in every way a lint-free cloth as you'd expect.
"Mini Elite Transporter Case" - $16.99
If you're looking for something to protect the 3DS from the harsh world, you might want a case, and the blue "Mini Elite Transporter" case seems as good as any.
The velcro flap on the front of the case pulls up to reveal a pocket which Power A says will hold up to 12 3DS games. Since I don't have 12, I'll have to take their word for it; I could imagine you may be able to shove more than 12 in there if you're feeling adventurous, though. Note that this is really just a pocket that you'd toss your games into; there are no individual game compartments.
Zippered open, the inside of the case reveals a soft pocket that you can slide your 3DS unit into, as well as holders for additional styluses and pens. (By "pens" I mean the writing utensils, which you're going to need to write down girls' and guys' numbers you get when they see you carrying around a Nintendo 3DS case.)
"Elite Transporter Case" - $24.99
Here's the big boss of Power A's cases, about three times the size of the "Mini."
Instead of a Velcro flap, you'll find a zipper pocket which Power A says will hold 40 3DS games. Again, I don't have 40 3DS games, but I don't know if I want to take Power A's word for it on this one -- it looks too small for 40 games. Since I can't test it, I guess I will have to take their word for it. I can confirm it will fit at least 10, with plenty of room to spare, though.
The entire case zippers open to reveal pockets and straps for all of your goods, each marked with a little image of what Power A wants you to put in it. Just like the "Mini," there are straps for styluses and pens. A larger flap is marked with a 3DS and a car charger, but oddly, it's just a single pocket. While it's possible to fit a car charger and the unit into this single area, it seems to go against every organizational bone in my body to throw them in there together. It would have been nice if they were separated by something so you could keep things tidy.
"Expedition Case" - $14.99
This is probably my least favorite of the batch, the outside of the case being a gummy rubber material. It's got a weird Transformer-like design on it in black, blue, grey, and white; there's nothing understated about this case at all. It looks like something the Pink Ranger would carry her tampons around in.
The soft inside is accessed by unzipping the case, which will reveal six little pockets for 3DS games, as well as a strap for two additional styluses. The 3DS itself just sits in the opposite end of the case; a simple soft flap separating it from the rest of the accessories.
The "Expedition Case" looks like it could take a beating, but there's something about it that feels "cheap" when held in your hands. It makes sense, considering it's the least expensive of the batch, but not by a large enough margin for me to be able to recommend it.
"Explorer Starter Kit" - $29.99
So here's the big guns, a massive kit with "everything you need to get started." Except for games. And the system. But you get where I'm going with this…
This kit comes packed with two styluses, one cleaning cloth, and two screen protectors. These are these same peripherals that came in "Clean and Protect" kit. Nothing new to report here.
The case it comes with is completely different than any of Power A's other offerings, a black hardshell case (although on the box it's gray) featuring the Nintendo 3DS logo. You unzip it and you'll find a little net holder for your 3DS. Presumably this is where you'd also keep other things like a pair of headphones or a car charger. There's not much room in there, so don't count on it. There is, however, tiny pockets for three of your 3DS games.
The kit also comes with a car charger which works as advertised. Considering the battery life of the 3DS, this is going to come in handy on long car trips. My only issue is that the cord is a bit on the short side. It'll be fine if you're sitting in the front seat, but it just barely reaches the back. Of course, this varies depending on what kind of vehicle you have (you may have an outlet in the back, for example), so this might be a non-issue.
You're also getting a pair of earbuds here, too. I was completely prepared to tell you that they were average in sound quality, and that audiophiles need not apply. But I can't even go that far. Right out of the box, these headphones didn't work at all. One earbud had no sound coming out of it, the other the sound was so faint you could barely make it out. Power A offers a two-year warranty out of the box, but it's probably not worth the follow up, honestly.
"Core Starter Kit" - $19.99
The cheaper of the two starter kits: you're still getting two styluses, a cleaning cloth, and two screen protectors. Also included are two plastic tri-fold games cases, the same that came in that "Clean and Protect" kit; you're looking at holding a total of 12 games between both cases.
The case that comes with this thing is a bit of an odd one. It's more like a wallet than a case, with a Velcro strap -- with an attached piece of plastic that says "Nintendo 3DS" on it -- that holds it shut. There's a tiny compartment that you can slide your 3DS into, along with three slots for 3DS games. Odd thing about this case is that it doesn't close completely, the strap just sort of holding everything together like a taco. It'll certainly keep everything in place and offer some protection, but it's a little unsettling to see part of the 3DS still exposed when it's "shut."
This kit also comes with a pair of earbuds, and I didn't expect much after my experience with those that came with the "Explorer Starter Kit." I was right not to. Both ear buds worked this time around, but even with the 3DS volume cranked up, the sound was muffled and barely audible. Either my hearing is going downhill in my old age or Power A has an earbud problem on its hands.
Despite it's $30 price tag (and the fact that the earbuds didn't work), I really like what they're' offering with the "Explorer Starter Kit." If you just some extra styluses, check the "Clean and Protect" kit, and get a few extras while you're at at it. I wasn't a huge fan of the screen protectors, but maybe you're not as picky as I am with how it'll look covering your screen.
Power A's 3DS launch accessories are a mixed bag of quality and usefulness. Even with varying needs, it's hard to suggest one of Power A's packages over another. But Power A's offerings are mostly solid, so if you need something on launch day, you'll certainly find something to suit your needs.