When I wrote my review of the PSPgo back when it launched, I called it another reason to buy a Nintendo DS. It was exactly the way a company shouldn’t go about updating its system. It did things that people wanted, like built-in memory and the ability to download whole games onto the device, in addition to being, in my opinion, at least, sexier than the original. But they bounced the price up, got rid of legacy support (via no UMD drive), and made the whole thing plasticky and just… meh.
Enter Nintendo’s 3DS. This is a console that has added things that people wanted, but didn’t know they wanted until now. a beautiful 3D screen (duh), Augmented Reality games, a 3D slider to adjust the experience to each person’s needs, a 3D camera (bonus!), and in nearly the exact same package as the DS before it. So does it stack up to what you’d expect for a $250 device (yes, this is Nintendo’s priciest yet)? In a word: yes. In a couple of words: only sort of.
Okay, so I’ll explain. Overall, yes, the 3DS delivers. I mean, once Ocarina of Time 3D launches in a month or so, the answer will be a resounding yes, but until then, the problem lies right there: the games. See, at launch, there are two pretty great games, Pilot Wings, and Street Fighter IV. Problem is that these are both casual games. Pilot Wings has that puzzle element and re-playability until you get all the stars in every level. Street Fighter has virtually endless re-playability, especially if you consider multiplayer and the massive possibilities that unlocks. But beyond that, there aren’t really any story driven games that make me drool. Pro Evolution Soccer and Asphalt were as expected: decent sports and racing games, respectively. You know, the required launch titles. Meh.
With those things said, if that is the only shortcoming, it won’t be for long, as Zelda launches in May, and E3 takes place a couple of weeks after that, where more new classics are sure to be announced. Mario, Kirby, Metroid – the list of course goes on and on.
So, the hardware. Well, the cameras suck. I’ll put that out there right now. But we’re not here for the cameras. We’re here for that beautiful screen. And oh how beautiful she really is. I find the 3D slider works best when it is just slightly up, so there is a nice clean 3D effect and not a whole lot of strain on the eyes. Nintendo also really nailed the “Slide Pad”, which is their answer to a portable analog stick. Sony screwed this up on the first PSP, and they’ve never made it any better, even three iterations later. Nintendo managed to get this perfect right out of the gate, and they of course included an (oddly-placed) D-pad just below it. That’s a total of eight face buttons, plus analog, L & R, Home, Start, and Select buttons. And they still manage to make the controls and design very simple and intuitive like only Nintendo knows how.
I’m not going to bother with Street Pass and other Nintendo features. They’re in there, and if you’re that curious, check out YouTube or GameSpot. The 3DS is as you would expect: an iterative change over previous consoles, but not a revolution. It is very hard to have a revolution these days. So many things have been invented, and it really is just a matter of time before people figure out how to combine them to make something “revolutionary” that is really just evolutionary.
So, to touch on that price one more time. A lot of people say that it is nearly double the Game Boy Advance’s price when that launched. And sure, that’s true, but the 3DS is also $50 less than the price of the PSP at launch. With 3D. And cameras. And 2 screens. And five years later with inflation. Suck it, Sony.
Now leave me alone, because I’m going to finish up Pilot Wings and continue waiting for Ocarina of Time 3D while taking blurry 3D pictures just because I can.
PS: It sounds like I’m very anti-Sony, but truth be told, I’m just honest. I loooooved my PSP when I first got it. Best $300 I ever spent. But then Nintendo did their thing and, well, Sony ain’t got Pokemon. But I’ll be keeping my eye out for that NGP – very excited about that one!