In Defense of the 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS has been out for a little over two weeks ago, yet it was only last night did I finally get completely caught up with my video podcast queue on iTunes. I’m usually very open minded when it comes game journalists’ opinions — the way I see it: they’re the experts, not me.

So I was eager to watch Adam Sessler’s Soapbox to see how he likes the 3DS. I still remembered how enthusiastic he was in E3 last year about the device, so I was surprised to hear how unimpressed he was with the final product. As much as I have the utmost respect for him, as I do with most of the game journalists over at G4TV, I couldn’t help but to respectfully disagree with him on this one.

Picture of Nintendo 3DS
Image from Wikipedia

 

Besides that particular episode of the Adam’s Soapbox, I’ve also collected other common criticism I’ve read for the 3DS from other sources online. in risk of sounding like a typical Nintendo fanboy, I do want to give my two cents about the device as well as my thoughts on what’s being said by so many others online.

Weakest. Lineup. Ever.

The most frequently heard criticism is regarding the launch lineup title for the 3DS. People simply went nuts about how poor they thought the games all were, and how nothing is worthy for their purchase.

Now let me be clear, I didn’t get any launch titles either when I bought my 3DS, so it’s not like I think the lineup is anything to write home about. (I have, however, played Street Fighter IV a few times thanks to my friends and co-workers) But at the same time, the launch lineup for the original DS wasn’t anything special either. Sure, there was Super Mario 64 DS, but it was a port the very same way it is for Rayman 3D.

But does anyone still remember Feel the Magic: XY/XX for the original DS? The Urbz: Sims in the City? Ping Pals? How are they any better than PilotWings Resort or Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars for the 3DS?

With every play, I’m increasing impressed by the graphic and technical quality of Street Fighter IV 3D Edition. The fact that Capcom was able to port a ps3/xbox360 title over to a portable device as well as their ability to cram so many of the 3DS features (online play, StreetPass) into a cartridge is nothing short of amazing.

At the same time, there’s not a single game in the original DS launch lineup where I was impressed with as I am with Street Fighter IV 3D Edition. It seems like everyone just wants to be a Debbie Downer about this launch lineup but at the same time be in denial that the Nintendo DS launch lineup was so much worse.

But see how well the DS turned out to be.

Same format

One of the things Adam said that stuck out to me was that while every other media has more or less remained the same, gaming is constantly pushing the technology envelope — to the point where consumers no longer want to catch up.

He made an example that reading has been relatively the same ever since its invention. Even with the arrival of Amazon Kindle and other ebook readers, the reading experience itself hasn’t changed much for the most part. Same goes for television and movie watching, so why must gaming be so progressive?

But what Adam has forgotten are the experimental parts of reading and movie watching. Reading hasn’t changed much on the surface, but at the same time the objective of reading has changed drastically in the past two decades. What used to be a rainy day, lazy sunday activity is now a on-the-go casual read. Blogs. RSS. Twitter. Those are all evolving products of reading. So while the act of reading itself hasn’t changed (ie: you still read one word at a time), the way we read is vastly different now than even few years ago.

With movie watching, there’s also 4D. You know, like those Back to the Future rides at Universal Studio or those tacky movie shorts where you’re exploring the jungle and are suddenly chased by a t-rex. I’m not saying those are revolutionary and that one day it’ll be the default experience in mainstream cinema — hardly — but they do exist.

I think the 3DS is the same thing. Nintendo’s stance of non-3D compatibility is pretty much a guarantee to ensure the gaming experience will remain the same for the most part. But the 3D technology simply adds an extra layer to that experience, much like how hyperlinking is to reading or pop-up facts are to pop-up videos.

I’m by no means saying the Nintendo 3DS will be a complete success. I simply don’t know if it will, but at the same time we shouldn’t discount it as simply being gimmicky and unwanted by the consumer right from the start.

Portability

Then there’s the whole 3D experience on-the-go argument. How the 3D technology isn’t really meant to be portable because it requires the precise angle to make everything work and any slight adjustment will automatically engulf your eyeballs in flames.

But that argument can be made for anything.

And you know what? That’s why people know not to use the iPad in direct sunlight. Or listen to the headphones when they’re driving. Some people can’t even read books on the bus. Some people can’t even be on the bus without puking. But that doesn’t mean there’s no place for books, or in case for the latter, no place for buses.

Even in the days of the DS lite and the Game Boy before it, most of my intense gaming session was when I was at home, on the couch, plugged in. I know they’re portable devices, but I also know I want to be comfortable when I’m fighting the final boss in Golden Sun — a task that can easily take more than 30 minutes. Otherwise, I won’t commit and start up the game.

The same can be said with the 3DS. Yes, it’s a portable device, but it doesn’t mean i *have* to play it absolutely anywhere and everywhere. That’s also why there’s the 3D depth slider.

Battery Life

My reaction to this criticism really was, are you kidding me? Has anyone even played a game on the iPhone? Because the last time I played Plants vs. Zombies my iPod touch conked out after an hour of play. I currently use a HTC G2 and I have to charge that phone twice a day. (To be fair, the battery life for the G2 and iPod are a lot longer if the screen stays inactive, but how is that different for the 3DS, where it sports a 3-day standby battery life?)

If people can be forgiving with the iPhone playing casual games, why can’t they treat the Nintendo 3DS the same way? Why should this be any different?

I know the DS lite has crazy battery life, something I’m still surprised by to this day how they were able to pull it off. But at the same time, the battery life for the original DS (DS Phat, if you will) as well the Nintendo DSi is only 10 hours with the backlight off. Considering that 3DS is a completely new device in its first generation, is it really a fair criticism?

So those are the issues I wanted to get off my chest. Like I said, I understand the Nintendo 3DS is not perfect. But is it really fair to call it a gimmicky and already say it won’t catch on, two weeks after its launch? Haven’t we learned from the original iPod or the original DS? What do you think?

4 thoughts on “In Defense of the 3DS”

  1. There’s a lot to be said about the 3DS and its reviews.

    I’d like to start off by saying that you really shouldn’t provide any credibility to any of G4’s reviewers. I used to watch them until I realized that a lot of their opinions didn’t match mine at all. Gamers come in a wide variety – casual Tetris players, hardcore FPS fans, World of Warcraft addicts, overly-specific-genre fans, RPG cosplayers, etc. G4’s staff almost completely falls into a single category of gamers. You can’t expect a Halo fan to review Peggle Extreme and the result be valid for Peggle fans. It would only be a valid review for Halo fans. That said, the fact that the entire review staff falls into such a limited category of gamers almost entirely destroys their credibility in the first place. Why are they reviewing games that they – and their target audience – already know they won’t enjoy?

    The 3DS is a console that I definitely think they are interested in, but not for the same reasons Nintendo or Nintendo fans are. The 3D addition to gaming is the next revolution in gameplay, like motion controls for the Wii has altered all future consoles. Anyone who isn’t interested in that is showing an obvious bias against Nintendo.

    People who complaints that the graphics aren’t good enough are missing the point and have a little unrealistic of an expectation from such an innovative system. This, nor any of Nintendo’s past consoles, is not a system for total immersion or movie-esque experience. It is for a new experience that will change games as we know it.

    The modern market has an uncanny focus on graphics, and I can never figure out why. Do you know how many people play flash games on any given day? The same people who complain about console graphics make up a large chunk of the flash games market.

    But I digress. Not all complaints are about graphics, and rightfully so. The launch lineup was very disappointing. I don’t think people are saying that none of the games are good or worth getting, but that there isn’t a “system seller,” as most every console in the history of consoles has had – that one game that people will buy the system just to play. Honestly, had the current launch games come out later in the 3DS’s lifespan, I wouldn’t have bought a single one. I had to settle for Super Street Fighter, because there wasn’t a game I was truly interested in. SSF is still a great game, and I’d recommend it to fans of the series or genre. I am not one of those fans. I will still get countless hours of enjoyment from it, but it isn’t a game which I am absolutely dying to play, as are most games that people buy. I’ll be damned if I miss an installment of Metroid or a Super Mario game that isn’t a spin-off. Most games I – and I imagine many others – buy are games that they must have, not games they want to “try.” People don’t tend to pay generally-unrefundable full-price to try or “see how it goes.”

    Even though I have, love, and don’t regret SSF, would I still buy it if it didn’t come out until months from now? Absolutely not. As is, it is just a time killer until a game I truly want comes out. That is what is meant by a weak lineup of launch titles. There is no system seller. There is no hardcore-fan game that has always been included in past system launches. It is disappointing, but not the end of the world. It certainly doesn’t speak bad against the system itself, as those games will come eventually, and one will still need to buy the system to play them. It is just a disappointment to many Nintendo fans, and understandably so.

    On a final note, there is little to no problem with the 3D and movement. Ironically enough, reviewers said that there was no problem during E3 and other pre-release demos of the 3DS. The one and only time I have ever had to disable 3D because movement was an issue was when playing the final boss on Face Raiders which requires much more movement than the other levels. No other level, no other game, no other time on the 3DS has it been a problem for me to move while 3D was enabled. Anyone complaining is either exaggerating, trying to find faults, or has horrible hand-steadiness issues.

    1. First of all, thank you for your comprehensive comment. I think we’re on the same page for most parts, but I still don’t think the 3DS lineup is as bad as most people are making it to be.

      I disagree that Street Fighter IV is simply a time-killer. I have faith it can turn into an evergreen product. Maybe not for you specifically, but for anyone who’s into the fighter-genre.

      In terms of not having a system seller game, I think the original DS lineup was just as bad. Sure there’s Super Mario 64, but it’s still a port the same way Rayman 3D is. Same goes for the Wii, where the only thing worth buying on launch day was Zelda: Twilight Princess. Afterall, that was another port (though it was a port for a game that wasn’t released yet).

  2. A pretty good read. It is too early to judge the lifetime success of the 3ds. I agree with many points raised. Unfortunately some people like to jump on any negatives (or positives) that they can possibly envision. Same happened with ds, psp or any console, portable or not. I will buy one eventually but at the moment nothing about it interests me and nothing planned so far has raised my interest. I’m sure after a price drop to compete against ngp and some games I want to play, I will concede and part with my cash.

  3. There really isn’t excuse to have a stronger line up of games at launch. The only impressive title I own is Street Fighter. It really shows off the 3D and it’s a faithful port. Developers had over a year for the 3DS. I own Ridge Racer and Splinter Cell. Ridge Racer is a mash up of their older games and Splinter Cell feels like it was slapped together and rushed out the door. In Ridge Racers defense though, the 3D effect is nice and it really adds to the racing experience. After playing that game I want to play all future racers in 3D. I don’t think Nintendo should of left it to 3rd party developers with this launch and I think they needed a 1st party title.

    The 3DS still technically belongs in the DS family of consoles. From the original to the DSi they have gotten slimmer and sexier. Why is this thing so bulky? I get the feeling to generate more sales in a year or two by coming out with the slimmer version. Why didn’t they make a light or less bulky version in the first place?

    Glitchiness. StreetPass has a mind of it’s own. It will sometimes work and sometimes not. I’ve noticed a few times when I bring it to work that it doesn’t tag my co-workers 3DS for whatever reason and you have to toggle the wireless off and on. I have no reason why it behaves like this, I hope it’s fixed in a future firmware update. Black screens. I have not had them in Street Fighter, Ridge Racer but I’ve had about 5 of them in Splinter Cell. What causes this in the code to have this thing crash? I’ve read turning off the wireless works, but I haven’t tried.

    Wobbly hinges. I’ve still not gotten used to the screen on the 3DS. Theres a certain give or wobble that the DS Lite doesn’t have. Nintendo intentionally designed it this way so the hinge doesn’t crack like it did on the Lite. I’ve never had a Lite crack at the hinges but it’s annoying the way it flops, bounces and slides left to right when I use the gyroscope. The wobbling is slight, not like some of the YouTube videos I’ve seen, but I hope this is fixed in the 3DS Lite.

    80% complete at launch or not quite fully baked. Why give into the pressures of investors and launch it with 3/4 of it’s features missing. I click on tiles and I get “will be available in a future update”. I know the new firmware is coming out tomorrow, but launch with your eShop and browser ready. If the eShop was ready, at least I could of played with some titles to tide me over until OoT instead of this drought.

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