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?

When not to read videogame reviews

tl;dr – Despite how videogame reviews help consumers decide which game to buy, sometimes they tell you too much and will end up ruining your appetite.

I was originally going to title this post, My Love/Hate Relationship with Videogame Reviews. But as I’m writing this I realize that’s not really the message I’m trying to get across.

To say I grew up reading videogame reviews would be an understatement. From GamePro to EGM, from readers’ artworks to the game genie codes at the back, I was always that kid in the magazine section of Safeway for hours on end.

And when I was a kid, armed only with the original Game Boy when many of my friends had already moved up to the Super Nintendo, I relied on videogame reviews to know which game to get next while calculating how many more weeks of chores I’d have to put up with until I could afford Metroid II. While my rich friends were playing and boasting Super Metroid in full 16-bit SNES glory, I confided in the reviews to take me to the promise land: “Four more weeks of limescale scrubbing and I’ll be able to reunite with Samus Aran and her four shades of gray.”


I mean, just look at that space suit…
Image from Wikipedia.

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