Thoughts on my future with the 3DS
By Jeff Alyanak
For those of you who know me, it comes as no surprise to hear that I have had little occasion for praise with the Wii as of late. Aside from the greatness of the virtual console titles and its use as a Super Smash Bros Brawl player, I find I've not gotten much use out of it. Don't get me wrong, there are tons of great titles for the Wii - but there's a disturbing trend that I worry might carry on to the next generation.
The argument is a familiar one; I don't like the gimmicky motion controls that seem to be taking over. Developers seem to be perching their entire game concepts atop the idea that wiggling a Wii-mote is all you need to make a solid game. When I heard that Nintendo's next handheld would include a 3D screen, motion sensing, and cameras coming out the ass, I'll admit I was worried. Would this be another virtual boy? The disaster that shamed my great hero Gunpei Yokoi?
Well, I've been lucky enough to have a nice long session with the 3DS and I have news: Nintendo is back. What I experienced with the 3DS was a true return to form for Nintendo, and a great showing from the third-party side of things, too. Instead of using the 3DS' unique hardware as a flashy gimmick, Nintendo and the crew has developed a series of games that are truly – well - unique! I'm going to start with a relatively unknown game first, since it was really a stand-out for me.
AR Shooter was essentially just a tech demo and a mini-game, but even the
simple concept demonstrated had so much depth and potential that I have to talk about it. It works in tandem with a regular card with a special image printed on it (which comes with the 3DS). The two cameras on the back on the 3DS recognize this card and in tandem with the internal motion sensors use it for motion tracking. You see on the screen your tabletop (in 3D) and a series of small targets and monsters to shoot at. The object of the game is to move around in 'real space' to shoot the targets while avoiding monster's attacks.
What seems like a simple premise is brought to life by the technology of the 3DS. Viewing the real world with the 3D cameras and display looks almost like seeing right through your 3DS. So when a monster appears and you start moving around the table to fight it, it becomes - buzzword time - incredibly immersive. This game alone, where it to include a full collection of levels, would be a must buy in my books.
There was another thing I noticed a few developers doing, which I think is totally cool: being subtle. Rather than doing that cheesy 'leap off the screen' 3D, they've used the 3D in a more natural way. It really helps in the games that involve 3D movement (the other kind of 3D). Pilot Wings and Kid Icarus felt especially natural and I found myself intuitively using my new-found depth perception to fly, dodge and shoot with even greater ease. In fact, one common theme was intuitive gameplay. Unlike the flaky, inhuman motion that so often plagues the Wii, the 3DS titles I encountered managed to use the hardware in a way that is just so straightforward and immediate that you can forget about the controls and play the game.
So, to wrap up this love letter I'll make some admissions. Yes, the 3D effects do effect framerates. For fast-paced games (that don't absolutely require 3D) the hardcore gamer is probably going to disable it. Seriously though, we hardcore gamers are freaks, the average gamer won't even notice. Also, I'm not naive, I do expect a lot of gimmick-ridden shovel-ware. But the fact that a selection of 11 games across genres from both 1st and 3rd party sources all impressed the hell out of me? Well, that's got to mean something. The DS has long been one of the favourite systems of all time, and its sales figures back me up on its merits. However, there comes a day when... well...
The king is dead, long live the king!