For most individuals in North America, March 27, 2011, was just another date on the calendar, having little or no significance to their daily routine - except, of course, for avid gamers. All of you have a vested interest in something, whether it's a comic book, apparel, or a new form of tech; once it hits the streets you've just gotta have it. Right now.
Such was the case with Isaiah "Triforce" Johnson, a diehard Nintendo fan who camped out (for five days) at the Union Square Best Buy location in New York, just so he could be the very first customer to purchase the Nintendo 3DS. You may smirk at this, but prior to Nintendo's system launch, Apple sparked a similar consumer reaction with the release of the iPad 2, which compelled a man from France to travel abroad all the way to the Big Apple. His mission? To have bragging rights to owning the first iPad in New York.
It's hard for me to smirk at any of these consumer antics, especially since I could see myself being among them several years ago - back when I wasn't raising a family of my own. However, my gaming roots are still intact and lately, more than ever, my interests expand beyond the digital entertainment I've come to enjoy from the comfort of my living room. I wanted to get back into handheld gaming, and it was all thanks to my iPad. Although it's a viable platform for mobile entertainment, the selection of games that I've come to enjoy from Nintendo is practically nonexistent in the App Store. So a few days ago, during a visit to my local GameStop, the clerk there was trying to sell me on the Nintendo 3DS and I sat there thinking, "What the heck am I going to do with that? It's probably just going to collect dust like the portables I already own."
Although my knowledge on the system was limited, I was aware the 3DS was more or less the successor to the Nintendo DSi XL, and that it offered a camera, media recorder, removable memory, and basic smartphone-type utilities for organization and maintenance. Handheld gaming has evolved by leaps and bounds compared to the Game & Watch era.
If you caught the recent blog on the front page, you already know where this is going: I ended up picking one up anyways. After all, Super Street Fighter IV is a launch title.
While most gamers rushed home moments after purchasing their very own unit, I spent the next several hours at the mall with my daughter who insisted we should live there forever. She's only four, folks, cut her some slack. So to commemorate the occasion, I thought it would be only appropriate to savor this moment in time with a mobile photo to share on Twitter and Facebook. I won't get into the all the specifics, but let's just say that process took a lot longer than expected and for a brief moment, it made me despise technology altogether.
Eventually, we made our way home and I knew that Lindsay needed a worthy distraction so I could spend some time with my new toy. She loves the iPad. Problem solved. A few minutes go by, and as I'm sitting on my living room floor with the digital goodies scattered about, an idea pops into my head.
"I should do a video review!" What an excellent idea. Everyone loves media and the best part is I wouldn't have to spend time writing an article. A winner is me! Or so I thought.
I reach over for my smartphone and start to record. Take one. Terrible. Is that what I sound like? Bleh. Let's run it back. Take two. Not bad, let's just run with it and try to convince someone who's really skilled with video editing to spice things up. Six minutes of footage captured and I am feeling really good about myself when suddenly . . .
"Beeeee-deee-beeee-beep-beeep!" Sigh. You have got to be kidding me; the darn thing is out of juice, thereby killing my impromptu monologue and my enthusiasm to continue. After my electronic setback, I figured this would be a good time to further inspect the contents and actually get into playing, especially since so much time was lost. As I scan the contents of the 3DS box, I discover an extensive user manual, in color! Sweet, why can't every company do this with their products? Clearly Nintendo was willing to spare no expense.
I spent the next ten minutes with configurations, similar to the setup process on the Wii: profile, birthday, personal color, Internet connectivity, and so forth. Now it was on to the really fun stuff: games. My original plan was just to pick up Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition and call it a day, but somehow, my willpower was weak at the store and I also picked up Pilotwings Resort and Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars. These games aren't cheap either; they sell for $40 bucks. New thrills don't come cheap.
I spent a good portion of the evening with Super SF IV (big shock, I know) due to all the positive buzz. Overall, it's surprisingly very solid. I expected the controls to be awkward, but I've managed to hold my own and perform a few intermediate combos with little difficulty. The online play is also remarkable, coming very close to the performance of its console counterparts; perhaps a tad bit better. Really, it's that good.
I started having trouble locating an actual match, similar to what I previously experienced during the vanilla SF days. I imagine that a lot more players were too lazy to host and were quickly joining the first run of available lobbies. Consider yourself lucky to find at least three or four competitors, if any. That's no fault of the game itself, though. More people just need to pick the game up; otherwise, I'll probably just end up mostly trying to unlock challenges, training offline or playing with the local TNL peeps.
I should probably check out Pilotwings and Ghost Recon at some point, but playing Street Fighter is digital crack and I am having way too much fun owning with Guile. It's really hard to put down once I get going.
For the sake of this article, I didn't spend an extensive amount of time playing Pilotwings Resort, so impressions for those will have to wait another day. Oh, and Ridge Racer 3D arrived on my doorstep, too (an unexpected surprise - thanks Namco!). Yoshi from the TNL forums declares every 3DS owner needs to pick that up. He's right; everyone needs a little racing action in his life.
Toward the end of the evening, I took a glimpse at some of the mini games included in the 3DS dashboard. Face Raiders, a cool shooter-type game that makes use of augmented reality took me by surprise, frankly because I had little clue as to what it was all about. Before the action begins, you need to sit in room that has adequate lighting to capture a decent snapshot of, well, your face. Your snapshot is then transformed into a floating pod that's a lot like M.O.D.O.K., minus his arms and legs.
The objective is pretty simple: destroy the flying face pods before they kill you. If you manage to survive the minions, you'll face off against a boss (basically a bigger version of your floating mug shot). Victories are rewarded in the form of what I guess you can call "figurines" to share with friends or admire (if you're vain like that). My family gave me some strange looks as I stood in my living room, moving around with the handheld until I let them get in on the fun. Needless to say, they're hooked and may need to consider picking up another 3DS for fear that they'll try to confiscate it for their own personal enjoyment when I am not around.
Please look forward to additional highlights later in the week, including hands-on coverage and thoughts on the 3DS hardware.