• Seeing the 3DS in a Different Light (and Dimension)

        Do we need a new Nintendo portable?

        After writing so much about yesterday's Microsoft keynote that I broke the content system here on TNL, I almost kind of dreaded the idea of coming home to not only do that once, but twice, and then include various other random thoughts from the first official day of E3 2010.

        Considering that I got a grand total of about four hours of sleep last night, and that I'd like to maybe get a tad more than that before day two hits, I think my consideration of such comments will be put on hold.
        Or, maybe I can instead sum up each conference in one sentence, say that that'll have to do until I get around to writing my full wrap-ups, and then find convenient reasons never to actually do them until there's nobody left to care anymore.

        Nintendo: I enter bizarro world as the biggest and best collection of "real" games is at the Nintendo keynote.

        Sony: Started off with fire and passion and then, Kevin Butler cameo aside, mostly fizzled into a parade of montages and speeches that I swear took a thousand hours.

        Instead, for now, I want to talk about one of my most passionate gaming loves: the Nintendo DS.

        I don't want new gaming hardware; at least, I was of that opinion until this morning. In the race to see who can put the biggest, baddest hardware on store shelves, the old strategies and posturing just aren't cutting it anymore. We're in a new era, baby, one where five-year console cycles are so 2005! Sure, my PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 aren't what I truly want from a current-gen gaming console, but gosh darn-it, they aren't too shabby. Where before the industry would have been waiting with baited breath for the announcement of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox 1080, more realistic expectations and opinions now seem to be ruling the roost. Maybe people in this economy and period in time aren't in a rush to get to the next hardware. Maybe what they've got right now is good enough for at least another couple of years.

        Nowhere else did I long for a gaming platform to get purposely stuck in its current word of technology than the Nintendo DS. Yes, I know; the DS has 3D that at times makes the original PlayStation look like Toy Story 3, but dammit, I love that thing! I love my ridiculous 140+ DS game collection! I love the feeling of NES nostalgia the DS strangely brings me! I want games I can play on my open and welcoming DS Lite, not the region-locked snot-nosed DSi.

        So, while curiosity and intrigue got me excited to see what Nintendo would reveal about the Nintendo 3DS this morning, my main interest in the new handheld hardware could best be summed up by a classic image: that of a dog sitting at a table, plate of broccoli before him, giving a disgusted look as "DO NOT WANT" is scrawled in large, bold white letters across the bottom.

        It isn't that I literally didn't want the 3DS, I just didn't want it yet. I'm not done with the DS! Stop trying to take it away from me! First I have DSi-specific games threatening potential future DS releases, and now I have new projects that come in fancy-schmancy 3D-o-ivision wanting to make my beloved DS look like yesterday's news. Give me, like, two more years of great gaming, and then you can have the marketplace 3DS! I wasn't saying you can't come to the party, I was just hoping you'd show up fashionably late.

        Yet there I was, watching this morning as Nintendo lifted the curtain on the 3DS, and I saw crazy title after crazy title being announced for it. New Kid Icarus? Okay, we can do that. Resident Evil? Sure. Super Street Fighter IV? Ahhh... huh? Metal Gear Solid? Wait, what? Professor Layton? Dead or Alive? SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI AND SMT: PERSONA and SMT: DEVIL SURVIVOR?! What the **** is going on here?

        It only really hit my later what the 3DS really is: the PSP2, except Sony forgot that they were supposed to be the ones to announce it. Up until now, the DS's real weakness was its sorely under-powered 3D, and now it can complete on a level equal to or greater than the best that the PSP has to offer. Can't Sony themselves now announce a super-duper new PlayStation Portable follow-up? Sure. But they didn't, and unless they surprise it upon us sometime soon, the 3DS is going to build a lot of momentum extremely quickly. As well, the real main competitor to the DS (and 3DS) - the iPhone - has graphic potential somewhere along this level as well. If two of the three main mobile gaming devices have a relatively similar range of graphical power, folks come to see that as the norm pretty easily.

        The 3DS doesn't have to compete with some new Sony uber-device: all it needs to do is step into the shoes the PSP has been filling until now. Japanese developers who have been having a blast on the PSP can now produce those same games on aplatform assured to have a much larger install base, and Western developers can enjoy making games for a mobile device that actually has customers outside of Tokyo and Osaka. The 3DS will have the maturity and power to do all of the games and genres that could never come to the DS, while also having the price point and consumer recognition that Nintendo portables are known for.

        I love my PSP; I have for years now said it was (and is) one of my favorite pieces of gaming hardware ever. But, the reality of the situation is clear: the PSP could never give me the experience I get from my DS, while the 3DS can now give me exactly the experience I get from my PSP and so much more. What games am I most looking forward to on my PSP? Phantasy Star Portable 2? Project Diva 2? Persona 3 Portable? I can't think of one single game that I enjoy (or plan on enjoying) on the PSP that now isn't possible on the 3DS, and my chances of getting those types of games (and more) in a handheld has now shot up by a thousand percent. As awesome as a super-charged new PSP2 would be, if I will soon be able to get the DS experience plus those more "traditional" previously-PSP gaming experiences all on one new piece of hardware, I cannot at this point see how a PSP2 could even begin to be my first choice in the new generation of portables.

        Part of it is indeed the 3D, and let's be clear; 3D isn't a new gaming breakthrough, it isn't a world-changing awakening of technology, and it isn't going to evolve the way you play your games forever. The DS brought direct and meaningful upgrades to gameplay: the touch screen, dual screens, and so on. Going from your visuals being 2D to 3D is like going from standard definition to high-def. A new way to appreciate and experience the games you play, yes, but not a change that will have the kinds of huge and groundbreaking effects as you might be expecting.

        That was a realization I came to understand was very important to appreciate, because it can be easy to get hands-on time with the 3DS and not be blown away by what 3D actually does. Animal Crossing in 3D. Paper Mario in 3D. Starfox in 3D. Mario Kart in 3D. All cool, but those whose expectations aren't directed in the proper way may just see revamps of old franchises and little else.

        That kind of thinking misses the biggest benefit of bringing 3D to gaming: it is, put simply, damn cool. Remember when new concepts in gaming could exist for no other reason than because they might add to the enjoyment? We look to Microsoft's Kinect or Sony's Move to redefine and reshape gaming - FOREVER!!! - and if they don't, they've failed. With the 3DS, I look to the 3D in the games I'll be playing to do nothing more than allow me to say "holy crap this is some crazy-freaky 3D!" when enjoying the types of games I've always enjoyed.

        Building a new piece of handheld hardware on such a concept wouldn't work unless said concept was done extremely well, and of all of the things I've been most amazed by so far at E3 2010, it has been the quality of 3D that the 3DS can produce. While Sony was handing me a pair of clunky 3D glasses with which to watch a video presentation of Killzone 3, Nintendo handed me a 3DS and that was it; when the scant 40 second run time of that demo was done, my opinion had completely changed. Yes, 3D is more than likely nothing more than a gimmick, but holy moses has Nintendo pieced together one hell of a gimmick. True appreciation for how 3D on the 3DS looks and feels cannot come via anything else other than trying one yourself. Hyperbole aside, I cannot remember the last time I've honestly been as surprised and amazed at something gaming had to present to me as I was when I first looked upon the various trademark Nintendo characters cycling through the 3DS's top screen after the keynote was officially over. Nintendo pulled no punches in saying how silly wearing glasses to experience 3D is, and when you hold the 3DS in your hands and it seems to weave 3D voodoo magic without any additional peripherals or clothing accessories, it's hard not to become a believer.

        The true test for Nintendo's most-touted selling point for the 3DS is in how well companies end up getting the hang of doing it right. Testing out some of the other demos Nintendo provided on the show floor gave mixed results: Nintendo-brand examples were almost always great and very visually exciting in 3D, while some third-party examples ranged from "this gets little benefit from 3D" to "this is such a horrific experience in 3D I'd rather slice my eyes with razor blades than watch this game any longer."

        So, I have come to a heartfelt and sincere decision: I am ready to retire the DS. I don't want to, but I now understand that it is time to. Even if the 3D factor didn't exist, the 3DS would be a great upgrade to the DS platform and one I'd be willing to make the jump to. When all of that comes with the excitement of seeing favorite franchises and never-before-seen original titles with this new level visual depth, I'm not only ready to make the switch, I'm ready to make it tomorrow.
        This article was originally published in blog: Seeing the 3DS in a Different Light (and Dimension) started by shidoshi
        Comments 10 Comments
        1. Geen's Avatar
          Geen -
          Great read, Shidoshi, and I'm super jealous that you've already had your hands on this. I'm very excited to see this hit.
        1. Some Stupid Japanese Name's Avatar
          Some Stupid Japanese Name -
          So how does the 3D look? Do thing start at the screen and go back into the system or do things pop out of the screen at you?
        1. mollipen's Avatar
          mollipen -
          Quote Originally Posted by Some Stupid Japanese Name View Post
          So how does the 3D look? Do thing start at the screen and go back into the system or do things pop out of the screen at you?
          Mostly the first, but I saw a few examples where the effect was kind of the second. In the demo they showed after the keynote, there was a scene with Link where it looked like things falling from the sky were falling in front of him (and also somewhat in front of the screen).
        1. Mzo's Avatar
          Mzo -
          I'm really hoping for a remake of the VB Wario game.
        1. Some Stupid Japanese Name's Avatar
          Some Stupid Japanese Name -
          They'd be dumb not to do it.
        1. kedawa's Avatar
          kedawa -
          They should just release a VB collection.
        1. Space Pirate Roberts's Avatar
          Space Pirate Roberts -
          Thanks for the impressions 'doshi. What about eye-strain/headaches? Any problems there so far?
        1. bahn's Avatar
          bahn -
          Awesome piece. Glad you enjoyed the 3DS.
        1. GohanX's Avatar
          GohanX -
          Good read, Shidoshi. I love my DS and PSP as well (heck, I just bought a new MGS PSP) but it's about time we got some new tech.
        1. StriderKyo's Avatar
          StriderKyo -
          The article in the newest EGM on 3D has got me kind of interested, I'm really curious to get my hands on 3DS. Portable 3D Resident Evil sounds fantastic. Hopefully that SMT game doesn't take years to hit. I remember one was announced at or near the original DS launch but didn't hit for yeeeaarrrs.
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