3DS Preview Event
Ever since Nintendo’s E3 conference last year where they revealed the 3DS, I’ve had a lot of questions about it and so, in true journalistic style, I will lay out a series of hypotheticals followed by one that I can answer but don’t, instead urging you to read on to find out for yourself. Would the 3D make the gaming experiences better? Would gyroscopes and all the other extras provide anything meaningful or just be a useless gimmick? Were there any games that made it a must-own experience? In other words, was my previous championing of the console as a force to be reckoned with just or a waste of time? Well, you’d better read on and find out! See, I told you I’d do that.
Following my misadventures in London getting hilariously lost trying to find the place (or at least I thought I was when I found sheep. Like, actual sheep), I eventually found and made my way to where Nintendo were holding an event to showcase the 3DS. After their conference in January announcing the launch date and coyly not revealing the price (one of the things they explicitly held the conference for), the sterile and embarrassing presentation actually made me think twice about the console, so I was hoping this event would get me excited again, ready to sell my precious organs to fund my purchase. In the area where we had to congregate were reminders of the previous Nintendo handhelds as well as a video of developers talking about their enthusiasm for the 3DS along with a holographic display that almost made me wish R2D2 was there to see it so he could see how it’s done. I say almost, because he’d bring along C-3PO and I didn’t have a blunt instrument to smack him with. Oddly enough though, the developer videos and the holographic display didn’t conjure up as much enthusiasm as I had from seeing a Game And Watch for the first time in my life or reliving nostalgic memories of 1996 and being a five-year-old upon seeing the brick-sized original Game Boy. I just made a lot of people feel very old with that sentence, and I’m not even the least bit guilty about it.
We were then gathered up like the aforementioned sheep and taken on a short guide of sorts, starting with an odd and slightly tenuous link to the StreetPass feature of the 3DS. You see, if you have your 3DS on standby and you walk past someone else who also has their 3DS on standby, the consoles will exchange information and this’ll affect certain games. This was oddly explained with a floor that lit up with blue and red squares around peoples’ feet and connected with lines showing how they would link using Street Pass. Yeah, I didn’t quite get it either. An example they gave was using this functionality was where a 3DS with stored Street Fighter 4 3D data would allow you to have battles with others and gain experience without either of you knowing until you resume playing. This functionality will arise in games like Nintendogs+Cats as well, except instead of furry mayhem being unleashed you may just meet other animals or at least get gifts you can use to spoil your virtual pets, much like the original version used to do. While it looks like a few titles will support it early on release it’s going to be one of those “time will tell” deals as to whether Street Pass is going to be a success or be mostly ignored like the DS’ similar functionality which you’ve most likely forgotten about, as so few games used it.
Speaking of Street Fighter, we were then ushered into the next room where Ryu was sitting, deep in thought. Well, he was until Ken came in and they started having an impromptu fight for some reason! Maybe Ryu stole his woman? Maybe Ken was suffering from ‘roid rage? Or maybe Ken caught Ryu drinking milk from the carton again… In any case, the two fought it out in trademark Street Fighter style until a time out was called just before they Hadouken’d each other into oblivion. Though at least the two fist-bumped each other afterwards to let each other know that though they were planning on beating the other into a pulp and knocking them out in a way that physics would look the other way for, they were still bros.
Street Fighter and StreetPass weren’t the only things weirdly linked to the proceedings, as we were then thrown into a room and told to hold onto the person in front of us as we made our way through a Zombie infestation with some Resident Evil heroes and a fight with the chainsaw guy from Resident Evil 4 in a pitch black room in a weird attempt to advertise Resident Evil: Mercenaries. Someone hilariously asked if we could just get Ryu and Ken to come and beat up the zombies to help us, which is probably why I didn’t take the whole thing as seriously as I should have and loved it for the cheesy quality Resident Evil used to be remembered for; I was too busy thinking about a Street Fighter/Resident Evil crossover with Ryu and Ken decapitating zombies with Hadoukens.
However, after a brief video from Jonathan Ross, we were finally able to get our hands on the 3DS and given a few minutes in this room to check out a variety of titles. The first available game I could get my hands on was Street Fighter 4 3D and, as my first 3DS experience, it helped sell me the console almost immediately. Granted, I’m a terrible Street Fighter, in videogames and in real life, but it managed to help ease me in to the process fairly painlessly. It’s when I realised Nintendo’s slogan with the 3DS, “Seeing is Believing” isn’t just one of those crappy gimmicky tag-lines they threw in; in many ways it’s completely true. From the videos you see online you don’t get an impression of how beautiful the game looks in motion, and I actually found that the graphical style suited the 3DS more than it did on consoles; I found it very slightly jaw-dropping and the game in motion was just beautiful. The videos don’t do it justice, no, and while Street Fighter 4 3D isn’t really improved in any way gameplay-wise for having the 3D-effect, it certainly took me by surprise and came across as a brilliant way to showcase the power of the 3DS. In many ways, it was an almost perfect introduction.
It was at this point, however, I found out that for some reason I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the 3DS’ screens. Allowed to take a picture of the thing closed, or of the side, just not the screens. It’s a shame, but then doing so wouldn’t really convey what you were dealing with anyway. However, moving on after my resounding victory in Street Fighter, I switched quickly to Pro Evolution Soccer. I know, I feel dirty too. Now, I’m not a big football fan at all and the only football game I can play is Mario Strikers: Charged Football which, as I’ve discussed before, makes me want to hurt things in frustration. So, did Pro Evolution Soccer 3D do anything for me? Not even in the slightest. It plays well and the camera angles used really help boost the hand-held experience by letting you see more and have more control, and the 3D exists, but just doesn’t do a single thing to change the gameplay other than look pretty. I tried to get a grip with that odd submarine game Nintendo are releasing at launch called Steel Diver as well, but I realised long after I stopped playing it that the reason I couldn’t get anything to work was that I didn’t try using the gyroscopes. Whoops.
This leads me onto my next point and another concern with the 3DS. If you’re using the gyroscopes, turn off the 3D using the slider. The reason for this is that the way the 3D works is that unless your head and eyes are facing the centre of the screen, the 3D doesn’t really work as well and viewing it from certain angles distorts the 3D image… angles that are essentially unavoidable when tilting and moving the console around. The gyroscopes work very well, and games look prettier in 3D, but don’t expect to be able to use both. During my time with the various games, if I wanted to use one I had to make do without the other. You could, of course, try and use both but you’d probably need a lot of physical space and the ability to move around a lot more, which would just be a bit awkward. Though, that may just be me.
I also managed to get some time with the first game shown off for the 3DS at E3 last year – Kid Icarus: Uprising. It may have been the first game revealed for the console but, most importantly, it’s also one of the games that takes the most advantage of the capabilities of the 3DS as well. There may be some slightly hammy dialogue that also makes reference to his long departure from the gaming scene (His first line of dialogue is “Sorry to keep you waiting!” and comments that it’s been 24 years since he was last active against the foe of the game), but the game manages to combine on rails shooting and combat with slight insanity and a gorgeous look that hooked me in pretty quickly.
Think along the lines of the recent Sin and Punishment sequel for the Wii but with Kid Icarus, and you’re part of the way there in terms of what I played. Except Sin and Punishment (to my knowledge at least) didn’t have you fighting a flaming hell-beast with two heads within five minutes of turning the game on. The on-rails shooting is something that’s massively improved by the 3D, allowing you to aim more effectively as you’re able to see the line of fire and where it’ll end up, meaning more precision, which is something that is majorly needed in a game like this when you’re attempting to go for the bigger scores.
The analogue stick is also a much needed addition in Kid Icarus as well as many of the other games I played and, while I’ve heard comments that the console also needs another analogue, I think it feels fine as it is. It controls well with good precision and makes the games much easier to control than with the D-Pad, though it may be slightly unfriendly to those who are left handed or a bit of a cluster when you have to use the analogue and the touch screen and the buttons in tandem. A game which is also well aided by the use of 3D is Pilotwings Resort; another long-awaited return of a Nintendo franchise that allows you to fly around and explore the island featured in Wii Sports Resort. Pilotwings in 3D, as with Kid Icarus, allows you to be able to get a much better sense of depth to what you’re doing and allows you to have more precise controls and a slightly better gameplay experience. Of course, having the 3D off doesn’t matter much as the games still look amazing, though when messing with the slider that controls the effect, remember to give your eyes a second or two to adjust. I didn’t get to spend much time on Pilotwings, admittedly, but I may have cackled with laughter slightly too loudly when in the last ten seconds I crashed the plane into the lighthouse. Of course, in true Nintendo family friendly fashion, nothing really happened, ruining my plans to destroy the island’s shipping trade by destroying the lighthouse. Clearly, Nintendo aren’t catering to the evil genius/terrorist crowd with this game.
Then I found the love of my life. I ran over as soon as I could and enveloped it in my arms. It had been so long since last we met and all the memories came flooding back, and in many ways it felt like we’d never been apart. Of course, my love had changed somewhat, being that they were now stored on a small flash card rather than a large cartridge, and that’s where the emotional effect I was going for falls down a little. Ocarina of Time and I were reunited again in the form of the 3DS remake, and there were almost tears. Though that may have been me dying inside a little when the assistant thought Link was Zelda. Now, I could simply just use this opportunity to go on about what is essentially my favourite game of all time, but we’d be here forever. The game itself, however, looks fantastic in motion; it upgrades the look and makes everything appear almost eye-poppingly beautiful. It controls fantastically and the menu system and HUD has had an overhaul to allow you to trawl through the menus more easily, which could effectively eliminate the frequent trips to the menu that plagued the Water Temple. While I’ll be picking this up as soon as it’s released with any luck, if they threw in the Master Quest too, then The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS could be one of the most complete experiences in my life, and I’d never need another game. This is, of course, coming from an obsessive Nintendo/Zelda fanboy, so take this with a truckload of salt.
After the assistants had to warn me they would physically remove me from the game if I didn’t leave peacefully, I left Ocarina of Time and went into the next room, where I got to check out a bunch of other 3DS games and features in more detail. First up I tried Super Monkey Ball 3DS; a return of those monkeys in balls, who are apparently super. Controls were dealt with either through using the analogue stick or the gyroscopes, and here the warning to go with either 3D or gyroscopes applied again; the amount of tilting and moving about you have to do to control the monkeys accurately means that you’re not going to be able to see the screen that effectively anyway, let alone without the distortion from seeing the 3D at the wrong angle. It’s unfortunate, because it came across feeling slightly like a tech demo more than something that could have been truly amazing. Sadly, the presence of the 3DS versions of Snake Eater, Mario Kart and Animal Crossing were only in the form of the videos we’ve seen of them all already and so, unfortunately, I can’t really impart anything new on those. Nor can I with the Sky 3D broadcasting that’ll be a feature of the 3DS come release, but I have to admit I’m very slightly underwhelmed if only because I don’t really care for Football, or Rugby, or a lot of sports, and so seeing them in another dimension doesn’t make me dance as ludicrously as their goal celebrations. For some though, the ability to see highlights of matches on the go will be a godsend, and for us non-sporty types, we’ll get Shawn the Sheep to make up for it. Sounds like a fair trade, right?
Another addition that may appeal to some more than others is the return of Nintendogs with the added twist that there will also be cats. The demo I tried featured a Siberian Husky, bringing back memories of my old husky Link, to whom I had grown dearly attached until a year after owning him when I reluctantly had to take him out back Old Yeller style and erase him. To those who haven’t played Nintendogs, Nintendogs+Cats will be a fun simulation that allows you to keep pets in your pockets without the RSPCA getting involved. To those who have played the original on the DS, I can tell you from the time I had on the demo that there is a massive, shocking addition to the gameplay in that you can also raise cats. Sadly, I couldn’t make them fight each other, so Nintendo are once again missing out on the, sorely misrepresented, animal-fight-loving demographic with their family friendliness but, unless you desperately wanted to raise virtual cats as a reaction to being single and lonely, you may be fine with the original.
The 3DS makes a massive leap forward for Nintendo Hand-held consoles with the fact that there are also built-in games and applications to enjoy the thing without necessarily having a game in the unit. One such example is the Mii-Maker, a device that lets you create your own Miis for the Nintendo Wii (and I’m presuming some 3DS games) by setting up the head shape and the hair style and then using a photo of yourself or your friends to fill in the rest of the details. This turned out to be… interesting for me, seeing as it somehow decided to squash my large face into a tiny section of the Mii’s face, though it does let you change anything you’re not satisfied with which I thought kind of defeated the point. I would show you what happened, but remember that pesky “No pictures” thing? A rather cool feature of the Mii Maker, however, is the ability to send your Mii to other 3DS consoles through a QR code that can easily be read by another 3DS’ camera and produces your Mii almost instantly, allowing for easy sharing without many loopholes to go through. Mentioning the 3DS camera also brings up the fact that it can take 3D images with the cameras on the outer shell, though they may not be fantastic quality due to the low mega-pixel rating of the cameras, it’s still pretty cool being able to take and see pictures in 3D. It was also possible to apply different effects and filters to the images you take, with an ability to merge the faces together of two different people. I couldn’t quite get that to work properly because of the low levels of lighting, meaning that due to the lack of a flash, images taken in low lighting didn’t come out very well, so this came off as a bit gimmicky rather than the necessary addition it was being offered as.
Despite this, the 3DS’ cameras managed to save themselves for me with Face Raiders and a little something called Augmented Reality. Face Raiders is a quirky little mini-game that starts with you taking a picture of someone’s face; that face then becomes a series of multiple targets you need to shoot in order to score as many points as possible. You aim by looking around with the gyroscopes as the targets appear around what the 3D cameras pick up, and over the course of play I somehow managed to destroy some of the reality I was seeing with random bits of the real world being destroyed before my eyes as I tried to shoot myself in the face as quickly and as often as I could. Having written that now, I realise how completely mental that sounds, but it’s another one of those things that makes Nintendo’s “Seeing is believing” tagline all the more appropriate. Adding to that was another Augmented Reality game activated by an AR Card, in this case one with a Question-Mark block on it. Moving a short distance away from the card allowed it to be read by the 3D cameras and activated the magic power of the card, which suddenly made the table look as if it was bulging and produced some targets which, as in Face Raiders, I had to move around and shoot. This, however, was a game where moving the 3DS around and keeping the 3D on actually worked as you were moving around a stationary point which meant you had to keep your eyes on the screen in order to shoot the targets, rather than having to tilt it excessively. While it was over in a matter of minutes, it was full of ballistic, silly and score-attacking fun just like Face Raiders although when the dragon started appearing out of the card, I did have to look over the console to make sure it wasn’t really happening. Not out of any sense of realism, but I just had no idea how they managed to make a shootable dragon, or any of what I witnessed, come out of a card with a Question-Mark block on it.
While that was everything I managed to witness, I will admit that I did manage to persuade some of the assistants to let me sneak back into the area where Ocarina of Time was. Not out of a duty to cover it more effectively and be able to talk about it here, though. I just really, really love that game. So we don’t end on that note, I will admit to all of those reading that I may have tried to steal a 3DS to take home with me. I even bought my DS-Lite along to pull a good old switcheroo so they wouldn’t notice until I had already made off with it. However, I didn’t really take into account the fact that they would be really securely fastened to the stands and so trying to nab one meant it would have looked too obvious. When I got looks from the assistants I had to lie and pretend I was just comparing the size of my DS-Lite to the 3DS. I think they bought it.
After my heist hilariously failed, I reluctantly left the event, remembering to take my own DS with me. So what did I think about the 3DS? Had this event changed my mind about it? Well, I can tell you that the event certainly made me excited about it again after Nintendo’s dreary announcement conference in January, and seeing the games in motion was actually unlike anything I ever imagined it would be. The games looked fantastic; a lot of them use the new features of the console effectively, and it looks like it’s going to be a strong launch period for Nintendo’s console. However, while the event officially sold me on a 3DS, I have to admit that I’m going to pass up the chance to get one on launch day. This isn’t a slight against the system at all, but simply because the games I most want for it aren’t out at launch and come out in the months after, meaning I can wait until several months after release for it. Or at least until Ocarina of Time releases. The 3DS is out at the end of March world-wide, and it will more than likely help to cement Nintendo’s dominance in gaming yet again. It looks like a force to be reckoned with and, after seeing… I believe.
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