Monday, April 18, 2011

3DS Impressions - Three Weeks of Owning a 3DS, Highs and Lows

Today, Monday, marks three full weeks of owning an Aqua Blue 3DS. I believe I've gotten a good feel for most of the components of playing and owning a 3DS. One thing I definitely haven't experienced, as a result of the 3DS games I have, is the experience of playing a game with demanding and rapid button usage, which I've heard from a few people will cause the "sweet spot" to shift out of view frequently. I can see the merit in that, but I'm not ready to dismiss or enforce the idea until I try out some kind of action oriented game.

Three weeks in; do I regret getting Aqua Blue over Cosmic Black? I don't at all, but I have yet to see a wild black 3DS so I'm not 100% on what I'm "missing". As I said in another portion of my impressions, the black all around the top screen doesn't bother me. I'm surprised at how much it doesn't even cross my mind, actually. But something that has been crossing my mind lately, to kick off the lows....

The Lows
Well, it's not -that- bad

It's really only been the past few days that I've been missing the lack of the eShop at launch.
I do have plenty of stuff to play, but I find my self doing something I got in the habit of doing with my Wii; I would just turn it on when I was in the mood to play video games, but didn't have anything in mind. Sometimes I would end up picking a disc based game, but more often I would go with something that was on the system, a Virtual Console title or a WiiWare game, in other words. You'll see in a bit that I consider the built-in software a high point, but the portions that are games either require good lighting and space to move around in, or aren't as deep or as focused on progressive skill building as what I would prefer, so it's not what I'm looking for most of the time. Though not given a specific date, the eShop is supposed to be available in May, so it is coming up soon, at least.

The resolution of the cameras itself doesn't bother me, but how the 3DS uses them for 3D was an aspect that I never would have predicted. As I said in my earlier look at the 3DS cameras, the 3D cameras are permanently zoomed at a software level, so a resolution that otherwise looks nice on the 3DS screen (inside camera), looks grainy because of the zoom (3D camera). The cameras easily feel like the cheapest aspect of the 3DS to me. Not that I was looking forward to using the 3DS as my main camera or anything, but from using the 3DS, I do enjoy capturing 3D images, so I just wish it had a better fidelity. You might have heard of the estimated cost of the components in the 3DS, and you might have heard that Nintendo priced the 3DS higher than they were initially planning because of the response from those that first tried the 3DS at E3, but knowing that myself, the 3DS feels like it's worth the asking price, accept for the cameras.

The other low point so far is the online aspect of the 3DS. It's really neat to be able to see when your friends are online, and what they're playing, but otherwise it feels.....pointless. With the Wii, I could send long messages and actually have a discussion with someone through the Wii, I could even send and receive messages to and from an email address, so I get a bright blue light to alert me that I got a response, which is great because of how infrequently I check my email (sorry, Coffee!). I could send my Mii, links from the internet browser, and images to people on my friends list. But now? No exchanging Miis through the 3DS, messaging is a HUGE pain, there's no way to exchange photos through the 3DS, and we've yet to see if we can send friends a link through the 3DS browser. Message boards were ablaze with people exchanging friend codes with anybody under the sun, but unlike with the Wii, I did not participate. Not only did I learn my lesson about adding random people, but after I had some time with the 3DS, I saw that there was barely anything to do if you didn't own Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition. Speaking of, Street Fighter is the only title with online multiplayer in the U.S. so far, and I'm not aware of many games that claim they will have online integration, which is disappointing in it's own right.

The Highs
Again, exaggeration

Backwards compatible with DS games. A few people just scoff at the idea of using a 3DS to play DS games right now, saying it's an obvious indication that there's no reason to buy a 3DS. But to me, a device that played DS games, and is "forward compatible" with the software of a new platform was an easy purchase when the 3DS released. Trying to estimate out the time that other people have spent with my 3DS titles, I'd guess it's 16 hours from two 3DS games vs. a fairly exact 14 hours and 27 minutes from twelve DS games; pretty close, in other words, and that's without buying and playing any DS games from a list of "new" games I want to pick up. The upscaling that DS games get is admittedly less sharp looking that playing it in native resolution or playing on a DS/DSi series system, much like viewing standard definition content on an HD television. But after awhile, and at a fair distance (the same distance you'd hold it for the 3D effect, really), it isn't something that I notice being detrimental to the experience, and often, I'll appreciate the way the upscaling is smoothing out some aspects of a game's graphics.

The touch screen, combined with a real screen protector (rather than making my own for 10 cents) is an absolute dream. The screen protector makes the experience as smooth as if I wasn't using it, but with added protection, and the touch-screen itself is much more responsive to using fingers than either of my DSes from my experience.

Again, I gotta give a nod to the wrist strap securing locations on the 3DS. I hope Nintendo never moves them back to the back of their handhelds. I haven't dropped my 3DS yet, which I won't attribute entirely to a wrist-strap, but it's definitely keeping "safety" on the mind and in easy reach.

The built-in software has all turned out to be really useful. Mii making is interesting again, with new options to mess around with, and new people that I want to create since the last time I got on a Mii making kick. It's of course interesting to see how the camera interprets someone as a Mii, even if it doesn't usually capture the essence of the person that make Miis such a successful avatar. The StreetPass Mii Plaza is something I always look forward to booting up because of it's integration with StreetPass, even though the StreetPasses aren't that frequent. The 3DS Sound application is not only pretty fun to mess with, but can really be useful. You have a Notes application built in where you can save scribbles and thoughts, but if you're not in a writing mood, you can record voice memos for yourself. The 3DS allows you to play any .mp3 or .aac format audio at much faster speeds than my MP3 player, which is great for running through podcasts quicker if you just want to "get to the good part" without missing the fluff. I'll freely admit that that the Activity Log isn't exactly useful, but dammin all if it isn't all interesting to look at. AR Games and Face Raiders are there for fun, but they are definitely the best way to quickly impress someone unfamiliar with the 3DS. I know I complained about the camera quality, but it's still interesting to take 3D pictures, and the camera application is the place to view photos stored on your 3DS, whether they were taken with a 3DS or not.

The last high point is pretty simple; 3D games, something many people would name as the big selling point of the 3DS. Particularly games with a big open space in view, are just incredible to experience. Despite the 5:3 ratio screen being slightly less widescreen than a 16:9 ratio, the way the 3D extends the scene to the left for your right eye, and to the right for your left eye makes it seem even wider than 16:9 much of the time (it depends on the spacial depth that a particular software is presenting). Movies and games are both just supplementing themselves with 3D at the moment, rather than building the experience around 3D (sorry, James Cameron), but it just so happens that it compliments video games much better, in my opinion. I can't wait to try out other genres in 3D.

The Rest
I think it's worth mentioning that the battery life of the 3DS has neither presented itself as a high point or low point of owning the 3DS. I initially started out with the 3DS at the "3" brightness, but switched it to 2 at some point and didn't even notice for a few days that it wasn't on 3, so I guess I figured out by accident that 2 is bright enough for most occasions. I don't know exactly how much time that guarantees me with the 3DS, but I haven't run across a low battery when I wanted to enjoy the 3DS since the second day of owning it. You definitely need to be mindful that the battery life is short, and for me that means that I recharge it at the end of days where I walked around with StreetPass on and played for maybe an hour or more. Anything less, and it's definitely good for another normal day.

I haven't had a single "black screen of death," or "loose" hinge, or dead pixel, or game that failed to be recognized when it was inserted, or anything odd really.

As someone that expects to get a bunch of use out of the 3DS from playing DS games, it's hard to elaborate on the "is it worth it" subject for someone that isn't interested in DS software. I believe it depends heavily on what kind of games you like. From roaming some message boards, I get the impression that Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, PilotWings Resort, Ridge Racer 3D, Samurai Warriors Chronicles, and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Shadow Wars are well loved titles. If none of those interest you right now, and you're not interested in DS software, then I don't think there's a good reason to grab one right now, since it does not seem like they'll soon be hard to find.

This will be the last foreseeable impression on the general subject that is the current 3DS, but if you guys have enough particular questions or subjects you wanna discuss on the 3DS, then I will do a piece dedicated to that. If you guys own a 3DS and have your own set of highs and lows, I'd love to hear about that as well.


  1. "I could send my Mii, links from the internet browser, and images to people on my friends list. But now? No exchanging Miis through the 3DS"

    is there something wrong with the QR coding in your 3DS?

  2. "Not that I was looking forward to using the 3DS as my main camera or anything, but from using the 3DS, I do enjoy capturing 3D images, so I just wish it had a better fidelity."

    Yea, I find it hilarious Reggie is like, "...and take 3D photos!" Don't promote something, if it's not done well at least...not even 1 mega-pixel cameras? Really?
    Sure, it can do it, but that probably should be a feature not talked about much, so people aren't expecting high quality photo taking with it...after-all in 2011, would any reasonable person expect a digital camera to be less than 1 mega-pixel?

    "Speaking of, Street Fighter is the only title with online multiplayer in the U.S. so far, and I'm not aware of many games that claim they will have online integration, which is disappointing in it's own right."
    Yup...I almost did an article on this, but of course haven't.

    "I haven't had a single "black screen of death," or "loose" hinge, or dead pixel, or game that failed to be recognized when it was inserted, or"

    That's definitely good. The BSoD seems to really vary from user to user, and I know some guys with the 3DS that have gotten it often enough to call it annoying.

    I'm hoping that the May update is really good, and that the browser, eShop, and other features work out really well. It could be a deciding factor for a summer purchase for me...

  3. @Falco8
    Of course not, and exchanging Mii's through QR codes is great if you want to spread a Mii you made that is based on someone famous around the internet, since it means you don't have to add anyone as friends, but it's just a step backwards that you can't send them online to friends without the use of a PC.

    Well, the 3DS isn't a camera, but I understand your point. Generally, cameras in video game applications aren't high-res. Google could be letting me down, but I believe Xbox Live Vision, PlayStation Eye, the PSP Camera, and Kinect are at 640 x 480, which is 0.3072 mega-pixels. I think I said in the impression piece dedicated to the cameras on the 3DS that I know nothing about cameras, so I don't know if the lower resolution camera use is due to processor issues, or if everyone is being cheap.