Sunday, January 23, 2011


Regarding the 3DS

So this week we found out all about Nintendo's plans for the 3DS.

And... yeah. I don't want one.

I'm sure it'll be cool, and it'll make a lot of people very happy, and Nintendo will get a lot of money for it, and yes, being the consumer whore I am, I'll probably end up getting one anyway. Or maybe I won't.

See, when I say something like "I don't want a DSi XL.", what I really mean is, "I wish my DSi was a DSi XL." It's less about a lack of desire for a product and more a statement of resentment about the whole process of upgrading from a perfectly good piece of technology to something that's marginally better. When my desire for the product outweighs my resentment, the upgrade happens.

There are features in the 3DS that appeal to me -- 3D movies and photographs, augmented reality games -- but I'm not sure if they can really outweigh the marks against it. What are those marks?

Battery Life

This is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows about it, but no one in the press is impolite enough to point out how much it sucks.

Three to five hours. On a three hour charge.

And keep in mind, this is just the "press release" estimate. I've never bothered to clock them, but it never seems like my Nintendo portables ever last as long as the official estimates suggest. I remember how quick the red light came on for my original Game Boy Advance -- and that one had a much higher battery life expectancy. Three to five hours? What the hell good is that?

I remember that the Game Boy's strength over its flashier portable competition was always that the batteries seemed to last, in comparison, forever. This is a huge step backwards. It's seriously going to hobble the usefulness of the device.


Nintendo portables have been slowly creeping up in cost over the last decade, haven't they? The Game Boy through the Game Boy Advance SP had always hovered around the $100 mark. The DS started to tiptoe past that point, but most models were still under $150. The DSi XL pushed perilously close to $200, but that's just the price you pay for getting the deluxe model.

Now we're at $250? That's the price the Wii launched at. And speaking of the Wii, the games are said to be going for $40-$50 apiece. I dunno, to me, part of the appeal of portable games has always been that the games are right on the cusp of impulse purchase price. $30 for a Pokemon game? Why not get both versions?

This is a huge money sink. I guess that speaks to how much technology is on board, but... do we really need that much technology to make a fun game these days? This is going to lead to a really high-end, competitive market. I don't think developers are going to find that it prints money the same way the DS did.


Launch games are almost always shit. The original DS proved this -- there were hardly any games worth owning until the system was finally updated to the DS Lite.

What's been announced for the 3DS so far? Ports of Nintendo 64 games. The sequels to the same franchises that hit every new Nintendo console. The only thing I'm really interested in is the Phoenix Wright vs. Professor Layton game that's in the works, but it'll be years before that makes it to America.


This one kind of sticks in my craw. I've noted before how much I like the DS for the spirit of game development it brings to the table -- it has the horsepower to do some fancy 3D effects, but its heart and soul is in 2D gaming. Now that Nintendo's moving forward with a handheld that, reportedly, looks almost as good as the Wii, is this going to be the end of sprite games? At the very least, I can't see 2D games enjoying much success in the first year or two of the system's life as gamers and critics fawn over the 3D effects and seek games that make the most use of it. (Remember when the DS came out and there were reviews that took points off for "not using the system's features"?)

It'll Be Replaced in Two Years

Bet on it. With the DS, Nintendo sent the message that early adoption is for suckers. From 2004 to 2010, there have been four different hardware models with successively better features -- on average, a new version every year and a half. Considering how forgettable the first round of games is going to be, there's really nothing to lose by waiting for Nintendo to work out the new model with the fifteen-hour battery life and ever-cooler new features.

Nothing to lose, that is, except your $250.


Tuesday, January 04, 2011


The Multiverse Celebrates Mario's 25th

Universe A

Despite Internet rumors that Nintendo was planning a special release to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Brothers, the anniversary has come and gone, leaving hard-core Nintendo fans empty-handed. C'mon, Nintendo, throw us a bone. Would it be that hard to at least throw Super Mario All-Stars on the Virtual Console or something? Even if it came at a premium price to discourage competition with the NES games, it would be better than nothing.

Universe B

Nintendo fans have been wondering for months what it would take to get the Big N to remember the Virtual Console service. The answer: Mario's 25th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Super Mario All-Stars has been released for the Virtual Console service at a shocking price of 1200 Wii Points -- more than the price of most Nintendo 64 games. While most people expected the inflated price to keep the other Super Mario games on the service competitive, it comes across as a slap in the face to Mario's hard-core fans. Why couldn't we get something like a special collector's edition? It wouldn't be hard to put the ROM on a disc and bundle it with some extra content to really celebrate Mario's history.

Universe C

And what do you get for your $30? A dinky little SNES ROM tucked away in the corner of a giant Wii disc, ten music tracks taken straight from the games, and a thin art book with quick blurbs about each game. Why not an updated version with New Super Mario Brothers graphics? Why not include Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, and maybe even Super Mario Sunshine? Why not full interviews to give it a real sense of history, or fully orchestrated remixes of the game music?

Universe D

New Super Mario All-Stars: Anniversary Edition just comes across as another opportunity for Nintendo to cash in on a retread of its properties. While it's really cool to see how Super Mario Brothers 3 looks with fully 3D characters, the novelty wears off pretty quickly, and you're left with the fact that these are the same games you've played for the last twenty years with a new paintjob. And seeing Super Mario 64 in the new style just makes you appreciate how much better the Super Mario Galaxy games are. The bonus CD features 18 beautifully-orchestrated remixes of classic Mario music, and it's interesting to thumb through the 125-page "History of Super Mario Brothers" book, but the prohibitive $100 price tag is sure to turn off all but the most hard-core Mario fans. Maybe Nintendo should stop trying to milk their back catalogue like this and focus their efforts on bringing us some new games instead.

Universe E

Super Mario Galaxy 2 arrived to critical acclaim this holiday season, but it was all but lost amid high-profile releases like Microsoft's Kinnect. Reportedly, the game had been done since the spring, but Nintendo held off so they could release it to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Brothers. Maybe it would have been best if they'd just released it in the spring like they'd planned instead of trying to put together a release to coincide with a milestone.


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