Monday, December 30, 2013


The Year of the 3DS

As I've said, this was the year that the 3DS really came into its own for me.  I've talked about the games, but there's also been a lot of little cumulative things that Nintendo's been doing since launch that have finally added up to a system that makes sense.

The 3DS XL

Let's start with the big one -- the 3DS XL.  I bitterly resent Nintendo's strategy of releasing a new model of their hardware every year, but when they went on sale at Target for $150?  Yeah, I bit.

This is easily the sharpest machine Nintendo's ever released.  It looks cool folded up, it feels cool in your hands.  It's simply beautiful without doing anything else.

Then, of course, there's the stylus.  I hated the retractable stylus that came with the original unit.  Hated it.  When a game is primarily button-input and it makes you switch to the touchscreen for something, you hold the system with one hand and pull the stylus out with the other.  With both hands full, how do you extend the stylus to full size?  With your mouth?  I never liked that idea.  It was so repellant to me that I would just as often use the little nub without extending it or just rub my fingers all over the screen.  It's nice to have the full-size stylus back.

And just one more cute little feature.  The folding screen clicks comfortably into a sort of "laptop" configuration, which is perfect for setting it up on the table to view streaming video.  Which I've gotten into lately, what with Nintendo Video hosting some cooler shows these days.

All in all, it's a great piece of hardware.  I just wish they could've gotten it right the first time.

The Shop

One of my biggest peeves about Nintendo's online stores has always been that of monetary balance.  Specifically, you can't just add the exact value you need to complete your current purchase.  But now you can!  I'm not sure when they added the feature -- the button isn't labelled very helpfully so it's easy to overlook it -- but now that I've found it, it's been nothing but good times.

I'm starting to make the mental shift toward downloading the major titles rather than buying them on game cards.  In fact, I'm starting to consider repurchasing the games that I already own just for the convenience of having them with me all the time.  The Download Later feature complements this nicely.  Instead of driving around to shops or waiting for an Amazon delivery, I can set up a download, snap the system shut, and wait.  The download times are, understandably, pretty long for this kind of thing, but there's something pleasant about opening up my 3DS and getting a message that a new game has been delivered, magically, right out of the ether while I was asleep or at work.

A few things about it could still stand some improvement.  The organization still leaves something to be desired.  I know there's not a lot of real estate on those small screens, but browsing is still kind of a pain.  It's fine for finding the new titles, the popular titles, and the stuff that Nintendo wants to boost at the moment, but it's kind of hard to discover something.  Sometimes I just like to go to a video game aisle and browse everything, just to see if there's anything that didn't get on my radar recently.  I'd like to see more of that in my download shopping experience.

Also, I'd like the option to download a whole season of Bear Shark or Dinosaur Office to watch at my leisure.  I got money, guys.  Just putting that out there.


With Nintendo pushing a digital distribution future, it's nice to see some consumer-friendly moves being taken to make our digital purchases feel more "real".  Specifically, it looks like Nintendo's removed the restriction on how many times you can transfer a piece of software.  Thank goodness!  In fact, just hearing about this move was enough to give me the confidence to buy a hardware upgrade.  Sure, you can only transfer to or from a given system once a week, and it's an all or nothing deal -- you can't, for example, digital loan a single game to a friend for a week.  But it's something I'm prepared to live with.  It's a good compromise between Nintendo's wishes for security and the consumer's wishes for freedom.

And now we've got Miiverse on the 3DS.  The feature is starting to grow on me a bit.  It's somewhere between a Nintendo-centric Twitter and a cleaner, friendlier GameFAQs forum.  I don't know that I'll ever form the attachment to it that I have with other online social sites, but it's been kind of cute to pop in and see what other people are doing in Animal Crossing.

So that's where I sit.  Let's see what the next year brings us.


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