When the successor to Nintendo’s wildly successful ‘DS’ was released back in 2011, many gamers didn’t really know how to take it. Sure the 3D effect was nifty and it was definitely admirable that Nintendo were trying their hand at something a little different (though not entirely original if you’re old enough to remember the ill-fated ‘Virtual Boy’) but to the average consumer there was little besides the added dimension to differentiate it from already existing (and cheaper) hardware.
As such it had a difficult first year that wasn’t helped by an almost complete lack of engaging software. Fast-forward to Christmas 2013 however and the 3DS is dominating the handheld market, absolutely trouncing the technically superior Sony ‘Vita’. Why? Because of the games that’s why.
The 3DS library could now quite comfortably be referred to as ‘extensive’ and of an incredibly quality. There really is something for everyone. From the hard core-, turn based strategy of ‘Fire Emblem’ to the universally appealing Mario games and casual favourites such as the ‘Lego’ games.
The graphics might not be able to match up to the highly defined likes of the Vita but there’s always been a charm to Nintendo and the slight fuzz of the top screen actually enhances that charm (at least in my opinion). Although if you have a 3DS and like the idea of the PlayStation Vita (especially if you have a PS4) you could always sell your 3DS online for money off.
But the success of the 3DS is down to more than just its games surely? The console itself deserves some recognition and part of that recognition belongs to the redesigned ‘XL’ 3DS console that launched in 2012, a godsend for older gamers with bigger hands and weaker vision who found the original model uncomfortable and ‘toy like’.
The lack of a true analogue stick irked some detractors but in truth the circle pad worked and still works surprisingly well, especially in fully 3D games such as ‘Super Mario 3D Land’. The interface too has grown into a remarkably useable and attractive system with a navigational immediacy that allows easy access to an ergonomic ‘eShop’, video player, YouTube app and a surprisingly in-depth free game that rewards users for getting ‘out and about’ with their systems.
Indeed ‘Street pass’ was a feature that was overlooked when the 3DS first launched but is now seen as a serious game in its own right. Simply taking your 3DS with you on a bus ride into work might net you a certain amount of ‘coins’ that can be used to progress in the charming RPG built into every system.
There is also less reliance put on using the stylus now too (something I could never really get to grips with) as the system strives to move away from its origins (little more than a ‘DS with 3D’). The fact that the vast library of DS and DSI games are able to be played on the console however, should not be overlooked.
The online eShop has also grown in leaps and bounds over the past 2 years, with a selection of quality indie titles such as ‘Steam world Dig’ and ‘Pullblox’ available exclusively through Nintendo’s bespoke digital service.
2013: The Year of the 3/2DS?
2013 has seen the release of not only the first stand-alone 3DS Pokémon games and the release of a new Legend of Zelda game (both of which are obviously fantastic) but also a hardware redesign in the shape of the ’2DS’. The 2DS might seem like a step backwards on paper as it completely does away with not only the ’3D’ aspect of the console but the portability (unlike its brethren it doesn’t fold in on itself and so is far less convenient to carry around) but look closer.
It’s not only significantly cheaper than the 3DS and 3DS XL (under £100 no less) but is designed to appeal specifically to younger gamers who might not really care about the 3D effect or the ability to fit the console in their pockets. It might look ugly as sin, but it’s built like a tank so for 3-8 year olds who are not yet familiar with terms such as ‘cool’ or ‘slick’, the only thing that will matter is that they get to play Pokémon with their friends and parents won’t have to worry about buying a replacement! Speaking of which, the release of a new Pokémon game is always seen as something of a boilerplate moment for gaming in general and the release of Pokémon ‘X’ and ‘Y’ was no different.
This year also saw the wonderfully inventive ‘Luigi’s Mansion 2′ hit the shelves to great critical and commercial acclaim as well as new entries in the ‘Animal Crossing’ and ‘Professor Layton’ series, both of which are landmark ‘system sellers’ that have kept the 3DS shifting units throughout the year.
Whilst the Wii U might be struggling (even the release of the excellent ‘Super Mario 3D World’ doesn’t appear to have helped its prospects) the 3DS is projected to enjoy an even stronger 2014.
This month, Nintendo are finally coalescing the Wii U and 3DS eShops so that the service is more in line with what Sony have to offer with their PlayStation ‘family’ and with a new ‘Super Smash Bros.’ game scheduled for release sooner rather than later, the future has never looked brighter for the little handheld that could!
Charles Barley is a freelance copywriter and early adopter of the 3DS. He’s been playing Nintendo games since he was still in nappies and can’t wait to see what ‘The Big N’ pull out of the bag next!