The Nintendo 3DS is approaching its second birthday this spring, and it's doing quite well worldwide. In fact, it has better lifetime sales than the mega-popular DS did at the same age. Still, in a world full of smartphones and tablet devices, not everyone sees the need for a new handheld game console.
What makes the 3DS worth a purchase? Some of its many features, like the augmented reality cards, haven't progressed far beyond gimmickry. Others hold up well after two years, providing both value and entertainment. Here are some of the best features that enhance the 3DS ownership experience and make it a worthwhile purchase both now and for the future.
Not everybody loves the 3D on the 3DS, and from reading complaints on the Internet from people who can't see it or get headaches, one could get the impression that it's a terrible feature. That's far from the truth. For those of us who can see the 3D, it can enhance both graphics and gameplay. Of course, the fact that the 3D is fully adjustable means that those who dislike it can simply ignore it, but it's worth giving the device some time with the 3D turned on.
Good examples of the 3D effect can be found in Super Mario 3D Land, Kid Icarus, and Fire Emblem: Awakening. In 3D Land, the 3D effect is used creatively in order to enhance a number of the levels, especially those in which the player gets a top-down view of the action. In Kid Icarus, the depth provided by the 3D display helps a great deal in judging the distance of enemies during the flying sequences. Finally, in Fire Emblem, the 3D helps battlefield features stand out and assists in surveying the topography of the battlefield. Some of these effects may be subtle, but they can be worthwhile and make games more enjoyable.
Nintendo has done some neat things with StreetPass and SpotPass connectivity for the 3DS. While not all these experiments have turned out well, the company seems to have found a nice balance that allows even people in more rural areas to enjoy online features.
Because every game's StreetPass features work no matter what you're playing when you pass somebody, people are much more likely to get useful StreetPasses for their games than they were with the DS and DSi. As the 3DS user base has grown, more people are reporting at least occasional StreetPass hits even in smaller cities. Of course, gaming conventions and amusement parks are a haven for StreetPasses, and Nintendo's StreetPass Mii Plaza is a fun diversion while standing in line at such places.
SpotPass, on the other hand, is a feature that allows anybody with Wi-Fi access to receive new game material directly from Nintendo's servers. It has become more used and more useful since the 3DS launch, and with Nintendo promising to roll out the Nintendo Network to the 3DS in the future, it looks like the big N is not only finally getting comfortable with online connectivity, it's doing interesting things with the ability. The ability to write handwritten notes to others using Swapnote (and likely the Miiverse soon) is a particularly charming addition to the online sphere that is pure Nintendo.
Ever since the release of New Super Mario Brothers 2 over the summer, Nintendo has been working diligently to put full retail games onto its eShop. Every new first-party release from the company has come out digitally, and quite a few third parties are getting in on the action as well. Having games available digitally on the 3DS is great for travel, as well as for keeping up with titles that are fun to play in short bursts over a long period of time.
It helps that increasing storage on the 3DS is both cheap and easy, as the 3DS doesn't require proprietary SD cards. Most mainstream SD cards will work with the 3DS, and a high-speed 32 gigabyte card isn't hard to find for twenty to thirty dollars. Upgrading to a larger SD card on a single 3DS is as simple as using a computer to copy and paste the files. This is one area in which Sony should really have taken notes from Nintendo before putting out the Vita.
The 3DS software library has been building up slowly but surely, and it now boasts a nice diversity of quality titles. Between retail titles and eShop exclusives, there's something for just about everyone on the device. Some titles are travel-friendly, while others are more geared towards gamers who enjoy playing with their handheld from the comfort of home. There are plenty of platformers, puzzle games, adventure games, action games, and even a growing number of RPGs available for the 3DS, most of which are unique to the device.
The future is looking bright for the 3DS library as well. Not only are there some highly-anticipated Nintendo exclusives like Luigi's Mansion and Animal Crossing coming this year, but Nintendo is also working with third party companies to bring more Japanese titles out to North America. It's all about the games in the end, and gamers who don't have a 3DS are missing out on a lot of great current and upcoming titles. The 3DS is one of the best values for money you can get in gaming these days, and skeptics would do well to take another look at it over the coming year. They just might end up hooked.
Date: February 12, 2013