Home stretch, folks! The final part of our little list of why the 3DS is the best system out now… and other reasons where it badly needs to improve.
First, reasons 1~4 on why it’s awesome!
4. (Almost) Perfect Backwards Compatibility
Many gamers were annoyed to find that the Xbox One and PS4 launched with no backwards compatibility—indeed, something very shocking in a day and age when quite literally everything else is—from tablets, to phones, to PCs, to the DS and Wii and PS Vita (sort of). The 3DS is not only backwards-compatible, but arguably the best at it.
If you want to play a DS game on the 3DS, you just pop it in and play it. Want to play a DSi game? Download it and open it. It’s a cinch. Even the 3DS’s console brother, the Wii U, doesn’t do back-compatibility this well as it requires a cumbersome second menu and the shops are nonsensically still separate. The DSi games are merely sprinkled throughout the eShop, handily mingling with the newer 3DS eShop titles. It is almost perfect. It has only two failings: DSi games aren’t saved to, or playable from the SD card for some reason—which means they take up internal memory. The other issue is that putting the 3DS to sleep with a DS or DSi game powered actually deactivates StreetPass features. Bummer! But outside of these issues, the 3DS is leading the charge in backwards compatibility that even the massively-powered PS4 can’t match.
3. Actual, Entirely New Games and Genres
Given by how often people in entertainment (video games, TV, movies, music, etc.) just lazily copy one another attempting to glide on the success of someone else, it seems inventing new ideas is nearly impossible. And indeed, if the new generation of gaming is any indication, little to no effort has been made by anyone to actually attempt to come up with actual new concepts or ideas. At the end of the day, the XBO, PS4, and even the Wii U are largely designed to play the exact same games as the previous generation or two—but with better graphics. Not to create entirely new genres or concepts or to actually expand gaming. Twitch and the Miiverse are nice, but they don’t actually change or advance the concept of video games.
But incredibly, the 3DS has managed to do this. They may be small, but the Mii Plaza games are entirely new concepts. Something that really couldn’t be done with previous gaming technology. These games are largely (but not entirely) dependent on taking the 3DS out and meeting other people to advance. Again, the Denpa Men, while it may be technically possible on the Vita, makes perfect sense on the 3DS where a primary goal is to travel to new Wi-Fi hotspots to find new Denpa Men—largely because the 3DS is simply better in the portable category. Then there are titles like Bravely Default and Fire Emblem Awakening that allow players to meet and share weapons, items, and even attacks. Not only is it allowing the invention of new games, it is revamping classic ones. All because you carry it around with you and the systems communicate when they meet.
2. Properly Done Portability
If there is one thing in gaming to which Nintendo is undeniably the master, its portable gaming. The 3DS is no different—but has actually managed to improve upon the concept of a portable system. The 3DS practically demands that you take it with you. Both clamshell models (the original and the XL) fold and fit neatly into pretty much any pocket for on-the-go gaming. Both are also quite durable in construction to boot, which means they can handle being carried around.
Beyond that, though, you’ll really want to take it everywhere for the software. StreetPass allows players to meet one another in up to 12 games to augment or even play some of the content. Play Coins are earned by walking around, and those can be spent in several different games to unlock any number of items, stages, or other things. A game like Denpa Men requires players to move around and seek out new wireless signals to further enhance their team of heroes—that means leaving your house to snag new characters from wireless signals elsewhere!
Contrast that with the Vita. The Vita is a brilliant, powerful, gorgeous game system. It is also highly unfriendly in the portable realm. Unless you have a case, the screen is exposed. There are no games designed that demand you take the system with you—you don’t meet other Vita owners this way, and carrying the system around does nothing to enhance or broaden gameplay of any games. Personally, I love my Vita, but when I leave the house, I reach for the 3DS.
1. Truly Exclusive Games
We stand at a point in gaming where exclusive video games are becoming fewer and farther between. Suffice to say, modern game engines, friendlier release guidelines for developers, and vastly increasing cost of development means we’re seeing more and more games go multiplatform. We’re now to a technological level where a unified platform standard is essentially feasible—and could realistically happen.
Despite this, the 3DS still manages to feature a surprising number of exclusives that really only make sense on this portable system. Games that play to the strengths of the portability, the 3D, the dual screens, the eShop, what have you. Be it Etrian Odyssey, Fire Emblem Awakening, The Denpa Men, Pushmo, Rune Factory 4, or Heroes of Ruin—the 3DS has exclusives in spades—and is thus far the only modern platform with old Game Gear games and 3D-revivals of classic Sega games. The 3DS is likely to end out the generation with a larger library of exclusive games than any other current platform.
And finally, the last two points keeping the 3DS from true greatness:
2. Nintendo Has Been Too Predictable
The 3DS follows the Wii and stands out ahead of the Wii U in being yet another Nintendo system with almost no new AAA-level franchises. Nintendo has been playing safe—far too safe. So much so that it’s increasingly (especially on the Wii U) becoming a serious detriment to the company. Nintendo has, somewhat lazily, just delivered “expected” releases—more Mario, more Zelda, more Pokemon, more Kirby. The problem with “more” is that it is most definitely not “new.” And “new” is something in which Nintendo as a whole desperately needs to invest.
When Microsoft and Sony announced their new consoles, they also announced new franchises and games to support them. Nintendo did no such thing, and it shows a serious lack of growth. Again, I’m aware there are is an extremely closed-minded group of apologist Nintendo fanboys who want nothing more than the “Mario-Zelda-Pokemon” trinity, but when that’s all they want, they should be cheering for Nintendo to go 3rd Party. The fact is, unless Nintendo is doing something new, they are increasingly living in the past—and that failure to advance is failure to grow—and gamers will continue to grow up around and away from them.
To be fair, there have been a few new IPs, but they’re small and downloadable, and while necessary, they still do not carry the AAA heft necessary to maintain relevance. Dillon’s Rolling Western, Sakura Samurai, Pushmo. Those are good starts—but there should be more big titles visible on store shelves. Not just more “let’s release another entry in a popular series like Kirby or StarFox or Mario or Zelda.” There needs to be brand new franchises intended to stand with pride with the older stalwarts.
1. Fans Are Still Not Supporting 3rd Parties
Nintendo’s biggest problem since the N64 era has been the adamant apologist fanboy ilk that refuses to support 3rd party games–at some points, being adamantly against them. Granted, there are two primary reasons we buy Nintendo consoles—for Nintendo franchises, and for Nintendo creativity and quality on the hardware side. That said, the fans treat them very differently from how Microsoft or Sony fans treat their consoles. Third party companies struggled to find sales on the N64, GameCube, and Wii—largely because the core Nintendo fan did not support them. The DS had this problem as well in being about the only time ever (post GTA3) that a Grand Theft Auto game struggled to find sales. Keep in mind—GTA: Chinatown Wars on the DS remained the highest-rated game on the system since its release. The game was brilliant, complex, challenging, and addictive fun. The DS managed to challenge the PS2 as the highest-selling game system of all time, and Grand Theft Auto struggled on it. The same thing is happening on the 3DS, and if Nintendo fans are going to continue to ignore all but a few key Nintendo franchises, all the greatness it currently has will be sadly usurped—and the system will never live up to the greatness of its predecessor, let alone anything else out there.
Perhaps Nintendo needs to work closer with 3rd parties to get the games developed and sold, and perhaps Nintendo needs to promote the games better to get their fans on-board and playing something other than Zelda and Pokemon for once. There is a lot of indie support right now, but not a lot of AAA studio support and not a lot of Western support. I don’t know offhand how to fix this—but I do know one thing—developers and publishers will go where the money is. Maybe Nintendo needs to pull more stunts like they did with Bayonetta 2 and The Wonderful 101 (the latter receiving the cold shoulder from Nintendo fans anyway), maybe they need to partner with more 3rd party companies, or maybe they need to farm out Link and Mario to appear in more 3rd party games a la Soulcalibur II. Suffice to say, if Nintendo fans aren’t giving their money to these companies, then they won’t be getting the games–and if the console isn’t getting the games, then no one else is going to buy it. When you spend your money on Mario, you’re helping Nintendo–but not nearly as much as when you spend that money on Call of Duty or Rayman.