The 3DS is a bit of an odd beast, as the real launch isn’t taking place like we, as gamers, are used to. Especially from Nintendo, we expect a large advertising campaign, followed by hardware that a rabid monkey couldn’t kill and a game featuring one of the Mario brothers, preferably Mario. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to hunting ghosts again as much as the next Luigi fan, but Mario is the real heavy hitter. So what did we actually get when the 3DS launched? Well, you can look back at our launch article, or just read the next sentence. We got monkey-proof software, Nintendogs and oddly unfinished software.
The inclusion of a software button for the internet that simply told you that you’d get it soon, was a supremely weird choice. Clearly the hardware was finished to where they wanted it, and that was launch phase #1. The big Nintendo fans that were always going to buy the hardware, got it at launch, played Ghost Recon, messed about with Pilotwings and had a bit of fun showing people the AR games. Then, a lot of us sat looking wistfully at the system in the full knowledge of what it would soon be. To launch without an estore, like the DSi had had for 2 years prior, was almost inexcusable. But, now it’s here, so let’s take a look at the 3DS firmware launch and what that means to the system.
First of all, it means the wireless switch has a reason to be in the on position if you’re somewhere other than an area rich with streetpass users. I’ve not found one yet, but I’m sure they must exist. The web browser is perfectly functional, though I mean that in a no-flash kind of perfectly functional way. If you’ve used the browser on other DS systems you’ll be familiar with the basics of browsing on two screens, it works alright. I found myself reaching back for my HTC Desire Z when I wanted to do any real browsing though, as typing with a stylus isn’t any fun no matter how you slice it. But what you really care about, and what I cared about, was the estore. I had fantastic visions of wonderful 3D demos and indie titles that made interesting use of the 3rd dimension. I got 3D Excitebike, the original NES version. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.
In fact, I was very pleasantly surprised by it, I was a bit of an Excitebike fan in the distant past, and had forgotten how much fun it was. When you turn the 3D slider up to max, the tracks recede into the screen, the crowd moves into the background and sky appears! It doesn’t seem like a big thing, and I suppose it wasn’t, but it felt like the game opened up, like the sky had always been there and we just couldn’t see it. I don’t think it was actually any easier to play, but what I had intended to just be a laugh at a terrible gimmicky version of a classic, I accidentally played for almost an hour, I didn’t want to put it down. If you haven’t yet downloaded it, it’s free until July 7th and well worth the absolutely nothing it costs. I’d be willing to pay a few dollars for it, and I think that’s what Nintendo is banking on. We will have to see what becomes of the 3D Classics label they’ve created, I’m cautiously optimistic.