Thursday, April 07, 2011

The 3DS is Dead, Long Live the 3DS...

So I got a 3DS on launch day. I feel like I've finally, utterly turned into an adult. Normally I get super-geeked about these things, but even though I went to a midnight launch (late, I had to return the next day to pick up the damned thing), I still was not that excited when I got it in my hot little hands. Maybe it was the prospect of no real, great launch titles, but I just wasn't "feelin it".

Though I do remember when I got my DS back in 2004 on launch day, only wound up getting Mario and not being that excited. The PSP's launch titles were kinda horrible, too, if I remember correctly. (Though I did play an amazing amount of Untold Legends and Ridge Racer at first) In fact, I was so dissatisfied with the launch year's worth of offerings for the PSP, that I ebayed the hell out of it only to buy another one later for Monster Hunter, the Power Stone Collection, Persona and other titles.

But this seemed almost like Nintendo was "sick" or something. These offerings were so one-dimensional that I wholeheartedly agree with all of the reviews that say "Pilotwings and Steel Diver should be included as tech demos." I've never seen such lackluster titles, especially considering this is a system launch and this is Nintendo. I would've almost rather waited until May or so, if that meant that Zelda & Kid Icarus were coming out. Street Fighter is pretty good, encapsulating everything that made the console versions good, whilst trotting out the 3D in an effective way, but it still feels shoehorned - rushed for launch time.

I'll say it up front, I sold both Pilotwings and Steel Diver for $5 less than I purchased them for, on ebay approximately 2 days after purchase. It's kinda ridiculous that Pilotwings has zero replayability, inexplicably includes a "free flight" mode that restricts you to a grand total of 2 minutes in the air, but the lack of modes or moreover, variety, is just beyond the pale. The 3D looks nice, but that's about it. The graphics aren't wonderful, it uses the generic-looking, ubiquitous Miis and a tiny island.

And then there's Steel Diver. Just what in the hell they were trying to accomplish here is beyond my grasping. I read elsewhere that Miyamoto wanted to create a "realistic" sub simulator, for a long time now. Well, mission accomplished? I will grant that the subs do control like subs, in that you can only use the sliders on the bottom screen to control them - but most people controlling submarines aren't doing so from the side. Which brings up another interesting point: for a 3D gaming system, why would they lead with a side-scrolling title? Controlling the sub on-the-fly would be described as "interesting" at best, irritatingly frustrating at worst. There are 2 sliders, one for horizontal & one for vertical - or throttle & dive. The other problem is that the fire buttons are on the touch screen, too, and for as responsive as it is, there is that weird slight delay when you're trying to control a vehicle in a twitch-reaction game. Even borrowing a page from iPhone programmers and using the gyroscope to control the sub would've been better. Speaking of, there is a mode that utilizes the gyro as a "periscope", where you physically have to turn you/the system around to shoot down subs. But again, this is more of a showcase/gimmick than anything. The backgrounds animate well, and the contrast of foreground and background in 3D are nice, but that wasn't enough to dispel the frustration factor with the controls, and the overall shortness (7 missions) and clumsiness of this title.

I did experience that twinge of "new" and "wow" when I first opened/turned on the system, because, to be honest, the 3D effect is cool, the OS & extras are nice and everything is well-designed. I can feel the future potential here, I just hope they utilize it correctly. The distinction between the DS and the Wii - in my opinion at least (and why I got rid of my Wii after 2 months) was the fact that by and large the (successful) companies that made DS games knew when to use the touch screen and didn't just use it as a crutch or gimmick to try and push vanity over gameplay & substance, and the Wii just seems like it never evolved out of that casual, surface-only gaming that I wound up selling it over. But the fact that they're already retrofitting previously-released hits that lend themselves to 3D, it seems like we don't have that much to worry about.

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