Nintendo’s 3DS eShop takes a Bold, although shaky step into the future of Handheld gaming.
After just four months out of the starting gate, Nintendo’s 3DS receives a breath of new life with its new eShop. Much like Apple’s own iTunes app store, Nintendo’s 3DS eShop brings a whole new table of exciting features to the already revolutionary handheld console. In sync with this year’s prominent gaming expo, E3, Nintendo list of promises has put smiles on many faces.
The new eShop allows users to view 3D videos, download free apps, and purchase games from an ever growing catalog! Though content varies from region to region, pretty much the entire world has been gifted with free downloads of Pokédex 3D and 3D Classics Excitebike.
Backwards compatibility with the older DSiWares have been added as well, although with a few issues. However, with a total of five applications total up for download on launch day for most countries, many customers feel the selection is a bit anemic. Considering that three of those apps are actually ancient Gameboy games from more than 20 years ago, and set at prices far too high to qualify as “dollar apps,” many 3DS owners feel a bit trapped and disappointed. Adding injury, North America’s eShop features six impressive 3D video trailers of big games such Zelda, Mario Kart and Resident Evil, yet Europe, Asia and Australia only feature one Zelda video.
However, along with a few faux pas, Nintendo has brought a hefty serving of bacon to the table (or kosher hotdogs, for those who ask in advance). Up first to bat is Nintendo’s Pokédex 3D app. For those unfamiliar with the Pokémon, or doubt its relevance, the franchise has earned over $16 billion since 1996, only second to the Mario franchise.
The 3D Pokédex allows users to look up all strategic information related to their favorite little critters, and view them in gorgeous, flawless 3D, complete with animations. The graphics are stunning, featuring all the next-gen texture, lighting, and shading effects one would expect from a PS3 or 360 game. The app starts with 16 critters, and unlocks a few new ones onto the 3DS every day. Users must trade with friends to, you guessed it, catch ‘em all.
Next up is 3D Classics Excitebike. This game is a wonderful sign of things to come. Nintendo has cleverly taken a classic, top class game, maintained its retro charm, but rebuilt the game with fully 3D graphics. The best way to describe it is like play a high-definition game where everything is made out of legos. The game itself is charming, addictive, and features a custom track maker. Nintendo promises more fancy 3D Classics “remakes” to come.
Lastly, the new 3DS update comes with a fabulous Web Browser. While users won’t be able to watchi youtube videos or view websites requiring Flash, many basic things such as sending emails and checking strategy guides for games can be done easily and quickly. The Browser is basic, simple, clean, and easy to use. It works, but won’t be impressing anyone who has seen the internets before.
This is where the free apps end, and a little bit of confusion and heartache start. Under the 3DS’ Virtual Console, Nintendo has released Super Mario Land, Tennis, and Alleyway. An impressive feature that comes with all Virtual Console games is the use of a single Save State. This allows the player to save at any second of gameplay, and then load that point in time any time they want.
Super Mario Land sports pretty much zero appeal except for players looking for a short nostalgia trip. Younger players who are accustomed to the super round, shiny Mario from the Wii will probably burst into tears of confusion and disappointment after having spent $4 to $6 (depending on where you live), to watch blurry black dots wiggle around on a gray screen.
Tennis seems an odd decision of game for Nintendo to post as one of three launch titles for the eShop. Simply put, the only appeal this game has is the laughs you get from how primitive and ancient it is.
The last western launch title is Alleyway, another frustratingly odd choice for an eShop launch title. This game is a standard Breakout / Arkanoid clone, except that it looks like a bunch of blurry gray dots wiggling around on a gray screen.
Sadly, each of these games costs a few more dollars than 3DS owners in general feel like they should be paying. iPhone apps run free, or even for $1, and feature far more playability, fun, depth, length, appeal, and more colors than just black and gray.
Link’s Awakening DX, an epic adventure of grand proportions, originally released on the Game Boy Color, was released a day or two later. However, in Australia, eShopers must fork out $9 for this.
Editor’s Note: I grew up playing Link’s Awakening, and still view it as my favorite game of all time. However, for $9, I would rather spend the extra $10-$15 dollars and buy the Cartridge, complete with Box and Booklet on eBay or Amazon.
As an avid old school game (I own two Atari 2600s, I still play NES, SNES, and GEN more than I play my Xbox 360 or Wii), I applaud Nintendo for its attempt to appeal to the nostalgia in its long time customers. However, perhaps the big N is reaching a bit too far back. The Virtual Console games are far too old and primitive for their asking price, and are completely counter to the innovation and technology the 3DS is supposed to stand for.
Editor’s Note: One would think 1929 would be a fantastic year for a bottle of wine. However, if I reached into the fridge and pulled out a jar of mayonnaise from 1929, I’d feel the need to wash my hands with boiling water. I feel like Nintendo is trying to lead this eShop with mayonnaise, instead of wine.
Starting June 16th, Nintendo swears upon the grave of the Virtual Boy that it will update and expand the eShop every Thursday. That being said, the eShop is streamlined, clean and easy to use. It may be lacking some features such as 3D screenshots, or surprisingly a lack of 3D use altogether, but Nintendo can address those any time with future updates.
The new content on the eShop, which sparse, is fantastic and shows great promise in the future of the eShop. On the flip side, the nostalgic content, comprising the majority of the content in the eShop at the moment, falls painfully short of being significant in any way. Nintedo has an endless supply of brilliant titles, and they choose a Tennis game only slightly more basic than Pong, a Breakout / Arkanoid clone, and the weakest Mario entry in the entire franchise? To add to the heartache, many eShop users are complaining that their 3DS prepaid cards simply do not work at all.
If Nintendo intends to be any sort of competition for Apple’s App market, they will definitely need to rethink their strategy. If 3D trailers for upcoming games are available for one region, it should be standard fare that it also be available for all regions, as many customers feel alienated.
Even with a couple shaky steps, Nintendo’s 3DS eShop is off to a decent start. It features a few excellent apps which provide a strong foundation for future products and services to build upon. With the promise of constant updates, Nintendo may just taken a few steps, although a bit wobbly, in the right direction. Stay tuned for more updates on the latest developments!
Are you into gadgets and this sort of fun stuff? Check out the Imaging & Entertainment Expo in Sydney this June!