Launch has been consumed. We've played with the AR cards and gotten used to the new stylus. Believe it or not, the 3DS has been out in the United States for almost a month now.
As far as console launches go, 3DS' wasn't the most jaw-dropping. Lines to buy the new console were surprisingly small outside the most populous areas of the country. Yet in its modesty, the successor to the DS was able to make some pretty decent commercial gains. Nintendo, however, could have made things a little easier on themselves (and 3DS owners) on day one.
What Didn't Work
Whether you're a fan of the system or not, you have to admit that Nintendo dropped the ball on a few things. Aside from quibbles about the system itself (headphone jack and stylus placement, battery life, some issues with backwards compatibility), the launch line-up was weak. Though Steel Diver, Pilotwings, and Nintendogs + Cats are decent enough, there's no doubt Nintendo could have used at least one major first-party series to lead the charge. It's understandable why they didn't take this route—lesser known Nintendo-developed games often get overshadowed by the Zeldas, Metroids, and Marios, and saving their mascot plumber and other first-party fan favorites for a later date ensures a stronger and more evenly-distributed line-up of games throughout the year. (Also, let's face it: when was the last time any system had a particularly stellar launch line-up?)
Games aside, Nintendo blundered a few of the system's built in features. The "messaging" system for friends is more restrictive than Twitter (essentially, you're allowed to write a 16ish character message that's broadcasted to all of your friends, with the equivalent of an "@" function), and the lack of e-store is borderline inexcusable. If Nintendo was really having that much trouble making sure the nuts and bolts for any 3DS Ware or Game Boy and GBA virtual console programs were working, they should have delayed the launch a month. It's as simple as that. When you ship a console with a touchscreen button whose function is to tell you, "This feature will be available in a future system update," it's going to make you—and your product—look a bit unprofessional. It would have been just as easy to leave the button out, adding it in said system update.
What Did Work
The 3D effect works beautifully. The 3DS is a powerful little machine, and Nintendo's ingenious use of glasses-free 3D tech is a site to behold (albeit one that takes some visual adjustment.) Luckily, it seems that concerns about the 3D effect causing massive headaches or being unhealthy seem to be spurious—once you've played the system for a bit, your eyes get used to seeing these games in 3D. Perhaps it's just because the 3D we've seen so far has been little more than an aftereffect; I seriously doubt we'll start to see anything that really pushes the tech in new or interesting ways until, say, Kojima's MGS3 Redux, or whatever Nintendo's big 3DS franchise debut is. (The polished up N64 ports don't count—my money is on Super Mario, set to be unveiled at E3.) Regardless, having played the 3DS for several hours with a handful of different games, it seems pretty clear that concerns over 3D were probably mostly because our eyes weren't used to dealing with that added layer of depth yet.
There's something to be said for the system's interface as well. The 3DS is set up like a streamlined, touch-friendly, portable version of the Wii's menu system, feeling almost like Nintendo's take on an iOS app screen-style interface. For what it's worth, it actually makes me wish there were more to do with it; even little touches like the 3D menu icons (and rotating DS cart when using the backwards compatibility) are a fun accent to the system's 3D capabilities.
The 3DS will greatly benefit from the launch of the e-store, which is supposed to hit next month. That said, Nintendo was smart enough to pack the console with other stuff to do. The camera was a fun diversion, as were the impressive AR games, and Face Raiders was a nice touch as well. More pick-up and play kind of apps would go a long way toward making the 3DS feel like a fully-fledge mobile device, which seems to be the inevitable trend all portable tech is rapidly evolving toward. Also, despite the problems with backwards compatibility (seriously, that resolution problem can't be more than a firmware update away), being able to use the analog stick for some games (read: Super Mario 64) is a godsend. Now we just need some games.
Although we won't really have a good idea about what the next year is going to look like until after this year's E3, there are a few promising titles that have already been announced. The aforementioned Super Mario is alleged to hit in time for the year's holiday rush, after the remade Ocarina of Time and Starfox 64 come out in the summer. Mario Kart 3DS is supposedly much closer to release than a lot of people suspect, and Kid Icarus is expected to release sometime in the fall. So far, Nintendo hasn't said much about plans for Paper Mario 3D, Metroid, Donkey Kong, or any of their other trademark franchises.
Third-party games are little a murkier. Capcom's Resident Evil: The Mercenaries—a beefed up version of the mini-game we've been playing since RE4's 2004 debut on the Gamecube—should be out by summer, while the positively stunning-looking RE: Revelations will hopefully make its projected fall release. On the indie-ish side of the spectrum, Cave Story is being brought to the 3DS, and Super Meat Boy developers Team Meat are working on something for the system as well. Dream Trigger, a minimalist 3D shooter, hits next month. While there aren't that many bigger titles coming out in the next six months, the trickle of interesting new games is probably enough to keep our systems from the fate of the PSP—alone and collecting dust. We'll have more coverage on the 3DS and its lineup as it's announced.
By Steve Haske
CCC Freelance Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*