(Continuing on from part 1, I’m going to write a brief bit on the other games and demos I tried at the 3DS launch.)

It’s become an oft repeated cliche about console launches that there’s nothing decent to buy when a platform first comes out. For all the hype and midnight queues, once you’ve got your hands on the machine there isn’t anything worth playing on it until at least six months down the line. Rushed development on unfamiliar hardware in order to meet the strictest of deadlines – it’s a formula that’s rarely conducive to creating good titles. But the exceptions to this rule of thumb are also notable. The Xbox launched with the original Halo, a title that not only justifed the console’s existence but also Microsoft’s rather surprising entry into the gaming hardware market. Super Mario 64 was similarly important, a game that felt at home on the N64′s weird tri-prong controller and also showed how Nintendo’s mascot could not only remain relevant while moving to 3 dimensions but also still blaze the trail for others to follow. Arguably the most important launch title was Wii Sports, the free pack-in title that for many families was the only reason they ever bought the console and made it into the must-have gadget of the time.

3DS Built In Games

Ok, so perhaps my introduction wasn’t fair on the 3DS, building up to it’s packaged software by mentioning one of the best-selling games ever. From the looks of things, Face Raiders and AR Games are more like nifty distractions that are fun to show off for a little bit but don’t go any deeper. Face Raiders works well as a word-of-mouth demo – once you’ve taken a photo of someone’s face they become enemies for you to shoot at by moving around the 3DS itself, while the level background is whatever the camera is recording in your surroundings. The face-photo is sort of 3D too although it mostly just seemed to be mapped onto a sphere in this game. It was quite fun though and by encouraging you to take photos of new people, it also quietly encourages you to show the console off to more friends – or, alternatively, to start creepily photographing strangers.

AR Games puts a boss encounter in familiar surroundings

AR Games meanwhile makes use of the AR (augmented reality) cards packed in with the console. The game I played (I don’t know if there’s more than one) had a card lying flat on a table – looking at it through the 3DS camera instead ‘revealed’ a 3D monster on the desk. You shot at it through cross-hairs on the 3DS display so you had to move yourself in order to adjust your aim and it felt a bit like playing some kind of real-life/virtual hybrid FPS. You could move up to and around the monster from any angle while shifting weak points forced you keep circling to get a shot off. As a game beyond the few minutes I played, it would require more to sustain it – but as a new experience it revealed some of the potential in the hardware. Having the game taking place on the desk made the monster’s virtual presence seem very real – which made some of the later effects, when the desktop surface shimmered and warped, even more impressive.
Continue reading 3DS Launch Titles – First Impressions part 2

Two proper Nintendo VIPs

Two proper Nintendo VIPs

The Event

I was lucky enough to be at Nintendo’s VIP launch event for the new 3DS in London, despite being a Very Unimportant P. Nintendo could certainly be accused of putting on the event purely for the benefit of furthering their standing with the mainstream – hosting was by Russell Kane and there were performances by Plan B and Parade (a girl band…no, I’ve got no idea either).

For the cameras, filming for Sky 3D, there were more than a few knocks against geeks as if to reassure everyone that they weren’t about to catch some kinds of nerd-disease for turning up or tuning in. When they cut to a presenter live at the HMV queue counting down to launch, out came the tired cliches at the expense of the eager punters there. It’s obvious that Nintendo wanted the buzz of a midnight queue event so why go on to imply that the hardcore faithful fanbase they are sad weirdos?

The kind of celebs present – the likes of Blue and Louise Redknapp – are people you’ve either seen or could imagine doing their gaming in cream coloured DFS living rooms. In other words, the event (and particularly the coverage) was targeting the same market Nintendo created and expanded with the original DS and Wii, and who can blame them? Sales to new demographics are what made the original DS the monster success it is but one or two of those same demographics are now likely to have an iPhone in their back pocket competing for their attention.
Continue reading 3DS Launch – First Impressions part 1