So Close, Yet So Far With The Nintendo 3DS

I recently found myself in possession of a New Nintendo 3DS.

This is my first 3DS, and my first handheld console since the DS lite. The 3DS took some getting used to, especially compared to the DS lite, and I felt like it suffered from some minor feature bloat. Despite this, I managed to wrap my head around it and I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit. Just like with the DS and GBA before it, I’ve fallen in love with this latest Nintendo handheld.

With some minor reservations.

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I love my 3DS. But I can’t help but feel that there are some serious problems with it which are hard to ignore. From the way it handles online functionalities to the way they’ve distributed it, the 3DS comes across as emblematic of Nintendo’s missteps and backwards policies in recent years.

The 3DS was one of Nintendo’s big ventures into the world of online functionality, with things like patches, DLC, and online profiles, and it was a big step for Nintendo. But coming at it in 2015, a lot of the online functionality seems half-baked. For starters, the process of connecting to the Internet on the 3DS is a bizarre and arcane ritual dreamt up by someone who has clearly never used a computer before.

The 3DS gives users 3 slots to save internet connections to, and seemingly has no way to open the browser while attempting to connect. This means that connecting to public wi-fi networks which require you to open a browser to connect is impossible on the 3DS. With the prevalence of public wi-fi networks that operate this way, this means that you effectively are only able to use the internet on this handheld system at home,  using your own wi-fi network.

The way that the Eshop is set up is also baffling. Some categories, like Indies and Virtual Console, are self-explanatory and contain exactly what they say they do. Others, however, are somewhat less coherent. The upper row of items contains a mix of games, genres, arbitrary categories, and personal icons like Wish List and Settings. Categories such as “top holiday picks” and “trending on miiverse” are placed in-between games and videos with little rhyme or reason, while some icons simply lead to a list of videos without a single game.

The Eshop also does a poor job of conveying information, and often has misleading names for categories or places the same content in multiple categories. One example would be “new releases” and “recent arrivals” being two different icons, with the only difference being recent arrivals also showing new videos. Other examples of misleading names would include “future releases” taking you to a list of videos for upcoming games, “DLC available” taking you to a list of games with DLC instead of a list of DLC, and “Eshop cards” just taking you to a video of games you could buy with Eshop cards. The Eshop also contains a menu dedicated to videos of Wii U games, despite the Wii U and 3DS lacking the cross-buy and cross-play functionality seen in the PS4, PS3, and PS Vita.

Searching on the Eshop is also a hassle, with videos and games being mixed together by default. You can filter it to just show games, but the process is less than smooth and you have to do this every single time you search for something. The Eshop also lacks a comprehensive list of genres or categories, leaving users to rely on tags applied to certain products. Making the confusion worse is the way the Eshop adds a “new” tag to things which have recently been updated, regardless of whether or not anything new has been added since you last checked. From top to bottom, the Eshop feels like a chore to navigate.

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Nintendo’s other online offerings also leave much to be desired. The Miiverse is a neat idea with some cool potential, but the execution and sharing is flawed. Users are only able to share screenshots of the exact moment they’re at when they open the Miiverse, and are only able to do so for games that have Miiverse communities. So if you see something you’d like to share but don’t have an internet connection, you’re out of luck. Similarly, sharing something you find unique/interesting/etc. is impossible for games which lack a Miiverse. Certain games like Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer let you take screenshots and share them on social media (through a convoluted process) but for those that don’t, your sharing options are limited.

Nintendo’s online profile function, the Nintendo Network id, also feels unfinished and poorly thought-out. The id is used in online features and is required to download games/demos, but it can only be tied to one 3DS and one Wii U. You can transfer your id (and associated game licenses) from one 3DS to another, but this requires a physical transfer which effectively removes your ability to play those games on an old 3DS. This also means that if you lose your 3DS, you need to deactivate that id and make a new one. There is no cloud saving and no way to download the same game to multiple systems, both of which are fairly major features in modern electronics.

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The distribution of the 3DS, the new 3DS in particular, confounds me. Nintendo decided to release the New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL in Europe and Japan, but only released the XL variant in the US at first. This is especially problematic due to the 3DS being the first Nintendo handheld to have region-locking, so you can’t just import a 3DS from another territory and play games from your territory on it. They later released a bundle in the states with the standard New Nintendo 3DS, a copy of Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, and some faceplates. But this, alongside the XL variants, shipped without an AC adaptor. Aside from being illogical and unreasonable, this creates an awkward situation for people like me, who bought the new one as their first 3DS.

At the end of the day, the 3DS  feels like something which could be much, much better with just a little bit of work. It’s a shame, because I really do love my 3DS, and I quite enjoy the personality Nintendo gives it. The Eshop feels lively and fun compared to PSN and Xbox Live, and the holiday Eshop redesigns (Halloween in particular) are cute. The games (with some exception) are fun and charming, and the themes and faceplates allow you to customize your 3DS both inside and out. I like Nintendo, and I like my 3DS. I just wish they made it a bit easier to like them.

The New Nintendo 3DS XL can be bought from Amazon (Red, Black), Gamestop (Red, Black, Exclusive Hyrule Gold Edition, Exclusive Monster Hunter 4 Edition) or other such retailers. For those in the states who want a standard New Nintendo 3DS, you can get the Happy Home Designer bundle from Amazon, Gamestop, or any other such retailers (I highly suggest this bundle, as it is a pretty good deal). For those looking to get a normal 3DS XL, you can get one from Amazon (too many varieties to list them all), Gamestop (Gamestop exclusive versions include NES Edition, and Persona Q Edition) or any other such retailers. For those interested in a cheaper option, you can get a 2DS from Amazon or Gamestop. I wouldn’t recommend getting a 2DS, however, as you can probably find a used 3DS for cheaper. Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer can be bought from Amazon or Gamestop.

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