a couple of months ago i posted some thoughts on some of the free software that comes with the 3DS, namely streetpass mii plaza and nintendo video (and prior to that i had posted a review of another pack-in, face raiders, which you can find here.) i recently sat down and finished going through the other pack-in title, AR games, so i thought i would take a minute to look back at that and another freebie, swapnote. although both are old news to most by now, apparently people are still buying 3DSes, as evidenced by the fact the 3DS lifetime sales have surpassed that of the gamecube.
i had played around with the AR games when i’d first gotten my black 3DS, but as far as AR capabilities i’d preferred face raiders. AR games has more variety, sure, but the actual games (archery, fishing, and a unique take on pool, each with a harder version) are briefer and feel more like demos than full-fledged, or even half-fledged, games. no doubt this was intentional, but once i’d seen the AR effects (which are pretty entertaining at first but whose novelty is fairly limited) i didn’t have a whole lot of interest in finishing playing through the games. the fishing mode offers up the most content (relatively speaking), thanks to its free play mode, and i did end up catching a lot of the different types of fish, but it’s still not much more than a mild diversion.
the other half of the set is focused on playing around with the AR cards and taking pictures with the various nintendo characters and miis in different poses. i’ve never been big on games that focus on creativity, but the huge variety of mii poses does make the mode worthwhile. the nintendo characters have far fewer poses, so there’s not as much to do with them. there’s also a drawing mode that lets you draw two-dimensional lines that you can then rotate to show a small amount of depth, but this mode is fairly pointless, although as with the rest of the games you can take screenshots at any time. there’s also a mode to morph surfaces to make them appear flatter or taller. although this was more interesting than the drawing tools and i suppose someone more interested in exploring creative possibilities could come up with some interesting results, i didn’t have any desire to give it more than a cursory glance.
part of what put me off the AR games is that moving the 3DS’s camera around the AR card can cause the image to be lost if the card isn’t visible enough, and can also cause the image to appear jittery which can be an eyestrain. that’s the main reason why face raiders was more enjoyable to me, since it doesn’t rely on having to reference the image on a card and you still get to move the 3DS around in physical space. but despite the relatively small inconveniences of having to find a surface with a good amount of light and having to learn how to hold the 3DS in relation to the card, overall AR games was a mildly entertaining demo of ideas, rather than a classic for the ages.
although i haven’t spent too much time with its predecessor, flipnote, i’ve ended up spending a fair mount of time with swapnote. swapnote is clearly firmly entrenched in nintendo’s philosophy of “less is more”, and that putting limits on players forces them to focus their experience in a very specific way. the application only offers the most basic form of communication in terms of sending handwritten notes to people on your friend list. although you can send a handwritten note (of up to 4 screens) to multiple people and each can respond with a reply of 1 screen, you can’t reply to their replies, nor forward the note to other people. this lack makes the application more suited to general announcements as opposed to a conversation, and so i’ve mostly been using it just to tell people about what i’ve been playing or to ask them what they think about nintendo’s latest release. the application restricts the note to one color for the ink, although a huge range of stationery is unlockable with play coins and new stationery has been released periodically (often in conjunction with the release of a new game). there are also options to send audio clips, and photos from the 3DS’s camera.
my favorite thing about the application, though, has to be that nintendo uses it as a fun way to send announcements. we’ve gotten notes from such figures as reggie from NOA, zelda mastermind aonuma, as well as miyamoto himself, and it really does feel more personalized when you hear the sender’s voice clip and see his/her handwriting/sketches. although swapnote is limited, it does have its charms and is a worthwhile diversion. it looks like wii u’s miiverse has taken the ideas of swapnote even further, so i’m looking forward to getting into that. still not sure when i’m going to spring for the wii u. i’ve heard good things about the mario wii u game, but am still not interested in it enough to get the system. hopefully they’ll announce a new zelda or metroid game for the system before too long.
back to the main topic, though. of the 3DS pack-in titles, streetpass mii plaza continues to be a huge draw. living in a city i get streetpasses more regularly than most people in the US, and it’s still a nice surprise when the green light appears indicating that i’ve gotten a streetpass. tracking the number of steps i’ve walked and reviewing the stats on games played (per day and total) via the activity log are similarly addictive. somehow i doubt many people would say this, but streetpass mii plaza continues to make me feel that my purchase of the 3DS has been wholly justified despite the still somewhat small library of essential titles. the upcoming release of fire emblem 13 (recently announced for february 4) will no doubt greatly contribute to continuing to endear me to the platform, although there’s still a ways to go before it supplants the DS in my affections, if that’s even possible.
3-d diversions with AR games links:
– official site for the AR cards including a download PDF of the main AR card that you can print out for a bigger experience
– entry on AR games at nintendo3ds.wikia.com
– iwata asks discussion on AR games
– computerandvideogames.com wrote up a few tricks you can do with the 3DS’s various software, including AR games