Thoughts about the end of the 3DS, and the Nintendo DS line of handhelds


It's finally the end of the DS/3DS era. Somehow it was fantastic but people still talk about the Game Boy. Remember the three pillars of Nintendo, Home Console, GBA, AND DS? There is an alternate reality where the DS bombed, Nintendo frantically shifts back to a new GBA, and all the while PSP sales just launch into space. No, the PSP could never do that. What a piece of junk.

The DS remains one of my all time favorite consoles. The 3DS is home to some of my all time favorite games as well. Can't say enough about Kid Icarus Uprising. Star Fox 64 3D was brilliant but a travesty the multiplayer wasn't online enabled. If that were the case, I might be playing it right now. Super Mario 3D Land is probably my favorite Mario platforming game since Super Mario 64. Also some of the tightest level design since Super Mario Bros 3, and maybe the most surprising Super Mario experiences since the original Super Mario Galaxy.

What is sad is that Nintendo is so unique in their console and handheld designs that it will be damn near impossible to experience these games as intended, even if Nintendo were to re-release or remaster them in some form. Touch screens are ubiquitous now, but that dual screen layout isn't sticking around any longer. Double that for the 3D screen. I feel like I was one of the only ones who played their 3DS with that 3D slider always cranked to the max. Nintendo eventually gave up on the gimmick themselves, opting to manufacture less expensive 2D screens for the Nintendo 2DS, which is not the same as the Nintendo DS, but more like the New Nintendo 3DS.

Nintendo has confusing, unintuitive names for their products? How didn't we see this Wii / Wii U fiasco coming!? Oh wait, WE ALL DID!

Not to say MS or Sony are doing great with their schemes. We got the Microsoft Xbox One S. the Xbox One X, The Xbox, The Xbox One, and the Xbox 360. You figure out the order.

Then Sony just constantly doubling down on their original unoriginality, “ We have been using the same console name and knockoff SNES controller layout for 20 years, we fired everyone creative two decades ago.”

Back to the 3DS though. Nintendo has ported some DS games to the virtual console back in the Wii U era. The Wii U is only good for two things, playing most Advance Wars titles on the TV, and playing Affordable Space Adventures. Specific to this discussion, Nintendo ported Advance Wars DS, along with plenty of other DS games, which work well with the dual screen design of the Wii U. Although Nintendo still leaves us stuck with some wonky image layouts when trying to play. Not the best solution, but an official solution. At least, if your favorite DS games are available on the Wii U, and you want to rebuy, and rebuild your progress in that game again. Also if you actually own a Nintendo Wii U, and of course you don't.

I suppose Nintendo could port them over to the Switch to play in handheld mode. It would be far off from my dream of playing them on my big screen, but at least the viability is there with the touch screen, and holding the Switch sideways. As for recreating the 3D effects of Nintendo 3DS games, I'm sure we'll never see anything official to recreate that effect, at least until Nintendo goes full VR, and also brings back the virtual console. Neither of which seem likely. I'm sure the hacker and mod community has probably come up with a few tricks to get some type of stereoscopic effect going on other screens.

So keeping these games in their exact form and factor is a definite no, but we don't go down to the arcade to get 'the real Mortal Kombat experience” anymore either. What is important is the eventual ports of classic 3DS games, eventually.

As I typed this up, I realized that there aren't a lot of definite, universally agreeable 3DS titles that would be assured a port, remaster, or inclusion on some type of anniversary collection. Perhaps some platformers like New Super Mario Bros 2, The very fun Kirby series of 3DS games. None of those were blockbusters though. If Super Mario 3D Land were to get a por to the Switch, I could see Super Mario 3D Land being remastered and included in a full package. Personally, I have been patiently waiting for ports of Star Fox 64 3D, and Kid Icarus Uprising since the Switch launched. I seriously doubt Sakurai wants to touch, and even less would allow anyone else to touch Kid Icarus: Uprising though. That 1999 interview with Sakurai mentioned how he didn't like how his creation Kirby was used as a guest in other Nintendo games (which games he is talking about, I need to look into), so I doubt he feels like taking a game he designed, wrote, and directed, and which his studio produced, then just handing it over like he lost a bet.

Star Fox 64 3D feels much more likely. Just wrangle Ubisoft since they did that Star Link game, then grab Dylan Cuthbert to lead the remake of the remake of Star Fox 64. Star Fox 64 3D Switch 2019: Forget Star Fox Zero Happened Edition.

I'm not quite as saddened by the shift from 3DS to Switch as I was from the DS to 3DS. As consoles were getting more and more powerful, and demanding longer, more complex experiences, the GBA and DS continued a legacy of great platformers, RPGs, and other classic genres and game designs of the 16 bit era. A lot of development studios who couldn't afford to make the transition to 3D modeling, longer game development cycles, and ever expanding studio sizes, were able to continue honing their sidescrolling and/or pixel graphics style of video games on Nintendo's best selling handhelds. During these years we got some great games from both large and small companies like WayForward, Treasure, Capcom, Konami, Square-Enix, and, of course Nintendo, and on and on.

Once the 3DS came out, that meant the end of an emphasis on 2D games from Nintendo, and other companies like Capcom, Square-Enix, and certainly Konami (who stopped doing anything). No longer were large publishers looking for small budget, decent profit games. All their eggs were now being dumped into ever expanding AAA titles. The shift in focus lead to a shift in the type of games and gameplay that would be most featured on Nintendo handhelds moving forward.

So not only was the 3DS in 3D, but the games were in 3D as well!

Let me rephrase that.

We are NOT talking about stereoscopic 3D now. I am talking about the 3D, polygon based models used in the games themselves. There were a fair bit of 3D games on the original DS, (hell, Super Mario 64 DS was a launch title) especially later on in the handheld's lifespan, once developers really pushed the DS to the limits. Likewise, there are plenty of great pixel based games on the 3DS. The emphasis changed with the 3DS though. With the added strength of the new handheld, smaller studios would finally be forced to expand, or switch to mobile phone development, or be Konami.

The 3DS also coincides with the rise of mobile phone games, and the increasing ease for indie developers to get their games into my consoles. Figuring out exactly how much influence the 3DS had on forcing some studios to shift direction. Companies that might have been financially limited to creating a low budget handheld game, are now free to make a game of any budget these days, and release that game to damn near every platform they like. Thanks to that, we are far far away from the dystopian, non 2D things vision of gaming I had around the beginning of the decade.

The biggest thing that has changed for me since the rise and fall of the 3DS. I, and no one else, will ever pay $30 or more for a puzzle game ever again. Remember when puzzle games cost as much as every other genre of video games. That copy of Tetris 2, or Final Fantasy III, same price buddy.