This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Nintendo's latest cash grab.
The success of the Wii was like an eight-year-old discovering how fun it was to smear shit on the wallpaper, convincing their younger brothers to join in just as they heard their parents pulling into the driveway, and then running off to lock themselves in their room before any consequences would need to be faced. So with motion controls on the way out - my theory is that if I keep saying that it will become more and more true - Nintendo needed to get started on next week's wage packet.
The interesting thing about Nintendo is that they're kind of like Nicolas Cage in that they don't do middle ground. They're either doing really well or shitting a hole straight through the bed. When they get bored of making solid Mario platformers and attracting a strong user base, they create consoles that make your eyes explode and license Team Ninja to make Metroid games.
3D may be an utterly pointless gimmick that adds about as much to games as putting glittery rainbow stickers on the cover, but will the 3DS be what changes all that? Well, sort of, in that now the glittery rainbow sticker is in a small, wooden box, and you have to look at it through a hole. So yes, prepare to gape so hard that you stub your toe on your own jaw, because now you can look at 3D without also having to impersonate Buddy Holly, providing you hold the screen at precisely the right angle and distance and don't move your head at all. I'm thinking there's opportunity here to bring out an official Nintendo steel brace that mounts the DS to your skull.
But explain to me the logic of a handheld whose main gimmick relies on keeping the device in a very specific position at all times having motion controls. The whole Augmented Reality Game thing is interesting, but it worked a hell of a lot better when I turned the 3D off. Keeping a flat surface in focus and moving around to view it from different angles is awkward enough - considering that I'm built like an orangutan on a stepladder - without the image splitting all the time like the orangutan has also been slamming Diamond Whites.
And while I'm unloading on 3D, one of the games I tried was a port of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory with some of the most slapdash 3Difying I've ever seen. I refuse to believe that no one at Ubisoft QA put their hand up at any point and said: "Hey, isn't the sky supposed to be behind the sea?"
Moving on, another interesting toy is Streetpass, wherein if you pass nearby someone with a 3DS in sleep mode, then you exchange Miis and send each other a little message. So far, so jolly, but it seems temperamental. I was hanging out with a friend who also had a 3DS and we were slapping those things together like castanets and just could not persuade them to make friends. And I started to take it personally. His one had way more Streetpass hits than mine, and I thought it just didn't want to associate with riffraff.
I wonder if this is one of those things that works better in a country where any square foot of pavement that goes unoccupied for ten minutes is considered to have shamed its family, because in the name of research I walked a circuit of Brisbane's crowded city centre and only picked up 7 hits. And I was making every effort to thrust my back pocket towards anyone Asian-looking or wearing an ironic T-shirt. Although I did stumble upon some kind of middle school outing at the war memorial that was absolutely packed with kids, and my first thought was: "Fucking jackpot!" Followed closely by the thought: "What the hell is wrong with me? I am a grown man excited by the presence of schoolchildren because I'm going to leave lots of little deposits in their trouser pockets and bumbags. If there isn't a law against this, civilization has failed."
Not that I want to sound like some Grazia-reading moral guardian, but I did check and it is extremely possible to make a Mii who has what looks like a cock for a face. It's equally possible to name him Senor Koquonfaes and make him your Streetpass ambassador who greets every 3DS owner in the vicinity with the phrase "I'M WATCHING YOU" in block capitals. Then all you have to do is walk past a primary school and listen for the losses of innocence. And there'll be no consequences, because beyond divining their face from their little balloon-headed avatar, there's no way of tracing their origin or directly interacting with them at all. Which will probably only enhance Senor Koquonfaes's elicit thrill, but for everyone else it seems we've finally delegated the task of social interaction exclusively to the machines. Give us ten years and we'll have fitted them with real cocks and the elite edition will come with a child-bearing womb.
But I guess it's not trying to make you socialize, is it? It's trying to make you get out and maybe walk somewhere other than the donut cabinet at the 7-11. Like with the Wii Fit, I guess Nintendo feels it has to take responsibility for spending the last two decades making its entire user base indistinguishable from their beanbag chairs. But while the 3DS does come pre-installed with a surprisingly large amount of software - some of which it actually withholds until you've done a few laps of the block, Chunky McGee - sooner or later a new platform is only as good as its launch lineup, in which case the 3DS is about as good as an old sandwich that's been at the back of the fridge for a while and is now being held slightly out of our reach.
The 3DS has obviously been rushed out faster than a dog making retching noises at a brand-new carpet, and all its hot titles are A) not out yet and B) ports. I guess Nintendo finally decided to drop the pretense of releasing Ocarina of Time over and over again under different names and figured it'd just cut out the middle man.
The thing about 3D is that I stop noticing it unless it fucks up - as with the Spinter Cell example above - and can't really get excited about playing Paper Mario' again just because it can now promise 99% more headaches. But one thing I did try was Pilotwings Resort, which isn't a port but frankly probably took about as much work as one. See, what they did was take that one extremely out of place air combat minigame from Wii Sports Resort and endeavored to see how hard it could work its little tushie, adding a whole bunch of new flight missions without even changing the level map. And if you like watching your Mii get suicidally depressed at their landing ability, I guess it's kind of fun, except for the jetpack missions that are like playing Lunar Lander with the worst possible camera angle. But its incredibly insubstantial for sixty bucks and smacks more of a bundle game.
All in all, the 3DS shows every sign of continuing Nintendo's trend of following up every triumph with a big poo, or at least every big poo with a big poo with less mainstream appeal. For the last few years I've lived in a world where Nintendo has been constantly misstepping and everyone else has been willfully blind to that, but I hope with 3DS I can now welcome a few of those people to my planet. Come on in, take off your coat, have a seat. Not in the big chair, I'm going to sit in that and gloat at you.
- Portal 2 is next week, alright: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- I will be impressed by 3D only on the day it can literally slap me in the face
- Senor Koquonfaes and Gareth Gobulcoque are cousins by marriage