14 July 2015

Kirby and Mario in the Palm of My Hand, in Glorious 3D!

I remained sceptical about portable consoles for a long time, but earlier this year I finally caved in and bought myself a New Nintendo 3DS XL. There were multiple reasons for this. My phone's pretty old and not great for games, and I've disliked the touch screen controls in most phone games I've tried. My laptop is equally not great for games. I wanted something I could play with away from home, as well as something to be a light-weight time-killer I could easily pick up (at home or away) and start playing, with a little less effort than booting up a console game.

The 3DS is a pretty nifty little device, I have to concede. Obviously it's somewhat lacking in power compared to the PlayStation Vita (let alone regular consoles), and particularly suffers from a rather low resolution, but the games still look fine. The 3D screen feels surprisingly natural and adds a nice touch to the visuals. It can be glitchy and blurry if you don't look at it just right, but these are fairly minor complaints. Of course it feels clunkier in my hands than a proper controller, but the controls work fine for most games I've tried.

The first game I actually beat with it was the '3D Classics' version of Kirby's Adventure. This is a port of the NES original that makes use of the 3DS's 3D screen, which doesn't actually affect gameplay in any way, but manages to revitalize the look of the game somewhat. I never actually played this game back in the NES days. It's one of the later NES titles, and looks and feels fairly advanced, by NES standards. The ability to save, as well as unlimited continues, makes it a little easier than many other NES platformers, although some of the bosses in particular still required some effort. All in all, a fun little game. It's a shame that there aren't too many interesting games in the 3D Classics line. You'd think enhanced ports of, say, Mario or Zelda games would sell...

Seeing as how this was the first Nintendo device I've owned in a long time, and having played and enjoyed the Super Mario Galaxy games on my parents' Wii a couple years back, I naturally wanted a new Mario game for the 3DS. So I bought Super Mario 3D Land, and... I think the word 'Mario' sums up everything I could possibly say about it. I don't think it's quite as fun as the Galaxy games were, but a competent, polished platformer nonetheless. It felt a little more lacking in character and story (even by Mario standards), drawing heavily from classic Mario games, but with 3D controls.

The 8 worlds of the 'main' game often felt a little on the easy side (dying a number of times in a level grants you a power-up that makes you invulnerable—which made many bosses, in particular, a joke), and fairly fast to play through. However, once you beat the game, you unlock 'special worlds', another 8 worlds of remixed levels with new challenges, so I can't really complain about lack of content or challenges... The Galaxy games I never could 100% complete, we'll see how far I get in this one...

I'm writing this just a couple days after the world learned of the passing of Nintendo's president, Satoru Iwata. He worked as a producer on Kirby's Adventure before joining Nintendo—and modern Nintendo consoles, including the DS line, were of course developed under his rule—so the news hit a little closer to home for me than it might have at some other point in time. While for many years Nintendo was somewhat at the periphery of the gaming world for me, I must say their products have a unique feel—not to mention many iconic characters, like Mario and Kirby. That feel may be partly rooted in nostalgia, of course, but I'm nevertheless happy to be the owner of a Nintendo console once again, and hope they continue making interesting, and most of all fun, games in the future.