Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nintendo Reveals the 3DS - Let the Hype Begin

Nintendo revealed their eagerly-anticipated 3DS handheld today at E3.  This is the star of the show, surpassing even Microsoft's and Sony's new motion controllers, and it's looking very, very nice.  Nintendo promised a strong lineup of titles, including new sequels to Nintendogs, Pilotwings and Kid Icarus, and nearly all the major third-party players are on board.

Like most gamers, I'm excited and giddy at the sight of a new video game system, particularily one that promises cool new technology, in this case, 3D.

Thinking more rationally, I'm feeling a bit more ambivalent about Nintendo's new handheld.  It feels conservative, like Malibu Stacy with a new hat.  It looks almost identical to the existing DS models, only with a 3D display, analog controller, and two cameras for snapping 3D photos.  I'm sure the technology is an improvement as well, but it's in keeping with Nintendo's gameplay-over-graphics philosophy that titles like Kid Icarus looks like a Gamecube title.

I'm looking forward to seeing more details on the games and how they play, but what strikes out at me is that there is no original content.  Everything is a sequel to a sequel to a sequel.  Animal Crossing, Mario Kart, Pilotwings, Star Fox, Nintendogs, Paper Mario, and Kid Icarus, which seems to be the star title of the lineup.  Third-party titles are, likewise, more of the same games we played over a decade ago.  Yet another Metal Gear Solid, yet another Ridge Racer, yet another Namco Museum, yet another Resident Evil, yet another Sims.

I feel like it's 1990, and Atari Corp is still selling Asteroids and Ms. Pac-Man and Robotron and Xevious.  I'm tired of being asked to play the exact same games over and over again, with no discernable differences.  I want new games....remember new games?  Remember when video games were driven by innovation?

Where is the 3DS' Wii Sports?  Where is the must-play hit game that shows me that 3D is the future?  I'll be the skeptic here, if only for the sake of argument.  I think "3D" is a gimmick, a cheap trick to make us pay double for the same rides at the amusement park.  I had a Viewmaster when I was five years old, and it was impressive then.  I'm not so easily impressed now.

3DS needs some killer apps.  It needs some new games and new ideas.  The original DS handheld was amazingly inventive.  It really was a risky move, and it paid off handsomely.  Now it just seems like Nintendo is playing it safe, protecting the franchise.  The novelty of "Viewmaster 3D" will wear off, as all novelties do.  It's our nature as a primate species.  What lies underneath will determine the system's future.

Nintendo is expected to release the 3DS by March 2011.  Let's hope they have the big hits.

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