On June 6th, Nintendo finally released the update for both the 3DS browser and the eShop. Now gamers who own/ed a Nintendo DSi could transfer their DSiware games over to the newest handheld, while those that never owned a DSi could finally purchase downloadable titles. After two days of messing around with the eShop I thought I’d write up my impressions with the storefront and its content.
1. I love that Nintendo provided everyone with a free game in Excitebike, and they even did it without their network being brought down for five weeks because of hackers! It’s a great way to not only ensure loyalty for a system that has yet to offer a true “most own” title, but the game actually makes the best use of the 3D slider that I’ve seen yet. Almost every game for the 3DS has yet to really make use of the technology. It’s been more gimmick or fluff than any real noticeable change. Because of that it’s amusing how dramatic the visuals shift in Excitebike when you use the slider. Just look in the “Options” section of the game and slowly advance the starter to see what I’m talking about.
2. Pokédex 3D is the other free title I downloaded. Pokédex 3D looks great, but it really is nothing more than a literal Pokédex from the Pokémon Black and White games. My girlfriend was impressed by what she saw and was actually interested in the “game” until she realized it was just a database with 3D visuals. The Pokédex starts off with 16 Pokémon unlocked and then it is up to you to find others. Some will be sent to you in Sleep Mode or Spot Pass, you’ll gain others by trading with friends, and others still through the 3D barcode. In this way, it IS a video game, but more like an augmented Scavenger Hunt. Speaking of Augmented, Pokédex 3D will have an Augmented Reality component to monkey with. For a free title that appears to be nothing more than a Pokémon database at first glance, there really is a lot that can be done with this. You can only get about six new Pokémon a day, regardless of how many codes you scan, so expect this to take a while.
3. The eShop currently offers four games for sale. Three of the games are for the original Game Boy. We’ve got Super Mario Land for $3.99, Alleyway for $2.99 and Radar Mission for $2.99. I was also pleasantly surprised by the Game Boy Colour’s The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX for $5.99. The Game Boy titles have all been talked about for weeks now, but no one’s really mentioned having a GBC title at launch. I will say that $5.99 for a GBC title is a little pricier than I was expecting, and because I already own Link’s Awakening for the GBC, I decided to pass on this. However once the battery dies in the cart, I may consider it. Super Mario Land is probably the best deal of the black and white GB titles, but since I’m not a platformer fan, I passed. Same with Alleyway. I have enough Arkanoid titles as it is…and for less than this ROM dump. I will be interested to see when the Castlevania, Contra, and Pokémon titles come out for it.
4. Navigating through the eShop itself is a bit of a mess. Things are put into a horizontal line without any rhyme or reason. It’s very chaotic and to have things set up by alphabetical order by games or categories or the like would make it a lot easier to go through. Instead it’s all just haphazard. I wish it wasn’t so messy. It gets even worse as the store has a category for just “Mario,” but there is no way to peruse say, the entire DSiWare collection. Instead you get a sampling in “DSiWare Favorites” or you have to do a manual search. It’s just horribly laid out and I have to hope the entire store front and interface gets cleaned up and streamlined in a future update. It’s just plain stupid to have the virtual console games with their own individual icon on the home screen and then to have a “Virtual Console” icon right next to them.
5. There are two search options in the eShop, and neither of them are particularly useful. The first search is at the bottom of the eShop. You just type in a keyword, hit return and the shop pulls up listings for you. The downside to this is that it doesn’t work very well and it misses a good portion of the games that the second search function picks up. For example, if you use RPG as a keyword, you’ll get a few options and videos with this first search function, but the second pulls about twice as many. The second search function is an icon to the far left of where you start on the home screen, but it offers multiple filters and is the only way to pull up a lot of DSiware titles. The second version is definitely the way to go, but the fact the eShop has two very different search function options, both of which pull up different results, is another example of how sloppy the entire eShop is currently laid out.
6. You have the option to rate titles for the 3DS with the caveat that you have played the cart for an hour. Unfortunately this option doesn’t cover every game for the system. Out of all the 3DS games that I have played (all of which have been longer than an hour), I could only rate Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Shadow Wars. For some reason other titles like Bust a Move Universe, Super Monkey Ball 3D and Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion can’t be rated. It’s a shame that lesser known titles can’t be rated as this function might help get word of mouth out about them.
7. There’s a “Charts” option in the eShop that currently doesn’t function, but once it’s up I’m hoping it will cover statistics with universal purchases as well as those of individual users. This might be fun to look at down the road if you’re a stats junkie.
8. I was very happy to see that after the original store update on Monday, we received an E3 update on Tuesday. Sure it was just video footage of games that were showcased at E3, but I enjoyed downloading the Kid Icarus, Resident Evil, Animal Crossing and the like. All the footage of E3 without the travel, queuing and creepy people.
9. The downloading times for the eShop are really slow compared to say, PSN, XBLA or the Wii. Of course, this is a handheld console, so it makes sense that things aren’t as fast, even with the same internet connection speed, but it did seem to move at a snail’s pace to me.
10. I’m glad that the store got rid of “Nintendo Points” and now uses an actual dollar figure for purchases, but I really wish there was a cart to put your purchases so you could buy everything at once instead of a single purchase, then the downloading of it only to repeat the process until done. A cart is something the eShop (and the Wii’s store) really needs. Once again, it’s another sign that even though the eShop is only two days old, that someone really needs to reconfigure the whole thing.
Overall the eShop is a mixed bag. It’s great to see it finally up, but the whole thing is a chaotic mess right now and it’s very hard to look through things. This is an especially sensitive point for lesser known titles or those put out by smaller publishers. There’s a lot of potential here, but right now, some of these options like “Titles Starting With W” having its own category but the lack of a straight up “DSiWare listing” is just mind boggling.