Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre
Genre: Museum Guidebook/Art History Lessons
Release Date: 04/11/2013 (Louvre Only)/11/27/2013 (Worldwide digital release)
Nintendo has always tried to be a little more intellectual than other companies, offering educational software in addition to video games. There’s not a lot and the ideas don’t always work as well as they do in theory. Take 2010’s 100 Classic Books. This was a wonderful idea, there was free DLC for it and the books included ensured everyone would find multiple things to enjoy. Unfortunately it came out about the time the Kindle really took off and so you could get the same books for free on Amazon’s e-reader while also not having to worry about the problems that come with trying to read from a back-lit screen. It was a good idea that simply came too late and while applauded by critics everywhere, when was the last time you heard anyone mention it?
Fast forward to April 2012, when the Louvre, arguably the greatest museum in the world, jettisoned its old audio tour and, in pairing with Nintendo, started offering 3DSes with a Louvre guide built in to its customers – for a five euro rental fee. This was a wonderful idea in all respects. Nintendo really got to push the boundaries of what one could do with a 3DS. The Louvre got to make itself look hip and ahead of the times (similar to the whole JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure thing they did a while back). Critics of video game culture had to eat crow as even they had to admit Nintendo had made something pretty awesome. You could even purchase a region free cart version for twenty euros from the Louvre’s gift shop. Neither Nintendo nor the Louvre were prepared for how well received this collaboration was and like all good things, they discovered a way to make money off it.
So a few weeks ago, Nintendo stated they would be releasing Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre to the world, region free and at a price point of $19.99. It would be a 1.8 gig download (14,395 blocks!) and you could get it in several different languages, ensuring you could enjoy it whether you spoke English, French, Japanese or a host of other languages. The question is – who would buy such a thing? After all, if people were claiming Endless Ocean wasn’t a “real game,” what would they think about this? If Nintendo games are “just for kids,” as some insane people like to say, this obviously wouldn’t sell, right? Wouldn’t people rather spend their money on yet another Mario or Zelda game? Maybe something where you kill monsters or where you can evolve Pikachu into Raichu? Well sales figures aren’t out yet but I can say one thing – I bought it without hesitation and usually Nintendo is more than happy to fork over review copies to the site as long as I’m the person to review the title. I wanted to give money to support this idea (and the Louvre) because it’s a wonderful one and if even one person is inspired to visit the Louvre from the pictures they see in this release, then it was all worth it. Hell, even if a person can’t afford to fly to Paris and stand in long lines waiting to get into the Louvre only to get into a dance contest with a Robot then ends in said automaton being kicked in the testicles, they CAN afford this.
Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre not only showcases hundreds of pieces of art from the Louvre, but you are given thousands of high resolution 2D/3D images to gaze at. You can increase the magnification on some of them to the point where you can honestly see brush strokes in the work of art (Do this with the Mona Lisa). You can’t get that close to the real thing (Or maybe they accidentally hung the fake. We’ll never know)! The images are gorgeous. I rarely turn on the 3D slider, but I have to admit, because these are still pieces, the 3D images on the 3DS have never looked better. You don’t have to worry about the usual tearing (or potential headaches) while viewing Egyptian or Greek masterpieces in 3D. I’ll admit though, I still view it primarily in 2D. Although you won’t really be looking at the images when you use this in the Louvre, anywhere else, this collection of pictures is almost worth the asking price alone.
So not only do you get to experience a virtual Louvre, all without leaving your home, but you also get more than THIRTY-FIVE hours of recorded dialogue and content that talks about each individual piece. You’ll hear from curators, art professors and experts on specific pieces all while viewing these incredible pieces from multiple angles. That is more audio content than you’ll see in most RPGs. Hell, it’s more than you’ll find in something like Singstar and that game is pretty much all audio. I’ve listened to pieces in both French and English and I have to say that every voice is exceptionally pleasing to the ear. They’re rather soothing and I’ve used the three pre-programmed tours just to relax to or as background noise while working out. Exercising my brain and body at the same time, you know? The music included in the game is very elegant and fits the mood of a virtual museum perfectly. You won’t hear any of it while the speakers discuss a particular art piece, but it’s a nice touch to have as you flip through menus, or to walk from room to room in the Louvre itself. Honestly, the audio part of this gets you your money’s worth and then some.
This is usually when I segue into the actual playing of a game, but Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre ISN’T a game. It’s a tour. So instead I can talk about how you use the guide. You have two real options: “Look at Artworks” and “Visit the Louvre.” The first simply allows you to view individual pieces. There are 489 of them. You scroll down until you find what looks interesting and touch on its icon like, say, the Apulian krater. After you click on it, you’ll see a big picture of the item on the top screen and then on the bottom you can choose between audio options. Some art pieces have one, some have more. You can also view information about the artwork, see who took the photo, star the piece as a favorite and more. You click the X button to view different images of the item. Some items you can get close ups of, while others don’t let you magnify. Again with nearly 500 works of art, each with their several minutes of audio (sometimes a lot more), you can spend a lot of time here if you are a big fan of classical art. If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of scrolling through nearly 500 images (which are grouped by location in the museum by default), you can always arrange the items by Name (R button) or use the L button to filter by several options including 3D images only, 2D images only, works that have informational videos, a list of “Must-See Works” or to further filter by type such as paintings, antiquities, Islamic art, sculptures and more. You have a LOT of options to choose from, ensuring that you are even remotely interested in the Louvre, that you will drop many an hour to just this aspect of the guide.
The other part of the guide is “Visit the Louvre.” Here you have a choice of five different options. You have the three pre-programmed guided tours in “The Louvre at Leisure,” “Family Tour – The Ancient Egyptians” and “Masterpieces Tour.” The tours range from forty to ninety minutes and guide a person around the Louvre in real time leading them to priceless works of art. You also have the option of Free Exploration, which lets you free roam the Louvre on your own, providing you with maps of each floor and the locations of all the items in the guide. You last option here is to build a trail. Here you highlight works you want to see and the system will build you the best route to see all of them. It’s basically a GPS for art. This is a nifty option, but newcomers to the Louvre should probably use one of the premade tours while people just futzing with this at home can sue this to create their own virtual exploration of the museum.
There’s not much more to say about Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre, except that it is fabulous in every way it can be. This is really something you need to experience rather than read a review of on an internet website about video games. The question is who will download this? Out of all the gamers I regularly talk to and associate with, I’m honestly the only one that spends money on opera, ballet and symphony tickets. The others would rather do go drink at a pub, go see a movie, watch a NFL game or just view TV and play video games every night. There’s nothing wrong with that; different strokes for different folks and all that. I’m more Frasier Crane and they’re more Woody Boyd. However, I realize I’m in the minority part of the Venn diagram when it comes to cross referencing video games and things that are considered “high culture” by the snootier people of the world, so I doubt Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre is going to set the sales charts aflame. This is definitely a niche product and I don’t think anyone can question that most people would rather play, say, Super Mario 3D Land than listen to their 3DS discuss Persian antiquities. What matters is that Nintendo made this available to everyone – not just those that get to go to the physical Louvre. This is a great piece of PR and it gives everyone everywhere a chance to see and feel the Louvre – albeit in a virtual manner. I love when companies provide products like this and I’m pleased to see Nintendo trying to reach out and offer people a world of art through their handheld device instead of just the usual rigmarole. I will be thoroughly delighted if it turns out a bunch of people purchased this instead of the usual digital shovelware for the 3DS, but if not? Well, my wife and I will continue to get hours of enjoyment out of this. Already Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre is ranked 14th for all time usage on my 3DS stat tracker thingy and 8th for Average Time Played (out of over 120 items), I think it’s safe to say I really enjoyed this trip guide and will continue to do so for a long time to come. My hope is that even if you’re skeptical, you’ll consider downloading this and see just why this is a fantastic piece of software even if there aren’t any zombies to set fire to or princesses to save. This really is a golden moment for Nintendo and they deserve a lot of accolades for this. Now…when are we going to get everything else for my 3DS to be region free?
Short Attention Span Summary
Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre is an exceptionally well done piece of software that most gamers won’t bother to pick up, but then they’re missing out of something truly extraordinary. This digital recreation of the Louvre sports nearly 500 pieces of art and over thirty-five hours of audio content. All for just $19.99. That’s a fraction of what it would cost to fly to Paris and see the paintings in the flesh…where you’d just end up having the option to rent this for five Euros anyway. You also don’t have to deal with the crowds or maddening lines. This piece of software is one of my favorite releases for all of 2013, regardless of system, but it really is a niche product most gamers will ignore in favor of something that lets you murder monsters or the like. Still, if you’ve read this far it means you’re interested and at this point you should download this without delay.