Let’s take a walk down memory lane for moment, it was November of 2010 and I was gathering every penny I could to buy a new iPhone 4. Now usually when this happens I sell current devices especially if it is a new phone or tablet, I try to sell the current one I own to have the money for the new device I am yearning for. This was no different, I had sold my previous smartphone but since I didn’t have an upgrade yet and could only do an “early iPhone upgrade” on AT&T, I needed more than what I had made from selling the previous phone. So naturally I had to decide what I wanted to sell, and the choice wasn’t hard at the time, I was selling my Nintendo DSi and Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) and I remember saying “Handheld gaming consoles are pointless when you can just play them on your phone.”
Now back to a more recent time, Mid-January 2014. I had a few gifts that didn’t work that I needed to return to Best Buy along with a few gift cards to there as well, my family knows me so well! So since I had a few items to return anyway I decided to browse and see if they had something I wanted. Being in an electronics store like Best Buy is like a kid being in a candy shop to me. At first I didn’t see anything but when I went up to the line to return my items that didn’t work a thought popped into my head so I immediately turned and went directly to the video games section. Which actually took me a minute to find because I hadn’t been in that section in forever, the last game I bought was Grand Theft Auto V and I preordered it on Amazon.
Now for anyone who knows me well, knows that I am not usually a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of guy. When I am looking to make a big purchase I scour the web (mostly YouTube) for product reviews for the best product that not only fits my needs but also has good reviews. But something in me had the urge to get a Nintendo 3DS. I had missed games like Mario Kart, and I figured I could get it cheap enough at that time that even if it did end up sitting in a drawer after the novelty wore off I wouldn’t feel as guilty, and my wallet wouldn’t hate me, as much at least. With my very close cousin helping to decide to make the $199 plunge, I finally decided to throw caution to the wind and purchase the Nintendo 3DS XL Mario & Luigi bundle.
Yes I know, I make buying a $199 handheld gaming console seem dangerous when it isn’t however, I didn’t want it to become another device taking up space in a drawer somewhere for years. Anyway, I make the purchase and with the exchanges and gift cards it came out to be $10. So that alone felt like an accomplishment to get it that cheap!
When me and my cousin got back to my house we hung out for a bit, until finally she asked me if I was going to open it up or not. So I took it out of the box, which when you’re a geek like myself unboxing your new device whatever it may be is half the fun, set up my profile, made my Mii, and then did the software update. Next I opened up Mario Kart 7 that I had bought at Target and popped the cartridge in. Instantly it took me back to my childhood of Gameboy Advances and Nintendo DSes. From there I let my cousin try it first and it was like we were little kids again, and it was awesome. Running over banana peels, getting ink squirted on you so you can’t see where you’re going, or getting flattened like a pancake it was all so fun and engaging.
The reason behind this rather long post is to say I was wrong about handheld gaming consoles like the Nintendo 3DS XL. Yes, I have an Nvidia Shield and Galaxy Note 3 that can download thousands of games from the Google Play Store, I still don’t see it as fun and engaging. The problem with the Note 3 or any touchscreen smartphone and gaming on them is the controls. They are on the screen unless you buy an add-on controller which can be bulky and not very comfortable to play more than 30 minutes. For games like Angry Birds, Where’s My Water, and Cut The Rope that are made for touch they’re good for but those are casual games. Not really something you can get really engaged in.
The Nvidia Shield suffers from a rather different issue but it also lies with the controls. For you to be able to use the controls on the Shield well, the game has to be written to support it and with Android games on Google Play they are made to be as compatible as possible for any device running Android however the Shield is considered a rather “niche” product and it does not receive developer support like a dedicated game console. While Nvidia has tried to bridge that gap of lack of controls with the Gamepad Mapper update so you can manually map the buttons to the game, it still doesn’t have that polished feel and doesn’t always fix the issue.
So I admit I was wrong, handheld gaming consoles like the Nintendo 3DS are not pointless to have. While the games are more expensive than a game you could get on Apple’s App Store, Google Play Store or Windows Phone Marketplace they are probably more engaging and therefore last longer in the end. With the 2 games I have purchased for my 3DS XL Mario Kart 7 and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, I can tell they keep my interest longer. Unlike games on my Note 3 I don’t get bored with them within 15 minutes, and I can say I am attached to my 3DS XL now. More so than I ever expected to be and I am glad. I am, for once, glad to be wrong. Hence why I am so wilfully admitting it. I see myself saving up bells, picking fruit, and bug catching for years to come, but more on my Animal Crossing addiction another time.