Rekindling a love for the Nintendo DS and 3DS
A while ago we talked about how Nintendo’s portable experience risks being forgotten. Writing this article inspired me to dig up my Nintendo DS and 3DS and play with them for the first time in a long time – as well as to consider beefing up my library of games for them, both physically and digitally. . And you know what? I had a really good time doing it, for a variety of reasons.
So I think it’s probably time to launch another occasional feature, this time looking back at some of the titles that were possible to enjoy on those lovely platforms. Because unlike many other established platforms from previous generations, the DS and 3DS experiences aren’t something you can easily recreate using emulation.
For a truly authentic DS and 3DS experience, you need all those unique factors they offered: the dual screens; the touch screen; 3D without glasses. While these don’t seem like much on their own, there are plenty of games out there that make such good use of them that they’re becoming an essential part of using games for these platforms.
Take for example the classic Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors by Kotaro Uchikoshi. If it is above all a visual novel punctuated by interactive escape room sequences, the original release of this game makes wonderful use of the dual screens of the Nintendo DS, especially during its final sequence. To explain exactly How? ‘Or’ What that would be a pretty major spoiler, so we’ll leave it at that for the benefit of those who haven’t played it yet – but suffice it to say that the latest ports for single-screen platforms just don’t work in exactly the same for this sequence in particular.
Or how about EA’s Henry Hatsworth and the Baffling Adventure? This is a game where you play a platform action game on the top screen and a Tetris Attack/Panel de Pon style puzzle game on the bottom screen. You are not expected to do both simultaneously – the platforming action pauses while you engage in the puzzle game, although the puzzle game continues to advance while you are on the platform – but the two are interconnected.
Then there’s the classic Etrian Odyssey dungeon crawler series, of course, which was keen to bring back the old-school experience of dungeon mapping yourself, but without the need for graph paper and pencils. . After all, if you have a perfectly good touchscreen and stylus, you might as well put it to good use for mapping and other interactions, right?
However, the DS and 3DS don’t just use these two screens. The fact that they were both significantly less powerful than their TV-connected contemporaries actually works in their favor now that we look at them in hindsight.
Since most DS and 3DS developers knew full well that they weren’t going to be able to recreate an HD console experience on these handhelds, they would often choose to take a different approach. Cross-platform games would have their own distinct and unique releases for DS and 3DS which were completely different releases rather than just ports, while games designed specifically for the DS and 3DS would take advantage of the platforms’ strengths in unique ways.
If you love pixel art, for example, a DS and 3DS should definitely be in your game collection, as both platforms host some really great pixel art games.
The aforementioned Henry Hatsworth is a beautiful platformer, for example. The DS versions of early Ace Attorney games use fantasy pixel art for their characters rather than the clean look of more recent re-releases. Even visual novels like Lifesigns: Hospital Affairs have a nice pixel art look; they seem to have been designed with platform limitations in mind rather than just shrinking high resolution art to fit a low resolution screen.
And that doesn’t even fit into the downloadable games you can find on 3DS. While the DSiWare store is now closed on the original Nintendo DS, many games that were once available can be downloaded on 3DS – and 3DS also has its own substantial line of download-exclusive games that no one ever talks about. Which is a real shame, because there are some absolute gems to enjoy among them – and, more specifically, we’ll only be able to download them in an official capacity until March 27, 2023.
On top of all that, the DS and 3DS offer a different experience from today’s modern consoles, in that their lack of constant internet connectivity and “social” features means they leave you alone while you enjoy a game. No distractions from notifications, messages, invites or advertisements – just simple and straightforward gaming enjoyment. And in an age when about 50% of the time my stupid “smart” TV likes to show me an advertisement rather than letting me press the “Source” button to change channels, that’s honestly a welcome sight.
So in the future, among all the other things we like to cover on a daily basis, we’ll also be covering some cool Nintendo DS and 3DS releases that you should check out as soon as possible. Physical versions of games for both platforms are already moving into “dumb retro pricing” territory for some titles, but more reasonably priced digital options still exist for many titles – the aforementioned Etrian Odyssey being a good example. ; I picked up Etrian Odyssey Untold and IV for £8.99 each the other night.
But don’t wait too late – more than anything, the Nintendo DS and 3DS represent two generations of games that are significantly harder to preserve than any other. So it’s worth trying to enjoy them in their original form while you still can!
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