Originally positioned as “a third pillar”, the runaway success of the Nintendo DS meant the end of the Gameboy. In the same way, the popularity of the Switch has in turn meant we won’t now see a successor 3DS. But while the curtain lowers on Nintendo’s most successful console range are there lessons that can be learnt from in? What features of the 3DS should Nintendo consider including in the newly announced Switch Lite, or indeed in the yet to be confirmed Switch Pro?
The home screen is something every Switch player sees, every time they turn on the system. While there is currently a choice between a white or black design, that’s the extent of the customisation options. The 3DS eShop had Themes for practically all major releases, changing the home menu’s icons, background and even music. While at £1.79 they were over-priced, at least they let you personalise your console to match your taste. Meanwhile, for developers it was a great way to generate additional income and giving them away free even meant an opportunity to promote an upcoming release. At the very least it would be nice if the Switch let you set your own wallpaper, even if it were limited to just Game Snap Shots.
Despite being labelled a “Grooming Tool for Paedophiles” by the scare-mongering tabloid press, Street Pass was a great way to meet new friends and see what others were playing. The mini games, though simplistic, were fun, and although you’d only play them briefly it was always a nice diversion. Sadly as the Relay Stations were turned off around cities, the number Street Pass hits you’d get each day declined. This meant the mini-games became almost unplayable and it seems that most 3DS owners will have Puzzle Pieces missing that can now never be found. The Switch certainly doesn’t need as elaborate a Street Pass System, but it would be nice to at least know when a potential Mario Kart opponent is in the area.
Maybe it was to see how long you speed running through a game, perhaps it was to find out which title you’d played longest, but its doubtful many 3DS players could resist the lure of the Activity Log. Not only did it tell you, to the minute, how long you’d played each game, it also kept track of the number of play sessions and on which day you’d played. This also allowed a player to nostalgically gaze back through the calendar to see which game they were playing months or even years ago. Of course the Switch does tell you how long you’ve put into each game if you go into “My Profile” but being told you’ve played ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ for “180 hours or more” simply isn’t detailed enough.
One of the reasons the very first Gameboy was monochrome was so that it would allow for extended play sessions. The Game Gear’s colour display may have looked impressive for a portable back in the day, but when you have to change the 6 AA batteries every two hours it wasn’t ideal for longer car journeys. Nintendo continued this delicate balance between power of console and the amount of power needed to run it up until the 3DS. This machine could last up until 8 hours on a single charge with settings turned down. Compared to the Switch this is an impressive figure. Although you can use the console for up to 6 hours, in practice you’ll be lucky to have portable gaming session that lasts longer than 3. Like the Game Gear owners of Yesteryear you’ll need a secondary source of power on those long haul flights. Nintendo have promised that with their new dedicated Handheld-Only Switch, battery life will be improved. But accounts of by how much seems to suggest that players will be enjoying extra minute of play rather than additional hours between charges.
Clam shell design
While it’ll play havoc with the Switch’s docking, there’s no denying that there’s something reassuring about the 3DS’ ability to fold on itself. The screens are protected and any damage that can be caused by throwing the console into your bag is minimised. While you marvel at the Switch’s impressive screen do you ever wonder how durable it is? It’s unlikely you’ll ever scratch it, but that’s probably down to the expensive and bulky carry case you put it in whenever you take the machine with you.
Of course, some of these issues are inherently down to the original Switch’s dual purpose. In the past portable players demanded different things to home users, so when a console attempts to be both sacrifices must be made. The Lite is geared towards portable play only, but while the interstates JoyCons will make the console more durable it’s still a large machine to carry around. While it’s great Nintendo are continuing to innovate, it’s important they don’t lose sight of their past successes too.