Category Archives: Nintendo DS Hardware

Friday Bullet Points Gaze into the Future

Another Friday where I have a few items that I could probably force into full length posts, but I just don’t have the stamina to get there.  So I will pack them into one post.

Truth in Advertising?

There was a recent Star Citizen weekly update from RSI that seemed to unintentionally confirmed my suspicions.

It barely feels like it has been 25 years

The update itself was a lore item about some in-game entity celebrating its 50th anniversary, but the first glace at the top of the message made me wonder if they were admitting it was going to take 50 years to get where they plan to go.

Apple and OpenGL

One tidbit that came up at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference was the plan to deprecate OpenGL support with the Mojave release of the MacOS and in iOS 12.  This led to a panic about there being no more video games on the Mac.

I haven’t been to a WWDC since 1995…

OpenGL has been around for a long time and, among other things, its openess helped nVidia get in and dethrone 3dfx Interactive and their proprietary Glide API back in the day.  And deprecate doesn’t mean pulling it out wholesale.  It will still be there for a couple of years.  But if you find a problem or need an update, Apple isn’t going to help you.

Still, Apple will drop it eventually.  Past history says that will probably get announced in 2020 or so.  Apple would like you to use their Metal interface instead, and some companies have support for that on the way.  You can use Metal with World of Warcraft currently if your hardware and OS are current. (And probably should use it, as it fixes a crashing issue with WoW.)  But if you are a serious PC gamer you probably have a Windows partition on you Mac, if not a Windows machine already.

Blizzard and Diablo IV

It was noted that Blizzard had posted a job listing looking for a dungeon artist for an as yet unannounced Diablo project.  This led to a hysteria of complaints and the projection of personal feelings onto the idea.  Just Google “diablo iv” and look at the headlines. (And yes, I am going to call it Diablo IV at this point.)  Everything from “when are we going to get it?” to “Oh lord, no!” pops up.  So I figured I ought to note this as the week the controversy began.  We know nothing so far, but some people are already angry.

I for one welcome our new demonic overlords.

Despite the one-two punch of the auction house and the horrible itemization (the latter which I remain convinced was there to drive you to the auction house), Blizzard eventually got the game in order by killing the auction house and fixing itemization, making Diablo III a pretty decent game.  The “always online” bit is still annoying, but Blizz is hardly alone in demanding that.  And they have continued to tend the now six year old game, which is more than they ever did for Diablo II.  By any practical measure the game is a success and warrants a sequel. (It sold lots of copies on the PC and consoles.)

Hopefully Blizzard will run with what they have learned and stick with the roots of Diablo as the foundation for the next game rather than, say, making it a Battle Royale title or something.

Minecraft Subnautica

On a closer horizon, the Minecraft Java Edition 1.13 release, the Aquatic Update, looks to be slowly making its way to us.

Under the sea…

The update entered pre-release at the start of the week, whatever that means, so I think we should be getting the official release soon.  I have actually been avoiding our Minecraft server, knowing that I’ll want to go play when this hits.

Free Games for Amazon Prime Subscribers

In yet another benefit for Amazon Prime subscribers, you can now download any of five free games before the end of June.

Amazon Prime benefits

The games are Tumblestone, Treadnauts, Strafe, Banner Saga, and Banner Saga 2.  You need to have the Twitch client to download them (the Twitch client is what the old Curse client became when Amazon bought Curse… and Twitch) and you need to have linked your Twitch account to your Amazon account.  This sounds like a recurring deal, so there will likely be more games in the future as the Amazon Prime largess train continues on.

As an aside, the first version of this Amazon post I saw said it was six games.

Is it five or six?

However the image only shows five games and I didn’t click on the link until later, so I don’t know if there was a sixth game at one point, if a sixth game was planned but was removed and the word didn’t get out, or if it was always five games and somebody just messed up.  (h/t to Corr who first linked this to me and who had that second image handy.)

Pokemon Zygarde Download Event

Despite the impending end of Pokemon on the Nintendo 2DS/3DS, download events continue for the current core RPG titles.  During the month of June in the US you can go to your local GameStop for a download code for a shiny Zygarde.

Zygarde

This event is only for Pokemon Sun & Moon and Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon.  Instructions for claiming the legendary Pokemon are available at the Pokemon site.

What Becomes of the Nintendo 3DS without Pokemon?

Earlier this week (or late last month, if you prefer) Nintendo hosted a big Pokemon press conference to talk about upcoming plans and titles for the franchise.

Press Conference 2018

This was kind of a big deal for me.

When it comes to Nintendo hardware there is really only one franchise that interested me.  I’ve played some variations on Mario and a couple of other brands, but I am really only about Pokemon.

And, from time immemorial… or at least since 1996… the core of the Pokemon franchise has lived on the Nintendo handheld hardware.  In addition to not being up on their other titles, I am also behind on consoles on every front save one; Nintendo handhelds.  I have a relatively new Nintendo that I got this past Christmas.  And I wanted it only to be sure I could play the next round of Pokemon games that would surely find their way to that platform.  After all, over on the Pokemon.com site, the icon for the video games category is literally a Nintendo handheld.

Pokemon video games are on the DS

So I watched the updates from the press conference and waited for an announcement aimed at me and my fellow handheld players.  We are, after all, the core of the Pokemon community.  They had to have something for us.

But they didn’t.  They spoke of Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee for the Nintendo Switch, which sound similar, if not exactly like, core Pokemon RPG titles.  There is even a pair of them being launched together.  And they spoke of how two people could play together and how you would be able to transfer Pokemon over from Pokemon Go.

Let’s Go coming November 16, 2018

They also spoke of the whimsical and blocky looking Pokemon Quest, also for the Nintendo Switch.

Taking place on Timecube Island

And, finally, they spoke of a real core Pokemon RPG game coming to the Nintendo Switch in 2019.

Not mentioned at all was the Nintendo handheld family, which left me feeling left out of the picture.

I realize that Nintendo has been very much intent on getting everybody they can to buy a Switch.  And it has been selling pretty well.  But so has the Nintendo handheld line.  The Nintendo 2DS/3DS line has been doing okay on sales.  While they the numbers are down from the peak in 2013, they have bouncing back from their decline with 2017 beating out 2016 for units shipped and 2018 so far almost equal to 2017 sales already.  (Annual sales chart)

So what is Nintendo’s plan here?  Have handheld units been effectively abandoned?  I know that there is more to the 2DS/3DS game catalog than just Pokemon, but it is pretty much the Pokemon platform, and sales of the core Pokemon RPG games both drive and are driven by handheld unit sales.

I hope this doesn’t signal the end of the line for the Nintendo 2DS/3DS line.  The durable little dual screen handheld units have served me well for a decade now.

Moving to the Nintendo 2DS XL

My big Christmas gift this year from my wife was a Nintendo 2DS XL.  I mentioned this unit previously as it seemed an attractive addition to the Nintendo handheld family.

The 2DS XL

The word “New” in the “New Nintendo 2DS XL” indicates, in one of those confusing naming schemes, that the unit is part of the current generation of Nintendo 3DS hardware that includes several upgrades, including new controls, Amiibo support, and an upgraded CPU, the last being a key selling point for me. (Also, it should not be confused with the slab-like Nintendo 2DS, a different beast entirely.)

This unit replaced my old, first generation Nintendo 3DS XL.

The buttons I was missing on my older unit

The first of the “New” generation of 3DS hardware showed up on our shores back in 2015 and I have been eyeing them since the latest generations of the Pokemon series… and all I ever really played on my Nintendo handhelds over the years is Pokemon… started to seem like too much for the older processor.  Load times, scene transitions, and points during the story when there was a lot going happening on screen were noticeably slowed down.

This has actually been the case since Pokemon X & Y, so I started to consider the new hardware once it was announced, but really stuck out with Pokemon Sun & Moon.  However, my Pokemon playing tends to be a seasonal thing… I play for a few months, finish up the Pokedex, then stop until the bug hits me again or a new release shows up.

However, the new New 2DS XL seemed liked a good point to finally make the upgrade.  The 2DS XL has all the stuff of the “new” generation, lacking only one thing, 3D support and, frankly, 3D is a very minor gimmick with Pokemon titles.  The 3D slider on my 3DS XL was set to “off” probably in excess of 99% of the time.  Meanwhile the price of the 2DS XL was a good $50 less than the same generation 3DS XL.  For $50 I was quite willing to give up 3D support.  So it was on my wish list and showed up for Christmas.

Of course, once I had it I had to move everything from my old 3DS XL to the new 2DS XL.  Nintendo has a few options for that, one involving simply moving the SD card from the old unit to the new.  However, my old 3DS uses a standard size SD card while the “New” generation uses micro SD cards, so that swap wasn’t an option.

Furthermore, as I quickly found out, I had upgraded the SD card on my old unit to a 32GB model, the largest officially supported by Nintendo, and have used up a chunk of the space by purchasing a few titles, including the new Pokemon UltraMoon, from the online Nintendo shop, so they are stored locally rather than being on a cartridge.

The 2DS XL however not only had a micro SD card (SD card in my DS?), but the factory default size was a meager-in-2017 4GB in size.  I remember seeing my first 1GB hard drive back in 1990 and it was the size of a cinder block, so sometimes I have to check myself when I complain that 4GB is “small.”  Anyway, I had to order a 32GB micro SD for the 2DS XL.

Once that arrived I set it up and started the big transfer.  I decided to do it over Wifi because that seemed to require the least intervention on my part which meant, I hoped, the least chance of me screwing anything up.

There is a built-in process that allows you to do the transfer, you just have to setup the sending and receiving systems, get them in sync, and kick off the process.

The two units warming up…

The first attempt failed… though not because the time was an hour off on the units.  Something timed out on the first attempt and it punted the process.  However, on the second attempt things seemed to get connected correctly.

Of course, because it is Nintendo, there has to be a cute progress graphic.  In this one little people “build” the progress milestones.

Building our way to the 25% mark

After that seemed to be going, I went off to watch a movie with my wife.  Of course, because it the transfer was happening over Wifi and involved gigabytes of data it took a while, running out to the three hour mark easily.

Working on the 75% milestone a couple hours later

It is definitely a process you don’t want to sit around and watch or set in motion when you have a time constraint.  And clearly it is something to do with the power supply plugged in on both units.

In the end however, the transfer was successful.  All of my applications and user information was moved over successfully.  The process then wipes the old devices, so you don’t have double versions of things, and then you are done.

After that was done I finally got to try out the unit and I have mostly good things to say about it.

It is fast, noticeably so compared to the old unit, and is physically much lighter as well.  The screens are good, the case is easier to grip than the slick surface or the original design.  I really only have two gripes after using it for a couple weeks now.

First, and the more minor of the two, is the cartridge slot.  That slot has traditionally been uncovered and on the back of DS units since at least the Nintendo DS Lite.  On the 2DS XL it is on the front left of the unit under a very cheap feeling cover.  I suspect that if I changed cartridges often that the cover would break sooner rather than later.  It is really a flimsy piece on an otherwise solid unit.  Fortunately, I don’t swap cartridges all that often.

The second gripe is about the new stylus that comes with the unit, which is smaller than the one on the 3DS XL.  I have big hands, so it took me a while to get used to the old stylus.  Swapping that out for an even stubbier little stylus is a bit of a pain.  And given that this comes up in every review of the unit I’ve seen, I suspect I am hardly alone in being unhappy with this change.

Also, because even the old stylus is a bit small, I’ve lost a couple over the years, so I bought a bag of 20 replacements a while back which work with the new unit, but which do not fit into the stylus slot.  I can use my grandfather’s bottle opener strategy out on the farm, where he made sure there was one within reach of any place he might want to open a beer.  I have enough left in my supply to put one or two near any location where I play.  I just have to worry about them getting swept up or stolen by the cats.

Other than that I have found the unit to be an excellent replacement for my old 3DS XL and would recommend it as a possible path forward for anybody on the older hardware who didn’t care about the 3D feature.  It certainly satisfies my Pokemon playing needs.

Pokemon UltraSun and UltraMoon Launch Today

The latest entries in the long-running core Pokemon RPG series, Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon, go live today!

UltraSun & UltraMoon

Nintendo and GameFreak are returning players to Alola, the Hawaii-esque islands that previously served as the location for Pokemon Sun & Moon.

But, unlike some past generations, this won’t be a simple rework of the original story in Alola.  While the location and the basic range of Pokemon will be the same, there are new things afoot in the region for you to explore as GameFreak throws in a mix of names from past titles.  You will have a shot at catching some special Pokemon as all past legendaries be making an appearance (some on UltraSun, some in UltraMoon, because you know how it goes), so you can scoop up any you’re missing, if you are skilled and patient enough.

Legendaries from Titles Past

In addition to that they are even pulling past villains into the mix.  You will be faces with Team Rainbow Rocket, made up of the bosses from old foes such as Team Magma, Team Aqua, and Team Galactic.

The desultory Team Skull looks to be left out

Pokemon games are pretty much the only reason I own a Nintendo handheld.

However, I have not ordered either title yet.  I played a lot of Pokemon Sun earlier this year, completing the main story and running down the post-game activities as well as completing the Alola Pokedex.  But I am not feeling the Pokemon urge at the moment.

I am also a little worried about how well it will run on my original model Nintedo 3DS XL.  Pokemon Sun bogged down quite a bit on the older, slower hardware and I doubt that the new titles are going to be better, so I am waiting to see if that comes up as an issue with the new titles.

Still, I cannot wait too long.  As usual, Nintendo has some “buy now!” incentives, including giving players a master ball if they register themselves on Pokemon Global Link between today and January 29, 2018.  A master ball is guaranteed to catch even the most reluctant Pokemon in the wild.  You usually get one per game to catch an elusive legendary, but now you may have two.

Anyway, you can read more about it at the official Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon site.

 

Pokemon UltraSun and UltraMoon Coming plus Pokemon Gold and Silver on Virtual Console

Nintendo had a brief series of announcements early this morning.  The expected Pokemon Stars, rumored to be the first Pokemon title for the Nintendo Switch was not on the list.  Instead, the Switch gets its own version of Pokken Tournament.

On the Nintendo 3DS front, Nintendo announced that the next titles in the core Pokemon RPG cycle would be Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon, which will be available on November 17, 2017.

UltraSun and UltraMoon

These titles will feature a new story line in the Alola region and will allow players to capture Pokemon not available in the original Pokemon Sun & Moon games.

This development hearkens back to the Pokemon Black & White and Pokemon Black & White Version 2, where the same landscape was used to tell a second Pokemon story.

There was also a Virtual Console announcement.  As I predicted back in January, Nintendo is carrying on with the old school Nostalgia by bringing Pokemon Gold & Silver to the 3DS via the Virtual Console.

For the GameBoy Color

The second generation Pokemon games will be available on September 22, 2017 and will, like the Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow versions of last year, be Pokemon Bank compatible.  No word on Pokemon Crystal however.

Pokemon Gold and Silver

My wish for a return to Sinnoh via a remake of Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, & Platinum will have to wait for another year it seems, though I hold out hope that we will get there eventually.

As for whether or not the Nintendo Switch will take over the core Pokemon RPG game line, that seems to have been refuted,  Nintendo seems committed to the 3DS/2DS handheld consoles.

The New Nintendo 2DS XL

Gamers of all ages can play in style with the New Nintendo 2DS XL system. It gives you the power of the New Nintendo 3DS XL system in a streamlined, affordable package—and plays a huge library of games in 2D.

-Nintendo, The New 2DS XL page

If I were planning to buy a new Nintendo handheld system today (in order to play Pokemon of course), I would be all over Nintendo’s newly announced 2DS XL.

The new 2DS XL

This new unit, revealed this past Friday, would give me everything I wanted… the updated processing power of the revised 3DS XL that made it to North America in 2015 along with the additional controls… at a price $50 less than its sister unit.

The buttons I am missing on my older unit

Now the question is, what does this mean for 3D?  Is this Nintendo’s admission that 3D is dead?  It certainly never seemed like more than a gimmick to me.  Does the 3DS XL have much of a future?

At least it does seem to make the statement that the Switch isn’t going to take over for both the home console and handheld line.  Pokemon will remain on a small portable screen.

Anyway, it is a sharp looking unit and should be coming our way some time in July,

The Next Pokemon Release Will Be…

My guess is that the next Pokemon title will be a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl.

Pokemon Diamond & Pearl is where I joined Pokemon

And when I say “next Pokemon title” I mean the next release of the core RPG game that runs on the Nintendo handheld platform and not some subsidiary title riding on the Pokemon fame like Pokemon Snap or Pokken Tournament.

So why remake Pokemon Diamond & Pearl?

The core Pokemon franchise has been one of patterns over the years.  They are not always consistent, but they seem reliable enough to give one insight into what might come next.

The pattern started off with a release of a pair of titles… Red & Blue, Gold & Silver, Ruby & Sapphire, followed by a third title that represented a revision of the initial pair, respectively Yellow, Crystal, and Emerald.

Once Nintendo moved from the GameBoy and GameBoy Color to the GameBoy Advance and then the DS hardware, GameFreak used that as an opportunity to remake titles.  So Pokemon FireRed & LeafGreen, HeartGold & SoulSilver, and Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire came to be, reviving old locations and old foes (and already existing Pokemon) on new hardware with new features.

Having recently released a pair of titles set in a new location with new Pokemon being added to the Pokedex, it seems logical that the next title they go with will either be a remake of a past title or a third title to go with Pokemon Sun & Moon.

There are actually rumors of a Pokemon Stars out there, rumors that even I have heard, and I don’t pay much attention to much outside the official press releases for Pokemon. But that name sure fits the theme.

However, the rumors seem to be about this title coming to the Nintendo Switch as opposed to the 3DS platform.  If that is the case, it doesn’t count in my book.  Meanwhile, the whole “third title” pattern seems to be in decline.  The last true “third title” was Pokemon PlatinumPokemon Black & White got a Black & White Version 2, which stayed in the same region but which was a different story line, so that was sort-of a third (and fourth) title, but not in the spirit of past releases in that mold.  And then Pokemon X & Y, the first 3DS-only title, got no follow on third title, even though they had a Pokemon setup already for feature in a possible Pokemon Z.

Because of this, I think third titles might be out for now, which leaves a remake as an option.  So when I went to look for the oldest Pokemon generation that had yet to be remade, Pokemon Diamond & Pearl was the result.

Pokemon Diamond & Pearl seems about prime for a remake.  It came out in Japan over ten years ago, and is coming up on its ten year release anniversary in other regions soon.  That makes it feel like it is about due, as previous remakes were of titles 8-10 years in the past.

One difference however is that you can still play Pokemon Diamond & Pearl on the current 3DS hardware.  The flip side of that though is Nintendo looks to have stopped shipping the DS only titles, likely because the infrastructure to support those games, the old Nintendo WiFi and such, has been dismantled. Nintendo is up there with EA in closing stuff down as soon as the next title comes out.  So while you can find copies at Amazon or eBay, but they aren’t on the shelves at Target, WalMart, or Toys R Us for a reason.

And when it comes to that Pokemon Bank integrated National Pokedex of which I wrote last week, there is no official way to buy Pokemon Diamond & Pearl (and Platinum as well) in order to obtain the full range of generation 4 Pokemon.  And, unlike the Pokemon Black & White games, even if you have a copy you can’t get your Pokemon straight into Pokemon Bank.

Of course, there is another alternative.  Since Pokemon Diamond & Pearl already runs on the current 3DS hardware, Nintendo and GameFreak might decide to simply spruce the titles up a bit and put them in the Nintendo online store as Virtual Console titles the way they did with Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow back at the 20 year anniversary of the franchise.  Then it would be back to the old school look.

Pokemon Diamond back in the day

That wouldn’t be horrible.  I might buy a copy if they included Pokemon Bank integration, which I am sure they would would.  But I would really rather have a remake title the way they have done in the past.

No matter what is coming next for the Pokemon franchise, I bet we won’t hear an announcement until autumn.  I will just have to wait to see if my guess is correct.