Tag Archives: Nintendo 3DS

The End of the Line for the DS Series at Nintendo

The Verge reported that at some point in the last week or so Nintendo updated their Japanese site to indicate that the remaining units in the DS lineup, the 3DL XL, 2DS, and 2DS XL are “out of production.”

If you go the US Nintendo site, mention of the DS line of handheld console has been completely scrubbed, save for the support area, where it now lives in the “Other Systems” category with the Wii, the Wii U, and older generations of the DS line.

So ends Nintendo’s dual screen handheld line.  The Switch was not supposed to replace it, not according to Nintendo at least, and the initial Switch model was certainly bulky enough compared to the pocket sized DS line to support that argument.  But then came the Switch Lite and the writing was on the wall.

Though, to my mind, the real death knell of the DS line was Game Freak moving core Pokemon RPG development to the Switch.  In our family we played some other games on the DS, but it was primarily the Pokemon console, and those core titles were always best sellers on the platform.

The end was always coming some day, and I haven’t really played anything on my 3DS XL for ages, but it is still a bit of a sad note.

On the flip side, the DS line had a hell of a run.

Released in late 2004, when the PlayStation 2, original XBox, and GameCube were the current console generation, it persisted through to pre-orders for the PlayStation 5.  The hardware went through a series of revisions, starting with the DS, then the DS Lite, then the DSi and DSi XL.  Then came the 3D plan, with the 3DS and 3DS XL, the latter getting a couple of revisions during its time.  Finally, in order to satisfy the budget end of the spectrum, there was the 2DS, unique in its form factor, and the final entry in the lineup, the 2DS XL.

That last entry, which was also the last model I owned, was basically the 3DS XL with some improvements and a the 3D option remove.  It was, in its way, the pinnacle of the line, 3D ending up being more of a gimmick than a serious feature for most people.

But we had a number of the various models along the way.

Back in early 2008 we bought a pink DS Lite for our daughter to keep her entertained on a trip that included a six hour flight.  Later that was joined by a cobalt blue DS Lite of my own, since Pokemon seemed like a lot of fun.  My daughter and I played a lot of Pokemon together.

Pokemon Diamond and the DS Lite

The WiFi features of the early units were ahead of their time.  It could be a bit finicky, but it was a deep feature.  Pokemon Diamond and Pearl had its underground feature that allowed players to interact in the caves and visit each other’s bases. (And steal their flags!)  There was online trading between players around the world.  And I was extremely impressed with the WiFi integration with the Wii as demonstrated by games like Pokemon Battle Revolution and Pokemon Ranch.

And my little cobalt blue DS Lite was, and remains, a solidly built unit.  It went on a lot of trips and I never had a problem with it.  Battery life was excellent.

My daughter got a DSi at one point, then a DSi XL, which I thought was a great improvement.  Age was creeping up on me by then and the little DS Lite screen was starting to be blurry to me.

Then the 3DS line came along.  We skipped that initially, there being no real incentive to go to a little 3DS from the big DSi XL, but Nintendo eventually came out with the 3DS XL.  My daughter wanted one for Christmas and, once she had one, I got myself one for my birthday a couple months later.  We were back and playing Pokemon again.

And Pokemon was always the main game for us.  I think the peak for my daughter and I, the point when were were the most into it, was during Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver.  The game was good and the tropes of the core RPG series still felt fresh to us.

There was the Pokewalker, the pedometer which allowed you to unlock Pokemon by getting out and walking… or, you know, cheating.  It communicated with the DS Lite via the IR port.  Only one Pokewalker went through the wash.

Pokewalker on my Belt

There were many download events, the ones where you had to go out to Toys R Us or GameStop to collect.  We event went to the regional championships just to see what was going on.

And, of course, Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver was the game where I caught them all for the first and only time.  I got the National Pokedex first, which qualifies you for the achievement in the game.  But that was only 485 Pokemon, because they don’t make you get the rare, event Pokemon.  But I managed to hunt them down, getting the final one by playing Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs to get an egg that could be transferred into Pokemon SoulSilver , which would then hatch a Mamphy, with could be bred with a Ditto to get an egg that would hatch  a Phione, the last Pokemon I needed.  I had 493 Pokemon registered, back when that was all there was.

Back when 493 was all there was

I think we might have burned ourselves out on Pokemon with that run.  We played Pokemon Black & White, but were never that into it, as we skipped Pokemon Black 2 & White 2 when they came out, though I went back and played White 2 later.  It was a decent entry, and actually bucked a few of the tropes of the series.

Then there was the dead time, when the new Pokemon titles were on the 3DS, but we didn’t go there until the XL models came out.  Those saw a return to Pokemon for us and a modest revival of our passion for the games.

We played through Pokemon X & Y, Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, and Pokemon Sun & Moon, though we stumbled a bit with Pokemon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon.  We bought it, but neither of us finished it.  We were again in the “too samey” phase again.  But my daughter did devote a lot of time to Animal Crossing: New Leaf after Pokemon faded.

And that was it.  Literally the day after my wife bought me the 2DS XL for Christmas, Game Freak announced that there would be no more Pokemon games on the DS platform.  The Switch was the future.

The 3DS hung around, and even saw a bit of a sales spike at one point after that, but without Pokemon there to anchor the platform, it seemed like time was drawing down on it, which brings us to this past week.

The units are still here.  I can still play Pokemon if I want.  But the support services have been fading since the Switch came out.  None of the DS series Pokemon games can use their global trade center or other connectivity that made the games so vibrant.  That has all been turned off.  And soon enough the store and all the other bits that Nintendo has to maintain will go away.  Like the Wii before it, the DS series will become isolated, stand alone game consoles.

Still, as I said, a hell of a run.  Almost 16 years have gone by since the first units shipped, and you can still play games made for the very first DS on the final 2DS XL units.  And it was a platform for some crazy ideas.  Let’s just start with the whole two screens idea, one being a touch screen.  Then there were the IR ports and the cameras and then 3D support, which included freaking 3D camera capabilities along with AR support along with all the things Nintendo did with WiFi along the way.

Seriously, they got Netflix to make an app to stream their video service on the 3DS series.  I tried it.  It was crap quality, but you could watch stuff.

So it goes.

If I want to play Pokemon today I have a Switch Lite.  It is a nice little unit.  The screen quality is very good.  But it won’t replace the DS series in my heart.  There is too much of my life tied up in that.

Other eulogies for the DS platform:

Pokemon Sun and Moon Coming for the Holidays

As we sit here on the day before the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Pokemon franchise, Nintendo has some new Pokemon related announcements.

The big one is, of course, the next new Pokemon games in the series, Pokemon Sun & Moon.  You can see the brief statement about the new games here.

Coming in Q4 2016

Coming in Q4 2016

While the setting and new features slated for Pokemon Sun & Moon are yet to be announced, we do know that they will link into the Pokemon Bank application available for the Nintendo 3DS series, which will allow players to move their Pokemon from Pokemon X & Y and Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire to the new title.

In addition, the revised versions of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow, the original generation which started it all back in 1996, and which should be available in the 3DS store tomorrow, will also connect into Pokemon Bank.

A diagram from the presentation, so it must be true!

A diagram from the presentation, so it must be true!

This will allow you to catch the original 151 Pokemon… well, not Mew, but the other ones… in the initial setting and then bring them into the current generation of games.

Old games come to the Virtual Console

Coming to the Virtual Console February 27, 2016

It will be a one way trip from Pokemon Red, Blue, or Yellow, but you might as well catch them there, as we still have most of the year left to wait until Pokemon Sun & Moon come our way.

I have been waiting for this announcement for a while now, as we seemed due for a new Pokemon release announcement.  I guess waiting for the anniversary makes sense.

The questions that remain for me include, which of the original three should I grab, will I be able to endure a 20 year old version of Pokemon, and will I finally finish up Pokemon Alpha Sapphire before the holiday launch of the new titles?

And, if you’re dying for more Pokemon history, Polygon has a Pokemon timeline posted covering the last 20 years.

The Next New Pokemon Games are Old Pokemon Games

My daughter and I were talking about Pokemon about two weeks back and I was wondering when we might hear about the next Pokemon game.  Nintendo and Game Freak had been on about an “every 18 months” schedule, where they would release a title, announce the next title a year after that, and release it six months later.

And when I say a Pokemon game, I mean a game from the core RPG line of games on their handheld platform, the games started it all way back when and not one of the many subsidiary titles.  The last pair in that long line of games to come out was Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, just about a year back.

So I figured we were about due to at least hear about the next entry in the line.  And it just so happened that Nintendo had their Nintendo Direct event last week where they announced a pile of new games.  I watched on Twitter as they announced one thing after another… and then the event was over… and no NEW Pokemon game in the core RPG mold was announced.

But back in the list of things was an OLD Pokemon game… actually three… that had been mentioned.  Here in the West we will be getting the original, first three Pokemon titles to come out way, Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow.  The full announcement is here.

Old games come to the Virtual Console

Old games come to the Virtual Console

The titles will be arriving in the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console section of the Nintendo store right on the 20th anniversary of the original launch of Pokemon Red in Japan.  And we won’t even have to wait two and a half years to get versions for other markets.

The games that started it all 20 years ago

The games that started it all 20 years ago

And that is pretty cool, bringing back a 20 year old game for players today.

I’m just not all that excited about it.

Yeah, I an pro retro gaming and going back to examine our roots.   And I thought Twitch Plays Pokemon was pretty amusing.  But the GameBoy era wasn’t my time.

So the old monochrome graphics really don’t do much for me.  I started on the Nintendo DS hardware with Pokemon Diamond & Pearl nearly a decade after the originals.

Still, I will take this as a sign of things to come.

I noted previously that the Nintendo DS series of Pokemon games, Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, HeartGold, SoulSilver, Black, White, Black Version 2, and White Version 2, had all been pulled from store shelves because the Nintendo WiFi network support for them had been brought down, so Nintendo could no longer live up to what was being promised on the side of the box.

Go ahead, try to find some of those games for sale.  Some people are charging a premium for the more popular titles on that list.

Top Prices at Amazon

Top Prices at Amazon… better buy used…

I was able to get White Version 2 for a discount a year ago, but Black Version 2 was going for well over list already.

So my hope is that we might get some re-worked versions of the DS titles for the Virtual Console some day… though I wouldn’t throw over a new title for those quite yet.  I have grown used to the updated graphics on the 3DS.

Pokemon and the New 3DS

It is certainly expected that Nintendo, suffering from its various mis-steps with the Wii U, would tread a careful path with its other current console line, the Nintendo 3DS series.  And that is what it felt like with yesterday’s announcement of the New 3DS line.

The New 3DS

The New 3DS

There were a some comments about the button colors and how that harkens back to earlier Nintendo console controllers.  Oooh, nostalgia.

But the key discussion points have been around the upgraded processor, the addition of a second analog stick (the little nub above the colored buttons, which will keep players from having to buy/use an add-on peripheral for games that require dual analog sticks), the extra shoulder buttons, the slightly larger screen, some changes in layout, and the dubious current naming plan, under which Nintendo has christened the new units (which will come in both standard and XL form) as the “New Nintendo 3DS.”

I foresee in the not too distant future somebody going to GameStop and asking if they have a “Used New 3DS.”  Maybe that makes more sense in Japanese.

Aside from the name, there is also the question of a more powerful unit.  That seems like an uncontroversial move by Nintendo, but what does it mean?  What is Nintendo telling us by giving these new models more processing power?

My first thought on reading about this new unit was, “Am I going to need this for Pokemon.”  Because my own 3DS XL… which is a great piece of hardware… is pretty much a console for playing Pokemon games right now.

From what I have read, it does not seem likely that I will.  At least not for the next release.

There were a couple of points when playing Pokemon X and Y where the hardware felt like it was struggling a bit to keep up with what it had to draw on screen, but that felt more like rough edges from Gamefreak’s first attempt at a rendered Pokemon game rather than any shortfall in the hardware.  I suspect we won’t get to November and the Pokemon Alpha Ruby and Omega Sapphire release only to find ourselves wanting for more CPU power.  At least we had better not, since the New 3DS models won’t be coming to the US until some point in 2015.

But over at Forbes they are worrying that Nintendo has already said that some games will require the processor power of the new units.  That gets me back to the naming scheme, because if you’re going to ship games that run on one generation of a platform but not another, it had better be very clear up front which is which.  Nintendo has been through this before, with the Nintendo DS to 3DS generation change, and they not only made sure everything was carefully labelled, but 3DS cartridges have a tab that sticks out, preventing them from being stuck into the older DS platform consoles.

So we shall see if Nintendo manages to fracture their user base or not with nominally compatible systems in this generation, some of which may not be able to play all of the games available.  I suspect, no matter what, Pokemon will remain playable across the board.  Messing with a huge selling title like that comes with risks.  I bought my current 3DS XL just to play Pokemon, but I am not sure I would buy another one just a year later to carry on.

And the other aspects, the improved battery life in the standard size version and slightly larger screens, do not really move me.  The current 3DS XL is big enough for me to use without putting on my reading glasses, which is what really matters to me at this point, and the larger battery pack on the XL unit has me covered.

Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire Coming This November

Nintendo has announced the next games in the long running Pokemon series, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.

PokemonAlphaOmega_450

Pokemon titles generally come in three flavors.  There are the original issue pairs, which include such titles as Diamond and Pearl, Black and White, X and Y, and Ruby and Sapphire. These are the heart of the Pokemon franchise and what goes in here tends to find its way to the TV show and the trading card game.

Then there are the consolidation titles that take one of those pairs, put all the Pokemon that were exclusive to either, shake up the story a little bit, and then release as a new title.  Pokemon games such as Platinum, Emerald, and Yellow fall into that category.  Those used to be a staple of the years between new stories, though Game Freak, the Pokemon game developer, seems to have gotten itself tuned up to a point that it doesn’t need to do that sort of thing (in the case of X and Y) or can release a double pair of such games (as with Black 2 and White 2).

And then there are the remakes.

This is when they take an older version of the game, usually from one of the past Game Boy platforms, and remake the story with all the bells and whistles that the current state of the art allows.  There are only a couple of these so far, and they are easy to spot as they get compound names like FireRed and LeafGreen (remake of Red and Blue) or HeartGold and SoulSilver (remake of Gold and Silver).  While this might look like an opportunity for the company to slack a bit with a remake, Game Freak seems to go all out with the remakes and they end up being some of the best games in the series.  But I had the most fun playing HeartGold and SoulSilver, it being the peak of my Pokemon experience, so that might be my personal bias talking in large part.

Add in how good Pokemon X and Y look and play on the 3DS system, and I am quite looking forward to the first remake to come to the 3DS platform.  I will even let Nintendo slide on the hyperbole in the wee announcement video (30 seconds pretty much just to show us some box art).

PokemonAlphaOmegaNewNew

It is actually and new take on a pre-existing epic adventure… for specific definitions of epic… along with what I hope will be a dramatic new rendering of the previously visited Hoenn region of the world of Pokemon.  But I still want to play.  Actually, I want to play all the more so because it is a remake.  I have a copy of Sapphire that I played thanks to the Game Boy Advance slot on the DS Lite (no longer part of the 3DS generation) but it definitely felt like playing the older generation hardware, where two buttons were considered sufficient, and I never finished it.

Information about the game… aside from that it is coming and obvious assumptions about the setting and story… are almost non-existent at this point.  But I am sure Nintendo will feed us details over the next few months to get us ready for the launch.

But even in the current information vacuum, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are on our list or games to play this fall.

 

A Return to Pokemon

I can hear some of you groaning even now.  Hush!

While 2014 might be the Year of Faff elsewhere, around here it seems more like the year of renewal and return to past happy times.  Nothing new around these parts.  I am bland about The Elder Scrolls Online, completely indifferent to WildStar, and can’t think of any other new games that have sparked any real interest in me.  No, it has been all throw backs to paths already traveled of late, what with the return to World of Warcraft, poking about in EVE Online, running up some time in Diablo III, dragging out the revamped version of Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, and even revisiting Warcraft III.

Which, on reflection, does sound like a lot of time spent faffing about, so my year might actually be in tune with the godmother’s.  Might have to go grab that Year of Faff logo.

Anyway, with the year shaping up as it has, why not add in Pokemon?

It was just about six months back where I was ready to bid a final farewell to Pokemon.

Pokemon X & Y had shipped and required you have one of the new(ish) Nintendo 3DS models in order to play.

PokemonXYlogo

While we had a couple of DS Lites and a DSi XL sitting around the house, the current 3DS generation wasn’t really in our plans.  So that looked to be that.

But as Christmas approached, my daughter had a change of heart and put a Nintendo 3DS XL on her wish list… because that is what grandparents are for.  And, sure enough, at my dad’s house on Christmas Day there was just such a unit (in red) under the tree for her, along with a GameStop gift card from my sister.

We had to get out of the house right away after Christmas to get some games.  GameStop is a very busy place the day after Christmas.  And while my daughter was primarily interested in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, she did also pick up a copy of Pokemon X.

Still, I am not sure that we had shaken the malaise that Pokemon Black & White put us in. (Some long term veterans of the series reported similar feelings.)

Pokemon Diamond & Pearl was where we started.  The game was fresh and exciting.  Pokemon Platinum came along, the traditional interim remix of the previous titles, and we were still engaged.  Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver, remakes of Pokemon Gold & Silver, were the peak of our time with the series.  The game, the details, the Pokewalker (which I wore every day for a couple years) were all great.  That was when I actually sat down and caught them all.  At that point, “all” meant 493 Pokemon.

We were excited for Pokemon Black & White.  We went to events, pre-ordered the games, and were ready to go on day one.  And things kind of fell flat.  Some combo of having played through several versions of the game already (and the base game is always nearly identical at a certain level), missing elements like your lead Pokemon walking with you in-game or the Pokewalker, and something of a general coming of age for my daughter and her becoming interested in more “girly” things than playing video games with dad contributed to this.

There was no spark there.  We tried a couple of times to go back and finish the game, but we both sit at 6 gym badges out of 8 and no further.  Pokemon Black 2 & White 2 were pretty much ignored by us.

So when my daughter started on Pokemon X on the 3DS XL, I was interested to hear how she liked it.  While she gave it generally favorable reviews, there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm behind them.  She was much more interested in Animal Crossing.

So it sat for a couple of months.  I liked the idea of the 3DS XL and its big screen as well as another shot at Pokemon, but there didn’t seem to be a enough interest from my daughter for me to take the plunge.  And then a couple weeks back, suddenly she lit up on the Pokemon X front.  She seemed to be quite into it, so I looked around and saw I had enough gift card credits at Amazon to pick up a 3DS XL myself.

Gift card money at Amazon is a special resource to me.  If somebody gives me money, it goes into the general fund and gets used to pay bills or buy cat food or whatever.  But credit at Amazon feels like it is uniquely mine.  I can’t use it to pay the mortgage or the phone bill.  I can set that aside and used it on something for me.

So I splurged last week and spent my credits on a black 3DS XL, which for some reason was $10 cheaper than the other colors along with a copy of Mario Kart 7… because Mario Kart.   Well, actually, I needed to but the 3DS XL and another title to get a “free” copy of Pokemon X or Y as part of a promotion Nintendo was running.

Last Wednesday the unit arrived.

I unboxed it, started it charging, then began setting it up.  I had get it on our wireless, then create a Nintendo eShop account, then link that account to my Club Nintendo account, and then get everything registered so I could get my code for a copy of Pokemon Y that could be downloaded from the eShop.

As annoying as that might sounds, it actually went pretty quickly, mostly just worked, and was still a lot easier than getting one of the old DS Lite models up and connected to Nintendo WiFi back in the day. (One of the most common email questions I got for quite a stretch was, “How do I get Nintendo WiFi to work?!?!?!?!”)

I was a little hesitant to only have a downloaded copy of Pokemon Y.  The tradition is to have the physical cartridge, and we have at least 10 such Pokemon games in our storage box along with just about everything else purchased for the DS series.  The 3DS line, which can use the DS series cartridges, stores data and downloaded games on an SD card.

The SD card thing is probably good in the long run.  The 3DS XL came with a 4GB card and you can upgrade it to a 32GB card if you need more space.  The upgrade process is a bit… simple?  You take the card out of the 3DS, copy the files to your PC, then copy those files to the bigger SD card, and then put it back in the 3DS.

But that just makes it software, which can go away, be erased, or otherwise corrupted, as opposed to being burnt forever(-ish) into a ROM in a plastic cartridge.  Such read-only media traditions go back to the days of the Atari 2600 for me.  Something about it being on writable media makes me twitch a bit.  Old habits.

But the game itself… is great.

It is, of course, straight from the traditional Pokemon mold.  Youth with surprisingly permissive parents allowed to go wander the world, filling up their Pokedex for the local tree-named Professor of Pokemon Studies (Sycamore this time), battling various oddly focused gym leaders, thwarting an eccentrically dressed evil organization (Team Flare this time), all while on the way to becoming the Pokemon champion of the region… and collecting them all.

And the number for “all” is now 719.  Oh my.

But while everything is the same, everything is also different… or better… or bother.

Everything is now represented on the big screen with 3D model… and when I say “3D” I mean it in the way we mean it when we talk about EverQuest or World of Warcraft.  There is also the 3D movie effect of depth, but like most everybody else, I turned that off once the novelty faded and it started making my head hurt.

And the new models and motion in the world and the world itself… just work.

There was no moment of “Oh, now this is much better!”  Instead it was just a sense of things being as they were meant to be.  In fact, I was rather shocked when I went back to Pokemon Black & White to check where I had left off.  Things were much flatter and pixelated just one version ago.  Samples gleaned from the internet, because you cannot take screen shots in Pokemon games. (You can, in a very, very limited way in Pokemon X & Y, but that is for another post.)  More is the pity.

Pokemon X & Y

Pokemon X & Y – 2013

Pokemon Black 2 & White 2

Pokemon Black 2 & White 2 – 2012

And just to show the progression over the last decade, the first Pokemon game on the DS platform and the last one on the GameBoy Advance platform.

Pokemon Diamond

Pokemon Diamond – 2006

Pokemon Emerald

Pokemon Emerald – 2004

A lot of work clearly went into Pokemon X & Y and it represents a considerable leap in the rendering technology used for the game.

And while I can be Mister Nostalgia and long for the good old days, I have to say I am very happy with the updated graphics.  Of course, that might have something to do with them being tuned for the 3DS screen… and the big 3DS XL screen especially.  That screen looks really nice, Pokemon X & Y render beautifully on it, and it is big enough for me to play the game without wearing my reading glasses!

Can’t do that with my faithful old DS Lite.

I will have more to say about Pokemon X & Y in future posts, as well as the Nintendo 3DS XL hardware (besides the fact that it may be the best made handheld unit they have ever produced) in future posts.  This post can basically be summed up as:

Pokemon is back!  There will be posts!  You have been warned!

 

A Farewell to Pokemon

We were out shopping on Sunday.  For some reason my wife asked me to come along and for equally inexplicable reasons I said yes.  I do not like wandering around the mall “shopping” and begin to behave like an 8 year old in making up games and distractions to pass the time.  This, in turn, annoys the crap out of my long-suffering wife, so clearly neither of us was thinking straight on this call.

But as we made our way through the electronics section of Target, my daughter went over to the Nintendo section and spotted the new Pokemon X and Y games.

Pokemon X and Y

Pokemon X and Y

She actually seemed both surprised and excited to see a new Pokemon game out.  I knew it had shipped.  I still get email updates from Nintendo and was aware that the new games were releasing world wide this past Saturday.  I just hadn’t said (or written) anything about it.  (Keen and Graev have some posts about the new games.)  But I have to admit I have been interested in the game.

Pokemon used to be one of our things.

My daughter was attracted to the game a long ways back, when we saw a Nintendo DS on display at a store with Pokemon loaded up.  It was colorful, the basic functions were immediately comprehensible to her, and the idea of capturing little pets and making them battle held an attraction for her.  She was into bugs and dinosaurs and animals when she was that age. (Now, however, she screams bloody murder if there is a moth in the shower with her.)

Of course to play Pokemon you had to buy the hardware, a Nintendo DS.  That was the stopping point, until we were about to go on a trip and my wife gave me the mandate to go buy one to keep our daughter entertained on the plane for five hours.  So I went out and bought a pink Nintendo DS Lite along with LEGO Star Wars, Mario Party DS, and Pokemon Diamond.

I could have skipped the first two.  We spent the whole trip playing Pokemon.  My daughter was in kindergarten at the time and needed help reading some of the text in the game… this was before she had been trained by World of Warcraft to skip all quest text… so I spent a chunk of that time reading the game text aloud to her.  That was a bit of a chore for me, but got her motivated to read.

The game was such a success that a couple of months later my wife bought me a cobalt blue Nintendo DS Lite and my own copy of Pokemon Diamond and we were off.

We played through that together, went on to Pokemon Platinum, and really hit our peak during Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver.  We were wearing out Pokewalkers everywhere (and cheating a bit using physics and LEGO).  There were mishaps and tragedies and meddling cats, but we were into it.  We went to the Pokemon regional championships, played with Pokemon Ranch, and in went to the Pokemon Black and White tour when it showed up at a local mall.  I even caught ’em all, nabbing all 493 Pokemon that were available in the series up to that point.

But then Pokemon Black and White came along and we were not quite as interested.  In part that was because we had played so much Pokemon up to that point.  We might have been a bit burned out having burned through all the predecessors on the DS, plus a couple of the GameBoy Advance versions, which also ran on the DS Lite.

Then there is also the fact that all Pokemon games are very much alike at some basic level.  You start out in the world as a youth, you meet some Pokemon expert, you get your first Pokemon, and you head out into the world to catch Pokemon, battle gym leaders, and eventually take on the regional champions, all while battling a rival and some oddly dressed organization bent on evil.  And all of it takes place in a world completely obsessed with Pokemon and where all conflict is resolved by Pokemon battles.

After a few runs through that, you might get a little tired of it.

And then there are the special features each game brings to the table.  My daughter and I used to enjoy playing together in the underground in Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum.  It was a shared environment you could link up in on WiFi.  We were also fond of the Pokewalker and the way your lead Pokemon would walk around with you in HeartGold and SoulSilver.  In Black and White the key features were the graphics, which were improved, 150 new Pokemon (groan), and a lot of online WiFi connectivity (like Global Link) that did not really click with us.  Neither of us finished Black or White and we never bothered with Black 2 and White 2. (Which I still think were dumb names.)

Finally, there were just other distractions.  Other games to play, other things to do.  My daughter was growing up and little things like Pokemon were no longer quite so important.  So we have not been playing Pokemon for quite a while.  I would say that we are at least two years past the last time either of us played with any read drive.

But the memory of those times, of playing together, of figuring out where to go next, of catching and trading Pokemon, that all remains.  And I think some of that came rushing back to her when we were standing there at the counter looking at the new Pokemon.  She was gushing a bit when she asked, “Can we get it?”

I had to tell her we could not.

While Pokemon X and Y have the usual range of features and even a slick way to transfer your old Pokemon over to the new games via the internet (assuming you have them all in Pokemon Black or White) using a feature called Pokemon Bank, there was a problem.

Pokemon Bank - $5.00 a year

Pokemon Bank – $5.00 a year

Pokemon X and Y are the first versions of the main line of Pokemon games that are exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS generation of handheld gaming devices.  Our Nintendo DS Lites are now pretty much obsolete.  When Nintendo stops shipping Pokemon on a platform, it is done.

There certainly seems to be some hunger for a version of Pokemon on the 3DS platform.  It is on track to be a big seller, moving 4 million units on its first two days.  The top Pokemon games of all time are Pokemon Diamond and Pearl which together move nearly 18 million units.

My daughter had an immediate solution to this problem, which was to buy new hardware!

I have clearly failed to instill any sort of sense as to the value of money in my daughter.

I had to tell her that wasn’t going to happen either.  At least not right then.  Something like a Nintendo 3DS is a Christmas/Birthday present (or maybe a going on long trip present) and not something we just buy on a whim while at the store on a Sunday afternoon.  Even the more moderately priced Nintendo 2DS, about which I am a bit dubious given what I have read (turns out it has just one big LED panel for both screens), falls outside of the impulse buy price range in my opinion.

My daughter’s response was in the “Oh well” range of emotions.  She didn’t seem all that put out by it and I somehow doubt that a Nintendo 3DS is going to make it to her Christmas list.  And if it did, I think she is more interested in Animal Crossing: New Leaf than Pokemon.

So I suspect that we have had our time with Pokemon.

Augmented Reality Pokemon for the Nintendo 3DS

Pokemon.com announced a while ago the release of a 3D Pokedex for Pokemon Black and White in the Nintendo eShop for use with, and only with, the Nintendo 3Ds.

That seemed to me a bit of a gimmick, though at least it was a freebie.  And people who bought 3DS units right away probably need all the support they can get, what with the short battery life and such.

But there was a more recent announcement about the 3D Pokedex, regarding the addition of augmented reality to the app.

This allows you to print out what they call and “AR Card,” place it at some real, physical location, such as on your kitchen table, and then, when you view that through the 3DS, the Pokemon whose AR Card you have appears to be there, on the table.

A Pokemon and its AR Card

Again, something of a gimmick in my mind.  People have played with this sort of thing.  Apparently, the side of the card you print out dictates how big the item will be when viewed, so there was a story over at Kotaku about people printing out poster sized cards to insert life-size Marios into the world.

Nintendo even has a poster sized AR Card that will let you view your Mii (yes, the 3DS has Miis) in full, human scale height.

Not having a 3DS as yet (call me when they get to the second generation… and only if they improve battery life) I do not know exactly what you can do, other than view the images and take pictures of them.  Though that might be enough.  I’d put a giant Mario next to my car for a photo op if I could.

But the Pokemon AR Cards also give you something else.

Use the AR Viewer in Pokédex 3D to view Pokémon projected into the real world! When you point the camera at these special Pokémon AR Markers, you’ll be able to see and take pictures of Pokémon in 3D. In most cases, when you view one of these Pokémon AR Markers you will increase your chances of receiving the Pokémon that you’ve scanned. But if you scan certain Legendary or Mythical Pokémon’s AR Markers, you will receive those Pokémon instantly!

Okay, you can only see Pokemon you already have.  And using the AR Card for ones you do not have will increase your chance of getting that Pokemon as part of a SpotPass.

But if you view a legendary or mythical Pokemon, and you do not have it, you will receive it immediately?

I hate to cry “welfare epics,” but isn’t stalking and catching those rare and elusive Pokemon part of the reason to play the game?

Okay, I suppose when the obsession is upon you, you will do many things to fill that Pokedex.  I know how that mania feels, and the lengths to which you will go to catch them all.

I can even go along with the SpotPass option, as it is one of the ways of getting Pokemon that are not in your version of the game. (Black and White each have their own exclusives.)

But handing out legendary Pokemon for printing out an AR Card?

That seems… hollow.

At least to me.

Yes, I have gotten my share of legendary Pokemon from download events.  But at least those were out of the house, limited time, go somewhere and see other Pokemon players activities.

Ah well, gotta sell those 3DS units somehow I suppose.  I bet some Pokemon fan is even now planning to buy a 3DS just to get the legendary Pokemon.

Nnitendo 3DS $170 – DS Lite $100

Well, Nintendo dumped the price of the 3Ds by $80 just four months after its release.

Apparently, sales were not meeting internal estimates according to Nintendo.  And then there is the whole Sony PlayStation Vita thing.  No doubt Nintendo wanted to win on price there early.  But slow sales are registering as the primary concern.

Certainly *I* didn’t run out and buy one.  But for me, the 3Ds has only one compelling feature so far, NetFlix streaming, which did not even go live until last week or so.

3DS and NetFlix

I am tempted by that option, though I am held back when I start thinking about when I would actually use it.  Am I really going to watch that much Star Trek: The Next Generation sitting in bed?

Otherwise, from what I have seen, in person and in the news, there is no killer app for the device quite yet.

Of course, if you own a 3DS already, you might be a little miffed at the drastic price drop.  But Nintendo plans to make it up to you.

Meanwhile, if I were in the market for a DS right now that was just right for what I play most on the handheld gaming device, I would be looking at the DS Lite, which Nintendo has aggressively priced.

DS Lites, While Supplies Last

Sure, the DSi has access to the online Nintendo store and the DSi XL has a larger screen (at the same pixel resolution), but the good old DS Lite has the best battery life of the product line and it is the last of the DS line to have the GameBoy Advance cartridge slot.  That last piece is key for the truly obsessive Pokemon fan, as it gives you access to several more generations of Pokemon games.

So I am not sure what Nintendo marketing thinks they are doing.

They dropped the 3Ds price right on top of the DSi XL price point.  The DSi is sitting not that far behind as well in price.  Meanwhile, they are sending out ads for the DS Lite at a price that pretty much pulls the rug out from underneath everybody.

That is some good work there Nintendo.

The Nintendo 3DS… I’d Buy One

The Nintedo 3DS goes on sale today in the United States and I am considering getting one.

also available in black

But not today.

I got to play with the 3DS at GDC earlier in the month.  I did not mention that in my GDC post.  I’d like to say that I planned that in advance, holding back until the 3DS launch, but actually I just forgot.

In my 10 minutes of play I got to try out their augmented reality demo, which uses the two cameras on the back of the unit and some cards placed on a table top to create 3D images that appear to be on your table.  I then had to move the unit around to target and shoot things.

As a compelling game, it wasn’t so good, but as a technological demonstration it was interesting.  While everybody talks about the 3D aspect of the unit, it also has a 3D axis gyroscope and accelerometer so that the motion of the unit can be used as an aspect of game play.  If you have an iPhone, this is no big news, but it does add something new to the Nintendo platform.  Already one of the launch with one of the titles, Steel Diver, a submarine game, you can sit in an office chair and rotate your periscope by spinning around in the chair.  I expect (and hope) that we will see more of this sort of thing.  Some of it will be used as a gimmick, but somebody will find new ways to have us play games with this tech.

And there is also the expanded wireless capabilities.  The Nintendo DS line has always had wireless built-in, but it has not always been exploited very well.  The DSi models added in the ability to buy games for Nintendo points via a wireless connection.  But the new CrossPass technology along with some very Wii-like features, such as a Mii and a Virtual Console library that will feature games from past GameBoy generations moves things another step forward.

Then there is the 3D screen, which is a beautiful 800×240 resolution unit for the upper display.  The current Nintendo DS model line has a resolution of only 256×192 on both upper and lower screens.

And possibly the best thing about that new screen is that you can turn the 3D off and just have a nice big display.

Not that the 3D is bad.  The augmented reality game certainly showed that 3D works well enough without glasses.  And I watched the 3D trailer for the movie Rio on the 3DS.  I happened to have seen that trailer in the theater in 3D already, so I was able to compare quality.

It looked VERY good on the 3DS screen.

The 3D was okay.  At times the three dimensions seemed to be “near, middle, and distant,” but on good effects it blended together nicely.

But the GDC announcement that there will be a Netflix streaming client for the Nintendo 3DS this summer is what has me really excited.  I could totally see watching movies on that screen.

But since that is not coming until summer, I am content to wait a bit.  By then there will be some more titles available.  Any problems will have been identified.  And maybe they will have done something about the battery life, which is a bit short compared to my current Nintendo DS Lite.

Of course, I do have one worry.

If I get one then somebody else in our house will want one… or will want to use mine all the time.

Another reason to wait a bit.

[Addendum:  See, it is this sort of thing that makes me shy away from newly released hardware.]