If you do love your 3DS, sorry. The title is awfully presumptuous, and I’m forming it around my own opinions and those that I’ve read around the net from readers like the fine folk here at TechnoBuffalo. Go on loving your 3DS, I don’t mind. But, for the rest of us, for those that bought the machine and find it to be a little lacking, I bring news from the East. The system is incredible in Japan.
All of those extra features, all the crazy StreetPass and SpotPass tech make the 3DS an incredibly exciting piece of portable hardware. For the States? No. For the rest of the world? Maybe. But for a country rich in mobile tech and gaming supporters like Japan, the Nintendo 3DS is a real winner.
And, honestly speaking here, you don’t even need to use the 3D portion of the machine to get the most out of it.
Okay, so let’s play catch up. I’ve been in Japan for the last week. I went to visit an old friend in Osakako, a small, man-made island on the Eastern coast of the middle-ish of the country. I knew what to expect going into the trip; I’ve lived in or visited Japan for what amounts to around three months’ worth of time now. It’s a nation that spends a large portion of its time commuting and looking straight down at mobile devices.
I don’t mean that to be stereotypical, and I don’t mean it as an offense. Japan has just naturally trended towards living in the palm of its own hands. The large majority of Japanese people commute via public transportation for at least a few hours a day. Trains are quiet, sporadically packed modes of transport with plenty of seating and standing room… when it’s not rush hour. That means that Japanese people have tons of time to sit quietly and concentrate on one single thing.
Step onto a train in any relatively urban environment and you’ll see that more than 90% of the riders are staring down at whatever portable device they have in their hands. Last year it was mostly clamshell phones, something the country can’t seem to walk away from. Now you’ll see a few iPhones, Android devices and other touch-based one-offs scattered into the crowd. But, aside from phones, you’ll see gaming hardware. PSPs, 3DSs and DSs are scattered all over public transportation as users move from one location to another. It’s constant.
So, I headed into this country with my brand new 3DS. The 3DS, for those that don’t know, is packed with a few new wireless features. StreetPass, the one that I’ll be discussing here, is a passive feature that constantly scans the immediate area of the device for other 3DS machines. When 3DSs are near each other, they share data; if users give their handhelds permission. Players will add other Miis to their Mii Plaza, use them in an awesome mini-RPG to unlock Mii hats and create an ever growing army of virtual acquaintances.
When I left the US, I had, I’m not kidding, two strangers in my Mii Plaza. I keep my system on me for most of the day. I live in a moderately urban area, one that’s a lot like every other non-major city in the country. In more than a month’s time, I was only able to walk past two other 3DS users with StreetPass activated.
In Japan? I carried the 3DS with me everywhere. In Umeda and Namba (densely populated food, shopping and night life districts in Osaka), Nara (home to some of the best temples in Japan) and, of course, Den Den Town. Den Den Town is Osaka’s version of Akihabara in Tokyo. It’s a mecca for geeks of all things gaming, manga, anime and tech. Walk down the streets of Den Den Town and you’ll be privy to incredibly awesome retro game shops, new tech stores, computer hardware depots, maid cafes and manga shops with a whole host of exceptionally vulgar material. You’ll also be able to enjoy some of the best street-sold yaki soba in the world.
Over the course of my time in Japan, I was able to pick up more than 50 new Mii friends for my Mii Plaza. I’ve unlocked a ton of new content, earned an epic amount of Play Coins and played more multiplayer than I have in a long time. It was amazing. I found myself turning to my 3DS every 30 minutes in order to see who I’d met recently. And the people I met had met hundreds and even thousands of others.
In one week, I bumped into 25 times more 3DS users than I had in the States. That either speaks for poor sales or, as is my theory, a culture that simply doesn’t line up with the intended features of the device itself. The 3DS was made for Japan. The wireless functionality, the nature of the launch games and even the click of the clamshell (something that sounds EXACTLY like the clamshell phones in Japan) were all made to be loved by the Land of the Rising Sun.
For the rest of the world? StreetPass is a feature that you’ll likely only get excited about when you go to your favorite nerd conventions. Heck, I’ll be heading into E3 with my system on and in my bag, waiting for new friends. It’s super geeky, yes, but it’s really exciting. The rest of my time in the real world will be darn lonely on my 3DS.
If you don’t love your 3DS now, take it to Japan for a week.