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New 3DS vs 3DS & Travelling in Japan

June 23, 2015

23 June 2015

Two of the most interesting choices and experiences that a Nintendo 3DS owner can encounter is the release of a revamped system and travelling to Japan. This 3DS owner was confronted with both recently: 1) Owning a 3DS since December 2011, did the New 3DS have enough features to warrant a new purchase? 2) Exactly what is it like carrying your 3DS around in Japan, specifically regards to the Street Pass function? Also, how do you charge it while overseas?

New 3DS vs 3DS

The new 3DS is actually called New 3DS. While everything has been rejigged or refined, New 3DS looks very similar to the old, and It certainly plays exactly like the old. Most of the physical changes are superficial: the cartridge slot, stylus slot and power button are all on the front edge of the machine; the volume slider is now on the top screen, the physical WiFi switch is replaced with a software setting; the microSD card slot is underneath the back cover and requires a screwdriver to access it; the face buttons are now coloured – as a homage to the old SNES controller; and, the Home, Start and Select buttons all have slightly different locations. No charger is included with the machine. In terms of functionality, the biggest and most interesting physical changes are a small control-nub above the face buttons and two extra shoulder buttons known as ZR and ZL.

3DS vs New 3DS XL - system

3DS vs New 3DS XL. Colours are Cosmos Black and Metallic Blue.

Technologically, “Super Stable 3D” and a faster processor are the key selling points. The system’s camera monitors your eyes to adjust the 3D angle accordingly, while the faster processor is noticeable with the super fast boot-up times for games and faster downloading from the internet. For actual game playing, there’s no specific benefit except for games specifically designed for the New 3DS. So far there’s only one: Xenoblade Chronicles 3D.

I found all the upgrades very useful, especially the new screen and the 3D effect. The display is more vibrant and the 3D I use all the time now. It’s much more kinder on the eyes, it truly is stable and seems more immersive. This immersion could also relate to me now being on the bigger XL screen, as distinct from the standard size of my old 3DS, which therefore could also be considered another technical upgrade. It depends on personal preference and even the game. The bigger screen has the same number of pixels as the standard screen, so you do lose sharpness. Starfox 64 3D and Smash Bros definitely benefit from a bigger screen whereas games like Mario Kart, Pokemon X & Y and Super Mario 3D Land do not.

Both the standard and XL versions of the old 3DS would leave superficial vertical marks across the top screen from the frame of the bottom screen. That’s now fixed. The sound, especially the stereo effect, is far superior on New 3DS. My friends – all on an old 3DS XL – really noticed this during our Mario Kart 7 sessions. They also noticed the New screen as much more vibrant and it was universally felt that that was the most impressive new part of the New 3DS.

The new nub-stick I occasionally use in Smash Bros and does its job. It’s used for Smash Attacks, which ordinarily require a simultaneously move of the control stick and the A button. Now it’s just a flick of the nub-stick. While this is obviously easier, in the heat of battle you’re more likely to stick with the standard move rather than move your thumb away from the face buttons. There are exceptions, like the Home Run mini game, where the Smash Attack is more planned and therefore, resorting to the nub-stick becomes more reliable and effective. I’ve also tried it on the Monster Hunter 4 demo, where it’s used to rotate the camera. Despite it being such a stiff little stick, in practice its precision is good for these quick little flicks.

Battery life is much better, lasting about 5 hours, maybe more if you have power-saving setting on. The old 3DS lasted 3 hours.

The lack of a wall charger is a brilliant idea. Why pay $20 extra if it’s not necessary? The charger of the old 3DS or last generation DSi works with the New 3DS. It also means the packaging is much smaller at about twice as thick as a DVD case, compared to the old small 3DS at 5 times thicker and about 50% larger in width and length. Custom cables for USB charging are available online for $2, which are obviously handy when travelling overseas, so the lack of charger will be zero concern for many people.

Cosmos Black 3DS vs Metallic Blue New 3DS XL - Boxes

Cosmos Black 3DS vs Metallic Blue New 3DS XL – Boxes

The only issue with New 3DS is the power button being on the front edge. While it’s handy that the machine can be turned on when it’s closed, it also means it can be activated unintentionally. Any reasonable pressure – like stuffing the device into a tight bicycle saddlebag – will turn the machine on. Granted, carrying it around in sleep mode is recommended so to accumulate hits and coins to play the pre-installed StreetPass games, there just might be times you want it off and ensure it stays off. To turn the device off, it still needs to be open, as any pressure on the power button while closed has no effect. Phew! The last thing you want when carrying it around all day is that it turns off accidentally and you miss all those Street Pass hits.

I love the New 3DS. The beautiful screen and 3D effect are worth the upgrade alone. Graphics are the primary element that drive videogames so to see them clearer, brighter, in richer colours and in 3D – the whole point of the system – it just adds so much more to the games. That the 3D works so well compared to the older models where you mostly kept it in 2D, it effectively means a brand new feature. Wonderful!

Travelling in Japan with your 3DS

The first big issue most people will have is charging the thing. As mentioned in the comparison above, $2 USB cables can be found easily online, and they work. Absolutely no hassles in any part of the world, whether that be Japan, USA, Europe or Australia. Charging time is about the same, especially if the system is off. Note that Australia being on a really high voltage (240 volts), the standard Nintendo chargers are probably fine in places like Japan and USA on 110 volts. It’s Japanese and American chargers plugged into Australia that can could see their chargers fry. Personally, stick to a USB cable.

I’ve had two trips overseas with a 3DS, one with the old 3DS and one with the New. Nintendo has a handy system tool that allows you to transfer all settings and software over to a new 3DS and it works seamlessly. Depending on the amount of software to transfer, it can take over an hour, so ensure both systems are fully charged before you begin.

3DS vs New 3DS XL - Lenna and Mr Skilful Mii Characters

3DS vs New 3DS XL – Lenna and Mr Skilful

The most recent trip to Japan was in the first two weeks of April – for Cherry Blossom season! Being in Japan for two weeks meant plenty of Street Pass hits. These hits are other people with a 3DS in which the two machines transmit your character avatar (a Mii), your mini profile and game information. With these hits, it allows you to play the in-built Street Pass games. With the four extra Street Pass games recently purchased in anticipation, that meant most gaming time was spent there.

About 480 hits over 2 weeks, managing to precisely finish clearing all 1429 of 1429 pieces in Puzzle Swap with the 4 hits collected on the return day in Australia. Monster Hunter 4 was the toughest panel as that only became available to Japan on the last 4 days I was there. That became an anxious rush to complete. NES Remix was not available at all, so had to rely on other foreigners to help finish that. Suffice to say, both of those panels had two pieces left when I returned home for those final 4 hits to serendipitously collect all the pieces.

3DS Mii Plaza - Puzzle Swap

3DS Mii Plaza – Puzzle Swap – all 1429 pieces collected

In the other main Mii Plaza game of Quest (Find Mii), I’d already found all hats so never bothered to play it, while in the newer games I cleared all stages in Squad (Mii Force), filled the book in Garden (Flower Town), beat 15 of 20 countries in Battle (Warrior’s Way) and cleared floor 30 in Mansion (Monster Manor). The latter happening on the flight home, needing just to beat the final boss, and using coins to recruit investigators. Of course, all these games open extra areas to play or achievements to gain, specifically you can keep growing new plants in Garden and in Mansion you can now go another 20 floors.

Naturally time was rationed to play these games. Taking a subway ride and walking through a busy station hub like Tokyo Station, Shinjuku and Ikebekuro in Tokyo, or Umeda in Osaka, it was often likely the maximum of 10 Miis would be waiting to enter your plaza, especially with it school holidays in Japan. Typically I’d bring them into the plaza, close the system, and then just accumulate the next lot. If I had a moment like on a train or at lunch, I’d play the quick games like Puzzle Piece, Garden and Battle to clear the plaza and then go to the entrance and bring in the next lot. In Battle, it was just a matter of adding them to your army and leaving. In Garden, a new breed would typically be grown with each new entourage, then dump the plant in the garden and plant a new seed. Mansion could take a bit longer depending on any ghosts forced to fight, while I never touched Squad until back at the hotel each evening – especially that it was a game requiring deft movement and concentration. Suffice to say that I still completed all levels.

Probably on about 10 occurrences I had my queue full waiting to enter the plaza, so potentially could have easily exceeded 500 hits. Since I wasn’t in Japan to play Streetpass games, I wasn’t fussed. In fact, I’m all Streetpassed out! The two new games – Zombies and Fishing – just released, no interest in them. I’d actually love it if Nintendo don’t release anymore puzzle panels for a while so I can sit on my completion for as long as possible! As of this blog, it has been almost 3 months of no new panels.

Last year I was in Japan in late May for just over a week on a cheap round the world ticket. With only Puzzle and Quest to play, I constantly cleared Street Pass hits. Only once, on a Saturday when travelling through Ikebukuro station, did I have the full queue of 10. After Japan came Estonia, Latvia and Sweden for a week, then USA for 10 days. All up about 500 hits for the month.

Probably the most exciting part of accumulating StreetPass hits is to complete all the regions of a country. Japan has one of the most regions with 47, of which I’ve “met” people from 43 of these. Australia has 8 regions with its 6 states and two mainland territories. USA has 52. I’d had 30 from USA already from 2014 (including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico), some of whom were hits from Americans in Australia, and picked up another two states in Japan. Sweden was surprisingly busy. The second time transiting through Stockholm, especially the Central Station, might have been the busiest single day with about 50 hits. Then at the hotel near Arlanda Airport I picked up a few at night, then I whole bunch the next morning (including repeat hits), and again at the airport.

Being in Stockholm on weekends no doubt helped. New York was good one day at Penn Station and JFK Airport. Elsewhere, there’s few kids in Manhattan, so it’s usually the odd tourist that you hit. School kids in Washington DC at the museums made it a bit better in that city. There was nothing in Estonia or Latvia. I’ve subsequently learnt that the service is not active there. Possibly the 3DS is not even sold there.

The first visit to Japan hit 34 of the 47 regions, then the second visit bumped that to 43, including Okinawa. The regions missing are mostly on the west coast. Strangest countries hit are Suriname (early during first visit to Japan) and Honduras (might have been at JFK, I can’t recall).

3DS Mii Plaza - Japan Regions

3DS Mii Plaza – Japan Regions – just four to go

All up the countries and regions hit are Japan 43, USA 32, Australia, 8, Sweden 9, Canada 5, Finland 4, Denmark 2, Norway 2, France 4, Germany 4, Italy 4, Netherlands 2, New Zealand 2, Spain 2, Switzerland 1, UK 2, Taiwan 1, Bahamas 1, Honduras 1 and Suriname 1. Note that most of these were fellow travellers in Japan or even visitors to in Australia. Bahamas was actually 5 minutes from my house. Sadly no map for these countries in the Mii Plaza so no idea how close I am to completing the country. Sweden must be close to completion.

What’s become of my old 3DS?

After the system transfer, it acquired a new identity: Lenna. She’s named after my favourite singer, Lenna Kuurmaa from Estonia, and I’ve modelled the Mii by taking a photograph of an online image. Normally you photograph the actual person, as I did with my own Mii, Mr Skilful. The system then creates the Mii and from there you can make adjustments, or even create a custom character from scratch. The only limitation I’ve found is with long hair: there’s very few options for below the shoulder as Lenna has in real life.

Lenna’s been out on excursions twice and met a few extra people along with several friends to gather 15 people in her plaza. Mr Skilful has “over 3000”, with 3000 being the most the plaza holds. I guess the older ones are purged. I cracked the 3000 while in Hiroshima and estimate there’d be 3300 in the plaza without a limit. Lenna and Mr Skilful have met 66 times so far. These days, Lenna and Mr Skilful meet about once a week – typically when I’ve already received hits for the day so I will turn on Lenna for another hit, or when Lenna is used for multi-player gaming. Otherwise Lenna leads a lonely life, such is my exhaustion with StreetPass games. Yes, it’s strange anthropomorphising game devices. That’s Nintendo!

Lenna and Mr Skilful meet in the 3DS Mii Plaza

Lenna and Mr Skilful meet in the 3DS Mii Plaza

Lenna and Mr Skilful meet in the 3DS Mii Plaza

Many Japanese 3DS owners received this curious greeting

Lenna and Mr Skilful meet in the 3DS Mii Plaza

At least Lenna is proud of her homeland

Mr Skilful battles to save Lenna from the Ultimate Ghost in 3DS StreetPass Quest

Mr Skilful already proved to be an honourable guy when he saved Lenna from the Ultimate Ghost in 3DS StreetPass Quest

Favourite Games on 3DS

According to the Activity Log, at a monster 174 hours played, it’s Mario Kart 7! It is just about the best MK ever. Only MK DS would pip it, and MK7 is definitely better than Wii U’s MK8. Amazingly, the StreetPass Mii Plaza, which, for me, consists of the two free games plus the first four paid games, is a whopping 111 hours played. They are fun and highly addictive, with Squad and Mansion highly recommended. Next at 56 hours is Star Fox 64 3D – a brilliant shooter, and glorious in 3D. Other notable games include the “freemium” Pokemon Shuffle (a great game, of which I just cleared all stages without needing to pay), Super Smash Bros, Mario Tennis Open, Fire Emblem Awakening, Pilotwings Resort, Tetris Ultimate, Super Mario 3D Land and Pokemon X.

For me, as an older gamer, the 3DS just seems to offer the best mix of old school gaming mixed with the new. On the home systems and PC, it’s just game after game of shooting and killing and driving and meandering about and talking to idiots – or combinations of all of that. Boring! Probably the portable nature of the 3DS means games can’t be too elaborate, so core game-play needs to be innovative and addictive to make games excel. With the New 3DS, you also now have an already brilliantly designed system made even more brilliant. Nothing could be improved, except finally releasing a new Metroid!

Warrior’s games of 2014

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