3DS to Soar at Launch

Notes from the Mushroom Kingdom

With the DS all but dead, and 2011 fast approaching, the time has never been better to start concentrating on the 3DS. With Nintendo holding back all but the flimsiest of information, with only one territory’s release date confirmed, we’re still looking entirely at guesswork. But there is one part of the 3DS launch that we can look at with some degree of certainty – the possibility of a pack-in game at launch.

Nintendo have never shied away from new technology, and with the Wii and DS, new technology really was the key selling point. The late 2000s will always be remembered for Nintendo’s push for innovative new technology, effectively destroying the mantra of more power equals better games. While many still don’t agree with this philosophy, there is absolutely no denying that it was the right thing to do at a time when the video games market could very easily have crashed again as PCs were still retaining their superiority in the graphical sphere. By bringing in unique ways to play, the graphical war was nullified, and Nintendo set off into the distance while Sony and Microsoft scrambled for answers (answers which wouldn’t appear until this year, and average answers at that).

But this new technology has a fundamental drawback – it’s new. It’s well known that human nature resists fundamental change, and with the Wii and DS, Nintendo were attempting to bring about the greatest paradigm shift since Super Mario 64 perfected the 3D platformer. In 2004/5, the DS led the way into this new era, and there’s no denying the scepticism across the world. Would touch screen gaming actually work? Was the DS capable of handling all this? But most important to the consumer was that they didn’t know what would be considered a good game for the new system. To answer all these questions and more, Nintendo packed the DS in with Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt.

It’s a simple concept. Sell a new system with an example included at no additional cost that shows what the system is capable of and what is possible in the future. First Hunt provided the perfect introduction to the DS. Take a well known franchise and gameplay type, with FPS’ beginning to reach a huge audience by this time, and make sure it utilises the DS perfectly. With great graphics, and one of the most robust FPS experiences on the DS to this day, Hunters provided a perfect introduction to what the DS could do, and really allowed gamers to see into the future. With PictoChat also thrown in there to allow people to simply play about with the touch screen, every gamer on day one could learn everything they needed to know about the next 5+ years of gaming.

Move forward to Winter 2006, and Nintendo is preparing their new system for launch. The Wii literally looks set to change gaming forever, offering a then unparalleled level of involvement between the player and the game. But with this being the biggest shift in gaming ever, a lot of gamers were concerned about whether or not this was a viable purchase or whether it would go the way of the Virtual Boy – meaning well but ultimately failing. As we know, it’s an amazing success story, but Nintendo’s pack-in game can probably be listed as one of the top three or four reasons why the Wii was a huge success.

Wii Sports was everything that Nintendo claimed the Wii to be. Every Wii owner had a copy of it from day one, and could jump straight in to playing their favourite sports in their living rooms. Wii Sports was so successful and influential that it ended up being the key selling point of the console for months after launch, and perhaps the main reason that the casual audience finally got involved with gaming. The game even spawned a sequel to launch Wii MotionPlus, essentially a rebirth of the original controller that had won over the hearts and minds of the gaming world. The simplicity and ease of use taught gamers what the Wii could do, and with other options like the Mii Channel thrown in from launch, the system had plenty for you to do before you even consider that it launched with Twilight Princess. The power of Wii Sports as a selling tool should never be underestimated as it was a key factor in the Wii’s success. I remember when I got my Wii home on launch day playing Wii Sports for a few hours before opening Zelda. To this day, Wii Sports is the only game to have ever kept me from playing a new Zelda game as soon as I got it.

So now we move back to the present, and the 3DS launch. With the 3DS offering a massive graphical update and for the first time ever, stereoscopic 3D without glasses, there is naturally going to be a large part of the gaming world sceptical of the console’s abilities. Again, we have a problem of what makes a good 3DS game? We’ve never had 3D before, and the deluge of garbage that appeared on the cinema screens post-Avatar is testament to producers not being sure themselves where to go with 3D. Naturally, the answer here is a pack-in game, and Nintendo have got one perfect game in their roster that I believe will come free with every system – Pilotwings Resort.

Beyond the fact that the game appears to be set on Wii Sports Resort’s Wuhu Island and would continue the trend of Wii Sports-esque games launching systems, Pilotwings is clearly the most natural choice as a pack-in. The very core mechanics of the game allow Nintendo to show off how 3D could and should work on the system. While I haven’t seen Pilotwings in 3D, I would imagine your character would be located somewhere in the 3D space you see, with birds, objects and trees coming out towards you as you fly by. While not the most graphically impressive game ever, the simplicity would allow for huge draw distances to be achieved, and could be compared directly to Wii Sports Resort. The fact that it has Miis in also gets people involved in the 3DS Mii Studio, ensuring that the system is fully utilised from day one.

And remember, there’s always a good chance of some sort of wireless functionality to the game, so we could see every 3DS feature utilised in this one game. It’s also a game that you can spend hours or just a few minutes playing. It is the perfect introduction to the console, and the perfect way to show people what it’s capable of.

It is clear the 3DS needs a pack-in game to teach and show people what the new system can do. While Snake Eater 3D and Ocarina of Time 3D will cater for a core audience who know what to expect from the system, Pilotwings Resort would act as the perfect introduction for everyone. With a game so perfect for the assignment of educating the masses as to what the 3DS could do, Nintendo would be foolish not to utilise this opportunity fully. Pilotwings Resort will take it’s place amongst the great launch games come March, and with it will come proof that the 3DS really is the next step in gaming.

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