Minecraft is out on just about every platform imaginable at this point. If it’s got a screen or can connect to one there’s a good chance there’s a version of Minecraft for it. The one exception to that was the 3DS. There are a number of clones, but a proper Minecraft experience just wasn’t available. That is until now. New Nintendo 3DS owners now have a version of Minecraft all their own. How does this experience stack up to the other versions that are out there?
I’m not going to get into the basics of Minecraft as everyone knows what that is at this point. What about this version of the game makes it worth playing? Well, it’s portable for some reason. Millions of people have a New 3DS at this point and they carry it around in their bag or their pocket. Visually it looks like Minecraft. All of the blocks have most of the detail you would expect. The low initial resolution of the game isn’t really hampered by the move to the 3DS. The UI is a little large, but not obtrusively so.
There is an auto mapping feature in this version as well. The touch screen features a map of the game prominently and it is constantly filling as you move around the world. There is no need to keep maps manually anymore and that can be very helpful when exploring the vast worlds, which are actually larger than the game on Wii U. Accessing your inventory and crafting is also as easy as it could be. The bottom screen lets you tap and move and access everything quickly. You can also navigate it as you traditionally would with buttons.
The New 3DS build of the game has some drawbacks, however. The 3DS is not nearly as beefy as the other consoles the game appears on and some corners had to be cut, things had to be scaled back. The game is based not on the other console versions of the game, but the pocket edition from the game, and release of pocket edition from the middle of 2016. There are a number of blocks, mobs and biomes in the other versions that just aren’t available in the 3DS version of the game. The draw distance is abysmally low as well. It’s little more than a chunk away. Anything outside of 15-20 blocks away is covered by fog. (It’s probably technically farther than that, but it doesn’t feel like it.) It’s constantly rolling and moving as you traverse the world. It’s a neat effect, but makes exploration hard to do. There’s nothing off in the distance to fix on as you move around. Inside mines and close spaces it’s not a problem, but out in the open you can’t see very far at all.
The frame rate is also not as smooth as the other versions of the game. It’s running at a pace that feels choppier than other releases of the game. When you’ve been playing for a while you tend to drown that out, but if you play this version and then switch to another version of the game you can tell immediately how much smoother the game is on other platforms. Animations in the game also suffer. I have seen horses in the distance look like toothpick animals that glide along the ground rather than walk. Their limbs don’t move until you get very close to them.
There is no online multiplayer as of yet. The developers are saying that it’s coming, but for now you can only play locally with other players. That means that unless you have a lot of people with New 3DS systems and the game you’re going to be playing Minecraft alone.
The game has a lot of flaws that hold it back from being a truly great Minecraft experience. If you’re looking for a version of Minecraft to take with you on the go the best way to play it would be on Switch. The price point for this version is the same as the Switch version, and while it comes with a few bits of DLC that you’d normally have to pay for, it has far fewer features than the console versions that cost the same price. This is the first version of the game on a Nintendo system to not feature the Super Mario Mash-up Pack. Despite the game’s many flaws I did find myself getting sucked into the Minecraft experience. I was digging mines, creating a nice house and exploring the world to uncover the map.
At this point, though, there are so many different ways to play Minecraft. It’s really hard to recommend this version of the game to anyone that has other platforms to play it on. If all you have is a New 3DS and you’ve been itching to play Minecraft you’ll have a good time. The core Minecraft experience is there. It looks like Minecraft. It even feels like Minecraft. Playing the game on 3DS isn’t a bad experience, but there are so many better ways to experience the game.
Review copy of the game provided by Nintendo
Played in both Survival and Creative
Total Play Time: 3 hours