Friday, June 22, 2012

Oh Boy, 3DS XL

Well.  Where do I start with this one?  I have pretty much spent the entirety of the time betwixt hearing about this last night in the wee hours of the morning and now either rubbing my head in frustration, covering my eyes with a sigh and a shake of my head, and sleeping because of this announcement.  Well....not the sleeping part.  The other two things have occurred fairly frequently, however.  Because I mean, come on.  I know I'm kind of a fanboy, but I am calling this the hell -out- because this is -dumb- and I think we all kind of know that already, but it's Nintendo so how could we ever say that they've done something even remotely resembling 'wrong'.  There's just so much that I could say and have already said that it's hard to kind of bring everything back together to form something coherent, especially since my sinus infection is not going down without a fight.

I guess the first point is simple enough.  Why the hell does it need a revision -now-, and why is said revision the Power Rangers Villain Special?  (You get that.  I'm sure you do.)  The 3DS has only been out for about a year.  Compared to the DS and the DS Lite, there was just over a two year gap between the release of the two.  By the time the 3DS XL (LL in Japan which apparently means larger than large) comes out in August, it will be just around a year and a half. gap between the two.  Which is two months from now and they're obviously not going to just -make these things appear- to ship to everywhere (since it's apparently a worldwide launch except for Europe which gets it in -one- month) meaning this thing has been in development for a while, certainly pre-E3, and could have been announced at any of the, what, three events Nintendo had?  Or, better yet, -next- E3.  As in, maybe they could've given this one a little more time to cook.  Unless that would conflict with the 'actual' revision that is going to come out that Nintendo totally said they weren't going to do.

I will say now, in stark contrast with likely the rest of the post, the 3DS XL won't be a bad thing on its own.  The timing and other factors make it a pretty poor idea which I have started to explain and will continue to do so, but it's going to be a thing all its own.  Of note is that the thing is going to be 90% bigger than the 3DS apparently, which means the screens are going to be quite a bit larger as well.  They'll still display at the same resolution, so don't expect anything to really look better beyond you being able to make out more detail because bigger screen.  DS games might be a little more visually pleasing, however, since they apparently won't be scaled weirdly as they are on the current 3DS.  I've misplaced the information, so consider that one a maybe for now, but I'm pretty sure it's right. On top of that, the battery has been slightly improved, to the tune of, conservatively, 1.5x power, meaning your gaming can go a little bit longer.  Not DS Lite levels, of course, but nothing will every have DS Lite levels again as a base standard.  Of course, that's the positive notes.  Now is where it starts to get positively hairy.

I'm sure we all remember the Circle Pad Pro, whose origins are as convoluted and derptastic as the rest of the 3DS' antics have been, but if you need a little refresher, here goes.  Nintendo (this is key) released this thing, the add-on which gives the 3DS more shoulder buttons and, more importantly, a second circle pad in what appeared to be an attempt to court Capcom's favor, if not straight-up as a request -from- Capcom.  I say this, of course, because the CPP was announced in conjunction with Monster Hunter Tri G, a portable version of the game that had been released on the Wii that met with some success.  I don't have numbers, but it seemed to kinda fall off after a little bit.  It was, in fact, a pack-in -with- Monster Hunter Tri G in Japan (whereas in Europe it was packaged with Resident Evil:  Revelations, another Capcom game, but to my knowledge, no such pack-in in America) and I think it's no coincidence that, somewhat later on in the year, Monster Hunter 4 was announced for the 3DS as well in a somewhat seemingly exclusive manner.  (Of course, this is Capcom.  Monster Hunter 3 has been ported no less than three times itself)

Now, I bring up the Circle Pad Pro because the 3DS XL has a little bit more of a profound effect on things by simply being a 90% larger 3DS rather than a 3DS that has the CPP built-in to it.  I know the argument is that adding something like a second stick/pad to a system is a bad idea and this and that because it'll split the user base.  I know this argument well, because it was made for the PSP a lot whenever a new version of that was announced without another stick.  Of course, it's a -bit- different here, because nobody, much less Sony, released an add-on that supported a second stick, thus introducing that control scheme to the mix.  Nintendo has, and -they- did it, not Capcom or any other Developers/Publishers, not Nyko or any other third-party peripheral makers, Nintendo made and released it.  They then proceeded to not support it so as to not make it mandatory (The only first-party support available is Kid Icarus, in which the stick is basically used for left-handed folks) whereas other developers made proper use of it.

Those developers being Squeenix, Konami and Capcom to put Kingdom Hearts 3D:  Dream Drop Distance, Metal Gear Solid 3:  Snake Eater 3D and Monster Hunter 3 Tri/4 on the 3DS respectively.  The Circle Pad Pro is not -mandatory-, but, well, just go ahead and play Kingdom Hearts 1/2, Metal Gear Solid 3 or any Monster Hunter game without using the second stick on whatever is provided.  The much-decried "Claw method" was used for Monster Hunter fans with the PSP versions, but it was ridiculed as much as the game itself was praised and only sold well because it was literally the only real option.  So when you consider that the Circle Pad Pro added enough length to make the 3DS longer than the Vita, and the fact that the 3DS XL is 90% larger than the 3DS as a base, do you -really- think there is a Circle Pad Pro XL in production?  Even if there is, is it going to be a viable addition, considering the fact that it will make the thing about as big as a Notebook?

What I'm trying to hammer in is that Nintendo is -really- jerking developers around here.  Nintendo themselves have, essentially, enacted the horrible userbase-split that comes from drastically altering the control method of a device through an add-on, and are now furthering that split because the 3DS XL is going to sell a lot, if just because of the bigger screens and better battery alone.  Nevermind that it's assuming (unless you live in America) that you have bought a 3DS already or at least a DSi to use the AC Adapter from that (One will not be in the box for Europe and Japan launches); it's back to square one in terms of controls until/unless a CPPXL is announced and released in all territories and not just Japan.  So you have this one way of controlling a game (likely the camera) which is probably terrible, as it either uses the touch screen or the D-Pad, and you have this other way which is much better and time-tested through a second stick, but now you have a very, -very- small group of people who will, in reality, be able/want to use it.  Developers -like- the latter option and will always use it unless you very basically slap them around for even thinking of using it, which is -kind of- what's going on here.

I'm going to say it now:  I really think Nintendo should've just bit the bullet and included the second pad.  I only say this because Nintendo themselves apparently though the addition was necessary enough to actually develop, manufacture, release and promote (In places that aren't America) a method to enable this.  This is Nintendo's bed, and they really should lie in it because it would make things so much easier for everybody.  Instead, they're just once again proving to be as unfriendly as they've been in the past, since all this is doing is making it even less desirable for developers to attempt to support this add-on that would make their games control better (which honestly is a valid concern, given how many developers were forced to resort to/thought it was a good idea to use the touch screen for getting around which was almost universally a bad idea) which in turn affects the overall quality of what comes out.  And, as always, it simply does not matter to Nintendo since Nintendo prevails on the premise of simply making things that they can release Mario, Legend of Zelda and Pokemon games on.  So whatever they do that makes it harder for developers and, in turn consumers, to enjoy the devices simply doesn't matter since their things sell anyway, thus people try to make things for them despite it being a bad idea.  (See: Samurai Warriors 3 on the Wii.)

And the general consensus of the places I frequent doesn't really see a problem with this, which is the real issue here.  Any mention of a second stick is instantly disregarded in a manner bordering between flippant and insulting without the consideration of it.  And just the whole disjointed message (which has been a constant theme for the 3DS since its release) just doesn't seem to be understood here, or at least acknowledged.  Nobody is really looking beyond "I have this thing and sometime before the year ends I'll get to play Mario and Animal Crossing on it and next year I get Fire Emblem", which, again, speaks volumes for the whole 'this is what happens to Third Parties on Nintendo things' mindset.  It's admittedly not at all grave on the DS, as I own mostly third party games for mine with at least some of them having seen at base mild success on the device.  And to be fair, Third Party support has been kind of a thing for the 3DS in this first year, but at this point it seems like it's in spite of Nintendo, rather than with the help of them, and that's a trend that keeps continuing from my viewpoint.  I guess we'll just have to see how it pans out for the 3DS though.

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