I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but in addition to being a starving writer, I’m a 3DS Ambassador. That’s right: at the UN meetings of geekiness, I fly the 3DS flag.
Ok, so that’s not true. All I did was buy the sweet little system before Nintendo panicked and slashed the price. But to make me feel better, Nintendo has seen fit to name me and my early-adopting brethren ambassadors and bestow us with free gifts. I guess I do give the system plenty of support in the face of haters who only want to discuss poor battery life and processing power, so that title is somewhat appropriate. But presents? Seriously Nintendo, you shouldn’t have.
If you picked up a 3DS before August 11th, then you will be getting gifts as well, 20 free games to be precise (10 classic NES titles and 10 from the Gameboy Advanced Library). This week the first batch of freebies dropped: a collection of titles from Nintendo’s 8-bit heyday. It’s a healthy mix of classics and obscure titles, a nice collection of classic gaming styles to fit in your pocket that should make any diehard Nintendo fan happy. However, it’s important that you not expect these free ports to have all of the bells and whistles that we’ve come to expect as standard from a 3DS Virtual Console release. These emulations were clearly rushed, so you can’t save restore points and play two player titles with another 3DS buddy (there’s some minimal 2-player functionality available, but it involves passing off the system like a sucker). However, that will all be rectified soon enough, as Nintendo plans to release more polished version of these titles in the eShop at a later date and once that happens the early adopters can download an update. For now, we just get the pleasure of having our dirty little mitts on these games before everyone else (suckers!).
So what do you get exactly? Well how about the highest selling game in Nintendo’s history, Super Mario Brothers? It’s still a classic and I still get frustrated in later levels, but in a nice way. We also get the original Zelda and Metroid which are all time Nintendo greats and should surprise unfamiliar gamers with a challenge that matches anything on shelves today. Legend Of Zelda 2 is a strange choice since it’s notoriously difficult and an odd duck in the Zelda franchise with side-scrolling action, but Nintendo is celebrating Zelda’s 25th anniversary this year, so I’ll cut them some slack. Donkey Kong Jr. is also available and is just as addictive as it ever was (if almost impossible). The other five titles are more obscure: We get the cult classic Ice Climbers, the bizarre Balloon Fight, the capable golf simulator NES Open Tournament Golf (probably only included as a free ad for the dowloadable 3DS golf game that’s on the market), the overrated but fun puzzle game Yoshi, and the unjustly forgotten puzzler/platformer Wrecking Crew (the greatest 8-bit Mario game you’ve never played). Sure, it would have been nice if a few more beloved titles like Mega Man 2 or Super Mario Brothers 3 had been included, but “free” is the key word here and these are all compulsively playable gems from another era. Getting to play them handheld for the first time is an undeniable treat.
So, as an ambassador, do I feel that my early purchase was worth the extra $80? I guess. To be honest, given what the system is capable of I never balked at the $250 asking price and would buy early again (my commutes seem so much easier now with Street Fighter IV in my hands). These free games are a nice touch and I’ll definitely be playing the hell out of a few of them to relive my 8-bit youth. But truth be told, I wouldn’t have gotten all of them if given the choice and will probably delete a few soon enough. That’s just personal preference though. I’m sure some 8-bit junkies will pour hours into these titles. To be honest I’m more excited about the upcoming GBA titles like Mario Vs Donkey Kong and Metroid Fusion. These NES titles have been available in re-releases and on the Wii’s virtual console for years, but the GBA games have never been re-released. More importantly, Nintendo claims they will only ever be available to ambassadors (I’m sure there will be backtracking there, but for now I appreciate the sentiment). Once those titles come out and I have 20 addictive games on my 3DS for free, then I’ll feel like buying early was a great idea. For now, I’m still happy but I feel like Nintendo could have done a little better with their first wave of free titles. I’m sure they were chosen strategically and based on the ease of emulation, but a few more classic games could and should have been included. Still, it’s hard to complain. I haven’t regretted my early 3DS purchase yet and these free games are icing on the cake. Nintendo, you may have made many mistakes with the 3DS launch, but your damage control has been pretty good so far. Now let’s see how your marquee fall releases like Star Fox 64 3D and Super Mario 3D Land pan out. This is going to be a big fall for the 3DS that could determine the life or death of the system. I’ve got high hopes.