Best Buy, Nintendo team up for 3DS SpotPass

Good news for 3DS owners: Retail giant Best Buy and Nintendo of America are teaming up to bring you SpotPass downloads and features to your 3DS. The goodies start June 7th (the same day as Nintendo’s E3 conference) and one day after the June 6th system update which brings 3DS owners the long awaited eShop, as well as other things.

Personally, I’m really glad to see this. I was worried SpotPass would go the way of WiiConnect24 (i.e., no where). This is certainly good to hear! Let’s hope we see more of this kind of thing in the future.

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Press release:

Nintendo and Best Buy to Bring Custom Downloadable Content to Nintendo 3DS Owners

Nintendo 3DS Will Connect Automatically to Best Buy Wireless Hot Spots

REDMOND, Wash. & MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Nintendo and retail partner Best Buy are collaborating to give Nintendo 3DS™ owners customized, automatic wireless access at some 1,000 select Best Buy store locations nationwide beginning June 7. Once connected, the service will provide access to a variety of fun content via the system’s built-in Wi-Fi functionality, including the new SpotPass™ feature. The Best Buy service will also include exclusive offers as well as additional entertainment content such as gaming extras and movie trailers. Nintendo 3DS, which lets people see 3D visuals without the need for special glasses, launched March 27 at a suggested retail price of $249.99.

“Nintendo 3DS turns the page in portable gaming not just because of the stunning, glasses-free 3D visuals, but also in the way it keeps people connected to their friends, their games and their world,” said Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. “Best Buy provides a firsthand look at the platform with experts to help people understand everything it offers.”

“We want our customers to fully tap into the potential of their Nintendo 3DS device, so we’re pleased to offer free access to special Wi-Fi and SpotPass content in-store,” said Chris Homeister, senior vice president of entertainment for Best Buy. “As a retail partner for SpotPass, this is another way that we’re delivering best-in-class gaming experiences at our stores across the country.”

Remember that Nintendo 3DS features parental controls that let adults manage the content their children can access. For more information about this and other features, visit http://www.nintendo3ds.com.

Review: Steel Diver

Steel Diver has been kicking around at Nintendo for quite some time. The first time I played this game, it was a tech demo for the original DS at E3 back in 2004. It didn’t look quite as nice, and it wasn’t as refined, obviously, but the game was there in a very limited form. After the better part of a decade, Nintendo decided to dust the project off and give it a development team and a slot in the Nintendo 3DS launch lineup.

Much like Yoshi Touch & Go for the DS, Steel Diver feels sort of like an introductory title for the 3DS. The game ignores depth in favor of accessibility and simplicity, while attempting to provide some quick thrills that revolves around gameplay that begs for mastery. The missions in the game are fairly simple: get from point A to point B as quickly as possibly and either avoid or take out as many enemies as possible as you go. You’re scored based on how quickly you can pass the mission, how little damage you can take, and how much damage you deal out along the way. Until you really know the levels well, you’ll often have to choose between speed and battle efficiency.

Mixed in with the missions, and also available as its own mode, you engage in periscope battles. This mode uses the  gyroscope in the 3DS and you hold the handheld out in front of you, and rotate around to locate ships on the horizon. The goal is obviously to take down the destroyers quickly and before they can sink you. It’s neat, it’s novel, but it does limit where you can play the game. Trying to take down ships with the periscope is near impossible on an airplane or bus.

The level design is pretty good. Steel Diver does a good job throwing tight passages, mines, enemy destroyers and subs, and obstacles at you while you’re trying to hurry through the stages. It takes lots of tweaking of the knobs and dials on the touch screen to keep your sub going in the direction you want and firing at the right angles during combat. Again, like Yoshi Touch & Go, the real challenge is replaying missions to improve upon scores.

A mode not often talked about is the Steel Commander mode, where you play a tactical game with destroyers and subs. Moving around on a grid, you need to position yourself to be able to destroy your enemy’s supply ships while protecting your own. You can attack and hide at different depths, making for a fun cat and mouse type of experience. With different maps to play on, this mode is seriously a great time sink if you have a friend with their own 3DS to play against.

The visuals and sounds found in Steel Diver are fairly basic, especially when compared to other 3DS games, but they look nice and sound clean overall. The 3D effect is layered well it provides one of the more comfortable launch games to play with the 3D effect cranked up to full. It would have been nice to see just a few more passes of graphical polish or some additional effects added in, especially given that there’s not really a ton going on at any given time on the screen.

Steel Diver is going to be a divisive title. If you don’t mind replaying the same missions for better scores, and if you have a friend that will play the Steel Commander mode with you, Steel Diver is an appealing title. For the types of people that generally pass a mission, move on, and don’t care to chase high scores, Steel Diver will provide a pretty short experience and will probably seem fairly shallow. I fall in with the former group, but unfortunately many might fall into the latter. I’d still recommend the game, but with some reservations due to its length and simplicity.

Overall Score: 3 out of 5


Review: Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition

When the 3DS was first picking up steam based on the strength of the first batch of games announced for it, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition (SSFIV 3D) was one of those title that really got me most excited. As the release date for the 3DS neared, I kept my eye on SSFIV 3D and quietly hoped that it would be as good as it looked like it was shaping up to be. After many hours making my way through the various modes of the game, I can safely say that Super Street Fighter IV: 3d Edition is definitely living up to the hype.

While Capcom crammed enough modes into the game to make use of pretty much every feature the 3DS hardware offers (aside from the cameras), the real core of the game plays out in the Arcade and Versus modes. Playing through the Arcade mode has you fighting your way through the single player experience as you work up to a final match with the game’s final boss. The game’s story mode plays out differently for each character and certain unlocks are tied to completing Arcade mode with different characters, so there’s lots of good reasons to come back and play through the mode multiple times.

Super Street Fighter 4 3DS

With the Versus mode you can play either locally or online. Online play works quite well and it actually has provided a smoother experience than I’ve had with my Xbox 360. Pretty impressive for a handheld, especially for the game’s first online-enabled game. Getting into fights online is a quick enough process and after each match you can choose to rematch your opponent or head off to find someone else to spar with. SSFIV 3D doesn’t sport the most robust of feature sets for online play, but it’s simple and easy to use, which is perfect for the handheld experience. This mode will keep the game relevant for years to come.

Other modes in the game include Training and Mission modes where you can learn to become a better player and how to better master each character. There’s also support for the 3DS Street Pass functionality where your team of assembled fighters will do battle with the team of anybody you cross paths with while your 3DS is in sleep mode. Again, it’s a simple thing, but it encourages you to keep mindful of the game and it adds value to an already great package.

Coming from consoles to the handheld environment, the game wasn’t scaled back too much. Some background animations and details were pared down, as well as some of the overall polygon counts on the fighters, but it’s still a beautiful game. The controls are obviously a little more compact, but the 3DS is comfortable to use even for longer play sessions.

Super Street Fighter 4 3DS

As cliche as it sounds to say, fighting genre fans are really going to want to pick this one up along with their 3DS purchase. While it is a version of a game that’s been out for a while, the game really doesn’t lose much in the translation from console to handheld. Unless you own an arcade stick, the 3DS button layout really isn’t even much of a compromise in regards to controls.

When it comes down to it, there’s not much to nitpick about with SSFIV 3D. It’s easily the best handheld Street Fighter title out there, and quite possibly the best handheld fighting game I’ve ever seen. For me, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition is not only the best game available in the 3DS launch lineup, it’s one of the better games released in 2011 so far. I recommend this game without reservation.

Overall Score: 5 out 5


How the Nintendo 3DS works, what it looks like

Stereoscopic 3D has been around for a very long time. Many of us had toys that used the effect when we were kids in the form of a View-Master. The way the 3D works is that two nearly identical images are presented, one to each eye. Your brain combines the images into a single image, which creates depth in the single image. The reason the depth effect works is because each image is slightly different from a perspective standpoint, and when the image is fused in your brain, both perspectives are preserved, making the scene look alive.

Below I have a good example piece. To make it work you’ll have to cross your eyes until you see a 3rd image between the two. Focus on that 3rd (middle) image and it should come into focus. You may have to get closer to your monitor (10 to 12 inches) to make it work. If you do it correctly, the image should clarify and show depth to it. Try it now.

Now, the 3DS works in the same way, but the cool thing with Nintendo’s technology is that the LCD screen sends the images to your eyes without you having to do any headache-inducing eye crossing. The result is a constant and moving image that has a great sensation of depth. The slider for increasing or decreasing the 3D effect is simply affecting how much the two images vary from a viewpoint difference, making the fused image seem more or less pronounced in its depth.

PICA200, the tech behind the Nintendo 3DS

A video surfaced this morning showing off a benchmark test for the GPU that will power the 3DS. What’s not clear, however, is what other specs are under the 3DS hood that will be working in tandem with the PICA200 GPU. While benchmark tests rarely reflect what actual gameplay will look like, you can get a good idea of the types of effects that the GPU is capable of by checking out the video below.