The 3DS lands in Australia in a matter of days now. Drawing momentum from the usual wind of everywhere else having it already, its impending arrival â€“ backed by impressions posted on forum threads in America and England â€“ is so strong it can be tasted. Desirability fills the air. The pristine sheen of our original DS consoles (no matter which model we settled with) has since been worn away by scratches and prints left by oily fingers, the grime from our dirty hands stuck to the buttons, and this only intensifies the desire perpetrated by unboxing videos that display units that literally glitter with the sheen of untouched newness.
This intense awareness, spread by the internet as powerful winds spread wildfire, has managed to sew seeds of want within even me, despite my bitter, recorded cynicism. I have good reasons to want to avoid the console, battery life and the potential for region-locking not least among them, but at the same time it’s just so… new. And, like most people, I like new things.
Rational thinking and an ability to step back and look at things from a wider perspective becomes difficult at times like these. There’s a lot more to a new console than the games that you can play on it. Were it just about the games (and let’s be clear in that it’s not â€“ people have sung praises for the breadth of the 3DS’s launch line-up, but less so the depth), then I wouldn’t require the kind of willpower usually reserved for routine jogging in order to let the console’s launch pass me by. I could maintain sensible thoughts without effort â€“ I still have my DS Lite, and the copy of Okamiden that is presently inserted in its slot is likely a more rewarding gaming experience than the entirety of the current 3DS line-up combined. So why upgrade?
Likely, it’s because I like razzle-dazzle as much as the next guy, and the next guy likes razzle-dazzle more than he cares to admit. We all do. I want to pick up a 3DS because I want to look at the pretty effect of the visuals, and I want this in spite of previous experience telling me that I will have to hold the console at a specific angle and strain my eyes somewhat in order for the illusion to properly function. I want it even in the face of the reports of headaches (of the literal kind) and error screens that have arrived with alarming swiftness. I want in spite of knowing that there’s a good chance that, after a week or so of giddy novelty, I will decide that the 3D effect simply isn’t worth the effort and slid the intensity switch all the way to the off position.
More significantly, perhaps, I want to attract onlookers. I want my advanced knowledge of the console, and smart pre-order, to pay itself off through the approval of curious onlookers, lining up behind me like lemmings ready to throw themselves off of a cliff, waiting to be amazed by this new thing that I was among the first to own. To a degree, this applies to all consoles â€“ we allow compromises with regard to the software because we’re capable of being rubbed by the smitten of its display of new technology.
That I won’t be buying a 3DS has nothing to do with my ability to rationally look at the software. Were it not, specifically, for the already spoken of ability to region-lock game carts (furious doesn’t even begin to describe my personal stance here) then I might be just as prone to making excuses as everyone else: it’ll still play my old DS games (although they will look murky on the higher resolution screen), I got in on Dick Smith’s $300 pre-order offer (although $300 is still a fair chunk of money), better games are coming down the line (although the hardware may well be cheaper and/or revised by that point), I do kind of want to play that new Pilotwings game (although there are a dozen DS games that are probably better available at a fraction of the cost). And you know what â€“ those excuses are perfectly fine. They may be on the self-deceiving side, but that’s only because humans seem to be wired to justify things in weird ways. The fact is that most people buying a 3DS on day 1 are doing so because of the novelty of the new and, fairly enough, the value of that novelty will very likely stretch a good distance.
This is probably what it means to be an early adapter. The price of (720p) HD televisions around the time the 360 launched is a frightful thing to think of today, but I’ll be damned if it wouldn’t have been a particularly amazing time to play Dead or Alive 4 with those textures shimmering in all of their crisp glory. It’s not just the product we’re paying for â€“ it’s the moment. It’s hard to justify a $3000 television as a real investment when you’ll be able to get a better one for $700 or so four odd years down the line. Maybe less if you’re willing to barter and shop around.
And so my stubborn stance against the 3DS is kicking my imagination into overdrive. While Okamiden threatens to melt my poor Lite’s dinosaur of a graphics processor, in my mind I pretend that it is 2005 again â€“ that I am seeing truly competent 3D on a handheld device for the first time, and that my eyes can hardly process the amazing images they are being asked to accept. Somehow, this helps to make it feel that little bit more impressive, and I am suddenly transported to the headspace of my ten-year-old self, gasping through a jaw so wide its become dislocated as impossible visual fidelity bursts forth from not one, but two impossibly vibrant full-colour screens.
So to those who don’t care about about the 3DS’s issues (although I do hope that Nintendo gets flooded with angry letters from people who purchased games while on holiday), and who simply want to experience something amazing before it becomes blasÃ©, then all the more power to you. To this day, I still regret that I never saw a Neo Geo pushing mega-sprites around the screen while is was still, as Mikolai put it, the Rolls Royce of gaming.
Maybe I should start stupidly saving my pennies for an NGP.