Tag Archives: 3D

I only went and bought a 3DS XL

Yeah, yeah, I’m going back on a promise, but hey. The XL is much nicer than the older hardware and the sexy white Mario Kart bundle coupled with a free copy of Super Mario 3D Land meant getting the hardware with arguably its two best games for a reasonable £160. The fact that I was enticed into spending money on Nintendo hardware and actually getting excited about it shows that the regrowth of my enthusiasm for gaming since taking the freedom road continues apace.

Nintendo 3DS XL

I learnt from the disappointment of getting on board early with the original DS, this time skipping the flawed initial incarnation and the wilderness months when there’s bugger all to play, this time getting the superior hardware right off the bat and having a worthy little library to pick from.

Yes, it’s still region-coded, which I maintain shouldn’t happen on a handheld console and will really hurt if I end up missing out on anything as wonderful as the Japan-only Ouendan on ye olde DS, but overall I’m impressed. I could take or leave the 3D effect and it could really do with a resolution boost on such a large screen – after three years of retina displays, it’s hard to go back – but those are my only complaints. It’s a lovely piece of hardware and the built-in features like StreetPass are impressively forward-thinking for a company as notoriously backwards when it comes to online as Nintendo. The size of this thing does make it a pain to carry in a pocket, but I still find myself making room for it and going out of my way because I want to StreetPass with people.

It’s a shame that idiotic ideas like friend codes and, on newer hardware, time limitations on when adults can buy games keep cropping up to mar Nintendo’s reputation, because the 3DS shows what kind of clever ideas the unlimited potential of networked gaming can bring when coupled with a company with a proven bent for innovation and bringing people together to play.

My next project is to get on Ocarina of Time 3D – and I’m embarrassed to admit this – and finish it for the first time. Get some SNES and GBA games on the Virtual Console as well and I’ll happily put this down as a worthy purchase.

The Hobbit and HFR

The Hobbit was my first experience of Tolkien, back in 1995 when it was our class reader in school. It had a big impact on me, and in fact I remember writing a piece of what was effectively crossover fan fiction as part of a school creative writing exercise, putting Gollum in the world of my other mid-90s obsession: Doom. I wish I could find that document as an insight into how my brain worked at a time when gaming was becoming a big deal to me.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I grew into The Lord of the Rings and still am yet to develop the patience for The Silmarillion, and I generally loved Peter Jackson’s film trilogy ten years ago. I followed this through development hell and sulked when Guillermo Del Toro dropped out, but as excited as I was to see this vintage of Tolkien back on screen, the lack of restraint on show from Peter Jackson was a worry. King Kong was desperately in need of a trim, and then The Hobbit – a children’s book that, let’s not forget, is significantly shorter and more straightforward than any of the three LOTR novels – into two movies, with sequences not shown in the book added to tie it in more closely with The Lord of the Rings.

And then it became three films. Pardon?

I finally saw it yesterday, though, and I didn’t think it suffered much at all. It galled slightly to see scenes from the book padded with cameos from Lord of the Rings characters who don’t show up in The Hobbit, and that very Peter Jackson affliction of needing to put the cast in the middle of things for the sake of it – hello, stone-giants – but strong performances carried it. Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage in particular are outstanding. Benedict Cumberbatch also does the best on-screen depiction of a cloud since Galactus in Rise of the Silver Surfer. Expect more of him later.

That leaves the frame rate, then. Much has been written about it, some more comprehensively and authoritatively than I’ll attempt, and from what I’ve seen the general opinion is wary at best, with most critics in particular being against it. I’m not, though. I found it less obtrusive than the 3D that it does so much to improve, and when the cyclical 3D fad passes again, I wouldn’t be disappointed if HFR sticks around. Once I got accustomed to it and stopped thinking all close-ups were sped up, I experienced none of the ballyhooed issues with it looking like a soap opera.

People criticising 3D are doing it from the logical position that this is the third attempt at popularising the format and likely the third failure at making it anything other than a niche. HFR is new, cinema having been universally presented at 24fps since the advent of sound. Let’s give cinematographers a chance to work out how to shoot for it before we declare it DOA.

Why I’m Not Buying a 3DS

Excitement seems to be high for Nintendo’s new handheld, and that’s somewhat understandable. I watched the E3 conference too and came away suitably impressed, as the company seemed to be doing everything right: some nice technical innovation, an impressive list of new and remade games, a portable Virtual Console for Game Boy games – why that couldn’t have been added to the pointless DSi is beyond me, though – and a nail in the coffin for 3D with glasses. Brilliant. I’m in.

Only I’m not. Here’s why.

  • Region locking. It’s still only rumoured at this point, admittedly, but it’s what the buzz is suggesting and the fact that the DSi has done it doesn’t bode well. I can deal with it on a home console, although it’s definitely better without, but I find it on a handheld to be completely inexcusable. All previous Nintendo handhelds, as well as the PSP, haven’t done it specifically before people take these things on holiday with them and might want to pick up a game or two. And if I hadn’t done that, I’d have missed one of my favourite games ever. Goodbye to that, then. Now that even region coding on consoles is on the wane, it’s an unacceptable retrograde step.
  • Battery life. I own a DS Lite and a DSi, and I honestly regret buying the DSi and tend not to use it. Beyond the size and the region-locking, even in regular DS games without any DSi features, the biggest fault was the battery life. I took both of them on holiday and found myself predominantly using the DS Lite, simply because I could better rely on it to last me through a flight and the time spent sitting around in an airport. And, being out of the country, I could buy games for it without worrying about whether or not they’d work. Funny how that works, isn’t it, Nintendo?
  • I love Ocarina of Time, Star Fox 64 and Pilotwings 64. Metal Gear Solid 3 is by far my favourite in the series. Street Fighter IV is a modern classic. And all the usual suspects are here too. But I’m not paying £200 or more just for those. Let’s get some new stuff boasting the creativity that the DS was showing only a few years ago.
  • Game Boy bulky with a crappy screen? Game Boy Pocket. GBA screen impossible to make out? GBA SP or, better yet, a Micro. DS looks like an 80s Fisher-Price toy? Hello, DS Lite. 3DS got a horrible battery life? Do you see where this is going?

It’s amazing me, though maybe it shouldn’t, that many of the same people who crucified the PSP back in 2004 for shit battery life and a pile of console ports are now strangely silent, or maybe banging the ‘good enough’ drum. It was pathetic then and it’s still pathetic now. Nintendo is making a lot of the same mistakes that Sony did with the PSP, and it might get away with them because it’s a company on the up as much as Sony was starting to slide back then. I still think it’s sad, though.

I’m a gamer, so at some point I’m going to buy a 3DS. A 3DS Lite will certainly do it and, I admit, Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney could end up breaking me – I adore both of those series and the crossover is a wonderful idea – but I’m not too happy with Nintendo right now. Maybe it knows something we don’t and whatever comes out at the PSP2 announcement will make the 3DS’s battery life look like an age…


It’s not often that a Hollywood blockbuster comes along with the full force of the hype machine behind it and doesn’t end up disappointing, but this is not one of those times. Avatar comes saddled with a budget big enough to bankrupt a small country and stories about how technology had to be invented just to make it possible, not to mention that it’s the poster child for this 3D film gimmick that’s apparently the next big thing. Oh, and the small matter of it being James Cameron’s first film in over a decade, following up his last modest success.

One compliment that I can pay it is to say that it didn’t even feel close to its 162-minute running time, and in these days of increasingly lengthy blockbusters that overstay their welcome – in Transformers 2’s case, by around an hour and a half – that’s rare. But if that sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise… well, here goes… Continue reading Avatar