Friday, June 9, 2023

Nintendo 3DS’s best feature was the underrated StreetPass

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Ten years ago today, 3DS debuted in Japan. It was following the DS family, and the main selling point of this third generation of Nintendo dual-screen systems was the addition of 3D graphics. And yet, what people remember the most about 3DS is not this feature; in fact, many people just shut down 3D once the novelty wears off. For me and for many others, the most memorable feature was StreetPass. Yes, StreetPass.

In case you already forgot, StreetPass was a social feature built into the handheld where, when activated, allowed the 3DS to passively exchange information with other systems in the immediate area. Players could create a Mii character that would move to other handhelds, and could then be used by the other player (and vice versa) in multiple games within Mii Plaza and beyond. The “ Find Mii ” dungeon crawler was probably the most famous of these since it was included in the system, but I was especially in love with some of the ones you could buy, like the title of gardening “ Flower Town ” and “ Feed Mii ”, a cooking simulator.


If you really don’t have strong feelings about StreetPass, chances are you are one of the many who have had little use of it. The feature has worked very well in densely populated areas like Tokyo, but less so in a country like the United States where most people drive to work.

I live in New York and until recently I was a regular commuter on the subway. In the heyday of 3DS, I could expect to pick up a handful of StreetPass beacons a day, load them into my system, and go through Puzzle Swap and other games on the way home from work. The gameplay wasn’t very deep, but it wasn’t really necessary – it was perfect for a few minutes’ distraction on public transport. Conversely, it made it terrible for people who didn’t take public transport, as their 3DS time was more likely to be at home, competing directly with consoles and computers with deeper gameplay. . The Mii Plaza games appeared to be shallow in comparison.

People play video games on portable devices at the PAX East Gaming conference in Boston, Massachusetts on April 7, 2012. REUTERS / Jessica Rinaldi (USA - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY SOCIETY)

Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters

However, players are usually up for a challenge, and for many, StreetPass has become a hobby in itself. My ex and I used to go to McDonald’s on specially advertised “ StreetPass weekends ” to catch celebrity and Nintendo employee Miis in SpotPasses in stores, and sometimes we would walk past the playgrounds. games and gyms in the hope that the teens would have done it. a 3DS stored in their bag. Living in the same town as the Nintendo World store was a big plus. Airports were also a godsend, especially internationally – my ex even lent me his 3DS on one of my solo trips to Europe, so I could grab him foreign StreetPasses. So I carried two systems in my backpack for over a week and managed to connect with people from countries like Austria and Slovakia.

Of course, all of this paled compared to the windfall that awaited us in 3DS’s home country of Japan, especially Tokyo. We were both getting on the subway and the notification light was going off; a train would pass in the opposite direction and the light would come back on. The Yodobashi camera in Akihabara ended up being a godsend; we got out of the store around noon and found a specially designed area (with signage!) for the StreetPass redemption. Dozens of people sat or stood in the area, charging Miis, playing mini-games, and then charging some more. Once the downpour slowed down to the net my ex walked around with his 3DS to catch everything we missed and several Japanese people burst out laughing because hey, he’s a bearded white dude with a Mii bearded white.

Ian Levenstein doing StreetPass in front of the Yodobashi camera in Akihabara in Tokyo

Chris Naudus

That kind of connection joy wasn’t something people outside of Japan took much advantage of, unless they were the very specific type of gamer who took their 3DS systems to conventions. Conventions were the main load of the StreetPass collection, from comic book conventions like San Diego to video game-themed shows like PAX. In these cases, the limit of 10 StreetPass at a time seemed less ambitious and more stingy, as staying in one place for a few minutes could generate dozens or even hundreds of beacons. You could easily spend the whole event cleaning your queue, and I actually spent a lot of time in long lines or boring signs doing just that.

Unfortunately, Nintendo realized the potential of these gatherings too late. Although it used events like PAX to release new Puzzle Swap art, the company only introduced features aimed at dedicated StreetPass collectors in 2016, five years after the system’s lifespan – and a year before. the release of its replacement, the Switch. At this point you could pay to upgrade your StreetPass queue at 100 locations, allowing you to passively collect StreetPass tags at events and play with them later. It was a paid feature that certainly limited its appeal, but the kind of people who would take their 3DS to big events, and the kind of people who would go to video game shows, period, are also the kind who don’t. wouldn’t hesitate to cough. up to $ 10 more for the convenience of better management of StreetPass (probably also the guy who pays for Pokémon Bank).

BOSTON - MARCH 6: The huge PAX East gaming convention was held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.  Tired conventioneers relax on cushions on the floor.  (Photo by John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Boston Globe via Getty Images

In the end, I built a collection that I’m proud of: 50 states and territories in the United States (only North and South Dakota is missing), all of Canada, 30 prefectures in Japan, and parts of dozens of other countries, including Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Mexico, Brazil and South Korea. I also collected almost all possible birthdays (another added bonus feature later). And of course, there are the Miis themselves, 3,660 beacons of all body shapes, colors, and costumes – the most dedicated StreetPassers would even use the personalized greeting to mark the events they were on, so you know you caught this New York Mii. Comic Con or this Mii from PAX South. In a way, my Mii Plaza serves as a kind of digital passport, countries I’ve visited, events I’ve attended, and people I’ve met, if only fleetingly. I love my Switch, but I miss the challenge and community of the 3DS StreetPass system.


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