I miss the whimsical charm of the Nintendo 3DS

It’s hard to believe that already a year and a half has passed since the Nintendo 3DS family of handhelds ceased production. Obviously, Nintendo saw no further need to keep the product afloat amid rocketing sales of the hybrid Switch, a console that has now claimed fifth place in all-time hardware sales — a particularly startling feat considering it has only been on the market for five years.

To declare the Switch to be Nintendo’s greatest masterstroke in the last 30 years, eclipsing even the all-encompassing obsession with the Wii, would be an understatement. It is the perfect marriage between a portable device and a home console, offering a little bit of everything to potential buyers.

It has put the dark days of the Wii U far into the rearview mirror, recouping losses from third party developers who had all but abandoned Nintendo for greener (or more accurately, bluer) pastures.

Put simply, the Switch is the best Nintendo console I’ve ever owned, and I take it with me wherever I go.

Including basketball games, just in case I elect to boot up Mario Odyssey.

That being said, it is very much just that: a console. A device upon which to play video games, something it does very well. What it is not, however, is a little, personalised piece of me; a beacon that declares to passersby, ‘hey! I’m here! Check out what I’ve accomplished.’

This is what the Nintendo 3DS did exceptionally well, and I miss that aspect of it more than I miss any of its actual games.

The 3DS felt to me like a living, breathing little companion, constantly on the hunt for information. Sometimes it came in the form of a SpotPass notification, advising me of new incoming content from the developers. Other times, it was that enticing little green light that indicated I was the recipient of a StreetPass, and all of the wonderful things that entailed.

And then sometimes it was a desperate flashing light that was warning me that the battery was running out. That was my least favourite, for obvious reasons.

I’ve already opined on the personality of the 3DS in the past, but I cannot emphasise enough just how wonderfully bizarre it all was. Face Raiders, AR Games, the stable of experiences in the Mii Plaza… Every interaction was a slice of who that person was as a gamer. Their precious ghost data, their carefully constructed Fire Emblem roster, their bouncing booby fighter in Dead or Alive: Dimensions…

Me next, please.

The consoles came in different colours and designs (one version of which you could even customise to your heart’s content), and of particular note, offered a bevy of themes to spruce up your home screen. The Nintendo Switch famously offers white or black; a choice about as thrilling as the brown lumps in grey sauce or grey lumps in brown sauce.

Without all of the little bells and whistles that made the 3DS unique, the Switch offers little more than pure utility. I take it with me because I want to play it, in a manner not dissimilar to the Game Boy consoles of yesteryear. Hell, even the original DS had a PictoChat function that I never actually used.

Nintendo displayed a growing trend in individualising their hardware, from the lovely, superfluous channels of the Wii to the Wii U’s often batshit crazy Miiverse. Then with the Switch, they practically jettisoned all of that. No music on the shopping channel, no inbuilt software to fiddle around with, and a Mii maker that’s hidden away like a redheaded stepchild.

Even the gameplay statistics feel stripped back to the point of becoming arbitrary. Where the 3DS would track your average playtime, most played titles and whatnot, the Switch will merely observe that you have played something for ‘more than a certain amount of hours’.

I made a series of videos ranking Nintendo consoles in 2018, back in the Switch’s relative infancy. It claimed sixth place at the time, with the caveat that it showed clear promise to rise in the rankings before long. Fast forward four years, and despite a truckload of certifiably great games, I am hesitant to progress it past its nearest competitor, the Wii.

The reason is simple: after the Wii died, I could still look back on what it was all about and feel a fond sense of nostalgia. When the Switch’s time is up? Its software highlights will remain evergreen, and its innovative design won’t go forgotten, either. But beyond that, as I intimated before, it just is what it is: an amazing console with excellent titles. No more, no less.

Plus plenty of opportunities to make myself giggle.

The 3DS, incidentally, took third place at the time of recording, but if I were to make an updated version, it may have actually risen to the very top. This is despite there not being any noteworthy releases since that time, and the only significant event being its own demise.

It was mine, and I was happy to have shared it with you. When Raymund the Dread Fighter ends up on your doorstep, your best bet is to abandon all hope and flee for your life. Or maybe distract him with a book? He does quite enjoy a good book, after all.

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