If there was one thing that last week's Nintendo Direct communicated to me, it was that the 3DS is shaping up to be a system for the ages. This system isn't going away anytime soon.
Before Nintendo's Direct videocast last week, the 3DS already was one of my favorite gaming systems ever. After the videocast, it may have cemented its spot at the pinnacle. It's remarkable looking at the life of the system and how it began, and then seeing it now.
Five and a half years after the worst launch of a Nintendo handheld ever, with a paltry launch lineup and a price point $50 too high, the 3DS has steadily and quietly gotten better and better, with no end in sight. This past Direct was Nintendo telling 3DS owners that they still have long-term plans for the system that go through at least 2017. Rumblings I'm hearing now is that Nintendo has concrete plans for the 3DS that go all the way up to 2019. That's pretty impressive and would rival the original Game Boy as far as lifespan.
This year in particular has been an impressive one for the 3DS. Role-playing games, Super Nintendo Virtual Console games, and yet another new batch of StreetPass games have all been bestowed upon us in 2016. And some more role-playing games.
Dragon Quest VII, Pokemon Sun & Moon, Monster Hunter Generations, Picross 3D: Round 2, Fire Emblem: Fates, Bravely Second: End Layer, Hyrule Warriors: Legends, Phoenix Wright: Spirit Of Justice, Mega Man Legacy Collection, Rhythm Heaven Megamix, and 7th Dragon III Code: VFD are among games either already out or coming out before 2017 begins. Not all of those are role-playing games, but that is an impressive lineup. When it's all said and done, the 3DS looks it might rival the Super Nintendo, Nintendo DS, and Playstation 2 as one of the greatest systems ever for the RPG genre.
One of the biggest booms for the 3DS this year has been the inclusion of Super Nintendo games in the system's Virtual Console library. Granted, they can only be played on New 3DS, but that we got them at all this late in the system's life was unexpected. To make it even better, Nintendo has quickly put out some of the best games the Super Nintendo has to offer.
Within the first month, we got Super Mario World, The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past, Super Metroid, Super Mario Kart, and all three Donkey Kong Country games, plus a bunch of others. As I write this, Super Castlevania IV just released for New 3DS, maybe my favorite entry in the Castlevania series. If you remember the Super Nintendo days of the early/mid '90s, I don’t need to tell you how nice it is to have these games portable on a Nintendo system. Games are still being released semi-regularly for it, and there really isn't one dud on the list of games available. Hopefully this will continue until the system is ready to be put out to pasture. Although I'm still hoping for Shaq-Fu.
A new batch of StreetPass games is another clue from Nintendo that the 3DS still has some legs under it. Although I've gotten a little weary of StreetPass games and haven't even gotten around to buying the last two games they released for it, Nintendo still seems very interested in the idea. Whatever Nintendo's next portable system turns out to be, StreetPass functionality will almost certainly be a part of it, but even bigger and better. That's how Nintendo rolls when they come up with an idea they like that works.
That takes us to the elephant in the room that Nintendo thus far has refused to acknowledge: the new system, codenamed NX. We have lots of rumors about it, but we still don't know what the NX is. Nintendo has been enigmatic about their new system by even their standards of paranoia and secrecy.
As great as the last Nintendo Direct was, we're now about six months away from the scheduled launch of NX, and Nintendo still refuses to talk about it. If we get into October and Nintendo still hasn't unlocked the vault of NX information and given us even a small morsel, then I'm going to assume the system will not make its March 2017 release window. Usually, this close to the scheduled launch of a system, we know what we're dealing with, what its features are, and most of its launch games. Nintendo showed off the Wii and the Wii-mote over a year before it launched in November 2006. We don't know anything about NX and we're supposed to be about a half-year away from having it in our hands.
Whatever NX is or isn't, whether it ends up being a portable system or not, the 3DS looks to be playing a big role in Nintendo’s immediate future. Will it be the last dedicated handheld system we see from Nintendo? Possibly, but if the NX really is a portable system, Nintendo will likely keep the 3DS around as an insurance policy, much like they did with Game Boy Advance when the Nintendo DS first launched. Nintendo didn’t know if the DS would catch on, and so touted their GameCube, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS triple threat as their “third pillar strategy”. The Nintendo DS caught on quickly and became a massive success, and as a result, Nintendo quickly abandoned this strategy and retired the Game Boy Advance so they could put full support behind the DS. I could see them doing something similar with the 3DS and NX.
In the meantime, until Nintendo decides to acknowledge the existence of their mysterious new system, enjoy the games we have, old and new, because there's a lot of them available for Nintendo's aging portable. The 3DS has accrued a truly impressive lineup already and it's not finished. I believe that when the 3DS is done and goes to the great arcade in the sky, it will be remembered as one of the greatest we’ve seen.