First Impressions: Nintendo Internet Browser & Nintendo eShop

Latest System Update Offers More Online Functionality…to Some Extent

A long-awaited system update for the Nintendo 3DS was made available by Nintendo earlier today.  By connecting your system to the internet and performing a system update, players will be able to now access both an internet browser and the Nintendo eShop, which allows them to download software, old and new.  A small selection of software is already up on the service, with both Pokédex 3D and 3D Classics: Excitebike being free to download (the Pokédex 3D software will remain free forever, whereas 3D Classics: Excitebike is only free for a short period of time).

We’ll be covering this new software later in the week (in case you haven’t noticed, it’s E3 at the moment!), but first Bits ‘n’ Bytes Gaming wanted to take a look at the additional core services that Nintendo is finally offering (and perhaps should have been offering from the start), and weigh up the pros and cons.  We’re still hours away from hearing about Nintendo’s next home console, and rumours suggest that it might feature comprehensive online functionality akin to the services provided by both Sony and Microsoft.  With this rumour in mind, here’s what we think about Nintendo’s latest online-enabled applications.

Surfing the Web

If you’ve ever used a web browser on a previous Nintendo product, such as the DSi or the Wii, then you’ll be immediately familiar with the 3DS’ browser software.  After choosing your search engine, a small menu gives you the opportunity to search, bookmark favourites (and obviously choose from them), see more information about the page you’re viewing, and, of course, type in a URL from scratch.  The first thing we noticed was the speed at which things load.  It’s quick enough but it pales in comparison to what an iPad and even some smartphones can do.  Now, it’s perhaps a little unfair to lump the 3DS into the same category as these other devices, but given that these are now competing with Nintendo, we feel that Nintendo really needs to go to town if it’s to show that the 3DS can be more than just a videogames console.

The other thing you instantly realise is that text on a webpage is barely legible when looking at a page normally.  This means that you will almost always have to zoom in, and websites don’t seem to pick up that the 3DS is a mobile device (Bits ‘n’ Bytes Gaming loaded up in standard mode), meaning that webpages are in no way optimised for the device (or rather, the device doesn’t allow them to be).  When you factor in that you’ll probably only be using the 3DS browser in lieu of your home or office computer, and the chances are that it will be on some dodgy WiFi connection at a railway station, then the 3DS web browser suddenly becomes a less attractive package.  It’s by all means a nice thing to have on the system for those times when you might need it, but if you’re looking for a serious alternative to lugging your laptop around everywhere with you, then this isn’t the thing for you.

This was practically zoomed in the entire way - scrolling is longer and more frequent as a result.

Also (and this isn’t a criticism), the browser does not display web pages in 3D.  It is, however, capable of showing 3D images that are in MPO format.  Furthermore, you at least have the ability to upload images from your system (although we were unable to get this to work on WordPress).  The touchscreen interface has its limitations – buttons that also act as drop-down menus are now reduced to mere buttons.  In comparison, the iPad is capable of detecting how much pressure you’re applying to a button and, therefore, this function still works on that device – we can see some users having issues with their favourite websites.

You can’t really complain given that this is, after all, a free update.  Nevertheless, it’s slightly disappointing to see Nintendo’s internet browser tech hasn’t really advanced from console to console.  You’ll occasionally find yourself loading it up for some bizarre reason or another, but otherwise, this one is best left alone.

Shop Til You Drop

The Nintendo eShop is an interesting creature.  Essentially, it is a hybrid of the Wii’s Shopping Channel and the Nintendo Channel, as news, trailers, and software are all available in the same place.  The menu screen features a handy search function and a ticker bar on the lower screen is there to inform you of all the latest goodies. The layout is very similar to the 3DS’ main home screen.  The “Now in stores for Nintendo 3DS” icon provides the user with a wealth of information on Nintendo’s products available in retail stores, with product reviews and general information in the same style as what you would find on the Wii’s Nintendo Channel.

Available on the Nintendo eShop for the not-so-bargain price of £3.60.

Trailers are streamed directly to the console and are shown in 3D.   The quality is pretty decent, and it will be exciting to see the future 3D content that was promised earlier this year to be coming to the console from Sky and Aardman.  Downloading software unfortunately still incorporates an annoying animation in the background (that seems to be some weird machine dropping oddly-coloured apples into a box), but it wouldn’t be Nintendo if it didn’t do this (I still have nightmares of Mario continuously hitting that goddamn box on the Wii Shopping Channel).

The selection of titles is still pretty small, but if you’re after some retro gaming then Super Mario Land, Tennis, and Alleyway for the original Game Boy are at your disposal.  Furthermore, there’s still a back catalogue of DSiWare to fall back on.

The Next Generation of Online Services?

All things considered, Nintendo’s system update has us a little confused if the Project Café rumours are anything to go by.  The online functionality now offered in the form of the web browser and eShop isn’t much better than what previous consoles have done, and it most certainly isn’t impressive enough for the limited tastes of the hardcore market.  It could be that Nintendo is looking to diversify its two key brands, while still allowing connectivity between the two.  The 3DS, so far, has its selection of hardcore and casual software and, thus, could be continuing what the Wii did before it (the interface would certainly suggest this).

Of course, with just under five hours to go, we still have no idea what Nintendo has in-store with regards to both Project Café and the 3DS.  Nevertheless, we can’t help but hope a little bit that Nintendo will start to focus more on its 3DS online services.  It’s all still very basic, and with the company placing such a heavy emphasis on connectivity through its SpotPass and StreetPass functions, we’re a bit baffled as to why the online side of things hasn’t been more significant.

Here’s to hoping that Project Café (and Nintendo’s E3 conference, for that matter) changes our minds.

Share your thoughts: What are your first impressions of the Nintendo eShop and Internet Browser?  Is £3.60 too much to pay for Super Mario Land?  Is the text too small to read on the Internet Browser?  Let us know in the comments section below!

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