It's an understatement to suggest that the 3DS has had an interesting first six months. Disappointing sales followed by a massive price drop, and now some very early departures into the realm of quirky add-on accessories. Yet, for early adopters of the system, there have been a selection of entertaining games and eye-popping 3D effects to enjoy. For those who felt this wasn’t enough and raged with injustice at the price drop in August, Nintendo offered a “rom” olive branch in the form of the Ambassador Programme. The first half of this package arrived on 1st September, with 10 NES titles on offer. The first reaction of the staff at Nintendo Life was, of course, to play them all. A lot.
After burning ourselves out on retro goodness, we decided to have a casual chat about the games, the Ambassador Programme and what should come next. Trying to control the rather “busy” gathering of seven NLife staff members in one place is features editor Thomas Whitehead. He’s joined by news editor James Newton and downloads editor Corbie Dillard, as well as reviewers and writers Jacob Crites, Marcel van Duyn, Christopher Ingram, Zach Kaplan and Ron DelVillano.
Thomas Whitehead: Let’s get started. First question for everyone to answer: what do you think of the selection of games, good diversity, or some poor choices?
Corbie Dillard: While we'd all love to see triple A titles, I think the grouping of games was solid. Several genres included, with some really amazing games in there. There are a few I'd have preferred over Golf and Yoshi, but overall I think it was pretty good.
Jacob Crites: I'd definitely say good diversity. Sure, it would have been nice to have some more crowd favourites like Punch-Out or MB3, but I certainly would have never played Wrecking Crew or Yoshi if not for this little programme, and they're quite good games!
Christopher Ingram: I think there’s a great mix here, with a few big classics we all know and love and then a few that many haven’t played before. Wrecking Crew was a nice surprise and the one game that I hadn’t played before.
Ron DelVillano: I’m pretty happy with the selection of “hardcore” games, but I was actually really glad to see some solid arcade type games included as well. Ice Climber and Yoshi have been great when I find myself with a few minutes to kill.
Marcel van Duyn: I think it's a pretty good selection, but maybe they should've left out Zelda II (even though it's good) to stick in Kid Icarus, that could've been nice to promote the new one.
Zach Kaplan: I'm not entirely happy with some of the lesser-rated titles, but I have always loved Zelda II, so maybe there's someone out there who loves NES Open Tournament Golf?
James Newton: I see why they put in two Zeldas with it being the 25th Anniversary and all, but on the whole there's some good games and some not so good ones. At least we didn't get Urban Champion, though.
Jacob Crites: Ha! I still stand by my assertion that Urban Champion is actually a good game. But that's another discussion entirely.
Corbie Dillard: I thought Wrecking Crew was a nice touch. Nice little underrated title.
Marcel van Duyn: Yeah, that's actually the game I'm most glad is included.
Jacob Crites: Me too. And there's a good mix of pick-up-and-play titles, with more lengthy experiences like Zelda and Metroid.
Thomas Whitehead: A good selection overall, then. What do you all think about the actual playing experience? Do the games look and play as expected, or does the 3DS make the games look sharper?
Corbie Dillard: I thought the games looked amazing. Very clear and vibrant on the 3DS screen. I was worried a bit about the emulation, but they all seem to run as smooth as silk.
James Newton: It's good to have NES games on a sharp LCD screen, without all the fuzziness introduced by cables, even on a Wii through component cabling.
Christopher Ingram: I agree. They may have been made for the big screen, but dang do they look and play great on the small LCD screen.
Zach Kaplan: I've actually noticed some odd fading graphics in spots, but overall it looks great — a lot better than on my dusty old NES to be sure, though I will miss blowing into the carts.
Ron DelVillano: The games look great and feel great. My only concern is that the controls feel a little cramped at times, but that’s just due to my giant hands.
Marcel van Duyn: All works fine if you ask me, it's also a nice touch they put select on Y, it’s annoying to reach for otherwise.
Jacob Crites: Yeah I think they look better than they ever have. The colours are crisp, and as far as play is concerned, I think they feel pretty good. Other than Super Mario Bros, I think they all work great with the circle pad as well.
Corbie Dillard: It would be nice if they'd have included a way to map the buttons to each user's preference.
Jacob Crites: Maybe that'll come with the update?
Marcel van Duyn: Yeah, hopefully.
Thomas Whitehead: As a quick follow up on a point Jacob made, is the 3DS D-Pad good enough for playing these games, or do you all instinctively use the Circle Pad?
Corbie Dillard: I love the D-Pad on the 3DS, even with its lower position on the face. I've found it to work perfectly with these games, personally.
James Newton: All Circle Pad, all the time for me. It's like pretending analogue control was around in the 1980s.
Christopher Ingram: Circle Pad all the way! It works great for all of the games in my opinion and it seems that I die fewer times in Zelda II when using the Circle Pad compared to the D-Pad.
Jacob Crites: I don't know if it's just my system, but I'm not a fan of the way the D-Pad "feels." It's a little clicky and stiff for my taste. Unless the game requires it, I find myself going for the Circle Pad. Although I will say that the position of the D-Pad isn't nearly as annoying as I thought it would be.
Ron DelVillano: I instinctively move to the Circle Pad, again because of my giant hands. I’ve tried to play each game with the D-Pad for a more authentic feel, but after a short while I always move back to the Circle Pad. Both of which seem to work great.
Marcel van Duyn: D-Pad only for me, I always think the Circle Pad and analogue sticks on consoles feel a bit off with 2D games.
Corbie Dillard: I'm with Marcel on this one. 100%.
Zach Kaplan: Yep I'm with Corbie and Marcel, the D-Pad does the trick for me, moving Link around with the Circle Pad just feels weird. It's not clicky or stiff enough!
Jacob Crites: Well, it depends. Metroid, for example, I think works really well with the Circle Pad, but Zelda 2, Mario Bros and Ice Climber all require pretty precise movements, so I use the D-Pad for those.
Thomas Whitehead: I'm with Jacob on the 3DS D-Pad; it’s a bit too 'clicky' for my preference as well. One for Marcel and James specifically, do you believe these games are running like the NA versions? For example, Super Mario Bros. feels faster on 3DS than on a PAL Wii.
Marcel van Duyn: I'm pretty sure these are the PAL versions but sped up to 60Hz, gameplay and music all go at the speed they're supposed to.
Thomas Whitehead: What about you James, do you agree that they're sped up?
James Newton: They seem to run at a 'natural' speed, suggests to me they're certainly the full speed versions. Wasn't able to get confirmation from Nintendo but from my own research they're the full speed, full fat, full flavour 60Hz beauties.
Thomas Whitehead: It's not just me deluding myself then! Back to everyone now, what do you think about these basic emulations and the fact they’re lacking typical Virtual Console features?
Corbie Dillard: Given that we're getting the games so early, it's tough to be too hard on Nintendo for stripping the presentations down a little bit. Plus we are going to be able to update them for free once they're released on the shop officially, so it's all good.
Ron DelVillano: I love it. I love that there are no additional features. It makes for a much more authentic gaming experience. I just wish that I had a cartridge to blow into and jiggle around!
Christopher Ingram: They’re like I remember them, long passwords and all. I am looking forward to the save option for Metroid, but only so I don’t have to write down the long passwords.
Jacob Crites: I definitely feel like we've been spoiled by the eShop VC. I didn't realize how much I relied on Restore Points until I started to play Zelda II. In fact I refuse to play that game without them. Death Mountain was not made with people of my limited skills in mind.
James Newton: You know, they are what they are — they're free NES games, and for me I only really like to save a game when I'm ready to finish playing anyway. Maybe that's just me though.
Marcel van Duyn: I don't really mind VC features being MIA for now, but maybe for people who are playing Zelda for the first time a manual would've been handy.
Zach Kaplan: I love them, personally. I want my games now, regardless of if someone has transposed an instruction manual. I've been playing more Zelda than before too, and I'm not sure how much a manual would help. I like this pick-up-and-play-ness.
James Newton: Hm, I think the first Zelda is quite weird. People who say Zelda hasn't changed much really need to play that game and get their eyes tested
Jacob Crites: Maybe I need my eyes tested, because I find myself playing Zelda more than anything. That game has gotten better and better with age, I think. Or maybe I've changed, which is more likely. Anyway, I love it.
Corbie Dillard: With the Internet at our constant disposal, it's quite easy to find these manuals anyway.
Jacob Crites: Yep I've got a world map bookmarked!
James Newton: Although of course as Nintendo Life staff we all have it memorised. Am I right?
Jacob Crites: Right! That's what I meant!
Corbie Dillard: Me too.
Jacob Crites: "Memorised."
Marcel van Duyn: Sure do.