(3DS eShop)

Nintendo Letter Box (3DS eShop)

Game Review

Nintendo Letter Box Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by James Newton

A note to remember

Until mid-December, the only online communication built into the 3DS was a 16-character status message on your friends list. Even by Nintendo standards, that's extremely constrictive. Now we all have the chance to download Nintendo Letter Box — aka Swapnote — for free.

The first thing to note about Nintendo Letter Box is it is not an "instant messenger" or chat-type application: it's not Pictochat Online. Instead, it fits in with the 3DS ethos of using your console daily, rather than checking it minute-by-minute like a phone, Twitter or email account.

Like Flipnote Studio, Letter Box takes something tactile and makes it digital; Flipnote was flipbook animation, but Letter Box uses postcards as its inspiration. You can write, draw, add photos and sound clips before sending them to multiple friends; with up to four pages in each note the creative potential is way beyond the 16 characters we're used to.

Being able to write or draw in three dimensions — or more accurately two planes, one behind the other — is quite a revelatory experience that creative minds will relish. When opening a note the lines animate themselves as if being drawn in front of you, a small touch but one with a little magic to it.

It's not just one-on-one conversation: you can send a note to multiple people on your Friends List, and they can choose to send a one-page reply just to you or, more dangerously, to all recipients. Think Reply All, then multiply the irritating possibilities by a third dimension. You can't slate the app for how people use it, but better conversation control would be much appreciated in any future updates.

There's stationery to purchase with Play Coins and you can add a five second sound clip or photo to your note, though frustratingly you can't use the camera or microphone directly — you have to head to the Home Menu and open up Nintendo 3DS Camera or Sound to record your audio or visual accompaniment. It's a small gripe but one that hampers the app's easy enjoyment.

There's room for improvement in other areas too: ink is only black, you can't see what you've sent to whom, and it's similarly impossible to tell whom a letter is from until you've opened it, an annoying inconvenience if someone likes to spam your inbox with questions about what you had for dinner or photos of their pet. You can delete someone from your Friends List if things get really bad of course, but there are better options that should have been included.

The other major problem is the time it takes to send and receive messages; WiiConnect24 was criticised for its slow delivery times and SpotPass suffers a similar fate, with messages not appearing until hours or even days after they were sent. Whether this is due to increased server load over Christmas is yet to be seen, but at the moment it's a little on the slow side.


Letter Box is charming and huge fun, and a proposition that wouldn't be possible on any other format. The ability to send 3D photos and messages around the world is a tremendous power, but there's ample room for improvement too, both in terms of speed and better organisation of incoming and outgoing messages.

From the web

User Comments (53)



BlueAce127 said:

Swapnote (or Nintendo Letter Box) is awesome! Although I think that putting in a keyboard/typing option would make it better for people with bad handwriting (like me!).



Blaze said:

I would give it an 8, but good review! Definitely improves the 3DS in terms of communication methods in my opinion!



Mario_34 said:

Good review but you don't have to shut down letterbox and open 3DS Camera program to take photo's. You can just suspend the software by going to the home menu then click ethier R or L to open instant camera to take a photo. You can then exit instant camera and unsuspend letterbox and the photo will be ready to use. while you still have to suspend letterbox you don't have to shut it down making things a little bit easier.



ToneDeath said:

A few wrinkles, but I expect Nintendo will iron most of these out with updates over time.



6ch6ris6 said:

i love this thing. so funny.


I DONT CARE !!!!!!



Terave said:

It's a bit messy sometimes, but it IS a lot of fun and simple to use..



Edgy said:

There are so many free methods of electronic communication available now that I don't think an upgraded pictochat has much relevance now. Better to have it than not but I've lived with my 3DS for 9 months without it to not be that excited about it.



alLabouTandroiD said:

Amazing review, soul brother. It resembles my own impression very well and i hope for the same problems to be fixed in future updates.

To me it's a typically charming and very unique Nintendo app. A nice surprise that put a big smile on my face. Well done.
I hope no one dismisses it before he can buy the additional stationery. At the moment i can only hope to get StreetPass Letters from someone someday so i created a lot of dummy letters to get these nice litte backgrounds. I was a bit worried i couldn't make it on my own and would have liked the app to give me more hints about what i can still unlock and how i can do it. Even if it was meant to be a big surprise to the uninformed it would be nice to get subtle hints imo.
What i found strange is that you can only use five second audio clips while in the Sound channel the limit is ten seconds.
Also frustrating is that i didn't find on option to rotate your photos here or in the Photo app. Always having to use the PC for that kinda eliminates the use of the app. Giving the next 3DS model a small USB port would at least make things slightly easier.
It could also be great if you'd be able to include videos. But i guess that would be a problem for StreetPass messages because the letters would get too big then.
What i haven't tried yet is if you can use LetterBox to send QR codes to others ? This would be incredible.

@Mario_34 (3.): Thanks for the hint. Now if that would only work for the sound app.



Flowerlark said:

I love Swapnote. Me and my best friends are huge geeks, so we love sending quick notes to each other. Especially since they never answer their e-mails.



Victoria said:

I'd give it at least an 8 as well. I think it's great fun and have some really creative friends who really show this off well. It's nice to finally have something useful to buy with those Play Coins.

My only real gripe with it is there is no way to organise the letters. It gives the option of making them a Favourite, so they won't get deleted when the maxium of 3000 messages is reached. But try going back to find them again when there are hundreds of message isn't easy.



zeeroid said:

It's super addictive and unabashedly fun, but there is indeed plenty of space for improvement. For all the awesome little touches there are just as many wrinkles. Fortunately, as they are merely wrinkles, it shouldn't take a tremendous amount of effort to smooth them out with updates.



Galaxia-Master said:

It's a cool app, but it could be really, really much better. Don't let me pay with play coins, Nintendo!



SkywardLink98 said:

@#1. I agree, I have a friend and I have to guess what he's saying. Not that I'm much better though.



Mowzle said:

@battLeToadD: Maybe he means he resents using valuable play coins to unlock stationery. I do wish Nintendo would allow 20 play coins daily. It is easy to rack that up with steps. At the moment I'm having to decide whether to use my 10 coins to purchase Swapnote/Letterbox perks OR use them to play the games in Mii Plaza. The number of StreetPasses I get don't contribute much usefulness to Mii Plaza games.
I agree with all the comments about needing some way of sorting and identifying the Notes, but it's a lovely way of being able to contact folks on the Friend List. Great review James, and a great little App for the 3DS.
Thanks Nintendo



alLabouTandroiD said:

Warning: Post only loosely related to the game.
I like when you can only get stuff by using play coins. That's a real motivation to take your 3DS wherever you go. After using my first play coins for the AR unlockables i stacked up 290 coins and used just my daily play coins in Street Fighter 4 and Dead Or Alive. On stuff i could have gotten by just playing the game. So i didn't have a problem to buy everything in LetterBox at once. Now i'm saving again until i reach 290.
And while i'm also not making a lot of progress in the Mii Plaza games i don't want to use 'em for that yet. Every tiniest little help from a random 3DS owner.feels too good to take the cheap easy way out.

@Marakuto: That's very good to know, thank you. Did you use special settings / stationeries to get it across ?



Ren said:

I thought this would let us send these messages to streetpass Miis as our default message but it seems it's only for 'friends'. I don't know anyone with a 3ds and I can't imagine anyone who'll get one, it sucks not to be able to send things to everystreetpass.
Also there's no indication that there is a limit on the 3d drawing part so I was baffled trying to draw 3d and it wouldn't allow more. Eventually you notice a tiny little capacity bar at the bottom that shows how much "3d ink" you have left. Not a mention of it at all, but it means you can only draw a couple circles worth in 3d before it cuts you off. Anyway, I don't see how this is useful if it only works with 'friends' of which it's so hard to make when no one knows the 3ds exists except 14 year old boys.



Robo-goose said:

Would be nice to have more "ink", and to be able to reply to replies.
Other than that, I have a ton of fun sending little comics to buddies, and being able to spend my playcoins on something makes me happy.
7/10 is definitely the score I would give.



alLabouTandroiD said:

Sorry for posting so often but Ren (19.) mentioned something i have been asking myself as well.
I've also been wondering about the StreetPass letters but just assumed it will be sent to everyone you streetpass. That would be a shame since everyone can decide for himself if he wants to activate StreetPass for this title. And i guess parents can set it for their kids. So yeah, if these letters aren't sent to everyone you StreetPass with this app that's quite a loss in my book.



TKOWL said:

Yeah, the limited ink supply was freaking annoying, also the fact that you have to buy the ability to record sound.

Still a great free app, though. 8/10 in my book.



warioswoods said:

I'm someone who loathes most of the existing social networking avenues out there (hate logging into my Facebook and rarely do so anymore, despise receiving unnecessary text messages, etc) - so I found Swapnote to be charmingly simple. No complication, just send little drawings to your friends, with enough freedom to be creative and quirky yet not burdened by excessive options and features. It's my favorite item to come out of the eShop so far.



Knuckles said:

I wish i could use this. I only know one person with a 3DS and they wont give me their Friend Code



HADAA said:

[...] you can't see what you've sent to whom [...]
There is a way. After you sent a note to, say, everyone on your list, hit the Send button again. This time you should see a small letter icon on each Mii's left shoulder, indicating whom you've sent to. (If this icon is absent, it's likely that this person deleted you)



Aqueous said:

James if you click on a letter you sent to send it to more people, there is an image on the people you already sent it too. Also me and my brother are able to get each other's notes in mere minutes.

I love this and have had some fun drawing sessions with other people.



JoeDiddley said:

I agree with all the criticisms & hope an update comes to fix them.
But I still love this app & have spent hours with it so far.



Geonjaha said:

I just had a scary thought. Flipnote Memo is still coming to the 3DS isnt it? Or is this the substitute for Flipnote Studio instead? D:



Supremeist said:

It needs alot of updates I think. We need an option to "Delete All" the notes we currently have because they take up space on the SD Card. I have over 1000 notes and I want them all gone because now I can't download any games because its says it is almost full! & if I want to get rid of them, I have to do it one by one. We shouldn't have to do this.

Other than that, though, It's a great application and it's awesome that we can finally talk to the people on our friends list, but It's a little slow delivering and needs some updates.

I love the stationary's though!

@Geonjaha: You just made me a little scared too. But Nintendo never said anything about not delivering us Flipnote Memo yet, so I wouldn't be too disappointed. Still, don't get your hopes up too much. I'd be fine if they just re-released the original Flipnote, I just want it already! Us 3DS Owners deserve it!



Mattiator said:

Swapnote's quite fun so far, I've whittled away an hour drawing stuff based on eShop games, but it still needs a keyboard for us lousy printers, and the ability to attack multiple sounds, one per page? Or, even easier, just let us use all of our recordings (in other words bump the limit to 10 seconds long).

A few kinks to iron out, but I'm happy with it so far.



XCWarrior said:

I am really enjoying Swapnotes so far. Just seeing what my 3DS friends can draw has been well worth. And glad to have another thing to spend all those coins on. I'd say about an 8/10, though I do hope they add a few more features to it in the future.



rjejr said:

I've been waiting about 10 days now for Nintendo to email me the codes so my 2 sons can use Spotpass. I emailed again on Friday, maybe someday. My wife and 2 kids do enjoy it over Streetpass but once every 8 hours or so is nearly useless. I still think they should have called it "Billboard". We wait.



Tare said:

I haven't been having any trouble with time delays.

It's fun. You can draw a funny picture when you're bored, and then send it later.



CowLaunch said:

Love this, simple tools that allow you to be very expressive. Adding the sound and different backgrounds adds a lot.



Smooth27 said:

First of all, before i go on this is a great app despite it's lacks its better then no messaging system. However its kind of dissapointing to me because its not instant and quite limited for it too lag as much as it does. You cant keep a conversation going so if i msg my cousin that lives a day away its not so much fun.In my opinion in needs to be instant because if im free for about an hour and want to invite my friend or ask if he can play some quick races on mk7 via wifi, he might not get it within 5 min if im lucky and dont take an hour or a day. They need to update on it being mire instant, at least the notification because i noticed that i might get it right away but only if i put, ''check for spotpass delivery'' the notification needs to improve a lot , at least on the spotpass. Another alternative would be if they can add a ''Invite To Game'' option or a ''Quick Msg'' option to the friends list in con junction to join game option, but why not all? Hope they hone all this out especially how were getting more and more online games, like mk7, RE:revelations, Kid Icarus uprising, Heroes of Ruin, and more to come most likely so a chatting option or party system to voice chat with your friends wouldnt hurt.



metafaniel said:

SwapNote it's definetively much more better and entertaining than I thought before, maybe that's because I really enjoy drawing, however yes. it could have some improvements.
I've have the hope this app will help Nintendo to see our thoughts so they can improve the near FLIPNOTE MEMO, it could be similar to this app, but improved. Just imagine that....... =)



theblackdragon said:

@Shworange: Are you sure the e-mail didn't wind up in your spam folder by mistake, or sent to the wrong address? If it didn't, I'd get in touch with Nintendo themselves to see what's going on with that.



Ren said:

I don't get how it could possibly take more than a few minutes at most to send, It just seems impossible unless it is purposefully being filtered thorough something in the middle. But hours? days?!
I wouldn't be surprised if it goes to Nintendo servers and is cranked through some kind of "porninator - butt - scan - crusher, computer" before it's sent back out again to the recipient. Call me a conspiracy- theorist, but I can't imagine Nintendo allowing actual free transfer of information between users without some kind of Family-bot overseeing it; it's just not like them. What else does Reggie have to do with his time anyway?



Aqueous said:

@Ren - I get mine in minutes normally, there are some I get from other parts of the world that seem to come in late but if I watch mine get to me in minutes.

Edit: Nope all my notes seem to come in minutes, I just got a response from a friend on the other cost in minutes maybe less. I don't know why you guys take hours because I sent my message shortly before, mere minutes.



lonlon-milker said:

Lol I swapnoted a friend after a game of mario kart to tell him I was sorry I wasn't mmuch of a challenge to him lol.



ueI said:

Does the person you send a note to have to have the app in order to read it?



theblackdragon said:

@uel: yes, they must have the app in order to read it. I know i've been able to send notes to users on my FL who i knew did not have the app yet, though, so I'm guessing the system would just hold those notes until a user did have the app on their 3DS, but i don't know for sure, so don't quote me on that :3



LordAndrew said:

This got a review? I consider it as not a game at all, along with Nintendo Video and Netflix.



SonicSpeed said:

I think LetterBox is great, but I only have 2 people on my friend list my best friend and her sister. I don't really have any problems with it though the limit of ink is really annoying. My friends and I get messages really fast like 20 mins max so I really love it.



craig0rneil3 said:

As soon as I got active and started adding friends via forums etc. Ninty:LetterBox and My 3DS quadrupled its usage. I recommend anyone who is finding it tough to get friends, to have a look at the newest thread on "3DS Friend Code Forums" Have a look make a few posts. It genuinely makes the 3DS that much better. PS add me if you want just let me know

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