From its launch in late 2008 until its eventual discontinuation five years later, Flipnote Studio was a smash hit among both the casual and professional creative types. As an application that assisted in creating flip-book style animations on the DSi, the concept was simple, but the amount of creativity that users put into it was what really made Flipnote so special. Coupled with Flipnote Hatena, an online service that allowed creators to share their work with other users, it's no small wonder that Flipnote Studio was so well loved within the community. It's not often that a game or application brings users together on a personal level, and that's something that speaks volumes about how appreciated the original app truly was.
Following the 2013 discontinuation of Flipnote Hatena and the release of Flipnote Studio 3D - the original app's 3DS successor - in Japan, the promise of a new application around the world was enticing. Turnaround for release outside of Japan wasn't quick though, leaving many fans in other territories waiting in limbo for quite some time. Repeated delays and mixed information persisted for nearly two years until now, with the highly anticipated Flipnote Studio 3D released in North America exclusively through Club Nintendo. After what seemed from the outside like development - or at least localisation - hell, this app has managed to come out the other end mostly unscathed.
The core mechanics of Flipnote Studio make the transition to the 3DS well, leaving little room for error. The original was such a well-tuned and finely polished machine that it should come as no surprise that this new iteration builds off of that in the best of ways. The tools at your disposal remain mostly the same, but there are more ways in which they can be used. One of the biggest additions is the use of layered 3D, a feature that obviously was not available on the DSi. Users can now create fully 3D illustrations, not unlike those in Colors! 3D, and bring them to life right on the 3DS console. Photographic Flipnotes can also be created, taking photos with the 3DS's camera and importing them directly into the project.
There is a bit of a learning curve that comes with mastering the controls and making the most out of the array of tools, but Flipnote Studio 3D does just the right amount of hand-holding to get you where you need to be without feeling overwhelming. There is a short tutorial in the beginning that sets you on the right path, but it's mostly about using the tools creatively; during the short time that the tutorial lasts, it shows you how to work with the basics, but it simultaneously encourages exploration. Once started, you will be given the option to choose between two sets of tools which are aptly named "normal" and "advanced." It's a good idea to start off with the normal kit to get acclimated with the basics before moving on to advanced, a kit that contains all of the tools from normal but adds more and allows you to use them in different ways.
Controlling Flipnote Studio 3D is easy work, especially once you've become accustomed to the variety of tools. The majority of inputs require the console's touchscreen for what should be obvious reasons, but physical buttons are also incorporated in intuitive ways. Simple two button combinations consisting mostly of a directional and lettered inputs provide shortcuts, alleviating the need to constantly be opening and closing the menu to change tools or undo actions. It can all be a bit much to grasp, and first time users are bound to make plenty of mistakes before getting it right, but once you've spent a little time with the application it becomes second nature. It doesn't take long before you're swapping brushes and mixing colours with the best of them.
When creating an application used for art, there should be an artistic quality to the program itself. Flipnote Studio 3D is no stranger to this concept, boasting an incredibly clean interface with large buttons, easily identifiably icons, and sound effects that help bring the look together. Working in conjunction with the accessible controls, the understated design is source of comfort, allowing its users to explore and create without being overwhelming. Overall, it's a very pleasing aesthetic that is nothing short of museum quality.
The biggest feature that didn't make the cut in this release is any semblance of a sharing program. Unlike the Japanese version, Flipnote Studio 3D does not feature Flipnote Gallery: World, the paid world-wide service that allows users to share their creations. Your own Flipnotes from the once bustling Hatena can be downloaded to your console and edited, but the online service does not have an equivalent here. Projects can be exported in a number of different formats, including avi videos with audio and animated gifs, but the only way to share within the application itself is locally with another user. The good news is that online communities have already begun popping up all over the Internet, including right here in the Nintendo Life forums. It doesn't make much sense that a program designed with the intention of encouraging its users to create does not make sharing your work a simple process, but it is good to see that the community is alive and well, making the best of an unfortunate situation.
After what seems like an eternity, especially for the more adamant cartoonists among us, Flipnote Studio 3D has finally made its way westward. It's not as complete of a package as many were hoping, namely with the absence of a sharing program within the application, but the core mechanics remain spot-on. If you don't mind taking the extra step of exporting your projects and uploading them online outside of the 3DS console, there is very little fault that can be found here; overall, this is a well designed application in terms of both use and aesthetic that encourages its users to explore and create in new ways. Even if you're the type to be discouraged by the prospect of drawing, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to create art.