One refrain we often hear from fans pertains to why a Nintendo fan would want to carry two separate Nintendo devices with them wherever they go. For us, the answer has often been simple: the 3DS offers games that the Switch does not and vice-versa. Each system has unique features that enable different kinds of gameplay. Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Edition, however, does not help that argument.
While Nintendo has been keen to remind players that the venerable portable has plenty of life left in it, many view the 3DS as a console in its twilight. It’s odd, then, that Microsoft would choose now, after the Switch version of the same game is already in players’ hands, to release this port.
It feels, however, that perhaps Microsoft was of the same mind as some of the gaming populace; Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Edition feels less like a full-fledged release and more like a lifeless port. It seems to be aimed less at satisfying the 3DS fanbase and more at showing them how much better they could have it on Nintendo’s newer, more advanced handheld.
The dual-screen nature of the 3DS lends itself well to Minecraft. The bottom screen can be used for everything from crafting to inventory management to changing skins. If there was one thing we could pull out of this version of Minecraft and happily apply across the board, it would be this. In this one way it feels like the 3DS was made for playing Minecraft.
As much as we enjoy the touchscreen controls Minecraft offers on New 3DS, there’s quite a bit lacking. Minecraft’s main draws - in this humble scribe’s opinion - are its large, open worlds, and the ability to play in the worlds you create with your friends. Unfortunately, both of these aspects are either significantly hobbled or non-existent in the 3DS iteration of Microsoft’s blockbuster.
Because of the New 3DS’s weaker hardware, Minecraft’s draw distance is significantly reduced, meaning those wide-open worlds suddenly feel a little less so. The small screen also doesn’t do Minecraft any favours as it feels cramped on the limited real estate. More importantly, multiplayer is nowhere to be found. As of this writing, neither local or online multiplayer are supported, though Microsoft has promised to share more at a later date.
No multiplayer means that the 3DS version is also (unsurprisingly) not getting the Better Together update that allows Switch owners to play with both PC and Xbox players. On top of that, the Nintendo skins included in the Switch version are not available in this edition, either.
We suspect that some will purchase Minecraft for the New 3DS for the sake of having it on every platform, but it’s hard to see the audience that would buy this version instead of any of the superior versions available on other platforms, including both the Wii U and the Switch.
While the 3DS’s touch screen does add some convenience, the trade-offs made to fit such a large game onto the New 3DS create a notable deficit. If you don’t have another platform on which to play Minecraft, New 3DS Edition is a good way to test the waters and sample the solo experience, but there’s so much more that this game has to offer elsewhere.