Download shop beefs up appeal of Nintendo 3DS 

A little more than two months into the lifespan of the 3DS and it’s still tough to tell whether Nintendo’s foray into the 3-D craze will pay off. But as of a firmware update early last week, there’s a promising new reason to invest in one: the 3DS Download Shop.

Nintendo found the key to retro gamers’ hearts with the Wii’s Virtual Console service, and the Download Shop is its portable equivalent. The online store, accessible via wireless connection, allows the purchase of a number of handheld games, including original content and choice nuggets from Nintendo’s classic Game Boy system.

The store suffers from a few growing pains, however. The interface is a little cluttered, featuring far too many quirky but ultimately useless categories (“Games that Begin in W”) that get in the way of the worthwhile content. The pricing scheme also is difficult to deal with, offering “point cards” in $5 increments but selling games at prices that ensure the building up of useless virtual spare change.

But even at its early age, there are a number of gems to be found in the library. “Shantae: Risky’s Revenge” is a loving, beautifully animated revival of a classic action-platformer for the Game Boy Color, and nostalgic gamers will swoon at the inclusion of “The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening,” one of the best titles in the entire “Zelda” franchise.

The 3DS itself is a pretty stunning piece of hardware. Its upper screen pulls off the task of offering 3-D without glasses, and a handy slider bar allows users to adjust the 3-D to their own personal preference. The current software lineup, however, amounts to little more than a series of tech demos (“Pilotwings Resort,” “Nintendogs + Cats”), so whether the handheld actually lives up to its potential now rests in the hands of game developers.

For now, the 3DS Download Shop is a more than welcome diversion, and given Nintendo’s dominance of handheld gaming since its birth, there should be a lot of exciting material available in the months to come.

rbunnell@sfexaminer.com

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Rich Bunnell

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