By now you should consider augmented reality as no stranger. It waddles around our world silently and only strikes into to being when we are ready to interact with it. AR is in fact one of those perfect commodities. AR is useful, informative and always cleans up after itself. Anyone who has had an Eye Pet running around their living room will know that AR is just like things in this world that triggers a switch in our minds. Once that switch is thrown that same Eye Pet could claw you death and you’d be so charmed by the technology you probably wouldn’t even care. There is just something about having the world around you becoming so bewilderingly altered that is a charm.
To start with let me say that the Augmented Reality on the 3DS works. It is the easiest of checks to bring forth but on the 3DS it is delivered with assurance and confidence. It appears as a big part of what Nintendo see as part of the future for their console, and it shows. I for one am glad for how it is being pushed both in its presentation and delivery. It could have so easily been an element of the console that was laid to hide away, guarding its gold from hoarders that would never come. Instead, for most, opening up the 3DS packaging for the first time will reveal the AR cards sitting on top of the pile. The small yellow envelope being the first thing that screams to be opened.
Again, no attention has been waivered into how this end of the AR has been delivered on the 3DS. The cards are sturdy and well made. The envelope they come in also feels like it could stand up to some rough travelling alongside the console itself. I do feel precious over the cards but I also don’t feel any distress in sharing the cards with the same table that I am eating toast on. You’ll always be happy in the knowledge though that in the envelope all of your six AR cards are safe and well, however there is really only one of the cards that you’ll really need to covet.
Augmented Reality does travel a thin line, and the AR cards that come with the 3DS manages to straddle both sides of the technology. Out of the six AR cards, five of them are adorned with classic Nintendo characters. From Pikmen to Kirby, the jolly little cards are unfortunately nothing more that portable statues. Placing them under the camera when in AR brings up the chosen character in a static pose, so far so not very exciting. In fact it never gets any more exciting than that. You can bring a Mii along to a party, and even though they can move about somewhat there is still little interaction possible with these 3D characters. Certainly you can walk around them and use the camera to take pictures of them from all angles, but the joy of all this is short lived. AR is brilliant when used correctly but utterly trite when used as a virtual popup book.
The one card you’ll really be pulling out a lot is the one with the big question mark on it. This is the trump card where all the fantastic content is hidden within. Once the camera finds this on the table there are six games within in that you can play away on any table, and in any location. Depending on which game you choose table cloths will get eaten up, wooden surfaces will turn to water, and floating works of art wander about on granite. Consider my switch flicked!
The two main AR titles are both based on shooting. One is a straight up target shooter that requires a table that you can easily make it round in 360 degrees. The other is a mini-golf game but inspired more by snooker than it is by golf. Both of these work incredibly well, though at times manoeuvring around the card can prove the biggest challenge. In weak light the 3DS does seem to lose the card easily, and when you are having to move round physically to aim towards the target this both unsettles the sweet spot of the 3D and also causes the system to again lose the card. The more you play with AR though, the more these problems will occur less and less. However, it is hard to stay completely still whilst a dragon is suddenly bursting from your breakfast table.
The other games on the 3DS Augmented Reality include fishing, graffiti and the aforementioned character posturing. Fishing is standard practice really. By using the accelerometer in the 3DS you move the console side to side to tempt the fish and pull it up to land them. Most of this though feels counter intuitive to the fact that AR in this instant works best when being able to focus on one object without moving the camera and the screen. However, it is a drooling pleasure to see hard surfaces become water and to see fish swimming beneath your table.
Graffiti though is the stand out AR title of the bunch. Simply open up the box and draw, and whatever you draw appears in the world in front of you. This image you can then be examined in 360 degrees and also you can use the circle pad to guide it around the room. It is a liberating game that captures all that is good about AR. It is the simplest of practices but when you image also casts shadows depending of the amount of light in the room, it is hard not to start just pointing at the screen aghast.
The games here are not perfect, indeed some of them seem to work against the mechanics that the Augmented Reality is based on but it is a relief that the AR seems more than a tech demo travelling alongside the more heralded 3D capabilities. In a way the augmented reality to me has a lot more potential on the 3DS to make it a system that could deliver some strong and truly ground breaking titles. It is probably Nintendo’s shrewdest move to include not only AR Games with their console release but include games that show that the 3DS is the platform that will have a strong future with augmented reality.
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: 3DS Release Date: 25/03/2011
Disclosure: The title was reviewed over the course of five days on a 3DS. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.