I'm a fan of various Nintendo handheld games. I'm currently working on several guides for the Nintendo 3DS.
I have a number of bad habits when editing wikis, such as not updating data or formatting things sloppily. Please note that I do care and try to do better.
|Edit count: 1,259|
|Last run: January 22, 2014|
My Favorite Games
- Age of Mythology
- Chrono Trigger
- Final Fantasy
- Kid Icarus: Uprising
- Kingdom Hearts
- Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
- Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
- Metal Gear Solid 3
- Mother 3
- Pokemon Black
- Pokemon HeartGold
- Resident Evil 4
- Super Columbine Massacre RPG!
- Team Fortress 2
- The World Ends With You
- Yoshi's Island
Nintendo 3DS: An Ongoing History
Until 2010, when people mentioned Nintendo and 3D gaming together, they were either referring to the success of Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time, or the ill-fated Virtual Boy of 1995. The latter in particular is seen as one of the company's greatest failures But Nintendo's association with 3D Gaming in its current definition, referring to stereoscopic 3D, has a long history.
As early as 1988, Nintendo was releasing games that made use of 3D technology of the time. One of these games was Famicom Grand Prix II: 3D Hot Rally, a Japanese Family Computer Disk System exclusive.
The Virtual Boy was the child of the now often-forgotten Gunpei Yokoi. Although now a relatively obscure character, Yokoi was a major player in Nintendo from 1974 through the mid-90's. Yokoi's most notable works included designing the Game & Watch series of handheld games and the original Game Boy.
By the time the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto came to work at Nintendo, developing the original Donkey Kong, Yokoi was a mentor figure, teaching the young Miyamoto the intricacies of game design. Many traits of the Mario series, including the early multiplayer of Mario Bros. and Mario's superhuman abilities, were originally suggested by Yokoi.
He also worked on the production of several classic games, including Kid Icarus and Metroid. The Virtual Boy was simply his last major project, along with the Game Boy Pocket, before leaving Nintendo. Tragically, Gunpei Yokoi died in a car crash in 1997, just long enough to see his final product fail.
With a pedigree like that, how did the Virtual Boy fail? Several reasons seem to up up. First, Nintendo's desire to keep costs down led to the use of low-cost Red LEDs rather than colored ones. This, along with several design other choices, made the Virtual Boy rather cheap and flimsy for its $180 price-tag. Second, the Virtual Boy was competing for resources with the Nintendo 64, which would be released about a year later. Third, and possibly most importantly, was the fact that the technology wasn't there yet. Battery technology wasn't ready for the intense drain, none of the design choices were without sacrifice, and the very system's cumbersome design suggested that its time had not yet come.
Despite the failure of the Virtual Boy, Nintendo still kept 3D gaming in mind. The GameCube was equipped with the hardware to play 3D games. One major game, Luigi's Mansion, was even designed to be played in 3D. However, the lack of 3D displays at the time killed the idea early.
A year or two later, Nintendo considered, for the first time, using the same basic technology that was ultimately used for the 3DS. The low resolution of the GameBoy Advance and DS, however, limited the usefulness of this technology. However, by the dawn of the 8th Generation of Video Gaming, the technology was finally in place.
Starting in 2009, details about the next generation of Nintendo handhelds began trickling in. It would incorporate a motion sensor. It was in the hands of an elite group of developers. And on March 23, 2010, it got a name.
Details were scarce. The system would be able to display games in 3D without the need for glasses, and would be backwards compatible with the DS family. And apparently, it would be out within the next year. Would it be released that year in time for the holidays? Would the 3D just be a gimmick? And, most importantly, what games would there be?
Finally, June 15 came. And with it, a storm of information.
The top screen would be a widescreen 3D display, while the bottom one would remain a touchscreen like the DS family's. The 3D would be adjustable, there would be three cameras built into the machine, a new analog stick for playing games in 3D environments, and there would be games.
The first trailer of a 3DS game was for the then announced Kid Icarus: Uprising, the rebirth of the long dormant franchise. People mistook it for a Wii game before being corrected. Other Nintendo games in the works included a new Paper Mario, a new Animal Crossing, a new Mario Kart, Nintendogs + cats, PilotWings, Star Fox 64 and Ocarina of Time remakes, and a new IP called Steel Diver.
But strangely enough, some of the best news was from third party developers and publishers. Metal Gear Solid, Kingdom Hearts, Assassin's Creed, Saints Row, Shin Megami Tensei, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Madden, Fifa, The Sims, Bomberman, Contra, Frogger, Pro Evolution Soccer, Professor Layton, A Boy and His Blob, Dragon Ball, Gundam, Pacman, Ridge Racer, Sonic, Monkey Ball, Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Dead or Alive, Dynasty Warriors, Ninja Gaiden, Naruto, Tom Clancy, and Lego games were all announced.
It was grand, it was spectacular, and it was renowned. But in the hubbub, two things were never mention: the Price and the Release Date.
Waiting for Launch
As information about the 3DS continued to leak out, many began to wonder when it would launch and for how much. Early interviews after E3 2010 suggested that the 3DS would cost more than the DS did at launch. The thing was, nobody knew what that meant. Would it cost $170? $200? $250? Whatever the price was, Nintendo planned to profit from the hardware from Day 1. The price and release date in japan were finally announced September 29, and info for the rest of the world soon followed: $250, with a February launch in Japan and a March launch in the West.
There was some disappointment that the 3DS would miss the 2010 holiday season, but as we will see later, the system came out arguably too early anyway.
Meanwhile, the anticipation was growing, despite the late release and high price for a handheld. New games like Mega Man Legends 3, Monster Hunter, BlazBlue, and Castlevania were announced that would presumably join the already impressive lineup.
Then the bad news started hitting.
Kids under the age of seven were advised to keep the 3D off, for health reasons. The battery life would only be 3 to 5 hours for 3DS games. The Friend Code system would return. The eShop would not be in operation for the first few months. And finally, the launch lineup.
In retrospect, it wasn't bad. Big names like Street Fighter, Nintendogs, and Professor Layton were present in various territories. But Kid Icarus: Uprising? Mario Kart? Paper Mario? The Ocarina of Time remake? Animal Crossing? 3rd party behemoths like Kingdom Hearts and Metal Gear Solid? All absent.
Between the Japanese and Western launches, one very interesting piece of news was released at the 2011 Game Developers Conference. Apparently, the team behind Super Mario Galaxy was making a new game for the 3DS. The first few screenshots of the game made it apparent that this would be a 3D game, but little else was revealed. Still, it was comforting to see Nintendo's mascot on the way.
On February 26, 2011, the 3DS was released in Japan with eight games, including some notable franchises. In total, over 370,000 units were sold the first week, along with slightly fewer games. Professor Layton topped the charts with over 100,000 copies sold launch day, but games like Nintendogs + cats, Samurai Warriors Chronicles, and Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition also did well. The only real disappointment from a sales perspective was Bust-A-Move Universe, a title seen by many as a cheap cash-in from Square Enix. Sales dropped to under 60,000 a week before the Western launch, but that was to be expected. Games like Layton and Nintendogs remained on the charts, and even a few minor releases came out. The 3DS remained on top.
The Western launch featured a wider variety of games: 13 in Europe and 16 in the United States. In its European week of debut, the 3DS sold over 330,000 units, with PilotWings Resort being the most game, followed up by Nintendogs + cats, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, Rayman 3D, LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, and Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D. The next week, when it debuted in America, the 3DS sold another 350,000 units in the country. Many of the same titles, including Street Fighter, Pilotwings, LEGO Star Wars, and Nintendogs, appeared on the charts.
Critically speaking, the launch was mixed at best. Of the launch games, the most critically acclaimed by far was Street Fighter, a port of a console game, with scores of around 8.5 out of 10 from most reviewers. The other best received titles were Ridge Racer 3D, a fairly standard launch racing game, and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, which may have started out as a DS game.
All three of the big Nintendo games of launch were considered, if not failures, at least disappointing. Pilotwings Resort and Steel Diver turned out to be anemic titles, which would contribute to their being some of the first 3DS games to receive official price cuts from Nintendo. Nintendogs + cats, although decently received, was considered disappointing due to the lack of improvement over its 2005 predecessor, not to mention a certain lack of cats.
Other launch games were considered average at best, and horrendous at worst. The 3DS has the shame of having four games that received a "Red" rating on Metacritic on day 1. As for the games and applications pre-installed onto the 3DS itself, they were barely covered by the gaming press, and what little coverage there was did little to convince people to buy the system.
Despite these launch woes, however, the 3DS was off to an alright start. By the end of March 2011, over 1.7 million units were in the wild, a number that would only grow.
The Dry Times
New games for the 3DS didn't come that long after launch. Japan received their first Gundam game for the 3DS before even the Western launch. In the West, April and brought the first round of shovelware titles in America, including a disappointing Splinter Cell port and a Rabbids 2D platformer. However, the 3DS would only receive one major game for a couple of months: Dead or Alive: Dimensions. And even that game failed to raise the bar much, with its merely decent reviews and adequate at best sales. By mid-May, the 3DS was selling under 100,000 units a week, less than the aging DS and PSP.
Meanwhile, the news was mixed. Ocarina of Time 3D got a June 19 release date in America, but it was revealed that Nintendo themselves did not make the remake. It was the work of some untested developer called Grezzo. And that was the only major release on the horizon, with the possible exception of Star Fox 64 3D. Publications such as The Sun created bogus stories of the 3DS causing eye injuries, which did little to improve the system's reputation. On the other hand, that new Super Mario title was supposed to be coming by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the eShop was delayed to launch the day before Nintendo's E3 press conference, and a series of 3D Classics was announced. The first one, ExciteBike, was be a free gift to everybody who got the firmware update for the eShop by a latter date. DSiWare games were be compatible and transferable to the 3DS, and the 3DS Virtual Console was be open Day 1.
As if on cue, Nintendo had their E3 press conference. The star of the show was the new upcoming Nintendo console, the Wii U, which still isn't out at the time of this writing. But a lot of attention was also paid to the 3DS. It started out small, with Link's Awakening DX's eShop debut being a part of a larger Zelda package. But five major 3DS games, four known and one new, were the core of this E3.
First, was Mario Kart, which would eventually be named Mario Kart 7. This game would bring new elements to the franchise, such as underwater racing and gliding through the air. Next, was Star Fox 64 3D, which disappointingly did not incorporate online multiplayer. Then was Super Mario, later titled Super Mario 3D Land, which was promised to be a 2011 release. Kid Icarus: Uprising came after that, with the addition of online multiplayer. Finally, a new Luigi's Mansion title was announced, arguably the biggest surprise from Nintendo at E3 that year. A new Super Smash Bros game was also confirmed, although the title had yet to start development.
Upcoming titles from 3rd parties also got a mention. A montage showed several games, including Mario & Sonic, Resident Evil, Cave Story, Ace Combat, Tekken, and Metal Gear Solid 3D. On the show floor, more information was revealed about various upcoming titles. Resident Evil: Revelations, already a much anticipated title, was a darling with members of the gaming press. Sonic Generations, the first Sonic game on the 3DS was first shown, and looked like a promising 2D platformer. Mutant Mudds would be an earlier eShop title, inspired by classic 2D action-platformers.
In short, it was a solid, if not mind-blowing, E3 for the 3DS. The system would continue to fight on, despite the slow start. Games were on the way.
Speaking of which...
Ocarina of Time 3D
There was a lot of pressure put on Ocarina of Time 3D. After all, even though it was a port, it was arguably the biggest project yet for the system, with earlier games being ports, anemic, simple, or otherwise bad. But despite the familiarity many had with the game, going into it was a mystery. After all, this wasn't a Nintendo-made product; it was outsourrced to some little studio called Grezzo. Would it still be a quality product.
Short answer, yes.
Ocarina 3D was a fairly conservative remake. The graphics were revamped, and now resembled a GameCube title, but used the original architecture of the N64 game. The inventory, menus, and various functions were moved to the touchscreen. Gyroscope camera controls, a boss mode, and some hint videos were also added. Otherwise, it was the same game as the original, plus the Master Quest version of the game as an unlockable. There was no added multiplayer, no Streetpass functionality. Just a relatively straight remake that made careful use of the new hardware.
It was a massive hit. Ocarina of Time 3D has a 94 on Metacritic, making it the highest rated handheld game since the Game Boy Advance era. The game sold half a million copies its first two weeks on the market worldwide, and would go on to be the first game to sell a million units to consumers, even though Nintendogs + cats and Street Fighter shipped a million a while before that. 3DS sales went back up to over 100,000 a week for a little while.
The Summer of our Discontent
After Ocarina of Time 3D, the next big game was Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. Although Revelations was the more anticipated title, this had the potential to help Ocarina fill in for the summer. After all, the Mercenaries minigames for Resident Evils 4 and 5 were good fun, and this promised to expand upon the idea.
Unfortunately for everybody involved, Mercenaries 3D had a flaw that struck many with anger: the inability to clear data. In short, this greatly reduced the game's resale value and made it hard to grant the game as a gift. Furthermore, when the reviews cam out, they simply weren't very positive. It was anemic and it was full of recycled content, with little incentive for either newcomers or veterans of the series to play.
Although not a crippling blow in of itself, the poor reception of Mercenaries 3D, both on a critical and a sales level, was disheartening. It meant that between the February/March launch and Fall seasons, the only major title was Ocarina 3D, not even an original game.
Meanwhile, things were looking bad for the 3DS's future. The Saint's Row game announced in 2010 had been cancelled, along with Assassin's Creed and the much anticipated Mega Man Legends 3. Metal Gear Solid 3D was delayed to 2012. The eShop, starved for content, was reliant on re-releasing Game Boy titles and, on a special occasion, an iOS port.
Then, the bomb dropped.
AN $80 PRICE CUT
Announced July 28, it would go into effect on August 12. Apparently, this was Nintendo's reaction to both the 3DS's low sales, which were about 100,000 that week, and the surprisingly low price of the upcoming Vita, which would sell for as low as $250. For the first time, Nintendo would sell their hardware at a loss. Many early adopters were outraged at the early and dramatic price drop, and doubted the 20 free Virtual Console games they'd receive as compensation at a later date would suffice.
The week before the price drop, only 40,000 3DS's were sold.
Getting Better all the Time
The 3DS price drop had an immediate effect. Sales improved eight-fold week over week, the strongest it had been since launch. In Japan, where the drop coincided with the release of Pokemon Rumble Blast, sales increased twenty-fold. In total, over 300,000 were sold in a week, and numbers never dipped below 170,000 a week for the rest of the year.
Meanwhile, the holidays were coming. Nintendo announced their lineup, which included Super Mario 3D Land in November and Mario Kart 7 in December. Meanwhile, Star Fox 64 3D provided players new and old with more content, admittedly aged, to play. It was not as well received as Ocarina 3D, but was a solid critical and sales success, albeit at a small scale.
Just when things were looking up, a new scandal hit. A new peripheral was coming to the 3DS that would add a second analog stick. Many people were concerned that this was a sign that the 3DS would be replaced soon, or that games would require the peripheral. In the end, it turned out that the Circle Pad Pro, as it was known, was an optional peripheral that was compatible, but not necessary, with a handful of upcoming games, most notably the newly announced Monster Hunter 3G, which would be released in Japan later that year.
As if to counter the negative press, Nintendo held a press conference for the 3DS on September 12, oriented towards Japanese audiences. Monster Hunter 3G was described in depth, and another new game was announced: Monster Hunter 4.
Western audiences were largely uninterested, but in Japan, Monster Hunter is a very large franchise. Indeed, it was nearly single-handedly responsible for the PSP's success in the region. For instance, Monster Hunter 3's PSP iteration sold over 4.76 million copies in Japan alone, making it the tenth best selling retail game ever. Not only bringing this franchise over to the 3DS but also making it native to the 3DS was a major win on Nintendo's part.
After such colossal news, a few more weeks without major new games and the delay of Kid Icarus: Uprising into 2012 was minor in comparison.
From one point of view, the last quarter of 2011 was something of a disappointment for 3DS owners. Only five retail titles got "Green" ratings on Metacritic. Many of the games that were expected to be hits, such as Shinobi, Sonic Generations, and Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights were critical misses. However, a few games in particular managed to pull an impressive amount of weight.
First was Super Mario 3D Land. Released throughout November worldwide, this game was the first original critical darling on the 3DS. Super Mario 3D Land was sort of a synthesis between the 2D and 3D Super Mario games, with the "race to the flagpole" taking place in a full 3D environment. In many ways, the adventure was simple, down to the classical Mario locales and eight separate worlds. However, the game's use of 3D, perfect controls, ingenious levels, and surprising level of freshness won over the hearts of critics. It is almost inarguable the best 3D platformer ever on a handheld gaming system.
Second was Nintendo's other big holiday title for the 3DS, Mario Kart 7. Released in early December, this was the first numbered entry in the Mario Kart series. Although critics didn't rave as much about Mario Kart, it was still a well-received game, with critics appreciating the series' fine-tuning of the 20 year old design, the new courses, and the best online experience yet on the fledgling handheld.
Third, and most surprisingly, was Pushmo, a title for the eShop. Pushmo was developed by Intelligent Systems, a studio better known for their work on Fire Emblem and Paper Mario. However, this simple puzzle-platformer, where players navigate jungle-gym like contraptions called pushmos by pushing and pulling blocks, was a surprise hit, garnering as much praise as Super Mario 3D Land. Critics loved the sheer amount of content, the cutesy visuals, the level editor, and sharing mechanisms. To this day, people share their creations online.
With the combined power of these three games, the impressive technology of the 3DS, and the already existing library, the 3DS had a phenomenal holiday season. Over 5 million 3DS's were sold in December alone, bringing the 2011 total up to over 13 million. Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 sold over 4.6 million and 3.9 million in 2011 respectively.
But there was one more game that helped Nintendo dominate the holiday season, a game that wasn't even released outside of Japan: Monster Hunter 3G. This port of a two year old Wii game sold nearly a million units in Japan alone during 2011, with less time left in the year than eith of the Mario games. With the combined power of the two Mario games and Monster Hunter 3G, the 3DS outsold the PlayStation Vita during the latter's launch week.
The Vita still hasn't had a week in Japan where it outsold the 3DS as of late August 2012. And with the 3DS's sucess, perhaps it never will.
Concurrently and after the holiday season, Nintendo was also making strides on the Digital Front. The Nintendo eShop, though open for business since June, languished somewhat for months after its decent at best debut in the West. Most weeks, instead of fresh and original content, the eShop would receive Game Boy ports. And although some of these games, including Kirby's Dream Land, Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge, and Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins are considered classics, others, such as Qix, were less satisfying for modern audiences.
This wouldn't have been as bad if new and original content were produced, but this didn't come until surprisingly late in the eShop's life. Discounting 3D Classics and Let's Golf 3D, an iOS port, the first notable original game to hit the eShop was Pyramids in October.
Things were never as bad in Japan, where Virtual Console games were released more frequently and a number of original games and applications were available starting at launch. But for Western audiences, the eShop didn't begin shaping up until the release of Freakyforms. Freakyforms itself wasn't that well received, but it marked a turning point where quality content started flowing in.
After Freakyforms, November brought possibly the best received of the 3D Classics series, Kirby's Adventure. December brought the already discussed Pushmo along with Mighty Switch Force!, a game from the acclaimed developer WayForward Technologies, and VVVVVV, an expanded port of the 2010 critical darling on the PC. Even when the holiday season ended, the games kept on coming, filling in for an empty January. ZEN Pinball 3D was a port of some well received virtual pinball tables and Mutant Mudds was a throwback to classic action-platformers.
Eventually, the rate of new hits slowed down. Dillon's Rolling Western and Sakura Samurai came in February, but March was relatively bare. Colors! 3D was a highly acclaimed application in April, and was joined by Ketzal's Corridors, but over time, the illustrious games and applications slowed down, though not to the extent of before November.
Still, the few months of prosperity had been a golden age for Nintendo's online store. For arguably the first time, Nintendo was providing gamers with a solid catalog of downloadable games and applications. Even during dry spells, they could always turn back to an increasingly solid library.
A Hearty Winter
Despite the solid success of the 3DS during the holidays, Nintendo still reported their first annual loss in decades. Although this was bad news, a light did shine in the dark: a new 2D Mario game for the 3DS was announced along with the losses, and more support from 3rd parties was promised.
Although the 3DS declined a bit after the holidays, as all gaming systems do, the platform remained comfortably above 100,000 units sold per week for the entirety of 2012 as of mid-August. And although the retail games ceased flowing in for about a month, things picked up again with the release of Resident Evil: Revelations in late January and early February worldwide.
Resident Evil: Revelations was the biggest 3rd party original game for the 3DS yet, and was considered a fusion of the atmosphere of older Resident Evil games and newer mechanics. Considering how the game was almost as well received as Resident Evil 5, the last main game in the series, many had to call it a success. What criticism there was of the game was also applied to its console brethren, and the game even received a few perfect scores from publications such as Gaming Nexus.
The games did not stop there. February also brought ports of PS2 games like Tekken, Tales of the Abyss and Metal Gear Solid 3, which helped strengthen the 3DS's reputation as a hardcore gaming system. In Japan, games like New Love Plus, Harvest Moon, and Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy were big hits. And Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games helped fill in the casual sports game niche.
The Western release of the Vita was relatively uneventful for the 3DS. 3DS sales fell during that week, but more in response to the unusually high sales of the previous week than a true reaction to the Vita. And after that week, the 3DS remained ahead of the Vita for a long time.
March was a bit more bare, with the only major releases being Kid Icarus: Uprising worldwide and Kingdom Hearts 3D. In Japan. But both titles were considered major in their own right. After all, Kid Icarus: Uprising was the first 3DS game ever shown to the public, and Kingdom Hearts 3D was a prologue for the third game in the successful series.
Ultimately, critics loved most of Kid Icarus: Uprising. The story, gameplay, depth of content, presentation, and multiplayer were all praised. The killer flaw? The controls. Uprising used the "Metroid-Claw" method of controls, with one hand holding the stylus and the other supporting the system and pushing the analog stick and L button. This control method turned many people off of the otherwise acclaimed game.
Another Rotten Spring
In the West, April and May were barren times for 3DS owners, with the only major release being Mario Tennis Open, the worst received title in the series so far. Sales of the hardware and games remained steady, but the lack of new games didn't help the 3DS.
In contrast, Japan never saw a major drought. April saw the release of Fire Emblem: Awakening, the most successful iteration in the series in years, along with a couple of minor hits. May was about as poor from a new software point of view as it was in the West, but whereas in the West Mario Tennis was a flop, in Japan it sold over 100,000 its first week.
Despite the dry conditions, news kept on coming in. Details trickled in about the games that were coming the rest of the year. Square Enix announced a trio of games for the summer: Heroes of Ruin, Kingdom Hearts 3D, and Theatrhythm. An Epic Mickey spinoff was confirmed, New Super Mario Bros. 2 was coming in August, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask would see a worldwide debut that year, and the upcoming DS game Pokemon Black/White 2 would have apps only playable on the 3DS.
Before E3 came, one last major game was released in Japan: Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry's Wonderland 3D. As a part of one of the biggest franchises in the country, it sold half a million units week one, instantly becoming one of the top few 3DS games of all time in the country.
Oh, and there was a rumor about a new larger version of the 3DS being shown at E3. But that was quickly proven false.
Unlike in 2011, the 3DS took the back seat to the Wii U this year. That said, there were a few major games highlighted, and a few announcements.
Nintendo's lineup consisted of already-known games: New Super Mario Bros. 2 now featured 2-player cooperative play and a focus on coin-collecting, Luigi's Mansion was now subtitled "Dark Moon," and Paper Mario: Sticker Star now had, of all things, sticker-based mechanics. Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and a Castlevania spinoff were other prominently featured games.
Quietly, Animal Crossing for the 3DS was pushed back to 2013, while Fire Emblem: Awakening was also confirmed as a 2013 title.
Summer Fun and the XL
Just a few weeks after E3, Nintendo held another press conference in Japan. A new model of the 3DS called the XL was announced. It was, essentially, a giant-sized 3DS, similar to the earlier DSi XL. The new system was released on July 28 in Japan and Europe and on August 19 in North America, and was priced slightly more than a standard 3DS.
July was a good month for RPG fans. In America, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts 3D got good reviews, and even some pretty good sales, although Heroes of Ruin was something of a flop. In Japan meanwhile, Etrian Odyssey IV had the best start in series history, and Rune Factory 4 performed similarly well.
The big game of the summer was, of course, New Super Mario Bros. 2, the sequel to some of the best selling games of all time. Released alongside the 3DS XL in Japan, Mario helped increase 3DS sales to outnumber all other game hardware sales combined three times over in the country. After the European release the next month, NSMB2 became the first new 3DS game to sell a million units in 2012, without a single American sale. What made this even more impressive was the fact that NSMB2 was the first Nintendo retail game to also be distributed on the eShop, where sales can't be counted by outsiders.
All was not good for NSMB2 though. Early Japanese sales were half as high as those for the original New Super Mario Bros., although Western sales remained similar to the original. Arguably, this was due to the surprisingly low reviews, a 78 on Metacritic compared to the original's 89. The almost universal complaint was similarity to already existing Mario games.
As the summer drew to a close, Nintendo revealed their holiday lineup for the 3DS. Luigi's Mansion was pushed back to 2013 along with Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing in the West, leaving the holidays on the shoulders of NSMB2, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and third party efforts. This was arguably an attempt to keep attention focused on the upcoming Wii U launch. Japan, however, would have Animal Crossing for the holidays, along with Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, a new Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, and various 3rd party titles.
September passed with minimal incident. Ace Attorney 5 was announced for the 3DS, but little actually came out for the system. The exception was Denpa Men, an eShop title from one of Pokemon's developers. This was part of a sort of eShop resurgence, which also included retail titles, Fractured Soul, Cave Story, NightSky, and Liberation Maiden during September and October. However, by the end of October, the only major retail hit was the fifth Layton game, and even it was possibly the worst received title in series history.
One interesting thing that was going on was the release of NSMB2 DLC, a first for Nintendo. Coin Rush packs of three levels were released for about $2.50, and focused on different aspects of the game. For example, one pack focused on coin collection, another had online leaderboards, and a third featured an intense difficulty.