It wasn't my fault officer, honest. It winked coquettishly at me from the electronics cabinet with its "Sale!" sticker like the family-friendly strumpet that it is. I wasn't going to get a better deal anytime soon and it came with an SD card and Super Mario 3D Land. I couldn't help myself.
So yes, I bought myself a Nintendo 3DS after quietly promising myself weeks prior to give up on trying to own every console and just stick to playing most of my games on PC. But I'm a sucker for a deal and once I haggled the price down even further I realised I was going to walk out of that store with Nintendo's handheld so I may as well embrace it.
Things didn't work out as well as planned as the 3DS that I ended up with had obviously been used by the store owner to demonstrate the wonders of handheld 3D technology to the uninitiated window shopper and in doing so had engaged parental controls, complete with a pin number. After discovering this, returning to the proprietor and doing my best to look angry and imposing I got the intended black model swapped for a properly brand new 70's bathroom blue model. It was that or one emblazoned with pokemon. I think I dodged a bullet there.
This all played out five or so hours before a 14 hour flight to the UK. An excellent opportunity, I thought, to test out the promise of bite-sized gaming that had been missing from my life ever since I packed up my GBA with the solemn conviction that old ladies would never again be freaked out by the sight of me playing WarioWare on the bus.
The 3DS held up remarkably well. Although I spent the majority of the flight watching films with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is apparently is essential to the making of all action movies requiring stoicism and a winning smile, the 3DS had itself a workout. Of course I wouldn't have been so enamoured with my rash purchase if not for the game I bought to accompany it.
Super Mario 3D Land is a great reminder that Nintendo is still capable of inventiveness and imaginative design in a time when other Nintendo products go back to the well of nostalgia so often they may as well install a pipeline. It's obvious that 3D Land is a product of the Super Mario Galaxy team. Like Galaxy and its sequel, each level layers on a new gameplay mechanic that you haven't seen before and then later on the game picks out the best ideas and sandwiches them all together brilliantly. 3D Land also plays to the strengths of the system; the 3D effect is used in numerous ways to enhance each level and provide a sense of scale that you generally wouldn't expect from a handheld game. The levels are nice and short which meant finishing a couple of levels satiated my desire for entertainment in about 10 minutes, as it turns out that's a fine way to break up your in-flight marathon of depressing Oscar winning-dramas and manic action flicks. So if you have a 3DS, it goes without saying that this is the game to get.
My one gripe so far is that the battery life isn't stellar. Super Mario 3D Land with the 3D slider all the way up will chew the battery up in around two and half hours and even in normal 2D mode the 3DS manages the battery life of a modern iPhone. I'm curious to see the demands that other games place on the battery, because I'm going down to the wire almost every day.
As for the hardware itself, it's smooth, elegant and compact. I chose the ordinary 3DS over the XL purely because it weighed less and could fit nicely in my pocket, as far as I'm concerned I made the right choice. It's a slick-looking system and the interface is as user-friendly and dumbed-down as it is on the Wii which is just how I like it. I may not need a tutorial for setting up a wi-fi connection but it's nice that it's there.
Right now the jury is still out on whether the 3DS will become part of my regular gaming ritual or just an amusing novelty. It's still down to the games that Nintendo has planned for the system, because 1st party titles make or break Nintendo hardware. Crashmo is next on the list of intended purchases, and there's always the allure of the Virtual console for some hot NES and SNES games that I've neglected to play. The coming weeks of freezing temperatures and solitude will determine my future relationship with the 3DS and Nintendo overall, so far it's off to a good start.