Minecraft was originally released back in 2009, and I personally have been playing various editions of it since the summer of 2010. To date, I have purchased Minecraft as the original Java edition, on Android, on iOS, on Xbox, and now my most recent purchase, Minecraft New Nintendo 3DS Edition. So why have I purchased so many editions of Minecraft? And is the New Nintendo 3DS Edition of Minecraft worth the cost? Only one of those questions has a reasonable answer, so read on to find out in my review of Minecraft New Nintendo 3DS Edition!
Right off the bat, the first thing you need to keep in mind is that Minecraft New Nintendo 3DS Edition only works on the New Nintendo 3DS series of consoles! As of models that are available for sale right now, this means either the New Nintendo 3DS XL or the New Nintendo 2DS XL. I have seen a lot of negative customer reviews on various online retailers for this game, complaining that the game does not run on their 3DS system. If you are reading this review because you are considering buying Minecraft for your 3DS system, make sure you have one of the two models listed above.
When I first loaded the Minecraft cartridge into my New 2DS XL system, I was immediately informed that there was an update ready to download and install. The update process went pretty quickly. I did not sit there and time it or anything, but it couldn't have taken more than a few minutes. When the update was completed and I launched the game, I was introduced to the patch notes for v1.4. As this update was presented as soon as I put the game into my system, I did not test any of the prior versions of the game, so everything you read below will pertain to the v1.4 patch of Minecraft 3DS Edition.
I want to talk about the controls first, because this was the first thing that struck me when I started playing this version of Minecraft. Coming into Minecraft New Nintendo 3DS Edition after having played many other different versions in the past, I immediately found controlling New 3DS Edition to be the most difficult out of any platform I had tried in the past. As the gamepad layout goes, the controls are very similar (maybe identical, I did not compare) to Minecraft on the Xbox or Android TV systems. The problem I had was with the little control "nubbin" on the 2DS XL that supposedly passes for a right thumbstick.
My first five minutes with Minecraft on the 3DS consisted of my player alternating instantly from looking straight up at the sky to looking straight down at the ground, all while spinning in circles and crashing into things. This was the first 3DS game I played that utilized this control nubbin thing, and I was definitely not feeling it. I was immediately wondering if my purchase had been a mistake, as the game was completely uncontrollable.
Eventually, it did get better. I decided to tough it out and fuddle my way through the controls, and probably after about half an hour, I was reasonably used to it. At this point, I would say that controlling Minecraft on the 3DS is no more difficult than playing on the Xbox or the Fire TV. If you have already played something on the 3DS that uses this control nubbin mechanism, you will probably avoid the learning curve that I had to go through. It just works differently than a regular thumbstick, and for somebody who has never used anything like it before, it took a bit of getting used to.
There is another, more annoying control issue that I have noticed though, which has more to do with the 2DS XL itself than the actual game. While you are playing, you will generally be using the two thumbsticks and the two shoulder buttons (L and R) which control placing blocks and using objects. Because of how close the two thumbsticks are to the two shoulder buttons, I find that holding the 2DS XL in this way becomes uncomfortable after about thirty minutes of play. Whether or not this is an issue to you will largely depend on the size of your hands and how you hold the system while you play.
Some of the main gripes I have seen on the internet about Minecraft New Nintendo 3DS Edition have to do with the graphics in general, frame rate drops, and the overall draw distance. On the 2DS XL, Minecraft simply does not look as good as many of the other versions that are out there.
Now, playing on an actual 2DS XL system looks quite a bit better than the picture above, which I snapped using my smartphone. Even still, there is no denying that playing Minecraft on, say, my iPhone 7 looks significantly sharper. The reason is obviously due to the much higher resolution on the iPhone. In terms of the actual textures, I see no noticeable difference between this version of Minecraft and any other, and while you are actually moving around and playing the game, the lower resolution of the 2DS does not detract in any way from the gameplay.
Sometimes when I am mining down in the caves, I will notice minor graphical glitches. This will generally be in the form of one white or light blue pixel on the wall in the corner of one of the blocks, making it appear as though the blocks do not totally line up right against each other. This is minor and does not happen with any regularity, but I have noticed it at least once per play session. It doesn't really distract gameplay, but it is certainly noticeable.
Framerate drops are something I have noticed as well, although not as bad as I had anticipated. Other reviews I have read had this listed as a fairly significant issue, but to me the issue has been rare and infrequent. I owe this to the fact that there have been several patches since the game was originally released, and I suspect the performance was worse several months ago when Minecraft on the 3DS first came out. It could be my imagination, but I seem to have noticed the most framerate issues when I am in the middle of a forest or chopping down trees.
The draw distance is a legitimate issue though. It is not so bad as to make the game hard to play, and it is barely noticeable indoors or down in the mines. I really didn't think too much of the draw distance at all, until I found myself out on a quest to find some wool. In a large open field, not being able to see all the way to the other side can be annoying, as is trying to find your way back to your encampment. Is the issue game breaking? No. Is it annoying? Certainly.
To me, one of the areas in which Minecraft on the 3DS really shines is with the dual screen interface. Other Ocean Interactive, the outfit charged with porting Minecraft over to the 3DS, did an admirable job in utilizing the two screens on the 3DS system, and that interface alone, despite the inferior graphics and other shortcomings, has almost made the 3DS version of Minecraft my favorite so far.
Having your map along with X:Y:Z coordinates on-screen at all times is just great, and something that immediately feels like it is missing once you go back to another version of Minecraft, especially one of the smartphone versions. Managing inventory and crafting are also very well done on the 3DS. This is one area of the game where everything just feels right and works as you expect that it should.
How you play Minecraft may ultimately be a critical factor in deciding whether or not this version is right for you. From reading online, I understand that from a technical and content perspective, Minecraft on the 3DS is several iterations behind the current Pocket Edition of the game. The world size is also finite on the 3DS. I have read online that you can choose between Small, Medium, and Large world sizes during Map Creation, clocking in at 672x672, 1344x1344, and 2016x2016, respectively. Truthfully, when I created my game, I just rushed through it and didn't even notice the World Size selection option, so whichever size is the default is the one I am currently playing. I have not yet reached the end of the world. I should note that when you step off of the on-screen map that is always showing, you have not reached the end of the world. You simply show up on another blank map page.
Because of the finite map size and content limitations though, Minecraft on the 3DS does not support the "Better Together" update, which allows it to play cross platform with other versions of the game. As of the current path, two player local multiplayer is supported with other 3DS edition players, although I have not personally tested this out. Still, it would be a lot nicer to be able to play cross platform with the other editions of the game, as Minecraft now exists on virtually every type of device that you would reasonably want to play Minecraft on. Will Minecraft on the 3DS ever gain cross platform multiplayer? I sort of doubt it. While that game has already gotten several patches since it's release, I suspect that the hardware of the 3DS series is the reason why this version is lacking features found in most of the other Minecraft editions out there.
To some, these limitations might be a big deal, and to others, not so much. For me personally, I have not noticed any of the missing content, and while cross-platform multiplayer would be nice to have, I do still own Minecraft on many other devices which do support multiplayer, should the need arise. For just running around and crafting though, building up your base, and doing what you need to do to survive, Minecraft on the New Nintendo 3DS is every bit as good and as fun as all of the other editions out there.
At the end of the day, the important question to ask here is whether or not Minecraft New Nintendo 3DS Edition is worth the cost? This is a question that will largely depend on you, how you like to play, and whether or not you already own other versions of Minecraft.
If you just look at it on it's face from a technical perspective, Minecraft 3DS is inferior to almost every other edition of Minecraft that is out there. It is also one of the most expensive editions you can buy, costing $29.99 new in stores or on the Nintendo eShop. That said, I was able to find it on eBay for only $16.80. Obviously it was used, but it came with the box and all papers, and nothing seemed to be scratched or damaged. It is possibly that I still would have made a purchase at the full $30 price, but finding it on eBay for almost half off certainly made the decision to buy a whole lot easier.
And truthfully, I've been having a ton of fun with Minecraft on the 3DS. My main gripe at the beginning was with the controls, but now that I have them down, I much prefer playing on the 3DS to playing on the smartphone. I've never really enjoyed Minecraft's touchscreen controls, which is one of the main reasons I was drawn to the 3DS edition to begin with. On the smartphone, I constantly find myself accidentally destroying walls and important structures while trying to look around. I never have this problem on the 3DS. Now, at the end of the day, playing on a PC with a keyboard and mouse is by far the easiest way to control Minecraft, in my opinion. However, sometimes at the end of the day, you just want to play a few minutes of Minecraft before bed, or while you are sitting in the car during a long roadtrip. In these instances, I believe that Minecraft on the 3DS beats the other smartphone offerings, hands down.
So for me, I have no issues whatsoever in recommending Minecraft New Nintendo 3DS Edition. If you already play on the iPhone or Android and you like that version, then it ultimately may not be worth your money. I personally prefer playing on my 2DS XL, and I have certainly had more fun playing Minecraft 3DS over the past couple of weeks than I have ever had playing on the iPhone. Ultimately, I do think that PC remains the best overall version of the game, put for playing Minecraft on the go, I think that Minecraft New Nintendo 3DS Edition is tough to beat. Just take a look at eBay before you pull the trigger on the eShop, because while getting this game for $30 isn't too terrible, getting it at $16 is absolutely wonderful.
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