Monday, May 11, 2015

Nintendo 3DS's StreetPass: It's All About Miis




I've been a Nintendo fan for a long time, but I never paid much attention to the hand-held side of its gaming console selection. The most involved I got with one was when Namco released Pac-Man Vs. back in 2003, a competitive multiplayer game which required both the GameCube and a GameBoy Advance. Since my Mrs. already had a GameBoy Advance, we picked up this title and had a blast playing the game with our friends for hours at a time; otherwise, the allure of hand-held consoles eluded me.

Fast-forward to 2015, and I'm beginning to see why the hand-held Nintendo 3DS system attracts gamers--largely because of its pre-loaded application, StreetPass Mii Plaza. I saw someone playing it on his 3DS when I was on the Metro the other day. The gamer in question was older than me (shocking, right?), but he was completely absorbed in the games he was playing with his Mii avatar and an army of other Miis. The Miis were wearing samurai armor, which is part of the battle simulation game Warrior's Way that 3DS users can purchase and add to their Mii Plaza. Other Mii Plaza games include shooters (Mii Force), simulations (Flower Town, Ultimate Angler), puzzle games (Puzzle Swap) and more, each featuring casts of Miis that are imported from other 3DS units.

Miis have been making regular appearances in Nintendo games since the Wii console. Originally, players used them as representations of themselves in certain game titles such as Wii Party and Wii Sports Resort; the unused Miis in the Wii console's memory would frequently appear in the same games as part of the game play, giving the impression that your friends and family are involved in the game even though they aren't really playing.


A cast of Miis become part of the game in Wii Play.


Since then, the Miis have become a much larger part of Nintendo's plan to appeal to gamers through their use in the Wii U and 3DS consoles. Because I have a Wii U that's connected to the Internet, I get to see and interact with a wide selection of Miis that represent other players from around the world in the console's opening WaraWara Plaza menu, in the Miiverse social network, and in various games such as Nintendo Land. In contrast, 3DS has been using the StreetPass function in a way that allows other gamers' Miis to become characters in 3DS Mii Plaza games.

According to Wikipedia, StreetPass a wireless tagging app that "can detect and exchange data with other nearby systems whilst in sleep mode. ... When new Miis are registered by the system, they will appear at the gate. Up to ten Miis can show up at the gate at any one time, after which the player will need to use them with their minigames before checking for more. Meeting the same Miis multiple times adds extra functionality, such as personalized messages and the ability to rate them. There are also special Miis that appear via SpotPass during special events, such as Nintendo staff members. After meeting another player's Mii, the player can then use that Mii to play a variety of different games, three of them being playable free of charge: Puzzle Swap, StreetPass Quest, and StreetPass Quest II." To put it into the context of my Metro incident, I was watching a 3DS gamer play games that involved Miis he collected from other 3DS users.

From what I've gathered through various articles I've found on the'net, StreetPass has become a phenomenon of its own. To aid in the connection to other 3DS gamers, Wi-Fi "Nintendo Zones" have been set up at various locations (such as Best Buy stores). In addition to the Mii Plaza games, players can incorporate the Miis they've collected into Tomodachi Life, a Sims-esque life simulation game that was released in Japan in 2013 and elsewhere in 2014. There are even hobbyist groups in cities in countries like the U.S. and England that hold in-person events devoted to Nintendo gaming and swapping Miis.




I grew up during the era of video game arcades and the first generation of home gaming consoles, so the idea of using digital representations of other gamers as key elements of a game scenario intrigues me to no end. True, this isn't the immersive virtual reality that writers like William Gibson predicted in the sci-fi subgenre of cyberpunk, but it adds a significant level of interest and involvement that previous forms of video gaming lacked. These aren't the anonymous, pre-programmed sprites that players have to punch, shoot or rescue; these are digital artifacts created by other gamers that can be used to enhance the game play experience. Forget the other games that are available on the 3DS--the StreetPass Mii Plaza games look too fun to pass up.



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