There’s an old joke in the video game world: if it can run Minecraft, it will run Minecraft. The idea being that Mojang’s ridiculously popular open world game will eventually arrive on any system that’s capable of handling it. Yet Nintendo’s 3DS had been left without its own version, despite feeling like the perfect platform for the game. That ended on September 13th with the surprise announcement and release of Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Edition. Now that we have the game in our hands and have got to play it for hours, does the adage still make sense, or could this be too little, too late?
Minecraft shouldn’t need any introduction. The game has sold tens of millions of copies across platforms as wide and varied as the PS Vita, Xbox One, mobile phones, and PC. Everywhere it goes success follows, with player flocking to each new release by the thousands, if not millions. The game remains largely the same across these platforms, with players able to create massive worlds to explore, hunting down diamonds and other rarities. There have been some splinters before, which have mostly been coming together as of late, but this New Nintendo 3DS edition still resides on the older mobile branch.
And even there it lags behind quite a bit. We’ve seen this before for various Minecraft releases, with the dev simply getting the game running on an older version then counting on updates to get it back in line with its brethren. That seems to be the plan here with promises of local multiplayer. One unique feature is also planned for the future, with 3D currently disabled for this 3DS release.
After playing the game this isn’t surprising, as it is definitely struggling to work on the exceptionally under powered device. Even running the mobile version with less features and 3D disabled, the game never hits a solid 30 FPS. It’s not choppy, but it is noticeably less smooth than we’ve seen on other platforms. One thing that was surprising was the world size, which can actually exceed what we’ve seen on home consoles, such as Wii U.
Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Edition is a solid port of the mega popular game
Exploring these worlds is still just as fun as it’s always been, and the most die hard of Minecraft fan will still have a good time here. Taken on its own, the only real sin here, besides the not amazing performance, are the controls. Few options let you change them, so having to use the tiny New 3DS nub along with face buttons and the D-Pad for total control is pretty cumbersome. Also, Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Edition doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it comes on the heels of a Switch release, and into an environment where almost anything with a screen is already running this game, and in a better state.
If Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Edition had arrived a year ago it would be viewed very differently. At that time there were few good portable versions of Minecraft, and fans were dying to play it on the go, especially without the limitations on mobile and tablets. This version doesn’t totally satisfy that desire, but it still would have been great, but it’s not coming out in 2016, it’s coming in 2017 and the situation has changed.
A few elements make Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Edition unsatisfying, but the main one is that we already have the game on Switch. This version is superior in every single way to this new 3DS release, so anyone with a Switch should just buy that one instead. But what if you only own a Switch? Then this one makes a bit more sense, but still shouldn’t garner too much interest.
Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Edition is just not the best option in almost any scenario. If you are in your house and want to play some Minecraft than the PC version or any console version will be far better. If you’re away from the house then the Switch is far better, and mobile and tablet versions are almost certainly better as well. But what if you only own a 3DS? Let’s break down that unlikely scenario.
Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Edition is a solid port of the mega popular game. It runs decently well, and offers the same open gameplay opportunities that have enraptured millions. If this is your only way to enjoy that experience, then it’s a viable option, but it’s still not a great game due to some harsh limitations put on this version.
Local multiplayer is promised for the future, but isn’t there yet. And even with that, local multiplayer isn’t really the main way to play Minecraft with friends. Online multiplayer seems to be totally cut, and it seems that cross-platform play is not going to ever be an option. This will forever mark Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Edition as an inferior version of the game, as all of its counterparts will be getting the feature in the future.
Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Edition is a surprising release in a few ways, the biggest being that this game seemed destined to never arrive on the platform. While many asked for the game on 3DS, the wait has dimmed most of those hopes, and now the game simply arrives too late to be worth it for most gamers. If the price drops and the 3DS is the single platform that you have as a Minecraft option, then sure, it’s pretty decent. It’s also just an interesting oddity to play the game on the system. However, if you have any other way to play the game then it’s likely better.