How the Nintendo NX could be Nintendo’s best handheld yet.
This March marks five years since Nintendo released the 3DS in North America. The 3D handheld has built up a fantastic library of titles in that time period, and there are still several other great games in the pipeline like a new Mario and Luigi RPG and a port of Hyrule Warriors. But the 3DS has always beena little underpowered aside from its somewhat gimmicky 3D effect, and competition from smartphones and the rival Playstation Vita haven’t made the 3DS age anymore gracefully.
Now the rumor is that Nintendo is prepping a new handheld for 2016 (or 2017), but it will likely work in coordination with the console currently codenamed the Nintendo NX. If the NX features some sort of controller that can also be played on the go, simply releasing a less bulky version of the Wii U gamepad isn’t going to please most gamers. Nintendo could ensure its new handheld hybrid is a must-have if it includes these features that have helped make the Vita a fan-favorite.
5. A Next-Gen Touchscreen
Nintendo pioneered the use of a touchscreen in a handheld when it released the original DS in 2004 (years before the iPhone), but has lagged behind in touch technology in recent years. The 3DS touchscreen only recognizes input from one source at a time, while the Vita’s multi-touch screen capabilities and rear touchpad allow for some much deeper and more creative gameplay experiences like Tearaway and Gravity Rush. Meanwhile, the 3DS’s touchscreen struggles to make mobile ports like Angry Birds feel playable at times.
If gamers are going to see the NX as a legitimate handheld, it must at least have a touchscreen that can recognize multiple sources of input at once for smoother gameplay. Stealing the Vita’s rear touchscreen also wouldn’t be a bad idea. Of course, if Nintendo wanted to again be known as an innovator in the handheld market, it could also implement so-called “haptic feedback” or “3D touch” which makes sure you feel every input you make with the touchscreen, and is expected to soon be a standard part of smartphones.
4. Using Multiple Apps at Once
Have you ever wanted to check how much time you’ve put into Monster Hunter 4 in the middle of a hunt? Or maybe use the 3DS’s internet browser to look up the best strategies for taking down a monster? Or just take a break to watch something on Netflix for a few minutes? Better hope you were just able to save your game, because opening any of those apps requires the 3DS game to close. This is admittedly a minor irritation, but in 2015 it’s unheard of on the Vita or smartphones. Letting the Nintendo NX handheld use multiple apps at once will make it feel like a modern, fully-featured system, and if it encouraged developers to release other apps like calendars, GPSes and even social media apps like Facebook and Yelp, it could actually make the handheld a real threat to smartphones.
3. An HD Display
At 960×544 pixels, the Vita doesn’t quite display in the same 1080p quality that modern console games and Blu-rays do, but it’s still quite an improvement over the 3DS’s 800×240 pixel display, which is cut in half when the 3D effect is used. And the 3DS’s resolution is downright embarrassing compared to the output of smartphones like the iPhone 6 Plus. While Nintendo has some of the most fun handheld games out there like Mario Kart 7 and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, these games look like they belong on the Gamecube, even if the 3D effect is kind of cool. If the NX handheld doesn’t at least have a 1080p display, Nintendo frankly shouldn’t even bother putting it out.
2. HDMI TV Output
North American gamers tend to prefer home consoles over handhelds, which is a shame because they miss out on a lot of great games this way. Sony has tried to make more of its handheld games accessible to console gamers by publishing them for the Vita and PS3 simultaneously, and by releasing the Playstation TV. The PSTV is basically a Vita console that can’t play the Vita’s full library. It has its problems, but it’s dirt cheap nowadays and picking one up can give you access to dozens of great games (including digital PSP and PSOne games) that you’ve probably never played before.
Nintendo has experimented with letting gamers play handheld games on consoles before through add-ons for the Super Nintendo and Gamecube, but seems to have lost interest in that feature over the past decade. But with the Nintendo NX supposedly being a console-handheld hybrid, let’s hope that Nintendo understands what a lot of gamers would like to see. Every single NX games need to be playable at home as well as on the road, and those handheld games must look just as good as anything else developers put out for the console.
1. Social Functionality
Plenty has been written about the silliness of the Nintendo friend code system. The 25-digit codes for each game and lack of unified accounts to keep track of your friends seems more archaic with each passing year. Nintendo has made some great portable online games in recent years like Mario Kart 7 and the Pokemon games, but the lack of a decent social network makes a lot of gamers play them less than they otherwise would.
Nintendo could learn a lot from Sony in this area. The Vita is simply social gaming done right, with an easily managed friends list and trophy-tracking copied straight from the PS3’s interface. Thankfully, it seems like Nintendo is finally listening to gamers about this point, and the NX is rumored to feature some sort of achievement-sharing feature. This is in addition to the previously announced unified Nintendo account system (which at least in theory sounds more advanced than anything currently offered by Sony or Microsoft).
If Nintendo can pull off an account system that works across social media, and all of its consoles, and rewards you for playing, it will definitely have a winner on its hands, and few people will be pining for the features of the Vita.