StreetPass – The Defining 3DS Feature
The original model of the 3DS had a lot of LED lights, but 3DS owners would quickly find that this one in particular was a harbinger of good things. StreetPass was a footnote on the laundry list of features for the new console that few would have expected it to be one of the most beloved features of the system, but as it stands it will likely be the most fondly remembered legacy the 3DS leaves behind.
Nintendo toyed with the concept with the release of Nintendogs in 2005. Walking around with your system in sleep mode allows players to interact with others who were also out taking their virtual dog for a walk. This mode was well regarded and undoubtedly encouraged Nintendo to explore the concept further.
The functionality on the 3DS was split into two main parts. The first was a natural evolution of its Nintendogs predecessor, allowing 3DS owners to transfer data and interact with other people while in sleep mode regardless of which game was currently in use. Exactly what would happen in this transmission varied greatly from game to game. Some would simply offer ghost data or useful items. Other games offered far more substantial additions to your game.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf allowed you to show off your meticulously crafted house to other people. Bravely Default invited other players met to help reconstruct villages destroyed at the beginning of the game. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds dropped a shadow version of your Link into other player’s worlds, which could net them bonuses upon defeating it. Over the life of the 3DS, we saw no shortage of imaginative ways to make the most of this feature.
All this game specific functionality was great, but the true heart of StreetPass, and if you ask me, the true heart of the 3DS, was the StreetPass Mii Plaza.
The green grass and stone pavement. The golden archway. The water fountain centrepiece. This was the hub where I spent more hours with my 3DS than with most games. What started as a simple way to interact with others evolved into something much more. You could adorn your Mii in a variety of hats and outfits, you could view your accomplishments, play music, and see unique information about those you’ve interacted with, such as trying to meet people with different birthdays and from different places across the globe.
It really was the people at the heart of StreetPass. Particularly in the early days of the system’s life, passing by a stranger also carrying their 3DS was always a fun surprise. You could see their ridiculous hats, exchange a greeting and see what they’ve been playing. There was always a sense of joy from meeting a person multiple times, even if you’ve never seen the real face attached to the Mii.
The real highlight, however, was undoubtedly the games and how players you met acted as the foundation in all of them. Each person who crossed your path would lend their Mii to help you in some way for each of the available games. You could use coins earned from steps walked if you were short on helpers, but the joy always came from having others lend their hand to your cause. Only two games were available at launch but another 13 were made available for purchase by the end of the system’s life. Let’s take a quick look back at each.
The original, the simplest and arguably the best of the StreetPass Plaza games. Each new visitor to your plaza shows their collection of pieces from dozens of puzzle pictures, and you can pick any of theirs that you don’t already have. Complete a puzzle and you unlock a nifty 3D diorama or scene based on a Nintendo franchise or game. Puzzles could be made of 15, 24 or 40 pieces, with larger puzzles added from December 2011 having pink pieces you couldn’t get by using coins to buy pieces but only from other players.
Being such a simple game to get in and out of made it perfect for quick checks while on the go. The unlockable vignettes are all highly detailed and made stunning use of the system’s stereoscopic 3D. Filling up a new puzzle was always one of the most satisfying features of StreetPass.
Bonus: Listen to this track as you read.
Your Mii has been kidnapped and it’s up to your StreetPass guests to team up and traverse a fantasy realm to rescue, dispatching of a cavalcade of nefarious critters along the way. Miis have a different spell available to them depending on the colour of their shirt, and sometimes you’ll need particular Miis in order to progress through a room.
From December 2011 they added a new game plus of sorts in the form of StreetPass Quest II / Find Mii II featuring tougher enemies and more paths, as well as the ability for Miis of the same colour shirt to team up for more powerful attacks.
A neat little side-scrolling space shooter where you and your squad of Miis take on bad guy Gold Bone Gang over the course of a full campaign. Up to three Miis you add to your squad will add a different type of weapon that can be rotated around for maximum effectiveness. This was a surprisingly fully featured shooter with great core mechanics and plenty of replay value.
A relaxing distraction in the Mii Plaza, this game saw players wielding their horticultural skills to grow a number of unique plants by taking seeds from bloomed flowers to create new types of plants. The joy came from amassing a collection of plants, buying the prettiest pots you could find and arranging them in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible for your StreetPass visitors.
One of my personal favourites of the bunch, this game saw you taking your fledgling army on a quest to conquer a series of country. You start small, but slowly you’ll take on small armies through StreetPass and bring their troops under your command. As your army grows, you’ll take on bigger armies, take control of countries, upgrade your barracks and work your way up to the most powerful army in the land. Like the best StreetPass games, it’s simple to understand but addictive to keep your progression ticking along.
Grab your flashlight and work your way through a spooky mansion by taking room pieces from visiting Miis, plotting out new areas to explore, items to collect, ghosts to defeat and eventually finding a staircase that will take you to the next floor. An experience system that allowed you to upgrade weapons and a unique timing-based combat system made this a game worth visiting frequently.
Using bait received from other players, the goal was to catch as many different types of fish as possible. The types of fish available depend on the island you’re fishing from and the type of bait being used. After collecting fish and upgrading your rods, you can buy new aquariums and display your collection for visitors to see.
In what is probably the strangest StreetPass game, you’ll utilise a series of unconventional weapons from visiting Miis to fight an onslaught of the undead with some Miis hoping in to join your side in the fight. Each level had bonus objectives which could earn players medals used to unlock more levels. This game was mainly entertaining for the pure wackiness of seeing the cutesy Miis taking on a horde of zombies, but the so-so combat meant it wasn’t the most compelling game in the series.
Did you have a Scaletrix car set as a kid? If so, you’ll probably have a lot of fun with this one. Pull the trigger on your slot car and master the timing as you careen into tight corners. There’s plenty of courses to race on, cars to unlock and achievements to complete. It’s a rather basic game, but there’s still fun to be found here.
In one of the most unique videogames you’ll come across, you assume the role of a stock trader, buying and selling stocks in a number of fictional companies loosely based off the settings of other StreetPass games. Visiting Miis will give you trading tips and advice as you navigate the increasing volatility of the markets.
A pretty standard cooking simulator that requires you to whip up a number of dishes using ingredients gifted to you from other players. The better your ingredients, the better the dish and the further you will progress. I admittedly haven’t played a ton of this one, but there’s nothing particularly enthralling about this one.
Probably not what you’d expect from a ninja game, you’ll find your Mii strapped into a cannon, lining up other Miis and their armament scrolls, and firing yourself forward like a bird in a slingshot to collect their power-ups and attack enemies lying at the end of the trajectory. The gameplay is pretty simple but is alright for a brief distraction.
Last but not least, this game sees you don your exploration hat as you trek through the wild with your fellow Mii companions in search of riches. The game actually uses the steps walked by other players to determine how far you can move through the game each time. You’ll have to decide the path you’ll take on your way to finding treasure whilst avoiding obstacles and wild animals.
For a collection of small and inexpensive games, the StreetPass Plaza has given me hundreds of hours of entertainment of the life of the 3DS. There’s something special about only being able to progress with the help of those around you, and the games are all designed for quick pick-up-and-play sessions. 3DS owners who have never looked into what the StreetPass Plaza has to offer has missed out on some truly enjoyable experiences.
The very nature of these games means that with far less 3DS systems being carried around, progress in these games going forward is going to be extremely slow, if not impossible. It’s a shame, but if you’ve got a group of friends willing to give them ago, help each other out and get in before it’s too late.
A tiny blinking green light.
It was a sign that you had a visitor. A sign that something good was awaiting you when you opened your 3DS. This little light was the predominant reason that I rarely left home without my 3DS in my bag. This light was what made the wait in lines at gaming conventions not all that painful. It was a discreet invisible handshake with the other 3DS owner on your morning train. StreetPass made us all feel connected, like one big shared family of Nintendo fans. Each visitor to our plaza doing their bit to enhance our 3DS experience.
So to all those who ever carried their 3DS with them, thank you. For those that brought back rare puzzle pieces for pictures that weren’t available in our country, thank you. For those who provided their millions of soldiers to my army, their plants to my garden, their sword to my fantasy quest, their advice to my stock market trading, their room to my mansion, I thank you.
And thank you to Nintendo, for creating a shared gaming experience that brought all 3DS owners together. It’s a real shame Nintendo didn’t bring this feature along to the Switch hardware. Who knows, maybe one day it will see a revival. For now, it will likely go down as the defining feature of the 3DS, and when we look back on the 3DS years from now, we’ll undoubtedly fondly remember the countless visitors we’ve welcomed through our plaza gate.
We’ve been saying goodbye to 3DS this past week, if you missed our articles here they all are:
- The Forgotten 3D of the 3DS.
- StreetPass – The Defining 3DS Feature.
- Every Nintendo 3DS Variant Ever Released. Probably.
- The Life and Times of the Nintendo 3DS.
- The Best of the Best of the Nintendo 3DS