He with the best swag wins

Tonight, we went to Best Buy on Harrison Street for the Nintendo 3DS launch event. We heard about it from an ad on LIVE 105 and changed our plans from going to see Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs at The Rickshaw Stop to going to the Nintendo event pretty darned quickly. The lure of free swag like tee shirts and a chance to win a 3DS or games or Best Buy gift cards was too great to be defeated by an electronic music act we were really only going to see based on their name.

My wife put it best with a post on Facebook: “Tough conflict for Saturday: Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs vs. Nintendo 3DS launch event. I guess Mario beats out the reptiles once again.”

I had read a few reviews where people were dissatisfied with the 3DS and were already calling it a failure even though they obviously didn’t have that much quality time with it. Reviewers were already hailing it as the next Virtual Boy. I didn’t care. I wanted to check it out for myself. Seeing the 3DS is believing they say.

On Friday night, Reggie was on the Jimmy Fallon show and he and Jimmy demoed the 3DS and played a couple of the AR mini-games and I watched it on Joystiq.com this afternoon. It was the first I had seen someone actually playing the game. It was a positive experience that finally made me excited to try it out after the big ball of “meh” was building up all week.

We were going to leave to get in line around 5 and decided to sleep for an hour instead. Then we stopped by Little Caesar’s and got a Hot-n-Ready pizza to scarf down and stopped by Kinko’s to print out our Reward Zone certificates in the event we wanted to buy a console at midnight.

We headed to Best Buy and they had a 3DS demo unit, so we tried out Pilotwings Resort. I was a bit disappointed with it. It was essentially the same as the classic SNES version of Pilotwings with slightly updated graphics and 3D being the only differences I could notice. I had heard good things about the game, and I was sad that my experience with it wasn’t that great. I got my wife an Insignia portable HD Radio and we picked up the Live on I-5 Soundgarden CD/DVD combo and the Green Day Awesome as Fuck! CD/DVD combo and two sodas… total cost with Reward Zone certificates: $6.

We got in line around 7:45 and there were only 5 people in front of us. The first two arrived from San Jose at around 10AM. The third guy got there a little after them and came all the way from Reno. The couple directly in front of us were from Burlingame. We were the closest of the first few in line.

They had some signage up promoting the event and there was a big Nintendo 3DS bus parked at the other end of the parking lot.

Around 9, Amber from Nintendo came out and described what would be happening. We would be left in around 10 and get wristbands so we could mosey around and do whatever we wanted until they officially lined us up around 11:15.

LIVE 105 and NOS energy drink got there shortly after Amber and set up their booths inside the store and signage outside.

Brian from Nintendo walked by and showed off his blue 3DS to a jealous crowd. He was also sharing a rare map for Dragon Quest 9 on his DS, which is a cool bonus but no one had the game on them!

The line grew from a mild seven to a mighty 15 and Brian passed out 3DS lanyards to all of us before we were let into the store at 10:00.

The Nintendo platoon left the bus and literally marched in formation across the parking lot. They stopped near the end of the line and Brian gave away a Nintendo 3DS beanie to whoever could say what year the company was founded. I guessed 1899… it was 1889. Oops. The guy in front of me won. Brian unleashed the platoon, who marched into the store and we were let in a minute or so later.
We signed up for the big Live 105 drawing, which consisted of 3DS launch title games, Best Buy gift cards and 3 3DS consoles. I would have been happy with any of the prizes, but like when I won my Playstation 2 at a company picnic or when I won my Sega sweatshirt at last year’s Sega PAXapalooza, I knew I was going home with a free console just as I was filling out the ballot. We just missed wristband 007 getting 008 and 009. Oh well.

The platoon shouted in unison something about 3D that I don’t remember and the festivities began. I tried out Super Street Fighter IV 3D first, and the woman who was demoing it was very chatty. A little too chatty as when I later asked an actual Nintendo rep about a comment she made about an app that was coming soon that would convert 2D games into 3D, they confirmed it was not true.

Street Fighter was just like any other console port of Super Street Fighter IV. 35 fighters, touchscreen for combos in easy mode, but the one thing I noticed while playing was that the 3D popped out at me. I could SEE it. I can’t normally see 3D but this works. It is really just a perspective depth feature and not cyan and red lines, which is what I see when I watch a 3D movie.

The game was perfectly fine in 2D or 3D, as I adjusted the dial back and forth to try it out.

The next game I tried was Madden 3D. I don’t even like football but Madden 3D in 5 on 5 mode was a good experience. I “lost” as the Steelers to the Packers 12-6 in the demo time.

I tried out the Augmented Reality (AR) card game next, using an app that I had downloaded on my Droid 2 that contained the entire card pack. The archery mini-game was not only immersive, but a lot of fun and had some depth. It had me shooting targets first and then taking on a big dragon as the boss battle. For a mini-game, it was a ton of fun. I realize the current AR cards are more tech demos than anything else, but if Nintendo can produce something this good as a “pack-in” title, I’ll be extremely impressed with what else comes of the technology.

I tried Asphalt 3D, a really fun arcade racing game that I enjoyed a lot more than I would have expected. The 3D effects added the depth to make it feel like I was actually driving along the track. I’d imagine the Gran Turismo 5 super duper 3D on the PS3 is cyan and red. This felt much more immersive. I came in second on the track and eventually went back and tried the San Francisco based track, that pases the Transamerica pyramid, the Palace of Fine Arts and crosses the Golden Gate Bridge. I came in last place the first try and tried a second time and nailed it and came in first. My experience with Asphalt 3D made me download the Android version of Asphalt HD, but I don’t like racing games enough to buy the 3DS title.

My fourth game demo was Nintendogs + Cats 3D. It sucked. I wasn’t a fan of the original Nintendogs and this wasn’t much more than tacking on some fun social elements to a really bland Tamagotchi ripoff. I liked the pedometer-like dog walking function that lets you earn coins to buy stuff for your pets and socialize with others who have Nintendogs and cats of their own. I’d like to see those features in a better game though.

It was at this point, around 11:15, where I stood in front of the LIVE 105 table and Sunny called my name as the winner of a 3DS. That’s right, exactly as predicted, I took home a free console.

I signed the waiver form and they explained I couldn’t pick up my 3DS until around 12:15, as Amber from Nintendo would have to actually purchase the console at midnight just like everyone else. I didn’t care. I WON A 3DS!!!

I tried out Steel Diver, the submarine game that most reviewers didn’t like and actually found it to be pretty fun. It was kind of a cross between Ecco the Dolphin and a Flight Simulator. The 3D added nothing to the gameplay, and I wouldn’t buy it but it might be great for someone else who is really into simulators or loved Ecco the Dolphin.

From this point, they put us back in line and passed out a ton of swag, starting with 3DS launch event exclusive tee shirts, then NOS wristbands, NOS lanyards, NOS sunglasses, 3DS cinch bags, Capcom shot glass collections, Super Street Fighter IV 3D posters and somewhere along the lines a big Live 105 sign. Quite a haul for free just for attending the event, as everyone got one of each of those items, whether they bought anything or not.

While we were in line, White Menace gave away the second of three 3DS systems… and my wife won it! She forfeited because she lived at the same address as me, but it was cool that we were both winners of the top prizes possible.

They started purchases at midnight and we were planning to buy Super Street Fighter IV 3D and Lego Star Wars III but they didn’t have Lego Star Wars III in stock, so we passed. I asked if I could still get the free carrying case they were giving out even though I won my console, but it was limited to the first 25 to purchase the item. I didn’t mind… I WON A $250 3DS.

I claimed my Aqua Blue 3DS from the LIVE 105 table and got my photo taken with my wife and White Menace and then with the three guys from LIVE 105. I thanked them all again and thanked Brian and Amber from Nintendo before we headed out into the night.

My closing Facebook post:
“That was by far the coolest console launch event I have been to. It helped that the crowd in total numbered in the 30s, but it was around a 2 hour wait in line to get the 008 and 009 wristbands (we should have had 006 and 007 but people cut while I was entering to win my 3DS). We got a ton of awesome swag, a free 3DS and quality playtime with a bunch of launch titles… all for free.”

(My wife later added: “Not having to wait in the rain overnight was good too.” and I have to agree.)

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