Posted on December 26 2014 by Sam Mills
I’m 22, currently in the process of finishing college, trying my hardest to make as many contacts as I can for potential jobs, and I asked my parents for a 3DS this Christmas. Admittedly, it took a bit of courage to profess my desires for the handheld, especially since I knew my grade school cousins would be asking for the same thing, but with the long list of Zelda and Pokemon games I have yet to play piling up, I decided to swallow my pride. Come Christmas morning, I had myself a brand new black 3DS XL, Pokemon Omega Ruby, and these strange things called “AR Cards.” Now, I’ve played on a few 3DS’s before, but I have never heard of or seen these AR Cards. It was as though they were this minor thing which came in the 3DS box that received zero hype from anyone I knew. This seems wrong, since Zelda might actually benefit from AR card functionality.
Join the discussion after the jump.
For those who do not know, AR Cards are small, Nintendo themed cards which, when placed on a flat surface, become a game through the use of the 3DS’s camera. You can shoot targets, draw pictures, fight dragons; AR Cards have their charm for the new 3DS owner, but alone do not live up to any sort of potential beyond their initial uses.
Upon a bit of research, I found that the AR Cards have been integrated pretty well into some of the more popular 3DS games, most notably Kid Icarus Uprising and Nintendogs + Cats. They are used as collectibles more than anything, giving you better weapons to fight with or new clothes to adorn your pet with. In total, only 11 out of the approximately 603 3DS games make use of AR Cards. Why would Nintendo create this technology which holds such potential for integration into their games, only to not utilize it effectively at all?
For some games, it makes sense to not use AR Cards. Stopping the action to scan a card placed perfectly on a flat surface 14 inches away; they would disrupt game play in jarring ways which would ultimately hinder enjoying the game in general. Also, I can imagine they would cost Nintendo a lot of money if they were integrated further than being used for DLC purposes, what with furthering the technology to meet their needs and all. I believe these two reasons alone are valid enough to not use AR Cards in terms of game play mechanics. That being said, they would thrive across the board as DLC. AR Cards to obtain different vehicles in Mario Kart. AR Cards to obtain special held items in Pokemon. Yes, 3DS’s can obtain DLC through its online capabilities, but Nintendo has created this physical way of obtaining content which could have easily been implemented in numerous other 3DS titles.
But we aren’t here to talk about Mario or Pokemon. Let’s talk AR Cards and Zelda. I do not believe Zelda games would be hindered through using AR Cards any more than any of the previous outside implementations the series has seen before (I’m looking at you, Tingle Tuner). Zelda thrives in its side quests which, in turn, take you away from the immediate action of the game. We have seen Link stop in many shooting galleries, help a Cuccoo farmer who is allergic to Cuccoos, deliver eye drops to a really big Goron, rid houses of Skulltulas; you get the picture. Having a break in the action to scan an AR Card for a side quest would only add to the puzzle solving Zelda games boast.
Beyond the side quests, AR Cards could finally bring Zelda games the sense of character customization I know a lot of fans have been craving since we first broke away from the traditional tunics in Wind Waker. Just like with Kid Icarus Uprising, Nintendo could release randomized packs of AR Cards with every individual game, giving them each some level of collectible value, and give away other cards through gaming magazines and stores.
Ultimately, I think the main reason why AR Cards have not thrived on the 3DS is because of the handheld’s online capabilities. Who wants to keep track of physical cards for a game, going through the hassle of collecting them from various different sources, when you can download all the content you want online? Who wants to break away from the pacing of a game by scanning cards for neat, but needless features? The ideas are there, and the technology of bringing these cards to life is brilliant, but the physical nature of having to keep track of and collecting these cards are what I believe to have caused them to only be featured in 11 3DS games.
So, as with many other 3DS owners, I find myself intrigued by AR Cards at the outset of owning my 3DS, but doubt I will have any motivation to use them ever again. Making silly drawings come to life and playing a small shooting gallery doesn’t really cut it in terms of interesting game play in my eyes. That is, unless Nintendo decides to revive their use in future handheld Zelda titles, but I am not altogether holding my breath for such a feature. For other 3DS owners, what were your experiences with AR Cards? Do you think they could be useful in future handheld Zelda games? Comment and let us know.