I visited PAX East in Boston last month and on my checklist of “things to bring along this year” was my New Nintendo 3DS XL. I honestly don’t remember the last time it was part of my kit while traveling, but I do remember bringing it with me to a post-Nintendo Switch PAX East and being disappointed by how few StreetPass notifications I picked up. This year I brought it along more as a science experiment than for the fun of it, wanting to see if I could pick up a few new guests for my Plaza during the course of my day.
I’ve been going to PAX East in Boston every year since 2013. Maybe earlier? It’s been a long time. Early on I would scrape together whatever spare cash I had, crash on hotel floors, eat nothing but $9 Con-sausages twice a day, and lose myself in the splendor and spectacle. It’s changed so much since I’ve been going, for the better, and some of my fondest memories during my time on the outside (and now inside) of the gaming industry are tied to PAX East. It’s just such a good time! If you haven’t gone to one, make it a priority. Trust me!
In the heyday of the 3DS, carrying one on your person as you wandered the floor or sat in on panels almost became too much to handle. It was glorious in a stressful yet satisfying way. You’d see people in the halls, huddled around one of the extremely rare power outlets, charging their 3DS and meeting new StreetPass guests at their Plaza Gates. Back then it was trivial to unlock enough pieces to complete one of the many 3D puzzles, or find a Mii wearing a rare-but-needed color to advance past a monster in Mii Quest.
There were just so many people passing one another, giving each other Nintendo’s equivalent of digital high-fives, and the thrill of meeting them all made it worth sitting down and cycling through your Plaza Gate every hour or so. Plus, unlocking new geographic regions added another layer to StreetPass. While I never did complete my map of the USA, I do have international StreetPasses from as far aways as Japan. And I got 99% of them from visits to PAX East over the years. If I had gone to other events during the 3DS’ heyday, like Gamescom or PAX West, my maps and puzzles would have been even more complete.
And I didn’t even mention the 3DS games with StreePass features, like Bravely Default, which allowed you to collect citizens for your town, or let you summon another player you’d StreetPassed to help you in battles. Just a great and delightful feature all around, one that could be both extremely helpful and a wonderful way to make you feel like part of a community.
So for PAX East 2023, I charged up my 3DS and carried it around for the entire day. After a few hours, I opened up my bag and peeked in. The light on the front corner of my 3DS was glowing green, telling me I had new guests to welcome to my Plaza. I was over the moon. I had met six new people via StreetPass and amazingly, one of my StreetPass guests was someone I’d met at an earlier PAX (their Mii told me “we’ve met twice now!).
After a few more hours of wandering the floor, I checked again and was thrilled to see I now had a full 10 visitors waiting to be greeted. Whereas years past I would fast-forward through the greetings, this time I savored them. I let my eyes dance back and forth as I read their greetings, their dreams, admired their hats and lusted after some of the less-common text-backgrounds they had acquired. I even saw a Famicom cartridge-style text background I’d never seen before. It was just so wonderful and pure.
After some more time passed, I checked once more. The light once again glowed green, and there was a single person waiting for me to greet them. After I let them into my Plaza, my Mii raised his hand to his brow to look around for more before walking back through the gates. With a twinge of sadness, I realized my little Mii might never see another person waiting to visit, that this could very well be the last time I ever get another StreetPass visitor.
I wish Nintendo would bring back StreetPass in some capacity. People line up to throw money at bracelets to help them catch Pokemon, but I don’t know if they’d do the same for the opportunity to unlock a puzzle piece or move past an enemy in a Mii-only game. Building the functionality into the Switch seems like it could work, but the Switch doesn’t fit as easily into your pocket as a 3DS, and the battery life on the Switch isn’t up to the same level as the Nintendo 3DS.
I’m glad I had a 3DS during the peak of StreetPass and while I’d love to see Nintendo bring it back for its next console, I’m not going to hold my breath. Nintendo’s handheld-only days seem to be over – the Switch and its hybrid-design is now the third-best selling video game console of all time. And famously, Nintendo surprises us both with the features and games of yore it brings back, and the ones it seemingly refuses to acknowledge (Mother 3 much?).
I just have some unfinished puzzles, so I guess I’ll keep bringing it with me to events where I anticipate StreetPass possibilities, like PAX West or… Tyler the Creator concerts.