Sacrifices had to be made to fit Minecraft onto Nintendo’s older handheld.
Have you ever heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad pizza?” No matter what, pizza’s good by virtue of being pizza. A similar thing could be said for the many different versions of Minecraft. There really isn’t such a thing as “bad Minecraft,” just versions that aren’t as good as the others. That’s why, in spite of its many shortcomings, the New 3DS version is still an enjoyable Minecraft experience, even though it’s not a great version.
Fitting Minecraft onto the New 3DS is not without its sacrifices, and if nothing else, those sacrifices make up the biggest problems with this new portable version. Graphically, it’s unmistakably Minecraft, but draw distance takes a major blow. I found my time in my Minecraft world almost claustrophobic, even on the surface. I had to make sure to pay close attention to my map early on because if I got a few dozen blocks away from my shelter, it would disappear into the fog. Draw distance looks to be about five chunks, putting it on par with the Vita version. It definitely hindered my desire to explore my surroundings and risk being unable to find my way back home.
Controls in this version also take some getting used to. The jump button isn’t easily tapped when maneuvering with the New 3DS’s right stick, but thankfully there’s an auto-jump option in the menu. Moving around with the right stick feels odd at first, and it never really settled into a place that felt great. Shoulder buttons control actions, like using crafting tables and swinging a pickax, which allows movement while performing actions. Like all the other console versions, the guesswork is gone from crafting thanks to a provided list of items you can create. I feel like this takes away some of the magic of Minecraft, but for the benefit of at a glance convenience.
There are so many different ways to play Minecraft, and the 3DS version fails to set itself apart.
All of the crafting and inventory management is handled on the touchscreen, and it’s exciting that this version takes advantage of that when the Wii U port didn’t. It definitely streamlines the process of moving and crafting things in the inventory, but the small screen size makes it feel cramped. To fully see what’s in a chest requires scrolling down, and double chests require double the scrolling. Oddly, if you aren’t showing an empty row on the screen, it won’t allow you to put more items into the chests or inventory even if there’s room. I found this frustrating when managing my items after a mining session, as I just wanted to dump off my stuff and get back to the search for diamonds.
There are also two huge, head-scratching omissions from the New 3DS version of Minecraft: the Nintendo skins and texture packs that were included on the Switch version. It’s especially odd given the fact there are other skins and texture packs included: Biome Settlers Packs 1 and 2, Redstone Specialists, Journey to the West, and the Holiday Skin Pack from 2015. While I definitely enjoy being able to fight back the zombie hordes in a full Santa Claus outfit, it would have been better to battle and mine as Waluigi. The two texture packs included, Plastic and City, are also an unusual fit.
Perhaps the most disappointing feature missing from Minecraft for New Nintendo 3DS is the lack of 3D. It would be amazing to feel a sense of depth in the Minecraft world, and would be the only official 3D version – unless you count VR on the PC. Supposedly, it’s going to be added in a future patch, and having that feature alone could do a lot to help make up for its other current shortcomings.
Another rough part of Minecraft on New 3DS is the auto-save system, which pauses gameplay entirely as it writes to the MicroSD card. Thankfully, you get plenty of warning beforehand, with messages not much different to playing on an online server, but it’s still annoying to have the flow of playing interrupted every 20 minutes. Additionally, since it writes to the MicroSD card instead of the system or cartridge memory, saves are tied to the system itself.