Earlier this month, Nintendo released a reminder of something that feels as inevitable as the heat death of the universe – the closure of the digital store fronts that power the 3DS and Wii U, meaning many games available via those download services will enter a state of not-for-sale limbo, risking becoming another piece of abandonware.
This isn’t exactly a surprise, as Nintendo has a history of outright shutting down the servers and infrastructure for its outdated hardware. The Wii’s digital store was discontinued 3 years ago now. It still sucks, of course – but it’s just a sort of fact of life.
So, the facts right now are that as of the end of August, you’ll no longer be able to add funds to Wii U and 3DS eShop accounts. From next March, you’ll no longer be able to make purchases – though you’ll remain able to redownload anything you already own “for the foreseeable future”.
This sucks for a lot of reasons. Specifically, there’s quite a number of cute little games, many of them independent, that are exclusive to these online stores. The 3DS in particular has a surprising treasure trove of download exclusive - plus a range of downloadable content that will also be lost when the switch is flicked.
Even for games also available physically, it is a pain – many Nintendo 3DS carts are already eye-poppingly expensive on the second-hand market, with huge inflation of prices since games slipped out of print. This will only get worse as digital versions of these games disappear.
As such, this is a turn of events that once again kindles a hearty debate about video game preservation and what the audience, publishers, developers, and yes, even hackers and pirates, must do to preserve these games.
But I want to be selfish for a moment and talk about some specific games that I’m concerned about: the 3DS and mobile-exclusive titles in the Ace Attorney series.
Capcom developed and released the fifth and sixth entries in the adventures of Phoenix Wright for the Nintendo 3DS, and though there were iOS and Android ports of these games, the 3DS remains the definitive way to play. A Nintendo 3DS version of the fourth entry in the franchise was also released – bringing Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney to 3DS a decade after its original DS release. All three titles were a download-only affair outside of Japan.
Anyway. These games are great. They are important, I think – an example of some of the finest visual novels ever made, but also a more successful and cohesive ongoing saga than most within the genre. But now, aside from mobile versions that don’t play nice with all of the newest mobile operating system updates, there’ll soon be no way to buy these.
Capcom hopefully has realized what it needs to do here. The company released the Ace Attorney Trilogy, which brought together the first three titles in the series, which make a loose narrative trilogy. It was ported, improved, and released on basically every platform going. Thewn two Japan-only 3DS Ace Attorney spin-offs were finally ported and released in the West as The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles - this time even including a limited-run physical release in some regions.
The latter three main-line Ace Attorney games also form a sort of trilogy, with certain themes and characters running throughout all three titles. They’d bundle together – so it really is time for the Ace Attorney Trilogy 2, featuring the fourth, fifth, and sixth titles in the series. As the 3DS versions are taken down, a new version should emerge.
It’d also be a great way to celebrate the series’ 20th anniversary, which takes place this year. Come on, Capcom – you know it makes sense