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Alone in the StreetPass Crowd

Kyle Orland | 1 Aug 2011 13:00
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It didn't really matter. Famous or not, the Yuji Naka Mii I received was a static, lifeless shadow of the person it represented, useful mainly as fodder for the pair of simple mini-games Nintendo loaded into the Mii Plaza. The first, Puzzle Swap, is barely a game at all, acting simply as an excuse to copy and share pieces of Nintendo-themed images between 3DS systems. Since Miis can only give copies of pieces they've already obtained from someone else, the game is most interesting as a lesson in viral propagation patterns and the relative popularity of the specific characters in the featured pictures (those Mario puzzles seemed to fill in a lot quicker than the Pikmin puzzles).

Famous or not, the Yuji Naka Mii I received was a static, lifeless shadow of the person it represented.

The other game, Find Mii, was marginally more interesting - a simplified RPG that uses collected StreetPass Miis as one-time-use warriors in a series of turn-based battles. There's a thin sheen of strategy involved in choosing when to attack and when to use magic, as well as what specific order in which to use each Mii. The Miis are even personalized to an extent, with magical abilities based on their favorite colors and power levels based on the number of times you've met them via StreetPass.

Of course, for StreetPass-friendless players, Find Mii lets you trade in play coins (earned by using the system's built-in pedometer) to hire generic, cat-like Miis, which are just as effective in battle. This again highlights how impersonal StreetPass encounters actually are; instead of treating collected Miis as fellow 3DS owners that you might want to meet and know, Find Mii treats them as resources, to be collected and exploited for progress in a game that doesn't even care whether they represent a real person or not.

StreetPass has the seeds of what could truly be a revolutionary social networking system - one where connections are first based just on proximity, but have the potential to blossom into deeper relationships based on shared interests and compared game lists and voice chats held over internet game matches - something like Xbox Live, but with a dash of FourSquare thrown in.

As it stands now, though, StreetPass seems destined to be nothing more than a novelty. A pity that a feature based on being close to other 3DS owners ends up only making them seem more distant.

Kyle Orland (http://www.kyleorland.com) has been writing about games professionally for ten years and playing them for roughly twice that. His Mii looks almost nothing like him, thank to a lack of a sideburn option.

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