Your 3DS Can Now Venture Further into Your Wii U-Verse

Update adds Nintendo Network ID support as well as Nintendo's social Miiverse.

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The 3DS’s “here’s a bunch of stuff on a screen” approach to app management isn’t my favorite interface on the block, but then Nintendo’s handheld wants to look like the Wii U with a fraction of the pixels. It can make living in 3DS-ville awkward, say you’re trying to squeeze all your icons onscreen at once (thus shrinking them to near-illegibility), or the inverse, blowing them up and shifting the 3DS into “PS4-mode” as you slide individual boxes left or right in a kind of blind “remember what comes after what” game.

It’s all part of Nintendo’s admirable if piecemeal consolidation effort, one iteration after another of the company’s squarish icons in rows and columns aesthetic that, were you not clued-in, might have you thinking Nintendo simply appropriated Apple’s approach in iOS (when, if anything, the opposite’s true — Nintendo’s first stab at a Jeopardy-style layout was the Wii back in 2006).

Still, since the Wii U arrived in November 2012, the 3DS feels like the tangent universe in Donnie Darko: visually similar to Nintendo’s vanguard console, yet shunted off functionality-wise. You could browse the eShop, but without a universal account. You could make a Mii and bend over backwards to share it with friends, but, you know, big deal.

Today’s 3DS update chips away at some of the handheld’s existential loneliness, folding in support for Nintendo’s Network ID system, and letting you browse and post to the Wii U’s online social experiment, Miiverse. The latter’s important, since one, Miiverse is a winner with Nintendophiles, and two, you’ve been able to access it through a browser for ages. That it’s taken this long to emerge on 3DS is as much a head-scratcher as the Wii U’s ongoing software inertia.

Linking your 3DS to your Nintendo ID henceforth lets it manage all account activity, including the eShop. You can’t have a single Nintendo ID active on more than one 3DS at a time, but then Nintendo doesn’t support system-agnostic features like “buy once, download anywhere” because there’s no reason to. The only trick I ran into was remembering my Nintendo Network ID, password and email (you’ll need all three to clinch the linking process). Assuming you’ve got that sorted, you can select the Mii linked to your ID, or the Mii linked to your Wii U.

Miiverse — the tiny green icon is squeezed into the 3DS’s top menubar — works as you’d expect it to. You can check notifications, tweak your profile, scan your activity feed, check up on various communities, create posts (including screenshots from the 3DS’s top or bottom screen) and so forth. Nintendo also supports offline posts (up to three at a time), which you can then manually slide into Miiverse once you’ve reconnected. As on the Wii U, Miiverse works in tandem with whatever else you’re doing, so conjuring it doesn’t force you to close whatever you’re running.

Alas, Miiverse for Wii U’s friend features didn’t make the cut this round. So, for instance, you can’t read or send messages to friends, which is strange and a bit of a shame — like handing someone a smartphone then telling them not to text. (Unlike Sony’s PlayStation Network, Nintendo’s console/handheld friend-verses remain separate, too, so your friends lists are proprietary to each platform, something I’d love to see Nintendo rectify down the road.)

Last up (and unrelated to Miiverse), the system update adds unlimited 3DS-to-3DS content transfers. Why Nintendo limited this to five total before I couldn’t tell you, but the cap’s finally off, and the only catch is that you’re limited to one transfer every seven days.

I’m not sure how long 3DS owners (or wannabes) have been waiting for unified Nintendo Network ID and/or Miiverse support, both of which feel more additive than essential here, but the 3DS is Nintendo’s primary shot at taking the holiday hardware sales crown, and today’s system update certainly adds to its appeal.

(MORE: Watch here to some of the games currently available on the Wii U)