Nintendo 3DS StreetPass feature tested

One of the coolest features of the new Nintendo 3DS console is StreetPass -- a feature that lets your 3DS wirelessly trade information with other nearby consoles. We explain what it's all about.

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
4 min read

One of the most exciting features of the new Nintendo 3DS handheld is StreetPass, which lets your 3DS console wirelessly communicate with others around it. But what is this peculiar feature, and why should you care? We've tested it, so read on for a proper CNET UK explanation.

Nintendo 3DS -- that's the 3D thing with no glasses, right?

Correct -- the Nintendo 3DS' coolest feature is that it lets you play games in 3D without having to wear any dumb glasses. It's very clever stuff, but it's just the icing on top of a deliciously moist portable gaming cupcake. StreetPass might be the delicious cream filling inside that treat, as it lets your 3DS wirelessly exchange information with other 3DS consoles in close proximity.

The idea's pretty simple. Pop your 3DS console into sleep mode, and head out into the world. While stuffed in your pockets or bag, your dormant console will trade information with any strangers you come across who also have a 3DS in sleep mode.

That sounds horrible

We'll admit when StreetPass was first announced we balked at the idea. Trading personal information with strangers isn't the kind of thing we normally go for, after all. But having used StreetPass for a little while, we're feeling much more positive.

Putting your 3DS in sleep mode is as simple as closing the lid without explicitly shutting the console down. It enters a power-saving mode when you do this, and will passively scan the airwaves for other 3DS consoles. The exciting stuff happens when it finds one.

A blinking light on the 3DS' lid will let you know it's found something, and when you pop open the lid you'll see a little notification alert next to your Mii Plaza -- the fictional land where your cutesy Nintendo avatar hangs out. Open the app and you'll see you have new visitors. Other people's Miis will wander up and say hello with a friendly wave.

Meeting new Miis on StreetPass is surprisingly fun.

Game the system

Nintendo's created a cunning game out of these chance encounters, with a couple of built-in minigames. Every Mii starts out with a single puzzle piece, for example, that can be swapped for other puzzle pieces in Puzzle Swap. There are several Nintendo-themed puzzles to complete, and by meeting other Miis you'll eventually gather all the pieces you need.

In StreetPass Quest your own Mii is king of a fantasy kingdom, but you've been taken prisoner (how inconvenient). Every time you engage StreetPass with fellow 3DS owners, you can use their Miis to do battle against an army of ghosts and baddies, slowly butchering your way to a triumphant rescue.

Meeting the same people again and again will make their Miis 'level up', making them stronger and able to carve up more enemies before getting tired. Oh, and did we mention that progressing will earn you new hats for your Mii? Hats! Like a Mario hat or cat ears.

That's right, hats.

Alright, we'll freely admit it's ridiculous, but firing up the console and discovering we had new visitors had us giggling like infants, and it wasn't long before we were cursing the names of those ungrateful Miis who'd had the impertinence to show up without any new puzzle pieces. The 3DS also acts as a pedometer, and measures how many steps you've taken, converting your steps into points you can spend on other bits and pieces.

Proper games will use StreetPass to its greatest effect -- Capcom's Super Street Fighter 4 3D Edition for the 3DS lets you use StreetPass to level up a team of fighters, duel rival squads of brawlers or collect character figurines, while Nintendogs + Cats uses the proximity tech to swap adorable dog breeds.

So is there any room for weird stuff or abuse?

A little, yes. You can have Miis spout small catchphrases, which you type in, when they pop up on other people's consoles. When you enter your own greeting there's a notice asking you nicely not to use abusive language, but we'll eat our own hands if that proves an effective deterrent to mischief-minded meddlers.

There's not much anyone can do beyond that -- obviously be careful not to give too much info about yourself with your own Mii, and if you're worried, StreetPass can be turned off entirely, or moderated with parental-control settings.

All in all though, we're psyched to see what kooky uses game developers can come up with for StreetPass in the future. If you want to know more about the 3DS, we recommend you check out our full in-depth review, and cruise our gorgeous photo gallery. Oh, and watch this cool video too.