I feel honoured my Mii was featured in this review. Looks at us go, we're jumping for joy!
Think back to how photography was before the year 2000. Digital cameras already existed back then, but could only be afforded by professional photographers and were rather low resolution, or for the most part, people relied on films that could store a limited amount of "exposures." The advent of consumer digital cameras over the past decade radically changed how we use our pictures. Now we can snap away to our heart's content, deleting and retaking pictures at will. It's rare nowadays to find even a mobile phone that doesn't come with at least a low resolution camera. Nintendo embraced the idea first with the DSi, and now with the 3DS, attempting to make taking pictures even more of a "game." Sparkle Snapshots 3D, a rehash of the DSi outing Sparkle Snapshots takes the idea one step further than the regular photo application Nintendo included in the 3DS.
The regular photo application on the 3DS already allows for a certain amount of effects to be used to make taking photos a fun experience. However, as far as adding decorative elements to the picture goes, or adding distortion effects like those possible with the DSi camera, the basic app could be found lacking for those willing to further modify the look of what is represented digitally in the photos. Enter Sparkle Snapshots 3D, a 3D picture editing tool, now available for download on the eShop for the 3DS.
Upon launching the application, owners are presented with menus full of ribbons, lace, floating little hearts, pink everywhere and pictures of girls in their early teens...accompanied by the most over the top cheerful voice with a British accent commenting on each and every menu screen to help with understanding what the current options are. It is clear from the look of things what sort of demographic the software seems to have been aimed at, and those who have a strong repulsion for that kind of thing will find little else further in to quench their thirst for something less girly.
The application allows for the taking of both pictures directly from within the app to edit them or use those already stored on the system's SD card, in the folder of the regular photo app. Taking pictures from within Sparkle Snapshots 3D adds a couple options that are not available normally on the 3DS, like manually adjusting the level of lighting in the room so the camera doesn't have to do it automatically, or the sharpness of the picture, adding some blur effect for a dreamy aspect in the snapshots, or making them extra sharp. These are predetermined effects with three different levels, which you can't fine tune manually.
Don't get raise hopes up too high, though, since the pictures aren't noticeably more beautiful thanks to these options. The 3DS cameras remain quite low resolution and the pictures are still quite grainy. Higher quality pictures from another device could be loaded onto the SD card DCIM folder for use within Sparkle Snapshots 3D to get a somewhat better quality out of the final edited piece. However, no matter the resolution of the original, the final edited picture will be in 512x384 pixels, so doing so won't bring much extra and would defeat the purpose of the application anyway.
Once a photograph is ready, it is on to the editing process, which is where the meat of the software lies. First trigger-happy folk are presented with 3D backgrounds in which they will be able to merge the subject of the picture they are working on. Most of them are just cutesy rosy settings, with some more "gender-neutral" ones thrown in for good measure, as well as a Super Mario Bros. one that looks like an overworld setting from the iconic NES title. Then players may select from a similar list of foreground 3D frames, which are elements that will appear closer to the camera in the final edited picture, most of which are elements corresponding to the themes presented in the list of backgrounds, though you are totally free to mix them any way desired.
It is interesting to note that the picture taken either with the camera or from the album doesn't remain in 3D, but is rather "flattened" so that the subject sits somewhere in the middle of a new 3D scenery formed by the background and foreground of your choice, a decision which, beyond the initial impression that the final result won't have as much of a 3D impact, makes sense given that cutting away parts of a 3D picture with the stylus on the 2D-only touch screen wouldn't have made sense at all.
Speaking of which, this is where the little programme shows some unexpected strength. Although it requires patience, using the zoom option on the picture being edited and rubbing off the parts of the picture not wanted in the final edited piece is made quite easy; a lot more so than what a rookie user would be able to achieve with a mouse on a PC with photo editing software. Sure, it's not as accurate as what Photoshop would allow, but it's certainly more accessible. Players can use the rubber to remove parts of the photo itself, the background or the foreground, and also any of the little object put inside the scenery for decoration.
That is also where most of the content of the application sits. Players can draw elements with all sorts of different looking markers, add objects like ribbons (loads of them...), hearts, hats, glasses, little cakes, text props... Most of them are 2D, but others, in fewer number, are 3D and you can rotate them at any angle. The variety of the kind of objects that can be put inside the scenery is unfortunately low and, like the rest of the programme, oriented at little girls. You can also alternatively make your own cutouts out of personal pictures for use later in forms of Polaroid photos, stamps, little hearts and stars...However, that's unfortunately as far as it goes in terms of making your own additional elements to use in personal creations.
The only option to add more elements to what is readily available is to download packages from the eShop, which can conveniently be done directly from within Sparkle Snapshots 3D. Mario Kart 7 and a Super Mario 3D Land themed packages are available at time of writing, none of which come for free. A "free" section exists, but so far it has remained empty. It is unfortunate that players can't even check what the packages hold before shelling out the money and downloading them.
As you are editing a picture, you have the option to "save" the progress on the current project. That save function, however, is a mere "checkpoint" as the game describes it, to which you can return as long as the project is kept open in the editor, and not a permanent save feature. Indeed, it's impossible to save an "in progress" project. Should players decide to save photos on the SD card, they won't be able to edit them again in the same way since all the background, foreground, main subject and decorative elements will have been merged into a 3D picture in the same format used by the photo app, which will be flattened again if reopened inside Sparkle Snapshots 3D to be re-edited. This is totally unfortunate given that being on a portable console means play sessions can sometimes be pretty short. Complex projects in which there would be the choice to put quite a bit of time into have to be made in one sitting, or else leaving the system in Sleep Mode to keep the unfinished project intact is the only option.
Once a picture is finally done and saved, the only use Sparkle Snapshots 3D allows to make of personal images is to show them to friends on the screen of that very system...or send them over local wireless to another 3DS user -- provided that he or she also has a copy of Sparkle Snapshots 3D in his or her system that is. Thankfully, at least, the Nintendo Mailbox allows you to share them over Internet with people in the Friends List, albeit in a much reduced size. Lack of any decent sharing functionality, such as Facebook or Twitter integration, is regrettable on such applications. Alternatively, players can still take out the SD card from the system and share them using a PC, but it defeats the point a little bit.
Rather than gameplay, this will be judged on accessibility, and the somewhat cramped interface here, full of dozens of tiny buttons on the small touch screen tends to be a bit off-putting, making some of the essential and powerful tools a bit hard to locate among all the other options. Things might be a bit better on a 3DS XL, though.
The sickly pink look of the game is only likely to appeal to very small portion of the 3DS install base, namely young girls who are still into the "Disney Princess" kind of style.
The overly cheerful voice of the female announcer tends to get extremely repetitive over long editing sessions. The music is pretty generic, though not bad, but the small number of tracks makes it also repetitive.
The targeted audience is sure to get some decent enjoyment out of it for the asking price. However that's only provided they can survive the unfortunate learning process of handling the cramped interface.
Sparkle Snapshots 3D is certainly a powerful little tool for all the options it provides. However, it is unfortunate that Cubed3 would gladly exchange some of those available for some more useful ones...like being able to save "projects" and a having a decent photograph sharing system. Additionally, it purposely limits its appeal by adopting a visual style that will be very off-putting to the vast majority of the install base of the system. It's aggravating too that while it does try to make itself accessible, this does not prove enough to warrant that little girls will put in the necessary effort to learn all the ins and outs of playing around with the different layers that make up the 3D image and finding out about all the options available to modify their pictures. Ultimately, lack of more variety in the overall look and feel of the application, as well as included assets being far too much aimed at very young females, makes it a wasted opportunity to become a more widely appealing product, given how powerful the core of the software proves to be. However, 3DS owners who fit into the target audience, mainly 9-to-12 year old girls who like to snap away everyone around them with their 3DS, could definitely get some good enjoyment out of this one.
I feel honoured my Mii was featured in this review. Looks at us go, we're jumping for joy!