Ok, firstly, I will say that I'm glad to see that Nintendo has finally added a much needed for of messaging to the 3DS, it's about time.
So here are my thoughts on the app.
The fact that it even is an app, means that it will never actually be a form of everyday messaging since you have to close anything else you might be doing to use it so totally rules out in-game chat which is fine for Swapnote, but I really hope Nintendo do bring true everyday messaging to the 3DS because I really think a portable console or any console for that matter, should have that.
Bear in mind that this is a review, so I am going to be as critical as I can which doesn't mean I hate it when I'm criticizing it, because please know that I actually really love Swapnote, but it doesn't by any means that I think it is perfect.
So just a few positives to start off:
Nintendo did well to add such a creative means of communication and I've had loads of fun with it already. It's great that you can draw, draw in 3D, add pictures, add audio and use some really polished stationary Nintendo have created. The 3D drawing essentially gives you a second layer to work with which gives you a bit more flexibility in creating more complex drawings and can imagine people getting really creative with it.
As usual, Nintendo has created something with its unique "Nintendo charm" we have come to expect from them now and they haven't disappointed here. The interface is simple, but beautiful at the same time. It is so nice to scroll through all your notes and watch them smoothly travel along the winding path, particularly on the top screen in 3D that really gives it depth.
I also like how Nintendo have made Swapnote a progressive experience. Nikki (in-game character) provides you with simple step by step tutorials to start you off and guide you through the process or using Swapnote and does it with really cute notes. It's also nice how they made it so that you have to perform the different tutorials to actually unlock things.
That started me off really wanting to do everything the app had to throw at me and even gives you a slight feeling of achievement. They even further the notion of progression in the app by going as far as making certain things in the app cost you your precious play coins. I think most people would be against this because nobody likes using their hard earned cash, but I actually think it's a good thing at times as it makes it feel slightly like a game which is always a good thing when you're a game. But I really not sure they should be charging you play coins for basic things like the ability to add recordings, or saving photos/recordings from notes though. I think it is fair for them to charge you for their nicely polished stationary though, although 5 play coins each I believe is a bit steep, I figured more 2-3 would be a lot fairer or even different prices for them because some I think are a lot nicer than others. But anyways, as much as I would love to carry on being so positive about this wonderful app, there is also a dark side I have to walk to unfortunately, the negatives...
There are quite few short comings the app has, some minor but a couple of major ones too I think, so here comes the negatives:
1. Although it's great that the app can hold up to 3000 notes, but it is really disappointing that you can only reply once to a note and even then, the reply can only have one frame and only drawing, so no adding pictures, audio or stationary. You can always create a new note to send back to that person, but then it will make for very scattered notes everywhere in your Swapnote. It would of been so nice to not limit replies to notes leaving a nice simple conversation style messaging. Even worse though, is that I don't think there is even a way to sort/arrange your notes, it would be nice to have an option to sort your notes out by sender, or even at least the ability to move the position of the notes around yourself, but nope, add a note to your favourites is the only method to sort out your notes.
2. Ability to add photos and recordings was definitely a good move from Nintendo, so the idea is right, just unfortunately, the execution could of been a lot better. I can't understand why on earth you cannot manually position and scale your own photos. Instead, by default they attach on the right side of your note while having quite a large portion of it cropped off the side. Instead, you have to use the stationary Nintendo provided to use photos properly which can be quite limiting as good as some of the stationary are. I could of seen people being so much more creative with Swapnote with that little more " very simple" functionality in regards to photos. As for recordings, it's a big shame they had to limit them to 5 seconds, but there might of been some size restraints for file size of notes so will give them the benefit of the doubt. Another problem is though, is that because Swapnote is its own app, you have to exit the app to create new photos or recordings you might want to use in your note which can be an annoying process.
3. My final quibble with Nintendo is the drawing tools (or lack of drawing tools). It's not the fact that all you get is a pencil and eraser tool, I think that's fine because it forces people to embrace drawing, but Nintendo could've been more considerate to us users with a slightly better tool set. I think all they need to add is an "undo" button since I bet there are so many times where you did a massive line you didn't like on your drawing and had to sit there trying to carefully erase it. Which is another thing, the eraser, for the most part the erase is a good average size, but it would of been so much nicer if they had maybe 3 sizes, or even 2 would of done, there were times I would need a smaller eraser to clean up messy lines but it would be way too big for the section and clear out half of the lines I was happy with which also can affect the replay of the drawing too because the correct lines would be added to the end of the animation instead. It would have really been much more thoughtful of Nintendo too if they added a keyboard text tool for people that really find it hard to create readable hand writing on the app because writing with a tiny stylus on a tiny screen can really be difficult, especially for anyone new to using a stylus.
Anyways, that sounded like a really long rant, but after all that, I would still give it 8/10 because I believe the app has SO much potential and it is FREE so there really is no reason for me to not recommend you getting it. I really hope that Nintendo can fix a few of what I regarded as major drawbacks to the app though…in a future update possibly? Because if they did, I think it would be an easy 10/10 app for me and Swapnote deserves to be!