System: Nintendo 3DS
Release: December 22, 2011
Editor's note: Daniele reviewed the EU version of the game, where Swapnote is titled "Nintendo Letterbox."
Nintendo Letterbox is Nintendo's third offering of a free application via the eShop (excluding Nintendo Ambassador titles) - the first being the Pokedex 3D app. Nintendo Letterbox is very much like PictoChat on the Nintendo DS, only difference being vastly expanded to suit natural functionality of the 3DS; StreetPass and SpotPass, to which further adds to the package along other surprises you discover the more you use Letterbox. Upon booting Nintendo Letterbox up for the first time you are charming introduced by Nikki – your personal tutorial avatar.
She firstly explains a variety of things before you can actually use the application. First and foremost is the ability to send and receive personalised letters from registered Mii's via 3DS friend list. Nikki strongly advises not to send any offensive material – just saying! The main menu of Nintendo Letterbox is very easy to comprehend. Shown on the top and bottom screen are small previews of letters created by yourself and others received via SpotPass. Simply pressing the A button or using the touch screen forwards you to a bigger preview, a preview of which contains a string of letters created by you and sent by others.
When receiving letters you can in fact watch a speeded up recording of the image drawn or text sentence – a neat little touch. I tend to actually find myself drawing pictures rather than sending text sentences or message to friends. If you're in the middle of drawing something and your 3DS battery starts to blink red, have no fear. The ability to save and comeback to drawings is reassuring to say the least.
After you send a couple of letters Nikki returns with additional information regarding features you can now use. Firstly, voice recording. The option to add a voice recording to a letter is a great idea, adding a more personalised letter. Of course don't expect to be able to record long durations of speech or music; there is a length restriction of such in play. Again, after continuously using Nintendo Letterbox you are then given the ability to use additional tools. Nikki drops a bombshell; she explains how photos can be integrated within a letter. Pictures taken using the 3DS camera can be added to letters. When adding a picture, the right half of the canvas will be covered by the image, leaving you the left half for a message no doubt. It would have been nice if there were customisation options in terms of maybe being able to shrink or enlarge photos alongside freely able to place chosen picture on available canvas space. Unfortunately 3DS camera photos can only be used – pictures obtained via internet, and then to be copied onto 3DS SD card won't work. I'm sure there's a specific converter to solve the dilemma.
As you may well know, Nintendo Letterbox (as does every other application) offers a natural 3D perspective. When actually writing letters you can switch between two types of ink options. The default setting offers an average, in-depth 3D look; the latter offers a more 3D pop-out effect which looks great. Taking into account of the foreground and background of drawn images, the end results looks something very much believable.
What's a Nintendo 3DS application without Play Coins? Yes, Play Coins are present. One the final aspects to become available to you is the use of Stationary. At first only a mere six stationary backgrounds are available, only to have more unlocked through avidly using Nintendo Letterbox. Newer backgrounds of course not free. This is where Play Coins come into effect. Each individual stationary background costs a mere five Play Coins. A small price to pay, though there are loads to unlock (thirty six to be exact). Some backgrounds even animate!
Nintendo Letterbox is great little application that does exactly what it says on the tin only with a few surprises along the way, some more predictable than others. Nonetheless a free application from the NIntendo eShop which I highly recommend downloading. What have you got to lose?