One of the best features of the Nintendo 3DS is its ability to StreetPass. You will find this feature in no other portable device that plays games. The Vita doesn't do it. The iPhone can't do it. Android's hopeless, too. And yet some 3DS owners don't StreetPass or do it minimally. Let's change this! We have some tips for getting the most out of StreetPassing.
StreetPassing is, simply, the act of having one 3DS exchange data wirelessly with another while both machines are nearby, even if one or both machines is in sleep mode. It's a passive event, not something you manually trigger a la starting a multiplayer match. This is an opt-in feature. You control the data that you exchange. Much of that data can be used for a range of games on the 3DS, some of which are built into the system.
Having a 3DS is more fun if you're StreetPassing, so please try these tips out....
The first step is the most obvious step. Your Nintendo 3DS won't StreetPass until you tell it to. And you can't just tell the system to StreetPass for everything. You have to tell it to StreetPass for each game or application you want to StreetPass with. This is not much of a hassle. Any game that supports StreetPass will give you the option to, usually from its front menu. The application you most want to use StreetPass with is your 3DS' Mii Plaza, so go ahead and jump into the Mii Plaza and make sure it's set to StreetPass.
Also: make sure that your system's wireless switch is always turned on. That will ensure you can StreetPass with other 3DS systems. Don't worry about battery drain—the StreetPass-friendly wireless mode on 3DS barely uses any power.
If you live in or visit a big pedestrian-friendly city like New York, you're going to have an easy time StreetPassing every day. Just chuck the 3DS in your bag, wireless mode turned on, system in sleep mode, and by the end of the day the light in the top right corner of your system will have turned green. You will have StreetPassed a whole bunch.
If you go to a big gaming convention like PAX, you'll have an easy time of it, too. You may even be StreetPassing with people from all over the world, because, at least for StreetPassing there is no region-locking. Civilized!
Folks who live in car-based communities will have a tougher time, but, happily, Nintendo recently introduced a StreetPass relay system that lets you snag StreetPass data from other people who have visited the relay point. To take advantage of this, just go to a Nintendo Zone. Nintendo says there are some 29,000 Nintendo Zones in the U.S. alone. Where in the world are they? Use the locator on this page to find one. According to Nintendo, you do not have to do anything special to StreetPass at a Nintendo Zone. The system can still be in sleep mode. You can still just walk on by.
For reasons only Nintendo knows, you can only hold up to 10 people's StreetPass data for the 3DS Mii Plaza application before it stops accepting any more. Some other StreetPass-friendly games and apps, such as Animal Crossing: New Leaf, can take more. If you're enjoying StreetPassing, you're going to be sad if you discover that you've maxed out your StreetPass limit.
How do you know if you're at the limit? The easiest thing to do—and the one we recommend (since it will let you cheat the system—more on that lower down)—is to tap the notifications icon at the top of the 3DS' lower screen. You can access this even while you're playing another game. Just hit the home button and then tap the Notifications icon. It looks like a speech bubble. You'll get to a notifications page that lists the number of unchecked StreetPasses your system is holding. If the number is maxed out—say, 10/10 in Mii Plaza or 50/50 in Fire Emblem: Awakening—then you won't be able to pull in more StreetPass data for those games and apps.
Warning: if you are going to a big convention like a PAX or Tokyo Game Show, you will fill up your StreetPass within seconds of walking to the venue. So cleaning out that StreetPass is really important!
So if you hit that limit, folks, you need to use that data. You need to "clean" it out. And, of course, that's the whole point. This isn't about collecting other people's gaming and Mii data for the hell of it. It's about then using it. Which brings us to...
The reason we're telling you how to StreetPass is because we think you'll enjoy what you can get out of it. If you have StreetPass turned on for the Mii Plaza, you'll be able to pull in 10 Miis from other players and then do the following:
1) ... see which games other people are playing and add their Miis to a crowd of every Mii you've ever encountered
2) ...exchange puzzle pieces to fill out animated portraits featuring famous and obscure Nintendo characters and franchises (think of these as animated GIFs made really well by Nintendo; the newest ones, which are located to the right in the jigsaw game, are the best)
3) ...play the built-in role-playing game Find Mii, which kind of sucks and that you'll have to clear twice before getting to the much, much better Find Mii 2. In both games, you're fighting through dungeons (mostly), using other people's Miis as your warriors in a series of turn-based battles.
4) ...play any of four new $4.99 games purchasable through the plaza, all of which make great use of StreetPass (we'll have more about them in a future Kotaku post that we'll then link to here.)
Aside from StreetPassing in the Mii Plaza, you can StreetPass with a variety of 3DS games. You have to activate StreetPass through each game, but you don't need to have the game in your system to exchange data for the game. You can have up to 16 games and apps set to StreetPass on your system. If you hit your limit, you'll get a warning next time you try to turn on StreetPass for a new piece of software. Some of the games that have worthwhile StreetPass options include Fire Emblem: Awakening (it pulls in other players' armies and places them on your game map to battle), Animal Crossing: New Leaf (it grabs/updates copies of people's entire AC homes and displays them in your game's Happy Home Showcase, allowing you to buy most of the non-Nintendo-themed furniture in their homes), Shin Megami Tensei IV (creates new demons fused from one of your game's demons and one of the person with whom you've StreetPassed).
Once you've used the StreetPass data that's been pulled in for any of the above apps and games, you'll be back to zero on your StreetPass count and will be able to grab more. That's what we mean by "cleaning out" StreetPass.
This will help at PAX, will help if you're in a big city and anywhere else where there's more StreetPass opportunities than you can keep up with.
Once you've made 10 StreetPass connections for Mii Plaza, load Mii Plaza and go to the plaza gate. Select the option to welcome the 10 new Miis into your plaza. Hold down the R button to speed this up. Once you have those 10 Miis in the plaza, you can get puzzle pieces from them, play games with them... whatever. What you can also do, at that point, is StreetPass with up to 10 more people, whose Miis will be held at bay at the plaza gate. The app will keep asking you to go to the plaza gate, but you can ignore this and keep playing with the 10 Miis you already welcomed. In essence, you're able to have 10 at the ready and 10 more at bay. That's 20 Miis at once instead of 10. There's your exploit.
If you go to a StreetPass-heavy area or event and are having trouble keeping up with all the connections you're making, this trick should help you out. It's important to note that you don't have to immediately play with the 10 Miis that you welcome at the gate. You can welcome them in and then just leave them waiting. You can even close the Mii Plaza and play some other game and those Miis will still be waiting for you even as others line up at the gate.
(You may find yourself wondering how you can tell when you've pulled in 10 more Miis at the gate. Don't go to the gate to find out! If you do, you'll have to welcome those Miis in and play with them. Since it's less fun to play with fewer than 10 Miis at a time, you do want the full 10. How can you be sure there are 10? Go to that Notifications menu we mentioned higher up.)
Follow the above tips and your biggest problem might wind up being that StreetPassing is taking away from the rest of your 3DS gaming time. Well, you can always turn it off.
If you have StreetPass tips of your own or want to recommend some games that you think make great use of the feature, chime in below.