Nintendo has always wanted us to think of the 3DS as more than just a games console. Art Academy did just that for the original DS and its aptly titled sequel, New Art Academy, goes a fair way toward showing that using our handheld can be a cultured experience.
The core of New Art Academy lies in its Lesson mode. With a total of 32 lessons, divided into Introductory and Advanced sections (and further separated into full lessons, made up of many stages, and mini lessons that teach you smaller aspects) there's plenty to sink your teeth into, and the range of subjects is wide enough to get a basic grounding.
With the promise of downloadable add-on lessons and the ability to create your own classes to share with others, we can envisage whole courses for specific art styles popping up in the not too distant future. Picasso! Da Vinci! Miyamoto! You get the (ahem) picture.
It's a neat idea and one that basically works - you're not necessarily going to become a great artist, but the stage-by-stage teaching style will make you think in a more structured way.
Similarly, your virtual tutor chips in with snippets of art history, broadening your knowledge as you go. Annoyingly, the game requires you to unlock each lesson by completing the previous one, which does take away from the 'paint what you want' feel, although this is the best way to prepare for New Art Academy's best feature, the Free Paint mode.
Free Paint essentially amounts to a doodle generator and the incredible amount of flexibility you're given sets New Art Academy apart from rivals. It's a system that's built as much for seasoned artists as it is beginners - you can get going with a blank canvas or pull up a stock image from the game's library to work from on the second screen.
You can even grab a picture from your SD card to work off of. It's a great mode, simple enough to get to know in minutes but deep enough to let you keep drawing for hours.
Couple that with a neat interactive gallery, image sharing and an export function to the camera app, and what you're left with is a complete art system.
Essentially, it's exactly what Nintendo has always wanted - proof that the 3DS is about more than just games, but with non-gaming products remaining fun. With a release scheduled to coincide with the launch of the 3DS XL, this is the perfect opportunity to use those big screens to their full extent, with every brush stroke shown in beautiful, 90 percent-bigger detail. Who needs a brush when you can just grab a stylus?