UPDATE: Namco Bandai has announced that despite its earlier confirmation that save data is uneraseable, it is possible to reset save data.
Just as we've moved past Capcom's heavy-handed decision to prevent players from wiping a copy of Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D for the Nintendo 3DS clean, Namco Bandai has picked up the torch and run with it by including similiar dysfunctionality in its new 3DS release, Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions. Just as with Resident Evil, we're looking at a game that does not allow high scores to be reset and keeps Achievements etched in stone. Here's Chris Kohler at Wired trying to get to the bottom of the problem:
As near as I can figure, having pored through the game and its documentation, Dimensions doesn’t have a high score table. Once you set a new high score, it’s written to the cartridge and all records of your previous high scores are gone forever. This is a total kick in the dots. I want to be able to see my progress: By how much did I obliterate my previous personal best? Are my scores hovering around a certain number? Are there any outliers? I can try to remember this in my head, but why should I have to? Keeping track of high scores is so trivial that even the first Pac-Man was able to do it in 1980?
This deficiency also means you can’t share your cartridge. What if I wanted to have a high-score competition with a friend, passing the 3DS back and forth? What if two people wanted to play the game and have their personal scores on the record? On that point, I’ve looked all over, even going so far as to ask a Namco Bandai representative, and it doesn’t seem like there’s a way to erase the game data.
Once again it seems that the used game market is under attack with pseudo-DRM that makes playing a used copy a diminished experience. If you don't care about tracking your high scores then this isn't much of a problem, but the considering that the entire point of score attack games like Pac-Man is to beat your own previous record, not allowing the resetting of save data seems like a kick in the power pellets. GamePro's Pete Davison sums it up:
There's no good technical reason for save data to be unerasable on the 3DS -- the system's game cards use EEPROM or flash memory to store information, both of which are rewritable. And data which is saved directly to the 3DS' own system memory must be erasable by design. Therefore, the only conclusion we can really reach is that adoption of this "permasave" system is a means to combat used game sales.
This may seem like a minor issue to keep harping on, but there's a very good reason to keep awareness raised when it comes to undeletable save data. The video game industry is starting to flirt with this idea and see how it works when forced on the market. If we don't speak up and express extreme dissatisfaction now, it's only a matter of time before every publisher is doing it and the idea expands beyond mere high scores to games where resetting the save data is not only preferable, but basically required when it comes to playing a used copy. We let Project Ten Dollar and creeping downloadable content prices slip by, but perhaps the community can still make a point with this one.