The Nintendo 3DS is the first out the gates in the next wave of handheld systems. It has received a lot of praise for it’s hardware and capabilities, yet fell to criticism for it’s hefty price and lackluster launch titles. Despite this the hype train has been in full effect with Nintendo traveling all over the U.S. showing off the system as well as demo units throughout Best Buy locations. The system is now here! Is Nintendo’s next big hardware leap going to wear the crown Nintendo has had as king of handhelds proudly, or will Angry Bird guided iPhones and Uncharted NGPs be the wave of the future?
The system is an impressive leap over it’s predecessor with much improved graphics that almost rival the Wii (and due to the screen size some games even look MORE powerful). Screens and images are crystal clear and the sound coming out of the system is definitely of stereo quality and excellent for a handheld. The button layout is nice and comfortable and the analog nub is fantastic, great for full range control of characters and excellent for fighting games. There are two cameras on the back of the top screen for 3D images, and one camera inside mainly used for facial recognition. Wireless strength on the device is impressive for a smooth online experience for any titles that use that feature. The system also has a gyroscope to allow motion controls, any game that may need you to look around or drive a car the system can potentially be used to adjust camera views by moving left or right, or a steering wheel to drive your car. The system also has a pedometer to track your steps and actually rewards you for walking around with the system. It gives you play coins that you can use for various games to earn things like figurines or other Miis.
The beast in the room is obviously the 3D, which overall is truly impressive. Titles like Street Fighter use the 3D for specialized camera angles to give you a greater feel of depth while games like Samurai Warriors use it to give a better feel of distance. The best use of the 3D is from Nintendo itself with it’s Augmented Reality features. AR cards, Mii Plaza, etc. really show off what this thing can go. Laying down an AR card can bring out dragons to shoot or various statues to takes pictures of. Face Raiders allows you to take a picture of you, or your friends faces and turn them into flying enemies for a shooting gallery. All in all the presentation and technology is quite impressive. Nothing really gave me too much of an eye strain or a headache thus far though I could tell if I were to keep the 3D up high and constantly play it could lead to a headache, but that’s what the 3D slider bar is for.
The other big gorilla in the room is the battery life. Nintendo tells you with the 3D slider all the way up you get 3 – 5 hours of game time, with it off that goes up to 7 hours, and with a DS game (yes the system is backwards compatible) up to 10 hours. Sleep mode I am not sure how long but I can tell you I had the system on in sleep mode for over 8 hours and the batter did not lose one bar. 3 – 5 hours is a little low for a Nintendo handheld but that seems to be why they gave you a docking system for the handheld instead of just a power cord. Anytime you are done playing just sit it on the dock and it charges. No plugging in or anything it just sits and collects juice. The dock itself definitely needs to be plugged in but cmon.. we haven’t perfected completely wireless battery charging JUST yet.
Not talking about launch titles (that will be for a separate article) I want to go into better detail of the software built onto the system itself. You have the following (as stated near the end of the Hardware overview) AR Cards, Face Raiders, Make A Mii, and Mii Plaza. AR cards are a pack of cards that come with every system. They are the same for each system containing hero cards and a ? card. The ? card is what you lay on a flat surface and it populates various games you can play. The one I played was a shooting game that spread targets out onto the ground around the card and you shoot them. Once you clear enough target waves you face a dragon-esque monster and defeat him by hitting several sections on his body. This thing actually requires you to move around the target not with an analog but actually getting up and moving around the area you set the card down on to hit the various spots on the boss. The hero cards are mainly for them to pop up in 3D and you take a picture in one of various action poses.
Face Raiders (like said before) is a game that allows you to take a picture of yourself and it is turned into an enemy in a shooting gallery game. You receive points for each enemy you shoot, and double points if you hit them in the mouth. Like AR cards you don’t move the cross hair with the analog but by moving the handheld in the guided direction to find the enemies basically as if you were looking around the room for them. Instead of a generated background it uses the cameras to project the room as your background on the screen. If you have other people in the room as you play and the camera captures their faces it will then turn them into enemies as well. It’s a neat game to pass around and compete for high scores.
Make A Mii is just like it is on the Wii in you make your avatar for your handheld. The big difference though is you can either make the Mii from scratch or take a picture of your face and the 3DS will do it’s best to create your face for you. For my Mii it did a pretty impressive job only leaving me to have to add my beard and glasses. Mii Plaza are a bunch of games you can do with your Mii and others you have created or collected. For now I only messed with Find Mii, a light RPG where your Mii is captured and you must use other Miis on your system to go through dungeons and rescue him/her. How do you collect these Miis you ask? by using StreetPass! StreetPass is a nice little feature usable on your 3DS while it’s in sleep mode (basically the system is on while the lid is closed) any time you pass by someone else with a 3DS that has it’s StreetPass activated you will download each other’s Miis and when you open the system back up it will let you know so you can add them to your plaza and use them for various games. It’s an innovative way to always keep your 3DS on you and powered up to gain new things!
What I liked
The system has a lot going for it that makes me very happy with my purchase. The 3D truly works well, though if 3D WITH glasses gives you headaches this may not work well for you. The games still look great when 3D is off but some of them truly shine brighter with the feature activated. The best thing you can do is play with the slider and find a level of 3D your eyes are comfortable with. I also love the software included on the system, it all truly shows the potential of this handheld and if developers are dedicated enough they can truly make a unique experience with all the things this system can do. The controls are fabulous and I love the analog. despite the lack of battery power with 3D on I have not ran across many issues but then I have mainly been gaming close to the docking station. The Augmented Reality features really show off the additional features of the system and display the effort Nintendo has put into making this thing truly unique. I love the idea of StreetPass and earning various things for my system and games just by walking past people. I also really like the pedometer and the fact it rewards you with game coins.
What I Didn’t Like
The Launch line-up for this system sucks, there is nothing around that what-so-ever. The titles that are great truly are fun and show that the developer tackled this handheld with the intent of using all of it’s capabilities. Then you get bare bone games that have little to no features, the 3D sucks, no multiplayer (for a handheld!? are you fucking kidding me!?) and just plain old shitty shovelware. Also Nintendo didn’t really bring out an A-List titles to feature as “The game/games to get”. I am still disappointed Kid Icarus was not a launch title but what can you do? I also think the 3D picture taking is a little weak as they didn’t really look 3D to me and actually hurt my eyes looking at them. The editing options on them are also sub par with very little you can do.
All in all I am truly happy with my purchase, I think the Nintendo 3DS has a lot of potential and once they have a solid game line up set for the rest of 2011 they will truly show off what this thing can do. At the same time I can’t blame anyone for waiting on this system until Nintendo truly announces for concrete titles and dates. Hell the system itself doesn’t even have all it’s features yet, despite all this I truly recommend the system. It’s impressive, fun, powerful, and will prove it’s worth over time. Whether you pick this up now or wait a month or two I’m telling you GET THIS THING. You will truly be pleased with it’s capabilities and high fun factor. The only thing I can warn you though is check out a demo unit and play around with the 3D. Adjust the effect around and see how your eyes adapt to gauge if this thing will put a hurting on you. So far no issues on my end but it’s always better to be safe then sorry.