It’s been a few weeks since it’s initial launch and stock has become easier to find again after completely selling out on day one so I felt it was time for someone to give an overall summation of Nintendo’s new handheld fun-box, the Nintendo 3DS.
The 3D concept is not new grounds to Nintendo. They played around with this idea when they released the Virtua-Boy which was a colossal failure for a number of reasons but the 3D effect is scarily similar. Essentially, it’s a mix of high tech gadgetry and optical illusion witchcraft. The system “overlays” a set of pixels on top of the other and your eyes focus to see both, giving you a slight cross-eyed effect but shows a pseudo depth of vision. Because of this, however, it is STRONGLY recommended that children aged 6 and under DO NOT play the console in it’s 3D mode but that’s like leaving someone in a room with a big red button that says “push me” and telling them not to push it. Also, there is a very small percentage of people whose eyes won’t adjust accordingly to the screen and won’t see the 3D effect. This semi-genius approach to 3D is partly done with software and that’s why the 3D scaler switch on the screen works well with some games and is kinda shoddy with others so there is a right way and a wrong way of programming the 3D graphics. So before we have a look at the launch games, let’s look at the hardware that comes in the box.
The first real surprise is the size of the system. It’s much smaller than most people expect as it’s roughly the same size as the DSLite but a bit thicker. The overall build quality feels sturdier than the previous DS models and even the hinge that many complain about has been put together stronger. The button and D-pad construction is the same as the last models which is good but there’s a new addition to the controls in the form of a thumb-nub joystick similar to the PSP. The major difference between the two is that the 3DS works. The 3DS thumb-nub is concaved and much larger making it much more comfortable and functional. Even the L and R buttons feel a bit tighter. So the 3DS’s construction is an improvement.
With the stereo-optical 3D aside, the 3DS has a large graphical upgrade from the previous DS’s which moves it from the 256 x 192 resolution of the old DS to a sharper 800 x 240 in a widescreen format for the top screen. The graphics processor is also bigger so even without the 3D effect, the overall visuals are extremely pretty, rivalling that of Sony’s PSP. Funny thing is that Nintendo’s little handheld has better graphics than it’s bigger brother, the Nintendo Wii. There’s a camera function built into the machine and you can take 3D photos but they seem to be very low-res and even with good lighting, the pictures come out fuzzy. So unfortunately, the 3D camera isn’t much good but does show it’s worth when it’s coupled with some of the other functions of the machine.
The DS sound recorder and player is back but now allows for mp3 playback for a change. The only gripe I have about this ability is that the speakers aren’t very loud and that the machine won’t multi-task with it. So you can’t play your own songs during gameplay or any of the other functions of the 3DS. But really, with all the iPods and mp3 phones out there, it’s doubtful many would use this function often but I suppose the option is nice.
Also built into the machine is the Mii Maker and Streetpass Plaza. The Mii Maker is like the avatar system on the Xbox 360 or, obviously, the Mii system on the Wii where you can make a character that acts as your profile. You can even use the camera to take a snap of your mug and the machine will put together a few versions that resemble your facial features. Then, once your little cartoon character is ready, you can set them to share and whenever your 3DS is in sleep mode and comes within 15 meters of another 3DS in sleep mode, they will crossover onto the other machine and enter the Mii Plaza where you can play a few simple games with the Miis you collect. One is Puzzle Swap where you get a picture made up of panels and you can get an already unlocked panel from the other person. The other is Streetpass Quest where you send the Miis in to fight a series of monsters to unlock hats for your own Mii. Both are very simple but very addictive and you can only collect the same Mii once a day.
Then there’s the “Augmented Reality” games which revolve around a bunch of small cards that come packed with the console. When the main card is laid flat, a 3D menu pops up in the same orientation as the card through the 3D camera and through that menu, you can play a series of shooting, fishing and pool-esque games. These are trippy as hell and cool and will blow you and your friend’s minds away. With the stereo-optical 3D enabled, this mode is, by far, the most impressive ability the console has and shows the potential this system really carries.
So the hardware is impressive and has incredible potential. So what have they done with it, because with great power comes great responsibility right?!
Okay, so within the first week of launch, there were 13 different games available and, let’s face it, most of them are ungodly pieces of crap! The only ones of real worth are Super Street Fighter IV, Pilotwings Resort and Star Wars Lego III with Streetie being the most impressive and using more of the systems abilities than any of the others. Pilotwings Resort shows off the 3D depth more than any of the other games and shows how well the new thumb nub works and Star Wars Lego III shows how this console can go head to head with it’s bigger home console bretheren with multi-platform titles. The other games really are just filler until the next major titles come along (Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D is slated for june 10th) with only Nintendogs being the other game of note but it’s so similar to the previous Nintendogs that it doesn’t feel like it’s progressed at all.
Even with the stagnant launch releases, there is one other gripe I have about the system. There are heaps of options on the system that don’t work yet. Obviously, these will come with updates to the 3DS but it’s just teasing to have the options there but not being able to use them. Like the system transfer, where you will be able to copy any DSi shop purchased games from your old DSi to your 3DS. Even the 3DS shop hasn’t gone online yet and with it, neither has the web browser but the button is there, taunting me. The friends list is very rudimentary also with no message system in place but you can see if they’re online and what they are playing at the time, however you still have to use friend codes like the Wii’s online system but you can get the code from a local wireless hook up. So there’s a step in the right direction at least.
When all is said and done, what Nintendo have done here is amazing. This system has heaps of potential and it’s only a matter of time for the software to start showing it off. This system is clearly more powerful and feature rich than the Sony PSP and with Nintendo’s game making behind it, it’s clearly the system to watch. Once all the functions are unlocked, the 3DS will be a legitimate gaming powerhouse of it’s own.