The Nintendo 3DS is coming, and you’d better prepare yourself for it.
When it was announced back in March, Nintendo’s new handheld console sparked a flurry of excitement and brought forth a number of questions. Could the 3DS really work without glasses? How much more powerful would this new device be? And, most importantly, what would be the flagship titles for the device?
All of these questions were answered at E3. The Nintendo 3DS does work without a special pair of glasses, and it works marvelously. There’s no need to worry if you have prescription glasses or contact lenses, as the 3D effect will still be very apparent. Nintendo was also kind enough to fit the device with a slider on the top screen, allowing you to adjust the depth of the 3D (a lower depth gives you a wider margin of error for your viewing angle) or even turn it off entirely at any point. Think of it as the volume slider on the DS Lite. 3D is available only on the top screen, which is wider than the DS’s, while touch capabilities will only be available on the bottom screen. Nintendo has also announced backwards compatibility with DS/DSi cartridges.
The difference between 3D and 2D was striking, though. Nintendo has prepared some classics for release on the 3DS, and it’s very easy to see how effective the 3D is when you have the opportunity to play one of these rereleases. Star Fox 64 3D, for instance, makes very good use of the 3D effects. The world feels much more detailed and immersive, even when compared to the same game with 3D turned off. There’s a visible “snap” from 2D to 3D if you adjust it on the fly, allowing you to see the difference very quickly.
Unfortunately, it’s up to the developers to make the 3D effect feel right, which will be an extra challenge for each release. Most of us have seen poorly-utilized 3D effects in movies, and it can be slightly disorienting and annoying if done incorrectly. Games like Star Fox feel like they’ve been rebuilt from the ground up to make use of the 3D, but the classic Xevious didn’t hold up as well. The 3D effect gave a feeling of height, but it looked more like paper cutouts laid on top of one another rather than a true 3D effect. That’s not to say that 2D games can’t be made well in 3D; instead, it’s just a matter of design.
The 3D effect isn’t all that the 3DS has going for it. Visually, the 3DS appears at least equal to if not superior to the PSP. The familiar rereleases don’t show the true capability of the device, but previews such as Kid Icarus: Uprising were stunning. Nintendo has also included a new interface element familiar to all PSP gamers: the slide pad, which acts like a small form factor analog stick. Fortunately, it feels much more natural than the PSP’s slide pad, which many have found awkward to use. We’ll see what happens when the device actually releases, but for now it’s safe to say that it’s a good time to be a handheld gamer. And with its massive list of currently announced titles, including Kid Icarus Uprising, the new Mario Kart 3DS, remakes of Star Fox 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the 3DS looks more and more like a day-one purchase as time goes by. It’ll be interesting to see if Nintendo has learned any lessons from the Wii’s manufacturing and release.
The 3DS is also capable of much more than games: it takes the best of the DSi (cameras, downloadable content) and expands upon it. The device now has two outward-facing cameras, allowing you to take 3D pictures. These pictures can be viewed in 3D on the device, and hopefully will be compatible with other 3D cameras on the market. The 3DS will also have access to an online shop, where players can purchase downloadable games and other content. At this time, it appears that downloaded content cannot be redownloaded onto a 3DS without paying for it again; however, this may change at some point before release.
The 3DS will be available in a selection of colors, much like the DS, and will be released by the end of March 2011. It’s likely that they are (or were) pushing for a holiday release, but may not make it there. No price has been set, but it will ideally be priced about $199.99 in the United States. Look for more details later this year online or at your favorite brick-and-mortar store.