Hands on with the Nintendo 3DS

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When Nintendo first announced the 3DS at E3 in 2010, my reaction was muted. I’m not a fan of 3D technology for a number of reasons, but the most important one for me is that I find the experience uncomfortable and annoying. I simply don’t enjoy wearing glasses over my glasses to view an effect that neither adds or takes away from a conventional flat, 2D screening. The fact that the 3DS is much touted glasses free gaming was interesting because it might finally jump this hurdle.

Nintendo refused to nail down an RRP for this fresh slab of hardware, instead leaving that decision to retailers. This was initially disappointing, but has actually opened up a price war between shops. As such the 3DS can cost anything from £190 to £230, while most games have a beefed up price-point from a £25 DS standard to a £32-£40 range. It’s certainly a big ask seeing as how the DS was a casual friendly £99.99, and it’ll be interesting to see how many of the Brain Training mums brought in from the this initial attraction will be convinced to upgrade their hardware.

As of yet there’s not much software that will convince the casual audience to carry over. Currently the only game that could do this – and also the only confirmed Nintendo launch title for March 25 – is the pet-‘em-up sim game Nintendogs + Cats. I had a chance to sample this at a recent hands on event, and I can’t say that it’s a particularly worthy sequel. Apart from the obvious additions of 3D and cats, Nintendogs + Cats is much the same as the original DS version, and I couldn’t easily recommend anyone an upgrade based on what I sampled.

But, something that is much more deserving of a sequel is the long awaited Pilotwings Resort. Set on Wii Sports Resort’s Wuhu Island, the brightly coloured flight game is delightful, relaxing, and easy to play for the casuals, whilst the more hardcore pleasing challenges should turn this into a hit that the series deserves.

Another Nintendo 64 gem that will be sure to satisfy fans is a 3D remake of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (OoT). This is the demo I spent most of my time with at the event for the simple reason that it’s still the finest slice of gaming ever made. The graphics and interface have been refined, and the 3DS’ circle pad will alleviate any fans’ worries of a Super Mario 64 DS style control disaster. OoT was also the game where the titular 3D effect was most obvious, and delving into first person mode to look around your surroundings gave a real sense of depth to the area but otherwise offered no discernible advantages.

This brings me in a neat circle back to discussing the 3D. While it can work, it felt gimmicky and unessential compared to its predecessor’s introduction of double, touch-screen gaming. I admit that I have eyesight problems that prevent me from processing 3D images as well as normal people can, but this is a problem I share with an estimated one to five percent of the world’s population. It was a huge problem when viewing the video demos of Animal Crossing 3D and Paper Mario 3D, where the alleged 3D effect that should make the foreground, middle ground, and background easily identifiable just didn’t show up. Stepping out of the 3D zone is also too easy to do – especially when using the machine’s gyroscopic features – and it produces an ugly ghosting effect on the screen before you can refocus to the centre. The 3DS has a copycat design and build of the DS Lite, so holding the machine in this position isn’t the problem, but rather keeping it there is an annoying niggle that regularly draws you out of the experience.

The 3DS has also given other critics motion sickness and headaches after play of only a few hours. Thankfully, this isn’t a significant hurdle to overcome due to the 3D slider than can turn the effect off completely or make it extremely pronounced (and also because the 3DS only has a short battery life of up to five hours). What it does present is a problem that some prospective customers strongly need to consider – do you buy a 3D marketed console to not use the 3D? The current lacklustre launch line-up would say no, as the 3DS’ built-in features (3D camera, minigames, and Augmented Reality features) are momentary gimmicky fun at best. Nevertheless, the prospect of what’s to come, with the likes of Kid Icarus, Professor Layton, Mario Kart, and a chance to relive OoT with a new lick of paint, is still worth the price of entry for me, with or without the 3D visuals.

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