First Days of the 3DS

With the release of the Nintendo 3DS on March 25th here in the UK, I took the opportunity to upgrade from my older DS. What follows is my summary of thoughts and feelings on the new hand-held on the market and whether it really is worth the price tag or the amount of faith Nintendo is placing in it.

There was nothing wrong with my old DS (which was actually a DSi model, further limiting how much would change with this upgrade) but I was curious about the lack of glasses required to experience the full effect of 3D and many other things, despite never really being sold on the 3D angle beforehand.

3D seemed like a gimmick rather than significant technological advancement – filler before the real next generation. Yes, it adds depth to a picture, but it also makes the foreground seem horribly 2D and flat at times – is that really better? As such, prior to my time with the 3DS I had never really experienced the modern version of 3D via gaming or movies. In fact the last time I can remember watching anything in 3D it was a Saturday morning cartoon in the 90s which used the classic blue and red tinted spectacles.

Being a man, the first thing I did upon receiving my new hand-held and after opening the box was to compare sizes. I whipped out my DSi and measured them up. The 3DS is slightly chunkier but by no means is it overly large. The upper screen has a bit more weight to it and the additional front camera stood out. The lower screen seemed to me slightly smaller than the DSi’s (which also puts it far below the XL version), however the difference in the top window with its widescreen resolution was obvious.

Actually, the very first thing you’ll do when you open it is bypass the copious amounts of paperwork Nintendo includes with it, such as the stern health warning about children under six not using the technology. Still, once you’re past all that and switch it on, out of the box you will be exposed to the 3D of the hand-held from the get go. The main menu and interactions with it use the effect and were my first taste of the fad.

A slight exaggeration of how playing the 3DS feels.

There is a slider you can use to adjust the ‘level’ of 3D, but really it seemed more like the position you held the machine at had more effect on the quality of the picture’s depth and the slider was just a glorified on/off switch. On the subject of positioning; what I would coin as the standard way to hold any DS is the suitable way to see the 3D without flickering or phasing of the picture. This position is with the console slightly below eye level and about 25cm away from you and those who prefer unconventional positions or situations when playing your hand-held (laying on the bed, out in the sun, on a bus/train and so on) will most likely struggle if the 3D is left on.

During the set up process, assigning a profile and what not, the 3D remained on and I was initially impressed – as much as someone who hasn’t been exposed to it could be. Those already used to it with every other movie using it or the games dipping into the effect will be less impressed, even if no preposterous looking glasses are required. It was towards the end of the set-up process that I felt the effects of 3D on my eyes.

There has been a lot said about the 3D causing dizziness or nauseousness and the recommended exposure from Nintendo is 15 minutes before a break. Well the set-up process took me just over 20 so perhaps that’s the reason for what followed. I did not feel ill or dizzy, my eyes did feel funny though. It’s a very hard sensation to put into words. They felt strained, like they were struggling with something that seemed simple. They felt like they were behind the times, that the processor running them needed to be upgraded to a multi-core just to enjoy this technology to the fullest.

I suppose you can round up the previous paragraph as the 3DS having no significant effect on me and other than the weird feeling in the eyes my time with it was not adversely affected. I did however also test the waters with other people. My friend and his partner also picked up a 3DS and both stated that even after long sessions with a game in full 3D neither felt anything other than the slight increased strain I spoke of. I let my mother try the console (she needs glasses to see things close up and has been quite happy with her DS XL model for a while now) and almost instantly she said she wouldn’t be able to do anything with it. It seemed like the additional strain on top of not having perfect sight would render any fun ruined. If Nintendo is scaring off children and older people they seem to be self-destructing their target market.

Unless you picked up one of the appallingly bad launch titles available for the 3DS, you will be limited to the games it comes with pre-installed. These include a Mii Plaza where, as you travel with your 3DS in sleep mode, you can collect data of those around you and then meet other Miis or collect coins to play a hack ‘n slash mini game to rescue your Mii from a dungeon.

Face Raiders takes a picture of you or someone you’ve fooled it into thinking is you and places the face on floating enemies you must then move around your house finding and shooting. Far too much fun for such a simple premise, but helped by your face pulling hilarious expressions as you blast them.

Along the same lines, the Augmented Reality games which use pre-packaged cards impressed me. It’s very easy for the 3DS to ‘lose’ the card though, until you re-focus it from the front. Place the card on a table, bed, or (if you want a really weird experience) your friend’s stomach, and you will see them bounce, shift and twist as targets appear to shoot at. Alternatively characters like Mario and Link grow out of a card to be placed in compromising positions for your own amusement (with pictures being able to be taken – and with 2gb flash memory out of the box there’s room to save plenty).

There are quite a few features missing from the 3DS at launch. Biggest among these are the store and also the means to transfer previous purchases and data over from a DSi. Going to these sections within the 3DS will result in a helpful error message saying that they will be added in future updates. I couldn’t help thinking that the real reason DSi transfer was not implemented was to discourage trade-ins when people upgraded to the 3DS and the ware-store not being available was just a bystander victim of this act.

In the end I suppose what really matters is how games taking full advantage of the 3D fare over time to people of different demographics. Reviews for select launch titles will follow, so stick with us for those. It will also be interesting to see if battery life is tested for full 3D over time as it has been claimed that it quickly drains the battery (by comparison to DS-DSi I feel it should be pointed out – since both of which have overly large battery life). My exposure to it didn’t seem to support these claims, though I was mostly playing previous DS titles so the 3D was off.

For the importers out there, here is a quick last minute region test I did on older DS titles. A Japanese DS title worked perfectly, as did an American one. This does not mean ALL titles will work however. Even if you use the correct region there are also select titles which will not function at all on the 3DS. Nintendo has also previously confirmed that 3DS games will be region locked for reasons beyond normal comprehension (actually the real reason is probably regional profit margins). This will probably annoy a lot of people, including me, who despise the slow European releases of games that Nintendo has been guilty of for some time.

Upgrading from a DSi basically means the 3D is the only new thing to grab your attention with and it works, with the two included games being perfect examples. It is obvious, however, just how much of a gimmick it is. Even the games that take advantage of it may also come across as that but that remains to be seen. For someone upgrading from an older model of the DS then there is far more justification to give the 3DS your time.

It is also worth keeping in mind however that given their history, it is likely that within a year or two we will see a slimmer or improved version of the 3DS released by Nintendo and by then the available catalogue of games will be far better – so it may be best to just wait for that.

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Written by Ian D

Misanthropic git. Dislikes: Most things. Likes: Obscure references.

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