Nintendo 3DS Review

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Okay... So, I love gaming, but one thing I'm a real sucker for is a new gaming platform. So I rounded up my old DS's and sold them, did a bit of freelance email server work, saved a few pennies and traded in a huge stockpile of junk and bought a 3DS.

I've been disparaging about Nintendo and their “rinse and repeat”, but that doesn't mean I'm not willing to try things out, it's always the quirky stuff I love and I'm sure you can find it.

So, how about a full review?

 The 3D
Obviously this is the most important "impact" that the system has, it's the one true innovation on the system and the side that is being pushed hardest.

How good is it? Well, it's very hit and miss. I'll go into detail on different applications later on, but initially, the 3D is great. You set up the system, it turns on the 3D, and it's excellent. There's a 3D video to download on your first update that shows it off well and it's really does look great.

That's fine sitting at a desk/table, or even lying on a bed. It's a very tight angle though. It's a very narrow horizontal shift for you to fall out of the "sweet zone" and you just end up seeing double. Even worse (IMO) is the distance aspect. If you're a little too close or too far, the 3D still works, but you can feel your eyes cross a bit. It's like looking at those silly magic eye pictures. It works, and you're eyes are kind of comfortable, but you know something isn't right. It's scary how little out of the "35 cm" range you can go to get the effect, and how easy it is to end up crossing your eyes. Turning the 3D down helps, and increases the range to a degree, but it's still not perfect.

In reality, the 3D is for when you're in a very static position.

Image/graphical quality
The new screens are lovely. Very crisp and very bright. The graphics look nice and smooth and the 3D video that is played is as a demo is excellent quality. It's not "HD", but it looks as good as HD on the small screen - if you know what I mean.

In terms of in game graphics, I'm not entirely sure where it is. The problem is that Nintendo tends to do things in a very simplistic, bright manner. The Mii's and Pilot Wings look as good as Wii equivalents, perhaps even better, due to the small screen. Nintendogs is also looking good, but again, it's a very plain and simple game - the 3DS isn't being pushed graphically at any point.

I need to look at a flashier game really. The menus, etc are certainly all PSP quality and the games currently look around that PSp/PS2 quality - possibly better, but not quite Wii quality yet. I really can't say until I've played a more graphical game to be honest.

Augmented Reality
Another big thing being pushed is the Augmented reality. I was really interested in this aspect when Sony introduced it about 2-3 years ago for the PSP (development detail release, not the actual final release).

I love the idea of merging your real world environment with the game environment. The idea of then doing it in 3D too must surely add a greater depth.

The system works with a ? card, a bit smaller than a standard playing card. You get this, and five character cards (Mario, Samus, Pikmin, Kirby and Link). You put the card down, place the 3DS about 35cm (again with the 35cm - but it does have a distance measuring system that tells you how far you are) and then a little yellow box opens on the ? card. You can rotate around it with the 3DS and when you shoot it, a target practice game appears. It's a subtle way of teaching you to rotate around the card, over the top and to learn to use it. It ends with a fantastic dragon coming out of your table for you to shoot.

Augmented Reality: 3DS Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality: 3DS Augmented Reality

After that, you have a few different games (bowling a marble thing, fishing and some advanced versions of each). You can also then put down the other cards (one at a time, or all five) and have a 3D version of the characters standing on your table, or held in a friends hand or whatever.

Sound good?

It isn't. It suffers from similar issues that the PSP versions suffer, only it adds some new ones along the way.

The first issue is that the hardware isn't quite up to adding the AR data onto the screen and update. It's quite jerky; not game breakingly bad, but bad.

Second, you have to manipulate yourself and the 3DS and yet keep the camera on the card all the time. On the PSP it was awkward for "little hands", on the 3DS, it's just abysmal. You have to keep the 3DS at 35cm all the time. Too close or too far and it stops working. So you're trying to work around your table top to hit the dragon on the right side, only your table is oblong and have to move away to get around it. The 3DS comes with you and it all moves outside the 35cm range and "puff" it vanishes for a second until you get it spot on again.

Then it's very susceptible to light. The slightest shadow on the ? card and it vanishes. So your light sources can't be in certain places. You need to shoot down onto the dragon? You can't because you cast a shadow over the card and it "loses" it.

Other games I found that I couldn't complete because the things I needed to shoot/hit/catch meant moving the 3DS too far from the ? card. So it clouds over and you can't do it. Nothing to do other than quit that and try again.

It's very frustrating, but there's worse...

You can't actually realistically play the games and use the 3D function. The 3DS has to be 35cm from the ? card. YOU have to be 35cm from the 3D and directly in front of the console. Moving around a fixed point and trying to play a game that involves moving the camera around while keeping all the angles and distances exactly right is simply impossible. You just end up having to turn the 3D off, which kind of defeats the object?

It's a gimmick, and it's a gimmick that doesn't work with the showcase software provided with the system. Real shame.

Street Pass/Spot Pass
Now this however is fab. If you close the 3DS (and have it set up to use these systems) then it goes into sleep mode. However, it's constantly checking the Wifi for any other 3DS systems in the same state. When it encounters one, it trades details of you (limited) and passes you Mii's (any you have set to pass) over. You can also set music tracks to transmit.

In some games (Nintendogs is one) it can pass details from the game (even if the game isn't running) so that when you next play it, there's added bonuses. In Nintendogs for instance, you get a present from any other dog you meet, you can then get their breed of dog (if it's not one contained in your copy) from the kennels and you can "play in the park" with that other person and their dog.

The Mii's transmitted can fight in a simple dungeon quest game, and each one carries a puzzle piece for you to created limited edition screen shots or some such thing.

It's also going to be used to transmit up dates, demos, etc in the future. So Game may have a Game only demo of Super Mario 3DS. You simply walk into Game with the 3DS shut in your pocket and walk out with the demo. It's a very neat idea.

On top of that, it's a pedometer. The more you walk, the more bonuses you can get.

Nintendo really understand that their DS systems are taken everywhere by everyone who owns one. It's excellent.

General gubbins
The music player is fine. It's got some nice little touches like being able to use the shoulder buttons to play "instruments" along with it. There are a load of different screens that beat in time with the music too. It's functional, not massively pretty, but at least it has one.

The cameras are as to be expected. They're not massive quality, but the 3D again is an issue. You need to take the shot from certain distances for it to work properly. For a "phone" camera, it's about three years old in terms of quality. You need good light and a steady hand. The 3D (when you can get a decent one) images are good. It's nice to see your photos in 3D. It's a pity they'll only ever look mediocre on the 3DS and awful on any other 3D system.

The Mii generator is better than the Wii's, there are more options. It's great you can hook it up to your Wii and grab your Mii's from there. You can even make your Mii's a QR Code!!!

Mii_Furie: QR Code

Mii_Furie: QR Code

Other than that, the system is easy to use. The Home key is good for navigating. Generally the system has brought the DS bang up to date with modern consoles and interfaces. It's a nice system to use in general. Bright, cheery, colourful and easy.

I can't comment on the browser, store or 3D film stuff yet as it's not available.

obviously the strength of the system is on the games. I got it with Pilot Wings Resort and bought Nintendogs and cats for Maxi-Minor_Furie. There's also the free "Face Raiders" game that comes with the 3DS. This is also "augmented reality", but it's a little different to the card based stuff so I've treated it as separate.

Pilot Wings Reosrt
I'm sucker for flight games, so I was expecting to enjoy this a fair amount, mostly due to the love the original two games get. I'm pretty underwhelmed. Why is Nintendo pushing Wuhu Island? It's so bland and uninspiring. I know we're supposed to feel love for the light house and stuff in a kind of "it's like home" way, but I just don't like the bland, brightly coloured, simplistic world of Wuhu Island.

That shouldn't affect the game, and it doesn't really, but it's nothing great. It's very "well, it's kind of fun for passing the time a bit I guess". The biggest issue beyond being mildly dull? Yep, 3D

Here there's a new 3D problem. You have a fixed "plane" in front of the screen. Into the depth of the image is the island you're flying around. Now, hold your finger about a foot from your nose in front of the screen and try reading this. You see double, because your focus is on the screen, or your finger. The 3D on Pilot Wings resort does exactly the same. The depth is brilliant, it's really hard to describe just how great it is, but with the plane plonked in the way, you either see double plane or double island. Not great for precise game play.

This may just be me to be fair, I have the same issue playing pool/snooker. However...

It's one of those games where you instinctively move around with your arms. As you go into a tight left hand sweep, you naturally tilt your hands to the left too (you all do it, admit it ). However, the 3DS demands you are 35cm from it and directly in front of it, held at a level plane. The minute you get excited and into the game, you move you hands, everything goes all double and your eyes hurt, then put off, you crash into a wall. Gah!

So again, it's turn the 3D off and the game is playable, but again, you're missing the entire 3D aspect that's supposed to be selling this thing.

Nintendogs + cats
It's a simple update of the DS version. More of the same really, but with some great improvements. It's simpler, smoother and ... It works. The voice recognition works this time (properly), the 3D works really well (it's a game you tend to keep fixed), the systems works, the walking mechanism works, the Spot Pass stuff works. It looks lovely too.

Nintendogs and Cats: Getting on

Nintendogs and Cats: Getting on

The biggest issue is if you want a pet simulator designed for 5-10 year olds. If you do, it's quite brilliant. If not... Well, it's still a really nice bit of game design and actually shows off the 3Ds better than anything else so far... Except for maybe...

Face Raiders

I love this, it's simple, it's stupid and it's fun.

You take a photo of your face, which then gets "captured" by some evil invading force. It then sends out floating, armoured versions of you around your room to be shot down. It IS your room too, as all the action happens on the back drop of the external cameras. You rotate and look up and down by rotating and looking up and down.

Face Raiders: Beware face-of-furie

Face Raiders: Beware face-of_furie

As the game goes on, you can take photos of other people and the idea is to have a collection of friends’ and family heads that you shoot down.

As I say, it's silly, it's stupid and it's "lite", but it's all the more charming for it. Oddly the 3D works really well too. It's easy to fix the 3DS in front of you at the 35cm and because you're moving your entire body it stays, it's a bit like sighting down a gun barrel, it's good. This and the Street/Spot pass are the highlights so far.

I've got a few quid in trade ins and some rewards points, so I'll grab Ridge Racer for it soon too. That should at least show the power of the system.

It's a great DS2. It's the exact evolutionary path the DS needed to take. I'd say the DSi was DS 1.5 and this is the full blown follow up. It needs the store to come on line very soon, there aren't enough retail games available at the moment (and a low amount on the horizon).

The features Nintendo are pushing are the least impressive parts of the system. The 3D is flawed (but great when it's working) and the Augmented Reality is just dreadful. Without the 3D, I don't know if the system price could have reduced by a lot? It's very expensive and doesn't really offer enough over a DSi to make that additional cost really worth it. The new aspects also don't offer the same level of game design innovation the touch pad did, so you get less advancement for your cash than you did between the GBA and the DS.

It's great having a new bit of hardware running the system though and it's brought the DS up to a more modern portable gaming standard set by Sony. Of course, it's all about games, not graphics/power - well, it's still lacking here, but at least there's a wealth of DS games to look at and avoid.

So, am I pleased with it? Yes, it's a new toy and I love new toys. It's given portable gaming a new lease of life in the household (especially the Nintendogs). With the DSWare shop it'll make a lot of great, cheap games become available (along with a lot of tat). So it was a good investment considering the amount of unused hardware and games I traded/sold in to bring the costs right down.

Whether it's any good to you really depends on how exciting you find the game line up. For me, it's a bit hit and miss, but that's fine - I'll still be training my puppy in six months.