Review: Nintendo 3DS

When the Nintendo 3DS was first announced at E3 2010, a lot of critics had their doubts, but then again many of them had doubts on the success of the original Nintendo DS too.  The 3DS features Glasses-free 3D, 3D cameras, Augmented Reality features, backward compatibility and more.

General Hardware and Design:

At first glance you may think that you have just bought a DSi as the 3DS looks and feels just like the older device from Nintendo. The device itself is quite heavy when compared to the older models, but to us this makes it feel well built and less likely to fall apart.

The 3DS comes with three cameras, yes three cameras. The two on the outer case can be used for augmented reality games and for taking 3D photos. The disappointment here is that they are very low resolution and photo quality is pretty bad most of the time. The good news? They work perfectly well with Augmented reality games that come bundled with the device.

When you open up the Nintendo 3DS you get to see the second main addition, a slide pad (a thumb slider to the rest of us). It is very easy to use and feels good on your thumb, thanks to the rubber coating. The rest of the inside is pretty much the same as ever, with the D-Pad, which has moved very slightly lower to accommodate the Slide Pad while the A, B, X and Y buttons remain in their usual place.

The L and R are up on top of the device as normal, while Nintendo has added new Start, Select and Home hardware buttons just below the touchscreen on the lower part of the 3DS, these are the only bits of the device I find a little awkward, as sometimes I slide my finger over them to press, but then realise than they are completely flush with the rest of the 3DS so you can't always find them easily.

The 3DS Touchscreen at the bottom of the device has seen a resolution increase to 320x240 from the previous 256x192 pixels, it may be a small increase, but it does make a difference when you are using it.

On the right side of the device you have the 3D slider, this allows you to set the 3D depth, it slides with ease and certainly makes it very easy to adjust 3D settings when playing with the 3DS.

Finally the position of the stylus has moved, it is now directly on the back of the 3DS, which actually makes it much harder to find when you are sliding your finger along the back. The stylus itself is adjustable, meaning you can change the length to your liking.

Inside the device itself there is a far better graphics processor than Nintendo have previously used on any of their handheld devices, but it also adds an accelerometer and a gyroscope, which can be used in augmented reality games such as the bundled Face Raiders and more. Storage is done via SD Cards and the 3DS comes with a small 2GB card, which is more than adequate to begin with, especially as Nintendo haven't gotten around to launching a game store on the device yet.

The 3D Screen:

Much has been made of the 3D screen that the 3DS possesses, it comes in at 3.53 inches in 5:4 and at resolution of 800x240, but due to the glasses-free, parallax-barrier screen, this means that each eye has its own 400x240 pixels per eye. This allows it to create an autostereoscopic effect without the use of 3D glasses.

So what of the 3D effect? Well it works really well. You have to hold the device around 10 inches or more from your face and align it up with your eyes, but for us it became second nature whenever we opened up the 3DS. The 3D effect can be adjusted via the 3D Depth slider and this is something that many people will be doing to find the best setting, for us it was about ¾ of the way to the top most of the time.

The screen itself is very bright and displays colours perfectly and thanks to the 3D Depth slider, you can turn off the 3D effects altogether if you want to, as they are just there for looks and doing so can sometimes even improve the graphics on some games.

Battery Life:

When Nintendo announced the 3DS they stated that Battery life wasn't going to be too high, well they were spot on with that we have to say. When playing a 3D game from a full charge, we got around four hours worth of play out of it and that was with Wi-Fi on. Turning off Wi-Fi only seems to add around an additional 20 minutes or so to the battery.

The strange thing here is that the 3D Depth slider seems to make little difference with battery time. When turning 3D off completely we only got a small increase is battery time, so it seems that you can have 3D on all the time to your hearts content if you want to, without worrying that your battery will die any sooner than in 2D.

The 3DS comes with a nice docking charger too, though this is probably more to do with the fact that Nintendo will be encouraging you to place the device in the dock whenever you don't use it, just to keep the battery up as high as possible.

StreetPass and SpotPass

StreetPass allows you to carry your 3DS with you at all times, it will then communicate with other 3DS devices when in sleep mode, it can be used to get Mii characters, high scores and other features and you can decide what you want to receive.

SpotPass on the other hand is a feature, which lets the 3DS detect wireless hotspots to gain updates, free software and videos while the device is asleep. So far we have got a new video via this method and various notification updates.

Built in Software:

The top part of the 3DS touch screen has a number of icons, these range from notifications about SpotPass or StreetPass downloads to Friend Lists and Game notes. They are all easy to access and do just what they say on the tin. The only disappointment is that Nintendo still insist on going with a Friend code system for adding people, though at least this time it is set to just one code per person rather than it being based on games.

The main menu consists of:

Nintendo 3DS Camera: With this application you can take photos in 3D, play slideshows with varying themes and edit photos by adding visual effects such as stamps and writing. It's a fun little application for children, but the novelty wears off pretty quickly due to the poor picture quality.

Nintendo 3DS Sound: Here you can play music off of your SD Card and record sounds as well as share them with StreetPass users. It is pretty good fun again and seemed to have more longevity than the Camera app did.

Mii Maker: Yes you guessed it, you can create your own Mii character within the Nintendo 3DS. Its very easy to do and you can even use the camera to take a photo of yourself have the 3DS scan it and then by magic, it adds some of your facial features to your Mii character. This works well most of the time, though it can be a bit hit and miss. It also allows you to share your Mii character with other 3DS devices or to a Nintendo Wii console.

StreetPass Mii Plaza: Here you get to bring Mii characters together; it lets you meet characters that have downloaded via StreetPass, collect puzzle pieces and battle against ghosts. Once again it is pretty simple but is likely to be lapped up by children in playgrounds and schools.

AR Games: Augmented Reality: These reality games use the AR Cards that come packaged with the Nintendo 3DS. You simply place an AR Card in front of the outer camera and something will come out! AR games have you moving your 3DS around your own environment. They work really well; even if some are just of well-known Nintendo characters, just make sure you try out the AR Card with a question mark on it.

Face Raiders: Another AR based game, this time it lets you take photos of yourself or your friends and then shoot them! It may be simple but you can get a lot of enjoyment out of it and once more the 3D works really well.

Activity Log: A great little application that tracks the steps you have made since owning the 3DS, keep it in your pocket and you can check out your daily record. It also keeps track of the titles that you have played, letting you know how many times you have played a certain game, as well as the average play time and more.

Download Play: This will let you download compatible games from friends to do battle on rather than own it yourself. You won't keep the game however; think of it as more of a demo.

3DS Games roundup:

There are a number of 3DS only titles out now, but lets just say that it isn't the best line up of games for a console launch that we have seen. The 3DS will run all old Nintendo DS and DSi games however; they just won't work in 3D. Here is a run down of the 3DS only games we have played through:

Rayman 3D: The first 3D platformer and one that many gamers will be picking up for their Mario fix. The game itself is ok but considering how many years ago this was originally released, it hasn't aged all that well. The game is suitably colourful and will last most gamers a few hours of play, but the 3D effect feels tacked on rather than designed for it and many people will end up turning it off.

Ridge Racer 3D: The 3D effect in Ridge Racer is excellent, not only that the game looks great too easily equalling the older PSP version. If you want a racing game at launch, this is the one to get.

Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition: Easily the best launch title and all rendered in great looking 3D. The depth adds to the game no end and the UI benefits from 3D effects too. The good thing is that not only is the 3D great, the game remains excellent too.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars: Without doubt one of the best launch titles, with great isometric 3D effects and some great gameplay. Its turn based and works perfectly.

What is missing?

Right now the Nintendo 3DS is missing the Internet Browser that has been the norm for the older DSi for sometime, it is also missing out on the Nintendo eShop, but both are due for release soon in a system update that Nintendo has promised.

3D support from companies such as Sky has also been promised, though no news has been released as to when they will make their way to the device.

Final Thoughts:

Overall we are pleased with the device. It feels well made and the 3D effects can be excellent at times, especially in games such as Ghost Recon and Super Street Fighter IV. It is just a shame that the launch line up was so poor on quality and the lack of a big game from Nintendo (bar Pilotwings) really let it down.

The built in software is very good, especially some of the AR Card based games, and with new features expected very soon via a 3DS system update the whole package should keep improving.

What the 3DS really misses right now is the Nintendo eShop, especially noticeable due to the lack of decent software. The battery also lets it down, with around 4 hours of play the most you will get out of it no matter what you do with the 3D Depth settings.

So in the end, its pretty expensive and lacking decent games, but what we do have is a great looking 3D screen with a positive future.

Final Score: 4 out of 5

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