Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: Nintendo 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS released today (March 27th) in North America and I have gotten my grubby mitts on a cosmo black system (the 3DS is also available in aqua blue.) The system is launching for $249 and games run between $40-50 each. The 3DS has improved graphics and processing power compared to the now old Nintendo DS. But, the real draw of the 3DS is glasses-free 3D gaming.

What other physical features does the 3DS have? Well, its bottom screen is a touch-screen like the old DS had. It has a slide pad now, which acts a lot like a joystick, and makes playing games a lot easier. I should also note that the 3D effect is not mandatory as there is a 3D slider on the side so you can play with maximum 3D, some 3D, or no 3D at all. And I as I mentioned above, improved computing technology. Oh, and it can play old DS games!

Battery life deserves its own section. The battery life on the 3DS is just not good. If you are playing with the 3D effect on you will find your 3DS lasting as little as 2 hours. Which is pathetic. With 3D off, you can manage to get 5 hours or so out of the handheld. Which is still not great. It'll be interesting to see what third-party manufacturers come up with to help extend the 3DS' battery life. At least Nintendo included a well-designed charging cradle to make juicin' up your 3DS nice and easy.

Software features? There are a lot of built-in things to do with your 3DS. For example, you can make your own Mii like you can on the Wii. You can play AR games with included cards (you use the 3DS' cameras to play games.) And an upcoming free update will allow you to even browse the web on your 3DS. For more about the AR games, see below.

Enough about all the features and whatnot, is it actually fun to use? Yes, yes it is. The system feels great in the hands and all of the buttons are well-placed. The system has a bit of weight to it, but it is by no means too heavy to play for an extended period of time. It is well-built and Nintendo will be hard-pressed to find much else besides increasing battery life (see above) to improve upon with the 3DS. So the system itself is good, what can you do with it right ouf of the box? Play AR games, of course! The AR card games that come packed in are fun enough that if none of the launch games fit your fancy, you don't really need to feel pressured to buy any. You just place one of the included cards on a flat surface and the 3D cameras recognize the card transform your table or counter into a game environment. You can even shoot at virtual enemies that pop into life right in your home. The AR games are a great way to show your friends and family what the 3DS can do.

What about the actual 3D effect? Being able to play a game in 3D without glasses or awful colors is pretty awesome. However, the 3DS has a very narrow range where the 3D effect looks good. You can't tilt your 3DS very much left or right or else everything looks terrible. So if you're in a car on a bumpy trip or on a shaky train, you may want to turn 3D off. Of course, turning off the 3D is an option all the time and the games still look great either way. The 3DS' main feature may be glasses-free 3D, but the 3D is never really a requirement. Also, it is worth nothing that with extended use of 3D, my eyes did feel strained and a bit tired, but I didn't get a headache like some people have allegedly experienced.

So, should you buy one or not? It's hard to say. The launch game line-up is pretty weak. There are no killer-apps right now for the 3DS. But if you have $250 burning a hole in your pocket and you have interest in the games dropping later this year like Zelda, Mario Kart, etc., then sure , pick one up. For me, it was worth it because I love Nintendo handhelds and Super Street Fighter IV is awesome (more on that in a separate post.) But for those out there who are less hardcore and don't have any particular games on the horizon they really want or don't have much spare cash, I'd save your money for now and look to pick a 3DS up over the summer.

Score for the Nintendo 3DS system and built-in games and features: 8 (good) out of 10

If you have any questions about the 3DS or its games, ask me in the comments below and I'll answer them the best I can.

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