Nintendo 3DS Hardware

Posted by Lewis Denby (March 25, 2011)

Iíve got a joke for you. What do you get if you cross a Nintendo DS with stereoscopic 3D? A headache! Ahaha!

Thatís the sort of comment weíre going to see a lot of over the next few days, and perhaps even weeks. Itís true: staring through this magical window and into a world of glasses-free 3D tech, while impressive, isnít exactly easy on the old eyes. The recommendation when you boot up a game is that you should take a ten minute break every half-hour, which is the sort of thing you see written on the back of most game boxes and scoff at. With the 3DS, Iíve found myself taking short breaks - admittedly not quite ten minutes - as often as I feasibly can.

The 3DS isnít perfect, then, and weíre going to hear plenty of complaints to this effect. Other gripes will likely be that itís difficult to appreciate if you have dodgy eyesight, or that you have to hold the console fairly still if you donít want the image fragmenting every few seconds. Theyíre all valid issues, one raising what is, for many, a genuine health concern. But I still think the 3DS is marvellous.

Iíve had one for a little over two weeks now. During that time, from the second I first laid my hands on it, all Iíve wanted to do is go out into the street, walk up to the nearest person, thrust it in their face and shout, ďDo you have one of these? Do you

The Nintendo 3DS is a delightful little toy. And while its success is, of course, going to largely depend on the quality of games it receives, there is no doubt that this is a very special step forward for gaming.

It might not sound like much, but the 3D image is a delight. Weíve seen it before with silly glasses on, but here itís different somehow. Images donít appear to leap out of the screen, as such. Instead, itís like gazing into a big box of wonder in motion. The images donít spring forwards towards you; they edge backwards with the most astonishing depth effect. Itís like staring through a porthole into another dimension. And thereís nothing ridiculous on my face!

It can take time for your eyes to adjust, particularly in games that utilise the effect to its fullest degree. Making it work on its highest setting involves allowing yourself to go very slightly cross-eyed, which isnít the most natural way to play a videogame. At the same time, though, once youíve got the knack of it, itís difficult to imagine it ever having not worked - and if itís proving really stubborn, as it has been for my girlfriend, you can always turn the 3D slider down a little way until the picture begins to form with more clarity.

Eyestrain? Yeah, probably, after a while. Like I say, Iíve found myself wanting to look around the room for a bit every few minutes. I say listen to your body. So far I havenít had a headache and my eyes have felt fine, and Iím assuming thatís because as soon as I get an inkling that this might change, I take a break. Be sensible with your video games, kids. If the mainstream media has taught us anything, itís that theyíre evil killers to be feared at all costs.

So, other than the 3D effect, what do you get with your new handheld? Thereís the camera, most notably. You can use it to take 3D pictures which, while grainy, really do appear rounded and full. Itís quite extraordinary. The two pre-installed games, AR Games and Face Raiders, also use the camera to augment the world around you. AR Games sees you taking on a series of mini challenges that take place right in front of you on your coffee table, while Face Raiders allows you to shoot your friends in the face as their heads fly around your living room. You probably wonít be playing either of them a year down the line, but for now theyíre a lot of fun, and superbly show off what the console can do.

Thereís also the 3DSí social functionality, which Nintendoís marketing folk have been very eager to push. Obviously, since Iím writing this on the eve of the consoleís UK launch, I havenít had much time to check this out. The idea of StreetPass is that you can turn your console onto sleep mode, lob it in your pocket, and wander around your town with it; if you pass someone else whoís done the same, and who has the same game as you, itíll share stats and simulate matches between the pair of you. Iím not quite sure itís something Iíd be particularly interested in, but Iím sure itíll find its audience. Plus thereís something a little bit voyeuristic about it, somehow. Itís like dogging for gamers.

Except different.

SpotPass also allows for data-transmission on the move, but this time lets you share and download content from what is set to be a huge number of wireless hotspots around the globe. Thereíll be plenty of content available via this system, weíre told - but once again, of course, itís not something I can comment on from experience.

Still, even without these features, the 3DS comes close to being a resounding success. The build quality is generally solid (aside from a slightly plasticky touch to the area below the bottom screen), the controls are good (although the circle pad, while excellent for a handheld, canít quite match a full gamepadís analogue stick), and its core selling point is hugely impressive.

The launch lineup is perhaps not enormously strong. Iíd recommend the excellent Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition as your first purchase, or maybe the uncommonly addictive Pilotwings Resort. I hear Ridge Racer 3D is exquisite, though Iíve not played that yet.

But with plenty of exciting titles on the way in the coming months, Iíd say, without hesitation, that you should buy a 3DS if youíve got the cash for it. Itís a great gadget, and while it doesnít change the face of gaming, it offers a new facet to the experience that you canít find anywhere else.


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