Some of my happiest gaming memories involve Nintendo, a company who for many years has created innovative and exciting and above all fun hardware. Developers have repeatedly flocked to Nintendo products, safe in the knowledge that no matter how bizarre the invention, it will somehow succeed. Take the Wii for example, few understood exactly what motion control was going to bring to the gaming market. Years later and Sony and Microsoft are playing catchup with a system which despite being less powerful, continues to sell.
The 3DS is very much the same, why two screens? Why 3D? Because Nintendo knows with a bit of developer magic and innovation that it will work. Many are eager to get their hands on the console simply to see the glasses free 3D in action, unawares of what else the 3DS has to offer. Nintendo has created very much a complete portable gaming package, with the 3DS having unparalleled device to device wireless connectivity and seamless ways to battle friends.
Ultimately it feels as if the 3D element of the 3DS is more an ancillary part of the overall gaming setup. Bring in the easy to switch on/off WiFi, StreetPass which lets you share Miis and game with friends and passers-by, plus improved graphics and an analogue stick and you have a very formidable piece of tech.
Why are we reviewing this you may ask? The 3DS doesn’t make calls, nor can it send texts. What it is however is the first portable console to be released since the mobile app explosion. No longer do games cost the £39.99 that Nintendo is asking, instead something like Street Fighter IV can be obtained for 59p on iOS (admittedly not in 3D). With the imminent release of the Xperia Play and games rumoured to be priced between $5 and $10, Nintendo’s offering is looking mighty expensive.
But then the 3DS is a completely dedicated games console and this can make all the difference. It is important to forget for a moment the 3D functionality and remember instead that at its core the 3DS is a Nintendo product and one that brings with kind of gaming pedigree they are synonymous with. Sony may get lucky with the Xperia Play, grabbing the retro audience with re-released PSone classics but in all likelihood the 3DS will become the new mobile gaming king.
The success of Angry Birds has proven that people want a different gaming experience on their mobiles. Simple pick up and play applications which run across platforms and for different hardware are key. This means developers can never really get to the ‘meat’ of a single system, pushing it to its absolute limit. This became immediately clear the first time I played on the 3DS. For a few years now I have been used to casual on/off gaming on my iPhone, never really immersing myself in any app for longer than a few days. But the experience the 3DS gives has gotten me addicted. Somehow the combination of dual-screens and a stylus just so much better than anything my phone can offer, despite it being more powerful. I tested this by playing GTA Chinatown wars on both my iPhone and on Nintendo’s console, the 3DS won outright.
Hardware wise the 3DS is fairly impressive, having that kind of kid-proof build that you find in most Nintendo products. Things don’t ever feel flimsy, with controls looking like they could withstand hundreds of hours of gaming. Personally I wasn’t so keen on the plastic build, nor the tri-tone colour scheme which is no where near as nice as the older generations of DS.
The inclusion of a dedicated on/off button for WiFi is very useful, especially for those who plan on using StreetPass. So too is storing the stylus up the top of the device, which feels secure in a way that you couldn’t imagine it dropping out the console and losing it on the floor.
The screen is obviously the star of the show and believe me the first time you see 3D without glasses, you will be impressed. People have been saying that it tires their eyes, or that they simply can’t see the effect at all. I found however that everyone had a ‘sweet spot’ for the 3D slider, which once they found meant they could get the full benefit of the effect without tiring their eyes.
Nintendo didn’t exactly go to town on the resolution front when it came to the 3DS cameras, which turn out relatively noisy and grainy shots. They are definitely fun and shooting in 3D is pretty cool, but I would have liked to see a few more megapixels.
The 3DS launch lineup feels a bit less disappointing once some of the games have been played. Many feel let down by the lack of Ocarina of Time or Starfox at release, but things like Pilotwings will more than pass the time.
If you are the sort of person who games on your mobile but wants more substantial titles to carry in your pocket, then the 3DS is for you.