I’ve spent the last few days fiddling around with Nintendo’s revolutionary 3DS handheld gaming system, and I must say that I’m truly blown away by what they have achieved. The 3DS, if anything, proves that glasses-less 3D is a reality, and it looks just as good as the 3D mediums that require those annoying eye frames. The 3DS is a true piece of technical achievement, and even though there may not be a strong lineup of software, it’s definitely something you should see if you consider yourself a gadget geek. Hopefully, by the end of this post you’ll have a better idea on what Nintendo has created, and you’ll find yourself needing a 3DS in your life. It really is something to behold, so I at least encourage you to test one out at your local game retailer.
The Awesome – Glasses-less 3D, Built-in Software, Surprising Surround Sound, 3D Camera
The Not So Awesome – Price, Battery, Brain Melting, Limited Viewing Angles, Zero First Party Software Support
Without a doubt the true reason to check out the Nintendo 3DS is for the 3D imagery that doesn’t require those clunky frames to be wrapped around your dome like other 3D mediums require. I was skeptical at first that the 3DS could actually pull off ‘Avatar’ quality 3D on a tiny screen sans glasses, but within the first few moments after I booted this thing up I knew that my concerns were false. The 3D effect on the 3DS has the same quality that you’d find in movies that have used it in a tasteful manner (See Avatar and Tron: Legacy). It isn’t the in your face gag where you feel like you’re looking at a cheap hologram effect that pops out of the screen in an attempt to blow you away.
Rather, it creates a sense of depth to the picture, which is best described as the effect you get while looking down a hole, or box. There’s a sense that what you’re seeing on-screen could physically be touched if you tried to poke your finger at it. The backdrop of games makes it seem as if the world is alive and real. For example, the island resort in Pilot Wings looks similar to what you see while looking out the window of a real plane. I didn’t feel like the plane I was flying was just moving around on a flat static background. I could feel the depth of the game world through its use of non-sucky 3D.
3DS Package Contents
Honestly, it felt no different than watching the Na’vi fly around on their bird dragons, except for the fact that I didn’t have to wear a dark tinted pair of glasses that probably had HIV on them from the last user. The 3DS has definitely confirmed that 3D can be executed on both mobile and larger devices without the need of glasses.
Nintendo has done a great job packing in some custom built 3DS software to get you oriented to its new style of 3D gameplay. From the moment you turn this thing on for the first time Nintendo gets you involved in tuning its 3D capabilities. From there you have to go through the usual steps of setting up your Mii, and other system info such as date/time, Internet, and sharing preferences. Once the initial setup is complete you can immediately see what the 3DS capabilities are when it comes to its use of the 3rd dimension. The Wii-like menu displays in a rich 3D fashion, which will captivate your eyes from the get go. I found myself just staring at each of the available menu selections and their respective 3D look. I’m telling you that your brain will be dumbfounded when you first take in what the 3DS has to offer.
Once I was able to peel my eyes off of the menus I started launching each available piece of built-in software. First, I started by creating my Mii, which is a unique experience in itself. You can have the inner-cam on the 3DS take a picture of your face and render it onto your digital Mii. All of the Mii customization takes place in 3D, which makes the usual boring process of creating a digital avatar something to actually enjoy. Plus, it’s a hoot to see your Mii in 3D like it’s starring in its own 3D cartoon.
Now that I had my Mii I moved on to the next built-in piece of software, which is an alternate reality game called Face Raiders. This game takes captured images of people’s faces, or even your own, and pastes them on helicopter like fighting machines. After the skinning process Face Raiders then utilizes the outward facing 3D cameras to create the game’s world using your own surroundings essentially creating an alternate reality in the palm of your hands. Although, the true magic of this game is showcased when you have to start fending off those face-bots you created when you first launched the game. Basically, you look at your 3DS screen which has a mix of the real world and the game world on it all while you shoot little yellow balls at your face. Through the use of the built-in gyroscope you have to move around the room space to conquer each wave of enemies. It’s a great use of the 3D cameras, and definitely got me excited for more alternate reality based games.
Luckily, the 3DS comes packed with even more built-in software that highlights how the 3DS can turn your surroundings into an entirely new setting through the use of 3D alternate reality. I’m talking about the AR Games software that is used in conjunction with the deck of AR cards that come packed in the 3DS box. These little things are pure genius! Using one of the cards on a flat surface and the 3DS cameras, you’re treated to an unique experience that ranges from dragons popping out of your boring coffee table to that same table being warped around like its in some sort of CGI laden movie.
The best part about these cards is that you can also use a version of them on your Android smartphone, so you don’t have to lug them around like you’re a 10-year-old kid showing off his baseball card collection (Unfortunately, at this time it doesn’t seem like the Android version of the AR Cards are available on the Android Market anymore, guessing Nintendo got wind and shut it down, d*cks!). Anyway, each card will present different 3D images on your screen while you look at them through the 3D cameras. Some of them will also present games to play, and you can even take 3D pictures of the card images to store on the SD card. Below you can see an example of what these cards look like. Luckily I downloaded the app for these things before they were pulled, because there’s no way I’m carrying these things around wit me.
The 3DS’s capabilities to provide an extra dimension without the need for glasses isn’t the only thing that’s impressive about this portable gaming machine. I’ve found myself to be quite impressed with the built-in stereo speakers on this thing. They don’t have any type of booming bass, or BOSE like sound, but for tiny little speakers these things put out an impressive range of surround sound. While playing the Ghost Recon title I kept wondering if I was hearing the surround sound from my 7.1 home theater, but it was indeed coming from the 3DS. Now the sound isn’t as rich as a pair of high-end computer speakers, but for what they are I have no complaints. They provide a great sense of surround sound that don’t require you to wear a pair of expensive headphones if you’re not into wearing them.
Not to be outdone by the built-in software and quality surround sound, the 3DS cameras are also a thing of technical mastery. Using the two outward facing cameras you can capture your surroundings in 3D and store those pictures on an included SD card. The quality isn’t of the same standards as today’s mobile cameras, but the pictures are in f*cking 3D, so who gives a rat’s a*s if they’re not in an insanely rich resolution. It’s unbelievable to see your plain living space turned into something you’ve only seen in the movies.
You can even add varying effects to these pictures through the use of the 3DS mic (You literally blow stars and sh*t into frame), as well as the typical camera effects such as B&W and Sepia settings. You can’t really share the images because you’d need a 3D enabled device to see them, but it’s still cool to be able to show off what the camera can do to other gadget geeks.
As you can see the 3DS is quite an amazing device. It’s similar look and feel to older DS models should make it feel comfortable to anyone who has used one of Nintendo’s portable gaming machines. The inclusion of an analog stick is a nice addition to those gamers that prefer a joystick versus d-pads. It has great built-in software, and the 3D technology is a sight to be seen. Not to mention this little thing busts out some impressive sound via it’s tiny speakers. Although, not everything is puppy dogs and ice cream with the 3DS.
The Not So Awesome
I would have to say that the $250 price point for the 3DS is a little too steep for what you get. Without a doubt this thing has some amazing technology, but I don’t think its $250 worth. In fact, I’ve seen reports that the parts involved in the 3DS only cost around $103 buckaroos. I would say a more fair price point would be in the $175-$200 range. That way Nintendo is still making some margin on these things, and it’ll be more readily available to gamers on a budget. If money ain’t a thing to you then pick one up, but if you’re hurting in the wallet I’d hold off on picking up a 3DS until the price goes down, or when food stamps become an acceptable form of payment for electronic devices.
Not unlike the less than stellar batteries found in other high-end mobile devices the 3DS battery also suffers from a lack of long life post charging. After just a few hours with playing with it, my battery dropped down to about 2 bars on its power meter. This is even after lowering the brightness, and enabling the power-saver function to hopefully squeeze more life out of it. Nintendo even states in the manual that the 3DS battery will only last for 3-5 hours depending on screen brightness and length of game sessions. Considering this is a mobile gaming platform, the 3DS doesn’t provide that much play time while being away from its charging station. Don’t expect to take any long car trips and be able to entertain yourself the whole time by playing on your 3DS.
The other crappy thing about the 3DS battery is that it requires up to 2-3 hours of charging just to get it back to full strength. It’s not like you can just drop it on the charger while you take a dump and have it ready to rock immediately after you wipe your bunghole. This is just another device that makes me wish that we had some sort of mobile fuel cells that could carry a charge for days, even after extended sessions with it. Let’s get nuclear with these things already!
Brain Melting Effect
I haven’t read through all of the safety warnings in regards to the 3DS, but I’d imagine that you shouldn’t be staring at this thing in 3D for too long. For me it seems like I can go for about an hour or so before my eyes and brain feel like they’re becoming cross-eyed. It’s almost as if viewing this thing in 3D causes your brain and eyes to work out muscles that have never been used before to render the 3D images. I’m not going to say that the 3DS gives me a headache, but it definitely makes it feel like I just worked out my brain like I took it to the gym and put it on the bench press. I would not recommend playing this thing for extended periods of time unless you want to have that cross-eyed feeling all day long.
I’d be interested to learn if other early adopters are experiencing the same effect, but if you’ve felt a little funky while watching a 3D movie, then I’d say you’ll probably experience the same awkward feeling while gaming on the 3DS. This isn’t a barrier to buying the product, but I’d make sure not to abuse your mind with overly long sessions of viewing content in 3D. Besides, if these get too bad than you can just dial down the 3D setting using the easy-to-use slider on the side of the 3DS.
Limited Viewing Angles
The one downside to the 3DS’s use of glasses-less 3D is the fact that you have to be looking straight at your device to get the full effect. If you tilt the 3DS too far left, or too far right, you’ll be able to see the two images used to create the 3D look. This requires you to hold the 3DS in a certain fashion making sure that you don’t let the angle slip to far one way or the other. After a long session I could see some arm fatigue creeping in if you’re not a well oiled machine like myself. Although, I’m alright with the limited viewing angle considering it doesn’t require me to use glasses while playing with the 3DS.
No Chance of Seeing 3D at Angles Like This
Zero First Party Software Support
Other critics have claimed that the launch software for the 3DS is kind of weak. I slightly disagree with that point because there are at least 4-5 games that are worth buying from the launch lineup, but what I do find curious is why Nintendo didn’t have any of their first party characters ready to roll at launch. You’d think a company that had built its rep on franchises like Super Mario and Zelda would’ve had one of these iconic mascots appear in their very own 3DS game. There is a Zelda remake coming out, but it’s currently not available. I just feel like the 3DS would’ve been a great medium to debut an original first party title starring its fanboy loved first party characters. It’s not like the absence of Mario ruins the 3DS launch, but it would’ve been nice to see a familiar face on this new 3D gaming platform.
3DS Cart Size
In my opinion the 3DS does have some faults, but they’re not strong enough to deny this things awesomeness. If you’ve got some disposable income, don’t mind being mind f*cked, and don’t care about Nintendo IP’s I’d have no issue recommending this product to you. It really is amazing and again highlights that we’re in the midst of a technological renaissance.
The Final Verdict
The Nintendo 3DS is one of the most amazing pieces of tech to hit the gadget space in the last couple of years. If you’ve ever doubted that 3D couldn’t be achieved without glasses, the 3DS does a great job proving otherwise. It produces an amazing sense of depth in its menus, built-in software, and games. You will feel like you’ve been transported to the future while holding this thing and viewing its 3D in the palms of your hands. It may be a little pricey and have some faults like the safety hazards, and crappy battery, but the pros outweigh the cons.
This is especially the case if you’re a Nintendo fanboy, as well as a fan of their mobile gaming machines. I give the Nintendo 3DS a solid EB 8/10, and recommend it as a buy to anyone whose got some cash burning a hole in your pocket. If you can’t afford one you have to at least go and demo one at your local game shop. Hopefully I’ve been able to shed a little bit of light on this technical wonder to help make your purchasing decision less painful. You can also check out some Bourne Identity style videos of the 3DS below. Sorry for the shakes, I was not filming these while an earthquake was taking place. You’ve been blown away at what Nintendo has pulled off with the 3DS…
3DS Initial Setup
3DS Setup Pt. 2
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