Tech-Out (finally) reviews the Nintendo 3DS

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Nintendo’s new 3DS portable is brimming with potential, but much of that potential has yet to be realized.

Given its capabilities and popularity of its predecessors in Nintendo’s DS family of portables, the 3DS is likely a product that many gamers would enjoy, but its high price ($249.99 MSRP) means it may not be an essential purchase for anyone who is not rolling in money right now.*

The 3DS’ glasses-free 3D screen is the portable’s most hyped feature, and deservedly so. The portable’s ability to create the appearance of depth and images that seem to float behind the screen’s glass is nothing short of impressive. The technology does not yet seem to be something that will revolutionize the way people play games, although that revolution may come with future releases.


The 3DS’ strongest points, at least during this early part of its life
cycle, include its 3D camera and the innovative Augmented Reality games
that come built into the hardware. The portable’s backwards compatibility with DS titles is another plus.

The portables’ weaknesses, however,
include its short battery life and the fact that Nintendo launched the
3DS without its promised Internet browser. The browser is not scheduled
for release until Monday evening on the West Coast.

The portable’s 3D camera is actually two cameras that shoot at the same time to create a stereoscopic image. The camera cannot zoom in or out and is not really suited for taking pictures of landscapes or moving subjects, but is capable of taking photos that really seem to pop. It’s a lot of fun to take snapshots of friends, especially if they are pointing at the camera or making some kind of exaggerated gesture to take advantage of the 3D imaging capabilities. Most of the people whom I work with at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and San Bernardino Sun are not gamers, but 3DS camera impressed pretty much everyone there.

The portable also comes built in with “AR Games.”  The AR stands for augmented reality and to play the games, one aims the 3DS’ camera at a special paper cards and after recognizing the card’s the 3DS generates images that appear in its main screen along with objects in the real world. The AR Games can make it appear as if a dragon has emerged from your kitchen table, or to take pictures of real people next to Mario or Link. The 3DS’ motion sensor and gyro sensors make it possible for players to move the portable around while playing the AR Games, and I think Nintendo needs to get us much mileage out of this technology as they can with future software.

The 3DS’ downsides, however, include a short battery life and the fact that the 3D screen does strain the eyes after prolonged play. The games even advise players to take a break after playing for half and hour or so. The portable also hit stores without an Internet browser. I spend enough time in front of a computer at work, so the absence of a browser does not disappoint me all that much. Nonetheless, it’s something a lot of players would probably want to have, and will be necessary to access Nintendo’s eShop for downloadable games.

In short, the 3DS has much to offer, but gamers may have to wait some time to see the hardware reach its full potential. Besides the pros and cons of the hardware itself, there is a lot of chatter on the Internet from people who view the system’s game library as being a bit limited.

The game’s most hyped launch title, “Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition” is a remake, as is the planned 3D re-release of “Legend of Zelda:Ocarina of Time.” Perhaps the highly anticipated “Kid Icarus: Uprising” will prove to be the game’s killer app, but for now, gamers may want to wait for the 3DS’ library to get bigger before investing in the hardware.

At the moment, however, this writer is enjoying “Pilotwings Resort.” Keep an eye out on Tech-Out for a full review of the title.

(A note: Nintendo did not send Tech-Out a review copy of the 3DS until
several weeks after its March 27 launch date. I’ve avoided reading any other media
outlets’ reviews of the hardware or games, but it has been impossible to
miss gamers’ online comments about the hardware. The idea that the
portable may not warrant an immediate purchase at its MSRP seems to be a
fairly widespread opinion. I don’t intend to parrot anybody, but I do
share that view despite also holding the opinion that the 3DS does many
things well.)