Nintendo 3DS review

Review of the Nintendo 3DS handheld 3D console rated 9 out of 10
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So Nintendo’s first true follow up to the hugely successful Dual Screen system is finally here but can the 3DS live up to the reputation of its 145 million unit selling cousin? Well to find that out we’ll probably have to wait another five or six years, in the mean time let’s take a look at the Nintendo 3DS in more depth starting with a brief overview of the original Nintendo DS.

The original clunky Nintendo DS was released between November 2004 and March 2005 worldwide as an addition to Gamecube and Game Boy, a so called third pillar. Sales were slow and steady but as third party support grew over the first couple of years Nintendo felt confident enough to silently kill the Game Boy brand altogether. This action combined with a new ‘blue ocean’ strategy designed to bring non gamers to the table saw huge successes with million selling titles such as Brain Age and Nintendogs. Nintendo went on to refine the DS system by introducing a smaller sleeker model called the DSlite, this revamp is also attributed in causing a huge spike in DS sales because the new form factor and choice of colours were much more appealing to the new casual audience.

A couple of years later Nintendo once again redesigned the DS console and added two cameras, an SD memory card reader, more memory and a faster CPU - this was achieved in part by removing the ancient Game Boy Advance hardware freeing up valuable space. This system was dubbed the Nintendo DSi and this system is the most comparable to the Nintendo 3DS we have today. Oddly enough Nintendo brought out a super-sized version of the DSi and called it the DSiXL…apart from being much bigger the system is not very different to the regular DSi.

Let’s have a deeper delve into the new device with a Nintendo 3DS Hardware Review, don’t worry I shan’t get into the super nitty gritty - I don’t think it’s essential to the cause to know what CPU the system has or how much RAM is inside. Let it be known that this is a much more powerful device and rumours are that we could be seeing ports of Gamecube or even Wii games on this beauty. We’ll look at the built in software in a separate review because there is just so much to cover.

Similar in size and appearance to its predecessors, the Nintendo 3DS looks and feels just like a regular DS with its dual screens and stylus touch control. However once you turn the system on you’ll soon notice things are very different. That new screen at the top isn’t just wider than that of the old systems, it is actually able to output stereoscopic 3D without the need for special glasses. Using a parallax barrier the LCD screen actually blasts differing displays to each eye, these two 2D images are processed by the brain in much the same way as regular vision which results in a very realistic illusion of depth. The 3D effect itself is both subtle and striking at the same time, conventional glasses 3D technology you may have experienced at the cinema tends to make things pop out of the screen towards you (outward), conversely the 3D here on the Nintendo 3DS appears to be more focused inwards into the picture. A 3D depth slider is available on the right hand side of the unit and you can tweak the ‘strength’ of the effect at anytime just by moving it up or down, if you really want to you can take it all the way down and play in regular 2D.

This sort of 3D trickery doesn’t come without its compromises, firstly there are warnings all over the box, the instruction manuals and even on the system’s built in software about health and safety. If you already suffer epilepsy or motion sickness then the 3DS may give you some issues - everyone is recommended to take breaks every so often and to turn off the 3D if you encounter any discomfort. Warnings aside I have used the 3DS non stop for 2-3 hours without any issues, this is something that will affect you individually so it’s well worth testing a system in a shop before purchasing. Also you should be aware that the 3D effect is only viewable at a very controlled viewing angle, you will need to hold the unit still and facing your eyes constantly - failing to do so will result in the effect being darkened or distorted altogether.

At a glance the 3DS could be mistaken for a normal DS, this is why Nintendo have been a little funky with their colour choices. Right now the system can only be bought in Aqua Blue and Cosmos Black, both glisten in the sunlight and have an interesting mottled or ‘kitchen counter’ look about them.

DPad, face and shoulder buttons all return as you’d expect. As does the DS stylus for touch control on the bottom screen. There’s not too much difference to be had here except that the stylus itself is now a shiny silver color and is re-sizeable from around two to four inches in size (no rude jokes please). Control wise there is something new; the Circle Pad is Nintendo’s first control stick on a handheld and it’s certainly long overdue. Considering how revolutionary analogue controls were back on the N64 in 1996, we can’t believe we’ve had to wait fifteen years to finally control on screen characters with precision style on a Nintendo handheld.

The good news for previous DS owners is that the 3DS is 100% compatible with original DS games, the only title that will not work is the DS Opera Internet Browser and hardly anyone except me bought the damn thing because it wasn’t very good, and it isn’t a game. Oh you might have heard that original DS software looks bad on the 3DS; let me tell you that this is mostly overblown nonsense - yes it’s true that the 3DS upscales the video slightly but I have compared like for like with a DSi and whilst their is a small amount of pixel blurring, this is hardly game breaking and considering how useful it is to be able to play all of your 3DS games - it’s not worth worrying about.

Similary to the DSi which has two, the Nintendo 3DS features three 0.3 megapixel cameras - that’s right three. One internal and two external, the latter allows you to take 3D photos (and in the future, short movies) of your environment. This is a very cool and unique feature outside of dedicated $500 cameras but it’s a real pity that the resolution of these is so small and that there is no built in flash for evening photos.

The 3DS continues the tradtion of the DSi and features an SD Card Slot and better placed microphone, you get a 2GB SD card bundled and if you want then feel free to buy an expensive 32GB SDHC card from Amazon because the 3DS is more than ready to take it. However you’ll unlikely need that much storage until Nintendo release 3D video software via a firmware update.

Battery life has been a major concern for Nintendo and ever since the original Game Boy, they knew it was important to have a system that could go for many hours without a recharge or change of batteries. Even though we have moved on quite far from AA batteries it appears that battery tech is still lagging behind, all modern smartphone and gaming platforms are suffering and the 3DS is no different. With full 3D, WiFi and Maximum Screen Brightness you may find that the system could run low in as little as three hours. However simply by lowering the 3D a notch and turning down the brightness by just one increment I was able to play for around four hours and still have charge left. On the upside Nintendo have been very proactive and have supplied a special charging dock to encourage you to keep the 3DS at full charge whenever you’re not using it. The idea is that you play for a couple of hours and then chuck the 3DS onto the dock and it should be full and ready for you upon your next gaming session - sadly the days where you could leave your handheld in your backpack for a week are long gong, the free dock does at least make up for the inconvenience a little bit.

So how should I sum up the hardware for the Nintendo 3DS? Rating a video game out of ten is hard enough, but hardware is such a different beast. First and foremost the Nintendo 3DS looks and feels like a quality device, the hardware is sleek and the performance is good with no slowdown on the two 3D intensive games I’ve played so far (Super Monkey Ball and Pilotwings Resort). At around £220/$250 it’s certainly expensive, however the supplied software, SD card and charging dock are important factors and would have cost a bit themselves if sold separately instead of being bundled in the box. The battery issue may be a problem for those who cannot access a charge point but I have yet to run out of juice and only encountered the red battery LED once. Yes it’s true that in two years Nintendo will probably release a revamped system that may have a higher capacity battery and be a bit thinner but if you want to own this hot gaming system now I really don’t see a point in waiting because the 3D effect is certainly not going to be upgraded!

I am almost certain that the Nintendo 3DS is going to be a real hit with core gamers when more grade A titles are released over the summer, one thing I am not so certain about is if Nintendo can recreate their blue ocean strategy and convince non gamers to purchase the 3DS to train their brain…again.

If you are a Nintendo fan then this is an essential piece of gaming kit and unless you are one of the few unlucky people who may get ‘3D Sickness’ then I think you will be seriously impressed.

Those of you who are content with casual gaming on the Nintendo DS will probably not see a reason to upgrade and I can understand why. In my opinion the 3DS is worthy of a 9 out of 10 - I’m sure with time and effort Nintendo will fine tune the system and release a 3DS Lite that will likely get a perfect score.

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Related: Nintendo 3DS accessories, List of games for the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo 3DS review on Youtube

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