Review: Nintendo 3DS

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The Nintendo 3DS in Aqua Blue (Image: Chris Southcott/TECHGEEK.com.au)

Almost 6 years after the Nintendo DS launched, Nintendo has come back with more portable goodness. But are the improvements, including the new 3D functionality, in the Nintendo 3DS enough to take 400 of your hard earned dollars? Or is it just another gimmick falling flat?

The review by Chris Southcott is after the jump.

  • Score:

    7.5 / 10

  • The Good:

    3D works well, comes with dock and included games, 3D is optional, has potential.

  • The Bad:

    One analogue stick, 3D-induced headaches, no unique games yet, low quality cameras, battery life poor, expensive at $400.

  • Bottom Line:

    There is plenty of charm and this could be a viable alternative to Sony’s latest offering. But instead of feeling great, the console feels mediocre.

Hardware

The Nintendo 3DS comes in two colours, a metallic “Aqua Blue” and stock standard “Cosmos Black”, both of which look great. On the outside the design of the 3DS looks very similar to its recent predecessor, the Nintendo DSi, but looks can be deceiving.
The new portable console sports a 3.5” glasses-free 3D screen, which is bigger than the DSi’s top screen.
The device also has a 3” resistive touch screen on the bottom, which is almost the same as the DSi’s touch screen. The 3DS touch-screen still uses a stylus, like the DS, but the screen is a fair bit more finger touch-friendly. Sadly the touch screen’s abilities are still not on the same level as, say, an iPhone. This includes no multi-touch.

And the disappointing thing about this is that it feels like Nintendo just stuck with a resistive screen for backwards compatibility with DS games. And sure backwards compatibility is great, but it shouldn’t stand in the way of a new consoles innovations.

The console also has 3 cameras, one on front and two on the back which produce 3D photos. Photos taken with the front camera look like any other front-facing cameras camera. Not good. They are also in 2D. But I can give them a break for that because I’ve never seen a stunning front-facing camera.

But the sad bit is that the photos taken with the back camera, while producing a good 3D effect, are terrible and at times just as bad as photos taken with the front camera. In fact my $79 Nokia phone can take much better-looking photo’s with it’s 2MP camera, although it is obviously in 2D.

(Image: Chris Southcott/TECHGEEK.com.au)

But the 3DS camera does provide a unique gameplay experience out of the box. An included game allows the player to put an included AI card on the floor of anything and make the camera put something on it.
An included game uses this and it uses it excellently. If you put the card anywhere, a 3D box will appear and instantly an experience that could only be possible on a portable console is possible. And it’s amazing and has lots of potential.

(Image: Chris Southcott/TECHGEEK.com.au)

Other improvements include an analogue stick, or a “circle pad” as Nintendo likes to call it. It’s fine, but the disappointment is that there is only one. This basically rules out FPS games entirely, unless the game uses the touch-screen. And I honestly cannot see that happening.

Elsewhere the console has an SD slot and includes a 2GB card for game saves and, presumably in the future, game add-ons and full downloads similar to Xbox Live Arcade games. It’s good to see that Nintendo is allowing the console to grow storage-wise, but some inbuilt storage for game saves would have been nice. And I love the fact that they included a decent sized card. Because we all hate extra accessories.

(Image: Chris Southcott/TECHGEEK.com.au)

The battery life of the 3DS isn’t amazing. Nintendo says you get around 3-5 hours of battery with the system. And while I didn’t thoroughly record the battery life, I did get close to this amount of time out of it. If you turn off Wi-Fi the battery life increased, as with 3D, but not by much.

Included with the 3DS is a docking station. So recharging is easy. But I left the 3DS in standby with Wi-Fi on for a day and it died. In standby mode! It’s not utterly terrible, but you have to be careful with it and that’s likely to be improved in the next 3DS.

The 3DS also has a gyro and accelerometer, allowing gameplay experiences similar to that on an iPhone, iPad or almost any other smart phone. None of the games available to me during the review used this, but I’m sure games will use it in the future.

Overall, while the hardware is good, it’s not nearly perfect and I don’t think it was out of Nintendo’s reach to produce something great. It feels like a lot of missed opportunities thrown together.

The 3D

As usual Nintendo needs a gimmick and this time that gimmick is glasses-free 3D. And while it works fine, the technology still feels rather uncooked.
The effect is superb and is a great example of glasses free 3D. But there are a few issues.

For example, moving slightly (which is what you do in the included AI game) causes the screen to blur. While this doesn’t happen regularly in other games, it can be a bit annoying.

Another problem which may or may not be just happening to me is the headaches. Almost every time I’d play the Nintendo 3DS with the 3D-effect on I’d get a headache. And while you may not get one, many others have reported this problem too. And it’s just not good enough.

Really, the 3D is good, if not great. But the limitations and side-effects are not.

Software

(Image: Chris Southcott/TECHGEEK.com.au)

The software for the 3DS is great, but a bit unfinished. For example, at the time of review the 3DS did not have a Web Browser, an “eShop”, a way to transfer DS content to the 3DS, a Virtual Console and other things. These are all promised to come in a future update, but it’s a bit unacceptable to not have a web browser from day one when every phone and PSP has one.

The menu’s are otherwise easy to navigate and can be updated via a Wi-Fi Connection.

The Games

But who cares about the hardware or software. My biggest concern about the 3DS is the games.
Here is what was available in stores when I got the review hardware:

Key

Bold – By Nintendo

Red – Available on iOS or Android

• nintendogs™ + cats: Golden Retriever & New Friends

• nintendogs™ + cats: French Bulldog & New Friends

• nintendogs™ + cats: Toy Poodle & New Friends

• Super Street Fighter™ IV 3D Edition

• The Sims™ 3

• PES 2011 3D – Pro Evolution Soccer

• LEGO® Star Wars™ III The Clone Wars™

• RIDGE RACER™ 3D

• Super Monkey Ball™ 3D

• SAMURAI WARRIORS: Chronicles

• Asphalt™ 3D

• Tom Clancy’s™ Ghost Recon® Shadow Wars

• Tom Clancy’s™ Splinter Cell® 3D

• Rayman® 3D (Rayman 2 on iOS)

And sure, these can be fun. But I can play similar games on an iPod touch, one of the 3DS’s competitors. When I lay down cash for a dedicated console I look for quality, original exclusive games and right now, Nintendo hasn’t produced any.

And the upcoming first-party games are just rehashes of old games including Zelda, Mario Kart and Paper Mario. Sure, Nintendo has been doing this for years and Nintendo fans will hate me saying this. But why can’t Nintendo at least change some of their games? I don’t buy a console for remakes. I might have before when I owned a Game Boy Advance, but now I’m growing tired of the same games on improved hardware.

And if people want these remakes, fine. But make something original at least.

Wrap Up

(Image: Chris Southcott/TECHGEEK.com.au)

While I absolutely adored the Nintendo 3DS hardware, a lack of quality launch titles, the small battery and the headaches I received from the 3D effect left me underwhelmed. Still, there is plenty of charm and this could be a viable alternative to Sony’s more powerful NGP as long as some good, original titles come out.