For now, the Nintendo 3DS comes in two colors: Cosmo Black and Aqua Blue. I prefer mine to jump out a bit, so I got the Aqua Blue.
This device just looks like the future. The fit and finish are superb, there are all kinds of slick sliders and buttons on it, and it’s got a great heft. It’s an extremely comfortable device to hold, and the screens are gorgeous.
When you boot it up for the first time and flip that slider to full 3D, the feeling you get is pretty much the same feeling you probably had the first time you used the Wiimote. When I first got my Nintendo Wii, I wrote in November of 2006:
“The very first time you hold the remote and point it at the screen is a magical experience. It is one of those rare “ahhhh… yes, this is it!” moments when you have to wonder why they didn’t think of this sooner.”
That is the exact same feeling I got with the 3DS. Nintendo continues to prove themselves visionary time and again with their bar-raising technology. The moment you see the 3D screen pop to life without glasses, you know you’re holding the future in your hands. It won’t be long before other companies jump on board and imitate Nintendo, just like they did with Kinect and Move. Nintendo may never be able to say “We appeal to the core gamer”, but they will always be able to say “We invented this…”
The 3DS’ main interface is much like the Wii. The buttons are huge, with friendly icons and not many options. This is good for most people, frustrating for those of us who like to feel totally in control of our devices. I couldn’t, for example, figure out how to format my SD card. It comes bundled with a 2gb SD card, but I have a 32gb that I’m not using for much, so I wanted to put it in the 3DS so I could download games and stuff for it. I popped it out, put it in my PC, formatted it there, and stuck it back in.
There aren’t, however, any games to download yet, as the Store feature is missing, as is the DSiWare feature. They’re both “coming in a future software update.” The 3DS today feels very much like a launch-day device.
Not that it matters; there’s plenty to do with the 3DS even if you didn’t purchase any launch titles.
I have to dedicate an entire section to Face Raiders. This is the most absurd game I’ve ever played. You start off by taking a picture of your face (or someone else’s). It recognizes the face, quickly 3D maps it, and applies it to an in-game enemy that floats around the room and taunts you. Oh yeah, I need to pause for a moment and tell you that I mean that literally—you play in the room you’re standing in because the 3DS is an augmented-reality gaming system. It uses the two cameras on the back to show you the room through the 3DS screen, so the 3DS becomes a window into an alternate reality. Yes, it’s still your kitchen, and look—there’s your microwave… However, holes are being ripped in the fabric of reality by the floating heads of you and your friends. You have to fire yellow balls at the heads to prevent them from destroying your existence and poking holes into another dimension. The boss appears, and it’s YOUR FACE on a floating, Vader-like samurai head. The mouth grins, the face laughs, and the eyebrows raise in a taunt. The CPU power of the 3DS must be quite impressive to handle all of this in real-time.
It renders 3D quite well over the real-time 3D background provided by the two rear-facing cameras. The augmented reality features are hilarious and frankly, mind-boggling.
The 3DS rejects your reality and substitutes it with its own…
Speaking of augmented reality, there is an app called AR Games. You put a little card on a table and stand about 14 inches above it, with the 3DS pointed at it. You see the card and your table on screen. Suddenly, the table morphs and warps and a dragon pops out of your table. Next thing you know, you’re spinning around it, firing darts at it to kill it. It can take some getting used to—the idea that you have to physically move around the object you see on your screen in order to hit various points on the body. These preliminary AR games are definitely a novelty and a proof-of-concept, as there isn’t that much depth to them, but they serve the same purpose Wii Sports did back in ’06—you hand somebody this device, point them at the card, and they suddenly gasp and exclaim, “WOW, WHAT IS GOING ON?”
Worth the price?
The launch library is admittedly weak, but it promises to get good soon. I didn’t buy any launch titles because none of them were compelling enough. I never owned a DS; whenever I wanted to play a DS game I borrowed one of my kids’ DSes, which annoyed them endlessly. This is why I bought it: To have one in-house at Icrontic for game reviews, but also to serve as my own DS. I’m extremely excited for Kid Icarus. That’s going to be my first 3DS game purchase.
The DS emulation is truly that—it literally drops into DS mode when you tell it to. That’s fine, but it suffers from what I consider the biggest single failure for the DS: the lack of support for WPA2 Wi-fi networks. It’s especially annoying because the 3DS does support WPA2 encryption, but the second you drop it into DS mode, it’s gone. That’s frustrating, because that means I have to set up a second, low-encryption network at home just for the DS to connect to DSiWare.
A minor complaint, to be sure, and one that will only frustrate nerds like me.
The 3DS is $249.99 at Amazon right now. That’s definitely a high price, and one that most would consider appropriate for a full-sized console system. However, when you consider the futuristic technology you’re holding in the palm of your hand, it becomes understandable. We go out and spend hundreds of dollars on smart phones and tablets and other devices, all which do the same kinds of things—some faster, some brighter, some bigger. The 3DS, on the other hand, does something ground-shatteringly new. Without trying to sound cliché, it truly does bring gaming to an entirely new dimension. Any geek should be able to appreciate that.