Friday, March 25, 2011

Nintendo 3DS jumps on the 3D craze

In stores March 27, 2011; $249.99

Nintendo jumps into the 3D craze with its latest handheld console, the Nintendo 3DS. Should you be a first adopter or wait to jump into the fray?

Reviewing a new system is always difficult. Your impressions are ultimately formed by the usually limited amount of games that are out at launch. For the 3DS, my review unit came packed with "Madden Football," "Super Street Fighter IV -3D Edition," "Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars," "Pilotwings Resort," "Nintendogs & Cats: Toy Poodle and New Friends," and "Steel Diver."

Mini-reviews of the games will be posted over the weekend. I'll keep this limited to a review of the unit itself.
What I liked:
The 3D. The game delivers the 3D experience without having to wear those dorky glasses. A slide switch on the 3D screen enables you to lessen the 3D effects or shut them off all together.
The circle pad: The joystick-esque circle pad is an upgrade over the DS' direction pad. Running diagonally has always been a challenge with the direction pad, but the circle pad handled it with ease.
Backward compatibility: The 3DS plays all DS games, which means I don't have to carry both with me.
Mii-Maker: The facing camera can snap a picture of you and the system will create an avatar (called a Mii) based on the picture. Mine is below:

3D pictures: two cameras in the forward-facing lid enable you to snap 3D pictures.
Street Pass: While I wasn't able to fully test it, the "Street Pass" software that comes built-in with the console shows promise. When enabled, it allows your 3DS to communicate with all other enabled 3DS units in wireless range. You collect each other's Miis, creating a virtual neighborhood of people from your neighborhood. In the Street Mii Plaza, you are able to swap puzzle pieces and gain characters for the built-in role playing game "Find Mii." In the game, you control other Mii's you've collected as they embark on a quest to rescue you.
"AR Games": The console came with a pack of six "AR GAMES" cards (augmented reality). In a brightly-lit area, you place one of the cards on a surface and then aim the forward-facing camera lenses at the card. The game literally springs to 3D life from the card. Granted, the games are simple target games, but the concept is pretty cool.
"Face Raiders": Another of the built-in games, it puts your face (or the face or your friend or family member) onto the form of a propeller-wearing alien trying to break through their realm into your world.

What I didn't like:
I hate the size of the stylus (the pen-like object used to manipulate things on the touchscreen). I frequently lost the Nintendo DS stylus and the 3DS stylus is even smaller:

The Nintendo DS stylus is on top. The 3Ds stylus is below. I give it a week before I've lost it.

The 3D: I learned the hard way that watching 3D images on a moving L train is a one-way ticket to motion sicknessville. Sure, you can turn the 3D off, but that just negates one of the reasons to buy the 3DS in the first place. As it has been used in the games, the 3D effects haven't really impressed me.

Bottom line: As launches go, it's a nifty piece of technology, provided you don't already own a DS. I just haven't seen a killer app that would make you want to rush right out and be a first adopter, though.

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