Can Nintendo’s new 3DS handheld live up to the hype?

Playtest reveals augmented reality games as best showcase for 3D

Can Nintendo’s new 3DS handheld live up to the hype?

This piece could discuss technical specifications and the history of Nintendo’s innovative design, but instead let’s cut to the chase: does the 3D work? Happily the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. It’s actually pretty amazing. With the 3DS Nintendo have launched the first mass market 3D entertainment system that doesn’t require glasses and it’s hard not to be thrilled when you first see it in action.

Unfortunately the 3D effect doesn’t show up in photos or videos of the device, so the only way to experience it is with a hands on playtest. When you first set eyes on the upper 3D screen it feels like you are staring into another dimension. The depth of field enhances gameplay, giving every action more weight and greatly increasing accuracy as distance becomes much easier to judge. The 3D does blur when you tilt the screen – it can only be viewed head on – but with a handheld it’s easy to adjust and perfect for personal play. The intensity of the effect can be toggled to your preference (right down to plain old 2D) while the lower 2D split screen offers touch screen gaming (alongside an imbedded microphone and motion sensors).

The List playtested several titles (see below), however it was the augmented reality games that caused the biggest buzz, the 3DS bringing its 3D processing power to bear on real life objects. The technology can make dragons emerge from the nearest tabletop, or you can be attacked by your own flying head on features such as Face Raiders. There are two built-in cameras capable of taking 2D and 3D photos, the resolution isn’t digital camera quality but it’s certainly good enough for what is required on a portable gaming system.

As expected the 3DS features wireless connectivity but even this is given a twist by Nintendo with StreetPass (which unfortunately wasn’t operational on demo models) which promises to ‘exchange data automatically with other Nintendo 3DS systems within range, even in sleep mode.’

Now onto the bad, it is quite pricey (roughly £199–£220. You can pick up an Xbox 360 for less), the battery life isn’t great (Nintendo say around 3–5 hours while it takes 3.5 hours to charge) and children under six have been warned not to use the 3D as it could effect eye development. And of course Sony’s forthcoming handheld the PSVita boasts the muscle (it will be almost as powerful as the PlayStation 3) that might lure core gamers.

Nintendo have always specialised in brains over brawn, innovative ideas that instantly attract attention not just from gamers but from the public in general. With iPhones and Android taking chunks out of the mobile gaming market, Nintendo offer something even the most sophisticated phone or tablet couldn’t replicate. Perhaps it is just a gimmick and the novelty will wear off, but in its favour the 3DS is fun, playful and a little bit silly, like all the best things to come from the house of Nintendo.

The Nintendo 3DS launches Fri 25 Mar.

A few of the titles coming soon to the Nintendo 3DS

We only got between 10–15 minutes on each game at the Nintendo 3DS launch event so it would be unfair to give a full review, but here are a few first impressions from our hands on playtest.

Once you’ve finished being dazzled by the 3D what you really want to know is if it actually affects gameplay. Unsurprisingly Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition (Capcom) really pops, while another brawler Dead or Alive: Dimensions (Koei) is even more visceral and equally intense. Punches seem to connect with more impact, the 3D lending more physicality to every bout.

Racing titles seem to benefit the most. On Asphalt 3D (Ubisoft) it really feels like you are accelerating into the distance, corners are easier to judge and the feeling of speed is greatly enhanced.

One of the biggest draws is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (Nintendo). A remix of the old N64 title, the extra dimension helps suck you further into this world of fantasy (though an RPG like Zelda needs more than 10 minutes to do it justice).

Graphically Resident Evil: Mercenaries (Capcom) is one of the most impressive new games. The claustrophobia is palpable as the zombies advance, while aiming is sharp as you blast the undead with your revolver/shotgun.

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