Somethings just seems to go together, peanut butter and jelly, Maro and Luigi and Nintendo and handhelds.
The portable market is in a bit of a shake up thanks to the Android and iPhones, and Nintendo’s DS system is in need of a revamp. The new 3DS certainly doesn’t stray far from the working predecessor, it’s certainly an improvement, and later this year it’s going to be given the XL treatment. Does the 3DS replace your current DS? Or is the 3D just a gimmick?
At first glance the 3DS is very reminiscent of the DS Lite in overall layout and presentation, but there are of course some improvements. Most important is the inclusion of a new analog stick. The D-pad is still available, but I found myself mostly utilizing the analog even with older GBA titles. Another new addition is a switch that lets you turn the wireless on or off at any moment, extending the 3DS’s battery life. The handheld was also given a handsome slight gradient design on the outer casing. While the 3D itself doesn’t necessarily pop out at the player, it adds a lot of depth to the image for gameplay.
There are only a couple of downsides to this revised design. First is the design of the Select, Start and Home buttons. They’re nearly flush with the chassis, so there’s hardly any indication you’re pressing a button – it almost feels like a touchscreen. And if you’re playing at night or in the dark, pausing is very difficult. Much worse is the placement of the power button near the A/B/X/Y buttons, where it’s easily pressed by accident in the midst of gaming; I would have much rather it’d been a Home or Start button.
Another new addition to the 3DS is a double back camera in addition to the front-facing camera standard for such devices. This new camera is used for taking 3D pictures. While it’s pretty neat, I found I mostly used the camera’s for many of the 3DS AR Games. This was pretty fun and reminded me a lot of the old GameBoy Camera titles.
One of the biggest improvements with the 3DS is its built-in software. A default home screen has most everything you’d look for, and you can have as many apps as the SD card allows. Family protection features allow you to lock a child out of unnecessary apps. Another little tidbit of note was the pedometer, an app that tracks how many steps you take and rewards you with coins to use on the E-store.
The E-store is one of the biggest improvements. It’s nice to be able to look for new games, but I really liked having the old GBA titles. (It would be nice if your Wii and 3DS could share titles, as I’ve purchased a lot of SNES and NES games for the Wii. So far this isn’t the case, but I hope they’ll put it in later.) The Wireless software has also been improved, allowing you to use it with most modern routers, including the Apple Airport Extreme. This was a nice touch as Pokemon isn’t the same without access to the wireless trade system.
The 3DS is about the same size as the DS Lite, slightly more comfortable in the hands since it’s just a little weightier. During long-term gameplay I felt a desire for a little larger device, but I’m hoping that the XL might solve this dilemma.
It does take just a little bit to get used to some of the 3D / Gyroscope controls. For example, in Super Mario 3D Land, there were plenty of times where you need to move the entire device to simulate moving a camera. At first it was a little tough but it became easier as I got used to it. The battery power also holds up pretty well, though the wireless function drains it quickly.
One of the highly-publicized features of the 3DS was console-quality games on a handheld system, and it’s pretty accurate – especially for the Nintendo-brand games. When I first got the system I picked up Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D, Starfox 3D and Super Mario Land 3D. Each title really showed off the system’s capabilities, especially when it came to graphics.
The 3D is essentially unnecessary, but I was surprised to find that I always kept it on. It seems to add a little more depth and immersion to the experience. For example, during Zelda OOT 3D, various particles flying through the air while Link was running around really made the environment feel much more natural and lifelike. The system clearly has a lot of power under the hood, and I’m pretty impressed. Hopefully, more game developers push this to the next level.
This was a big surprise. I’ve had almost every Gameboy in one form or another, but always felt the old school Gameboy had the best sound quality. The 3DS trumps that in a big way, giving the illusion of surround sound. This became very clear in Super Mario Land 3D as I found myself almost bumping the sound while playing. The on-board speakers are pretty loud, and I generally never had to turn it up full blast to get immersed in the current game.
While I wish the 3DS still included the GBA port, it amazes all the same. The 3D tech is pretty neat and really helps to dive into the game, and the system could definitely replace the DS Lite. The only downside presently is a lack of games; the Nintendo titles are A+, but the third-party support could use a little help.
Fortunately, Konami has a Castlevania title due out later this year!