3D is all the rage these days. It started in the theaters and quickly found its way into our homes. While the concept of 3D pictures and movies have actually been around since the late 1800’s, its only been recently that there seems to be an aggressive push for it. After a failed attempt many years ago with the Virtual Boy, Nintendo is trying their hand at 3D again with their portable Nintendo 3DS.
The way the 3DS works is actually pretty simple, using a lenticular lens (a lens that is capable of sending an image in multiple directions) - the system outputs two slightly different images to each one of your eyes creating a 3D effect. A slider on the side of the system changes the distance in which the lens works, amplifying the 3D effect or helping to bring it into focus depending on where you hold the system. The optical illusion is only in display when you “hold the system correctly.” That means it needs to be between 12-24 inches away from your face, something that’s pretty much ideal for portable gaming. The downside of this for portable gaming - battery drain. I was able to squeeze just over 3 hours of play with 3D on.
Side by Side with a PSP Go.
The 3D is impressive, very, very impressive. The effect and method employed varies by game, but almost all of the game give a great sense of depth. In a game like Steel Diver its incredibly easy to tell what is the foreground, middle ground and background in terms of objects. Its like looking at a tiny submarine in a fish tank. In Ghost Recon:Shadow Wars the game adds foreground objects making it look like your face down into a strategy board game. LEGO Star Wars 3 gives characters an action figure look, making them look like actual LEGO men you can pluck from the screen.
But while the 3D is the focus on the system, I found several other impressive features. The sound quality out of the speakers is superb and is capable of simulating surround sound. I seriously couldn’t believe my ears at times during play sessions of Ghost Recon - not only were the visuals spatially impressive, the audio as well. The analog stick also stands out for me as a necessary and welcome addition. All around the hardware is solid, a little thicker than a DSi, but a sturdier feel to it.
So despite all the other bells and whistles, the focus of the system is still the 3D, and sadly it’s not going to impress, or even work for everyone. While I never found myself disoriented from the 3D, some folks are having problems.
As with any new Nintendo handheld there are positive and negative aspects to it, some of which either take time getting used to or may change the experience entirely for the gamer. The biggest two things I’ve noticed that go against my recommending a 3DS is the 3D draw and battery drain. Leaving the 3D slider on at all will suck your battery life out like an adult drinking a Caprisun. Turning the 3D off may seem like it’s wasting the system’s potential to some - but I’m here to tell you it’s really not.
The two games I’ve played so far, Ghost Recon and Pilot Wings: Resort, are great titles. Period. The content is solid, the controls are there, and the creativity with the touch screen and new analog stick from the 3DS bring one of the most interesting portable gaming experiences I’ve seen in a long time. The games combined with larger screens, backward compatibility*, and superior sound makes the 3DS really worth taking a look at for a great gaming experience.
However, if you’re buying the 3DS simply for the 3D, I think that is a huge mistake. If you’re buying it for some great titles (either launch titles, or announced somewhere down the line), and the 3D is a perk for you - that’s the mentality that needs to be present when purchasing a system like this. This statement is especially true based on some of the Twitter and Facebook complaints of headaches from people who are normally enthralled with 3D films. You just can’t know how the 3D will effect your eyes until you try it at home or wherever you plan on playing most.
*Those who are having issues with the resolution on regular DS games when played in the 3DS, hold the Select button (under the touch screen) while booting up DS games. The games will appear smaller on the 3DS screens, but the resolution issues will be fixed.