Oh, 3-D. We have such a love-hate relationship.
I was quite skeptical when Nintendo announced their plans for a glasses-free 3-D portable console early last year. I was lucky enough, however, to go to the Electronic Entertainment Expo in L.A. last summer, and I instantly fell in love with the 3DS, feeling a sense of excitement I hadn’t felt for a portable console since my first Game Boy Color. The quality of the 3-D was impressive, and I was blown away to see the graphical power and renderings of my favorite games in 3-D — with a powerful showing of third party support to boot.
But Nintendo decided to delay my dream, and I had to wait through the holiday season until March 27 to enter into the new dimension. In that span of time I saw my first 3-D movie (“Toy Story 3”). I also finally saw “Avatar” in 3-D and realized how much I really didn’t like, nay, hated 3-D. It wasn’t adding anything to my movie experience, so why would it add to my gaming experience? Well, Nintendo has brought the same magic they breathed into gaming with the DS and the Wii to the 3DS — just don’t expect everything to be perfect right away.
First and foremost is the 3-D feature. Let’s just get it out of the way: it works and it is beautiful. It doesn’t really add anything to game play in the same way that HD doesn’t really add anything to game play: both just make games look better and kick that much more ass. Some players are going to have to get used to the added depth, and I did experience headaches the first time I played the system. That seemed to subside, however, as I played some more. This is where the 3-D slider comes in: Players can adjust the strength of the 3-D to their personal limit, which is a perfect way for everybody to enjoy 3-D gaming at their own comfortable level of 3-D-ness.
The $250 price of the 3DS is sure to keep some consumers away. Being the most expensive handheld that Nintendo has ever launched, and more expensive than the Wii currently is, the cost can be a hard pill for some people to swallow. That being said, the console does come jam packed with a ton of enjoyable software. The Augmented Reality cards are a fun and enjoyable way to experience all that 3DS has to offer and could warrant their own review, as could the Mii Maker, Mii games, Face Raiders, and other great software that the 3DS already comes bundled with. Try it all out and take none of it at face value — there is a lot of fun to be had before you even insert a cartridge into the system.
But, as with any system, the most important thing is the games. The 3DS launch brings some heavy hitters to the table, but oddly enough most of those titles aren’t coming from “the Big N.” “Street Fighter IV” is hands down the best title currently available for the system, and while I do plan to at least give both “Steel Diver” and “Pilotwings: Resort” a try, neither is the top tier title I had hoped Nintendo would release at launch.
That being said, the upcoming titles for this year alone, both from Nintendo and from third parties, are quite impressive. “Kid Icarus” is making a return, “Star Fox” is flying back and, in case you haven’t heard, a little game called “Ocarina of Time” is being remade in glorious 3-D, and it is right around the corner. If that isn’t reason alone to own the system, I’m not sure what is.
The system’s online infrastructure is also incomplete at launch, with an update bringing the Internet browser and online e-Shop (a place where one can buy both old Game Boy titles and new online-only content) to come sometime in May. It’s not a huge deal, but with the 3DS already launching later than I had hoped, it would have been nice to see a few more aspects of the system up and running.
Also of note is the console’s battery, which frankly sucks. There is no way around the horribly low battery life of the system. 3-D drains the battery, and while the charging cradle, which is included, does help, I feel like I am going to have to find some way to carry a charger with me to keep my 3DS running as long as I want it to. I also found that the system’s speakers, while great quality for a portable, are not terribly loud. Small complaint, but worth noting nonetheless.
All in all, the 3DS has a lot to offer, and I hope Nintendo supports it as they have said they will. The SpotPass and StreetPass features are both ideas we saw attempted on the Wii (Wii Connect 24 anybody?) that fell completely by the wayside. But if Nintendo has learned their lessons from the DS and the Wii — and it really seems they have — then expect the 3DS to soon be a household name and show James Cameron and Hollywood how Nintendo and video gamers can really make 3-D exciting.
Clark is a member of the class of 2012.