It’s been just over a year since 3DS was first unveiled on March 23rd 2010 and Irish gamers are finally able to get their hands on the first bona fide new console since the PS3 hit our shores in 2007 (before any of you get pedantic, we’re not counting any of the new iterations of the current batch, because that would be a little silly). Japanese gamers were first to get their hands on the system when it was released on February 26th, selling an impressive 375,000 of its initial batch of 400,000 units within the first week alone – almost ten times the amount of Sony’s PSP (the Japanese sure do love their handhelds), its nearest competitor in hardware sales that week. With all the hype surrounding the 3D aspect of the machine, it’s very easy to get caught up in pointless specifications and technicalities, so we’re going to talk you through the system in plain English and hopefully answer the all important question of whether or not you should be joining the queue to pick one up in the coming weeks.
The main question on everyone’s lips is whether or not the 3D effect is any good. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as straight forward as giving a simply yes or no answer to that question. Instead it depends very much on the game you’re playing, as well as the amount of 3D you apply to it.
For those of you who aren’t aware, the 3DS features quite a nifty slider on the right hand side of the top screen that lets you adjust the level of 3D you’d like to see in the game. While that might sound rather pointless on a system that justifies its entire existence around its ability to display 3D graphics, it has actually proven to be something of a master stroke from Nintendo.
Allowing you to turn the effect up or down in real time ensures that players can find their own “sweet spot” for each individual game, or section thereof. On some of the titles we’ve played, the effect works best as low as 30-50%, for others turning it all the way up yielded the best results, and in the occasional special case, things were definitely a little more manageable when things were dialled right down to zero (this is especially true for games that display a lot of detailed information on screen).
As with everything 3D, we’re sure that this will remain a divisive point for many, and we can see the arguments from both sides of the fence. In our opinion the best way to find out the right level for your own taste is to experiment. As the novelty of glassless 3D wears off (and despite what you may think, it starts to happen pretty quickly) and the reality of the battery life limitations begins to hit home we think it’s fair to say that most people will find themselves pulling back on the 3D effect more and more.
And before we get a barrage of abuse from Nintendo fanboys, let’s just clarify that we’re not actually pointing this out as a bad thing! It’s still early days in the world of 3D game development, so it’ll take a while for developers to figure out what gamers want from their 3D experiences
We have no doubt that most of you have heard some disturbing reports about the system’s battery life – namely that it’s abysmally short. Well, we hate to be the bearers of bad news but these reports are entirely accurate. Those of you who plan on buying the system to play for the duration of long train or plane trips will be in for disappointment. Depending on the level of 3D displayed, the battery life varies from three to five hours. This can be increased by adjusting the screen brightness, turning the 3D off, activating power save mode or using the street-pass mode, but don’t expect to be able to get more than 7 hours at most from your device even with all the fancy bells and whistles turned off.
While this is obviously a disappointment, it’s worth realising that the power necessary to run two displays (one in 3D) is considerably more than that required by traditional systems. Those of you who need longer battery life have the option of stumping up some additional cash for a third party battery extender, with the Nyko Power Pak+ which can as much as double the battery life being the pick of the bunch to date.
At the end of the day though, is 7 hours really that bad? Yes we know that’s only if you’re using your 3DS with settings that are far from ideal, but if you just want it to pass the time on a trip somewhere then it’ll suffice in all but the most lengthy of expeditions. It’s also worth noting that Nintendo have opted for a charging cradle this time round, rather than a standard plug in connection. The thinking behind this is clear – you’re going to be charging your 3DS quite a bit, so why not make it a nice straightforward process of simply slotting it into a sturdy cradle on your desk when you’re not using it? It works for wireless house phones, so we see no reason why it won’t become second nature for gamers across the world, even if it does mean extra clutter should you need to bring the whole shebang with you when you’re travelling.
Despite having 15 games available from day one, the initial line-up for the 3DS is a little underwhelming. The standout games on offer are undoubtedly Pilotwings Resort, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, Splinter Cell 3D, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars and PES 2011 3D but titles like The Sims 3D, Rayman 3D, Asphalt 3D, LEGO Star Wars III, Ridge Racer 3D, Samurai Warriors: Chronicles, Super Monkey Ball 3D or the three Nintendogs games (Golden Retriever, French Bulldog and Toy Poodle – all carrying the suffix “& New Friends”) are unlikely to inspire the gaming public to fork over their hard earned cash... at least not gamers who aren’t 9 year old girls.
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The new analogue nub is a welcome addition, and it holds up quite well in comparison to other attempts to integrate analogue control into the portable gaming world – although with its sole competition being (for now) the decidedly dodgy PSP version, that was never in question. Another pleasant surprise is the improved online connectivity. Nintendo certainly haven’t ironed out anywhere close to all their online issues yet, but this seems like a step in the right direction. Hopefully they can finesse their approach some more before the inevitable Wii successor hits shelves.
In terms of build quality, the 3DS is a lot more impressive than it looks in images, but it still lacks the robustness we have come to expect from Sony’s PSP iterations which is unfortunate given that quite a large percentage of Nintendo’s target audience would be younger players who seem to have a tendency to drop things quite a bit (not that this bunch of clumsy buggers can point any fingers in that regard).
For traditionally early adopters, the 3DS was always going to be a must-have gadget, but for everyone who is relatively happy with their current 3DS we would recommend holding on for a few months for two main reasons. Firstly, it’ll be a while before developers really nail the 3D side of the system, and secondly it’s possible that we’ll see improved hardware revisions, perhaps offering better battery life, appearing before the turn of the year.
It’s definitely a well built system, and the potential is clear for all to see. With plenty of backing from the likes of Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and of course Nintendo’s in-house development teams the 3DS will undoubtedly prove a huge success but, initially at least, it’s hard to recommend given its high price tag and somewhat underwhelming selection of games. Given a few months however, we are positive that the 3DS will go on to share both the success and plaudits of its predecessor.