Ladies and gentlemen this has been a long time coming for me (and the video game world in general); ever since last year’s E3 I knew this product was ‘the one’. The one that’s going to change everything, the one that’s show the difference between revolutionary and carbon copyoff (see Playstation Move & Xbox Kinect – last time I promise), and finally the one I’ll make my love ones buy because of my resent birthday (get of my lawn you kids). So essentially this will be a couple of firsts for the product placement review: one being this will be the first ‘high-end’ product I’ll be reviewing (meaning the product itself cost more than $100); and two this will be the first product I didn’t have to buy myself (just like a real tech journalist – awesome). So enough banter and fanfare let get down to the nitty gritty…
Don’t expect much from the box here people; recent years Nintendo has stress the minimalist look and they continue that here. The container of my ‘Cosmo Black’ Nintendo 3DS has very little on it: the background is nothing more than metallic black on the top and bottom on the box while white in the middle. Front & center the star of the show, the Nintendo 3DS, or rather its picture, and to its left are the words ‘Nintendo 3DS’ (just in case you forgot what you were buying, heh). Up top, nothing but ‘Cosmo Black’, Nintendo, and a barcode; the right and bottom – even less. Now on the left are some warning about using 3D for little kids and prohibits unauthorized modifications on the actual unit itself. The back is where all the action is because it provides a brief description of what your buying, what features is has (at start up/without updates), Nintendo boilerplates and ESRB ratings.
Now then inside the box you get –
- 1 Nintendo 3DS Entertainment System (w/ 2 GB SD card & extending stylus)
- 1 power cord
- 1 docking cradle
- 1 instruction manual
- Assorted leaflets for ‘club nintendo’, ‘Mii Plaza’, and a quick start guide.
- And 1 pack of ‘AR Cards’ (six cards in the pack), more on this next.
The Nintendo 3DS (Pt.1):
– The following here are functions the Nintendo 3DS are capable of at this point in time –
3D – All the reports I’ve read, heard about, and researched are true… True 3D in my hot little hands without the need of dorky/faux-cool 3D glasses, this is the next true technological achievement in entertainment. Every current handheld device whether it has something to do with gaming or not is now on barrowed time. Sure 3D isn’t very practical for practical purposes like taking notes or keeping addresses, but sooner or later that smart phone or idevice will be used for movies, pictures and yes even gaming. Now imagine those not only improved by looks but by depth as well; the movie ‘Megamind’ during the final battle where building are being flung at you and you flinch, photos you take stand out like never before, and games that use the 3D in such a way players won’t see them coming. This is the future and it starts with Nintendo (as most things do). I’m sorry if my description got a little surreal there; all I really should have said was the 3D is good (which it is). As to accurately describe what it is like, I’ll use the example a good GameStop sales rep told me as I was picking up my 3DS:
“It’s like looking into a window of a house from the outside.”
Which is also true. The Nintendo 3DS games don’t jet from the system but rather allows the player to ‘look into’ the game (and system) itself – perceive it in a 3rd dimension. Characters, objects, landscapes, all, they now have digital substance that I can almost reach through the screen and touch with my fingertips. That’s incredible. Of course this effect only works on 3DS games and the 3DS Home menu but the advance graphics of the 3DS makes regular DS games look pretty good. But speaking of the Home menu…
Home Menu – It is from here where the true action begins, players can select the different functions (with their own 3D icons) by scrolling left or right. Or if that too limiting you can always expand your selection outlook further out to make it look like the familiar Wii selection screen – and even further out.
Nintendo 3DS Camera – Every handheld personal device has a camera function on it these days but very few take pictures in 3D! Amaze your friends and random strangers as you show them themselves coming to life in the 3DS. Of course this miracle machine doesn’t stop there, you can also add some finer personal touches to your photos like drawing on it, adding effects (like bubbles, flashes, and even dream sequencetizer), and even merging your ugly mug to a pretty young thang – see what your future kids look like. Once you’re done having fun set that bad boy to Slideshow and watch you handy work by yourself or with others on a media of your choice thanks to the SD card. Here’s a few pictures I took while running errands:
Nintendo 3DS Sound – Now the sound application is two fold, one is that it can record audio in ten second intervals and can be edited faster, slower, higher, lower or distorted for your entertainment. The second part is that it can be used as a music player like an ipod; put your favorite tracks on a SD cards, insert it into the 3Ds and just tune out the world- literary. If you feel like sharing you can select your elite tunes for StreetPass (more on that later) and any close by 3DS can check out what your listening to.
Mii Maker – This should bring back the old school Wii owners here, actually since the Xbox and PlayStation copied off this as well, this bring back everyone who has a current console. Anyway create your own personal chibi of yourself, your friends, your family, random strangers, Gary Busey, anyone. Once your done you can send your lil’ Frankenstein’s to be viewed by all; you can send(or receive) them wirelessly via your Mii Maker, create a QR (Quick Response) code to be scanned by other 3DS’s or heck just save it as a image send it out on a email, post it, whatever you want.
Orvek DeUltros, My avatar, in Mii form!
QR Orvek - add him to your 3DS today!
StreetPass Mii Plaza – Ok now this is where we get into new territory because before I can explain what Mii Plaza is I must explain what StreetPass & SpotPass are. SpotPass is simply your 3DS communicating with a wireless LAN internet source; from there it will be able to update it’s systems (unlocking unavailable features or just keeping things ship-shape), getting free software, and who knows what other goodies. StreetPass is similar to SpotPass but instead of connecting to the internet, StreetPass connects to other 3DS. When two or more 3DS are connected many different things happen depending on what options each player will allow before the connection. Mainly however for Mii Plaza, StreetPass will (if you allow it) send a copy of your favorite Mii to another 3DS that is if both are close enough to one another and if both are in sleep mode (which is the only way the ‘passes will active). You see players will need those Miis in order too take advantage of everything Mii Plaza has to offer. Not only will you see the S.P. Miis gather in a small plaza for your counting pleasure but you can use them in mini games in plaza. One is a puzzle game where the Miis you meet give you new puzzle pieces to finish it, while in ‘Find Mii’ you’re the king or queen of your kingdom and things are good until you’re captured by ghosts. Now you need other Miis to help you out and slay the ghosts. I must say this is rather cleaver on the part of Nintendo; for trying to get us dungeon lords out of the basements we rule over and get out and socialize, if for nothing else, to recruit Miis and slay evil. But my friends this is only the tip top of a growing iceberg of fun; the StreetPass is compatible with a lot of games and home applications already unlocking new features or applied bonuses every time the pass is used. Add to the fact that SpotPass can (I’m pretty sure will) add new content regularly.
AR Games – Here’s another game changing application, AR (Augmented Reality) Games is basically a collection of mini games that uses the 3DS camera, the AR cards that came with the 3DS, and your own environment, to play. Just put down the question mark box card on any well lit, flat, but mundane surface and watch it come to life through the 3DS screen. Test your skill on the archery range, or maybe your dexterity AR shot, and kick back and relax with some fishing. With the card’s help AR Games provides targets, scenery, menus, produce enemies to fight (Targets won’t be the only thing you’ll be shooting in Archery) and even change the landscape of the 3D environment for added challenge. The other cards (the one with the Nintendo all stars on them) & other options will allow you to also make funny pics with your Miis and the characters on the AR card.
Face Raiders – Finally Face Raiders is like AR Games but this one doesn’t need special cards to play – just your face & plenty of room. See, using the camera again the 3DS takes a picture of your face (and later on other people’s faces), stick them on, what I can only call 3D disembodied copter heads, and turn them loose in your living room (or where ever you are at the time). Of course it’s up to you to defeat your own face (and the faces of others) and bring peace to the land. Seeing how the player must turn his whole to body to find the faces flying about, at the same time protecting themselves from the headstrong nuisances as they break through reality like gang busters, is easier said than done.
Etc – The rest of the stuff that comes with this bad boy is statically data, health warning, system settings, etc. They’re important but nothing we haven’t seen before. But hey, if you want to see how hard you been gaming, and what game the most, you always have the option.
The Nintendo 3DS (Pt.2):
Man, that was monster the type, even more of a monster to test, research, and play with, but you what – it was a good kind of pain. Let move on to how the 3DS plays, after all what’s good about a awesome piece of tech if it looks good, has a butt load of features, but plays like a three legged mule in a typhoon? Games I used to test the power of the system is two that came with the system (Face Raiders and AR Games) and two I bought (Apollo Justice and Lego Star Wars III the Clone Wars).
Face Raiders – Well it started easy enough, the game took my face, made it a floating evil boss (plus minions), and provided easy to shoot (with tennis balls no less) targets. Then they started to move around, bust through the scenery (with the debris coming right at me), and tried to kiss me *shudder*. Finally the bossed showed up, and might I say I never looked so comically intimidating. He was fast, strong, and his metal helmet resisted my tennis balls – to put him down I needed to smack him in the kisser. At the end of the day I was victorious and the evil face me ended up with a afro for his trouble. That was only the first stage and there are six in all offering head exploding good times for all. I had a blast with this game; it’s easy to learn but hard to master, you can’t sit down to play this, as the faces will attack you at all angles. Finally it takes your own face (and the faces of others) and puts it into the game and that’s awesome. There are no problems with the controls and the 3D work as suspected, moving on.
AR Games – Like Face Raiders, AR Games uses the world around you as a stage, but unlike Face Raiders this application needs AR cards to play (like I said before). Three games and three art programs plus additional modes purchased using 3DS coins (which can be earned by walking around with the 3DS in sleep mode). The games themselves were fun the first time I’ve played them; I still enjoy fighting that Dragon at the end of Archery. However thanks to needing a well lit area in order for the Nintendo 3DS to scan the card correctly as well as needing 14th inches, 360 degrees around the card to keep it working – the novelty wears off quickly. The art programs are ok, but I have Photoshop if I get inspired with the arty stuff (like Pimp M.O.D.O.K.) so I don’t use them much. All & all not bad, but I rather play Face Raiders.
Apollo Justice, Ace Attorney – The Ace Attorney series is one that perfectly shows why video games is a media beyond all others. Most people only see video games as hyper violence or Wii Sports, not that there’s anything wrong with those, I enjoy both at regular intervals. With Ace Attorney however it tests players with detective work, legal wranglering, and how to put it all together to bring justice to the courtroom. Trust me, its more exciting than it sounds. Now I know regular DS game won’t show in 3D but I wanted to see if it sees plays in general. Well I’m happy to report that everything preformed well; the screen was crisp and clear, the sound was surprising loud, and the D-pad, Thumb pad, and siding stylist interfaced with the five year old without missing a beat. Of course this is all par of the way for backwards capabilities (which Nintendo is very good about), though sadly this is as far as it goes, for there isn’t a GBA slot in this console.
Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars – I got to admit, not my first choice for my very first handheld 3D video game, especially since the Lego Star Wars series tend to bored me. But hey I can roll with the punches; and since the only viable candidates (for me anyway) was this, a game I played before (Super Street Fighter IV), and a game I have no interest in (Steel Diver) – I went with the Legos and crossed my fingers. The Lego Star Wars series of games usually follows the events of the movies with there own funny little Lego style humor in them. This time around it’s the Clone Wars cartoon on, you guessed it, Cartoon Network. Now again this series isn’t so bad really, but the whole Lego thing in my Star Wars is like Peanut Butter with my chocolate, and then eat it 3 times day for year – a little goes a long way people. There’s a market for it however and it does score well every new game that comes out; as for me this isn’t a review for the game but of the true 3D of the 3DS. Clone Wars is straight textbook platformer, however thanks to 3D component it gives a new dimension to the most classic gaming genre. Ledges, ridges, parts of the background, and even how some of the enemies come at you have so much real substance now it’s almost unbelievable. Blowing up enemies is also a treat because sometimes the Lego bits come flying at me and make me flinch – excellent. Even the look of the cut scenes are far more improved (even though not in 3D) that I thought for this handheld. The game itself still plays and controls like its predecessors but how it uses the 3D and the vast improvement of its visuals makes this game fun – and I personally excited for what’s to come.
So what’s the catch? I mean the Nintendo 3DS has so much good stuff (in my opinion anyway), there’s got to be a rub, a chink in the armor, a cloud in the silver lining, and so forth. Well… First of all the 3D is great, but it works in such a way that you have to look at the screen straight head otherwise the picture keeps shifting light to dark. This shifting is annoying, especially when you’re trying to play the games that involves you to move, or you’re just moving in general (it is a portable system after all). Another thing I noticed is that the battery life isn’t as stellar as previous Nintendo handhelds, maybe it just me playing it too much (and leaving it on sleep mode overnight) but I swear I recharge this thing more times than not. The two popular problems the Nintendo 3DS has is that players sometimes have headaches playing with 3D on and it freeze from time to time. As of the writing of this article and two weeks of ‘evaluations’ I only had one headache from playing in 3D mode (although that could’ve be from sleeping against a cold wall that night – long story) & the system froze twice. At anytime the 3D can be lowered or shut off if necessary, as for the freezing, well, no current generation system hasn’t froze on me at point or another. These are the only problems I see as problem with the system, anything else can be fixed in system updates.
While I’m happy to say that the Nintendo 3DS is the fasting selling Nintendo portable in history (discounting Japan for obvious reasons), which makes me happy but many major news brands review the 3DS differently from one another. Even Adam Sessler was generally disappointed with the machine, saying that it didn’t have a strong enough library of games at launch and the 3D wasn’t as good as it was at E3. Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t do things half way, I wait and take my time because a rushed job don’t help me or you. I could have put up a quick little somethin’-somethin’ that very day just to say I did, like some obnoxious poster saying ‘First!’ on a message board. I could have describe the features in quick little bullet points or whatever I found on Wikipedia. I could have even bagged on the stylist, like the stylist was beneath me like poor man’s techno elitist. I what I did do however was play the thing: played it in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night. Played it at home, at work, on the road, got it dirty, got it greasy, and wiped it off. Played DS games on it, 3DS games on it, played sitting up, sitting down, the camera, the recorder, the Mii maker, and got Miis via QR codes via the internet and watched an amusing 3D video featuring ‘Ok Go’(came with the first system update). I not only played this but I allowed several others to try it to confirm my finding – including the one man bureaucracy True Backlash & the tech diva Blu. I’ve said all this to say that myself and all I let play this have come to the same conclusion: the Nintendo 3DS F’N good, period. It’s not perfect, but what gaming consoles it? The PS3 was $600 at launch, Xbox 360? Red Ring of Death, something that’s still a problem today (although slight). Wii wasn’t even readily available until a year and half after its launch. Speaking of launch, launch titles have always been habitually pushed late on console launches, why should the 3DS be singled out? I know, I wanted to Kid Icarus too, but I think I can wait to make sure I get the best 3D experience on my handheld – in most cases extra time = less problems when games come out.
But I’m starting to repeat myself again so I’ll wrap it up like this: worst case scenario it is Nintendo DSi 2.0, best case scenario it is the most advanced media device you’ll put in your pocket, backed by a time tested master of handheld games that remains undefeated for over twenty years, and in the long run will only get better from here. Remember though this is a gaming device, if you like video games more than checking your twitter page, get the 3DS; if not the iPad 2 is also available.