Recently I had the opportunity to play with the forthcoming Nintendo 3DS, and I jumped at it. It is the first video game system that will offer 3D gameplay without the use of special glasses. After spending a day with this portable gaming device, here are my impressions.
While a quick glance at the 3DS might make you think it looks identical to a regular DS, it is a little bit bulkier than previous DS handhelds. While this will likely not turn off too many buyers, the system has a thicker top screen section than the other DS versions. This is likely because this screen is processing the 3D images and requires more space to do so than the standard 2D screens. In practical terms, this probably won’t mean too much, as I have not seen gamers carry portable systems of this size in their pockets.
The button layout is familiar to DS users with the exception of a “thumb slider,” which serves as a 360 degree joystick-type input. It allows for freer and more intuitive movement than the D-pad, and is not stiff or sticky at all. It actually feels very loose and is perfect for those games where a joystick would be highly preferred over a directional pad.
As for the graphics, they are as advertised, with resolution close to what might be found on a Wii, and full 3D that is truly mindblowing, but only if you hold the device in the appropriate position. This means that in order to view the 3D effects, you need to stare at the screen straight on from about 2 feet away. This is OK because that is how most people hold their handhelds anyway, but it is a bit limiting. To play the 3DS for an extended period of time makes you feel like you are locked in a sort of one-position prison. Sure, you can turn off the 3D with a flick of the finger, but anybody that wants this will want to play games in 3D mode.
The graphics power of the 3DS is a big drain on the battery, and I found that 2 hours and 40 minutes was about the max that system would go before needing recharging. This is expected for a device of this size that processes the depth of images that it does. However, don’t expect to spend a lot of time playing this without the charger.
Also disappointing is that there is much about the 3DS that still seems unfinished. I couldn’t access the Internet or get to the Nintendo virtual console. I know that Nintendo is working on getting this stuff up and running, but it seems like these things should be available at launch.
This is the next great step forward in gaming, but it feels a bit rushed. I personally will wait until some updates come out that will allow for Internet access, better battery life, and improved viewing angles for the screen. That’s just me, though. I’m sure the 3DS will be a huge seller and go down in gaming history as the device that brought 3D gaming to the masses.