A new dimension of fun
The Nintendo 3DS's start was quite rocky. It had anemic sales, an oasis of a library, and a high cost to purchase. All three of these problems have been rectified, and the future of Nintendo's newest handheld system looks a lot brighter than it did in, say, the summer. Introducing for the first time on a gaming platform glasses-less 3D, the Nintendo 3DS may be selling better than ever, but should you enter this new glasses-free dimension of gaming?
Turning on the 3DS for the first time is a delight as is viewing the depth of the 3DS's patented 3D. The start-up menu is well-designed with several icons that can be lined up into one row or a series of rows via smaller icons. There's a myriad of software already loaded onto the 3DS such as the Sound Channel, the eShop, Face Raiders, Mii StreetPass Plaza, and several downloadable ones as well.
With the Sound Channel one can put MP3s onto an SD card (the 3DS already comes with one inside the system which is easy to take out, and there is no special brand needed unlike the upcoming PlayStation Vita). The songs can be listened to with the 3DS in Sleep Mode (closing the system while it is still on).
The eShop is the marketplace of the 3DS. It possesses videos that can be viewed in 3D such as the special and awesome biweekly Nintendo Show 3D, DSiWare games, 3DSWare games (as of this review the selection is modest at best), the 3D Classics line of titles where classic games are given the 3D treatment, and Virtual Console games like Metroid II: Return of Samus, Donkey Kong, Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX, and Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, to name a handful. The shop layout can be a bit troublesome to sift through, the pricing structure can feel like you're being ripped off, and there is currently no download queue or way to download a game in Sleep Mode. Coming soon (at least at the time of this review) are downloadable demos for various retail games like Super Mario 3D Land and Monster Hunter 3G (for Japan anyway). All in all, the eShop is serviceable, but there is much more room for improvement.
A game already installed on the 3DS as soon as one turns it on is Face Raiders. With the built-in gyro motion controls the system has, players twist around in a circle, blasting floating and flying faces of friends, family, enemies, and more to shoot for a high score. Just line up the 3DS with a human face (either a live one or a picture of one) using the 3DS's frontal cameras and take a picture. There are multiple levels of Face Raiders, and the game itself is a worthy distraction and greatly shows off the various features of the 3DS.
Miis return from the Wii and DSi for players to personalize. One can make their own Mii with a flurry of facial features such as eyes, noses, mouths, hairstyles, accessories, and wrinkles. One can scour the Internet for QR codes to capture and create other 3DS owner Miis effortlessly. All it takes is a quick glance of a QR code in the 3DS's frontal camera, and bam! A Miis materializes right before the eyes. With StreetPass, a feature that when turned on allows for 3DS systems that pass by one another to trade Mii data as well as other game data such as character figurines in Dead or Alive Dimensions, for instance. Stranger Miis can be used in an RPG-like game to collect special Nintendo-themed hats and to get puzzle pieces for several jigsaw puzzles of numerous Nintendo games. Play coins, earned by walking with the 3DS in tow and powered on, are used to purchase new pieces of puzzles as well as to unlock items in games that support the coins.
Another interesting addition to the 3DS is the Activity Log. This displays the playtime of all 3DS, DS (the 3DS is 100% backwards-compatible with nearly all Nintendo DS games), and downloadable software. It shows how many hours and minutes one had played, the first and last date they've played, the average playtime, and how many times they've played a particular game. I find it addicting to see how much I've invested into each game or hardware function of the 3DS.
One of the coolest parts of the 3DS is AR or augmented reality. The system comes with a series of AR cards that when placed in front of the 3DS's camera displays a 3D model of a Nintendo character (Mario, Young Link, Samus Aran, Kirby, Pikmin, or a Mii or series of Miis) in a real world setting. One can play AR games like fishing, target practice, a bowling type game, and much more with these cards. Sure, it can be difficult to keep the card in the camera's view, but it is still quite cool.
The build of the 3DS is relatively light and the size of the DS Lite. It fits easily in one's jacket or pants pocket, but it comes with a potential problem-- smudges and scratches from the lower screen to the top screen. I still to this day do not know where in the world the microphone on the system actually is, and the location of the stylus (the back of the system) isn't in the best spot. I'd prefer it on the right side like with the DSL. Additionally, turning on the system by pressing down a small square button below the face buttons sometimes takes multiple attempts to actually turn the darned system on, and the start and select buttons don't press in at all. They feel odd to me. Furthermore, the battery life of the 3DS isn't too terribly impressive, lasting 3-5 hours on full brightness and full 3D. The system comes with a charger as well as a cradle, so if you're like me and play your portables at home most of the time, this is not a huge deal. For those who go out and about with their handheld systems, then be forewarned that extended play sessions will drain the battery rather quickly.
Unlike the PSP before it, the 3DS uses a circle pad for analog movement in three-dimensional games. For games that use it, it controls the action rather well, feels great, and offers more precision than the PSP's cursed analog nub. Some might argue that the lack of a second circle pad on the right side of the system is a negative and will bite Nintendo in its metaphorical butt. However, I believe the touch screen can be substituted for the second circle pad, and if one doesn't like that, they can purchase the upcoming Circle Pad Pro.
The 3D effect itself varies from game to game. Sometimes it is incredibly impressive while other times it is just there. Games like Super Mario 3D Land, Pilotwings Resort, and Star Fox 64 3D display a prominent and wonderful 3D effect while games like Rayman 3D, Super Monkey Ball 3D, and Pokemon Rumble Blast pretty much do not. For those who are too young and shouldn't utilize the 3D, parental controls can shut off the 3D or the 3D slider on the right side of the top screen can be pushed down to nothingness.
Those who think the library of the 3DS is empty simply haven't taken the time to do any proper research. Yes, there are remakes of Nintendo 64 classics like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Star Fox 64 3D as well as ports like Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, but there are plenty of exclusive-to-3DS titles, too, like Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, Dead or Alive Dimensions, Pilotwings Resort, Tetris Axis, and Ace Combat. 2012 is looking even better with a plethora of looking-to-be-excellent software such as Luigi's Mansion 2, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Paper Mario (tentative title), Mario Tennis (tentative title), Monster Hunter 3G and Monster Hunter 4, Bravely Default, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, Resident Evil: Revelations, and Tales of the Abyss.
Overall, the Nintendo 3DS is a worthy addition to one's collection of portable gaming entertainment. While all the kinks of the system haven't been ironed out such as scratched screens, lack of a second analog, small window to view the 3D effect, among others, the amount of content available for Nintendo's newest gaming platform is more than enough to jump in. A Nintendo faithful knows how much the company loves crafting redesigns to their handheld systems, so if you are hesitant to get a 3DS for this reason, wait. Or you can purchase a 3DS now and trade on up to the redesigned 3DS with a better battery life, bigger window to view the 3D effect, larger size, and other beneficial bonuses. The new dimension of fun is here, and its name is Nintendo 3DS.
[SuperPhillip Says: 7.5/10]