Game Systems Handheld Entertainment Nintendo DS/DSi/3DS

A Preview Minute With The Nintendo 3DS

With less than two weeks before the 3DS is released here in the United States, the Nintendo 3DS kiosks are finally starting to hit major retail outlets like Best Buy.  With the 3D effect non-visible in videos, commercials and other forms of media, it should be assumed that this product had to be “seen to be believed” which is why I don’t understand why Nintendo waited so long to get these demo units in front of consumers.

Regardless, I’ve been dying to see the effect myself – first hand.  With the Wii, I was able to attend a Fusion tour and get my paws on a wiimote long before the product shipped, but with the 3DS I’ve had to wait like everyone else and it’s been a long wait.

With more and more photos of Best Buy kiosks showing up on the internet, I’ve been stopping by my local stores very frequently hoping our store would get one.  Yesterday was no exception – and I even thought ahead to bring a “real” camera to snap photos and video if I DID see one.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the Best Buy at i-17 and Thunderbird here in Phoenix had the demo unit set up – showing off a Pilot Wings demo.  I secretly hoped that when I did find a demo unit, it would be running Steel Diver – the game I’m most excited about come launch day.  The kiosk verbiage said that I was playing Super Street Fighter – so it’s clear these demo units DO have other games available but I couldn’t figure out any way change games or even get to the 3DS menu to play around with the cameras or built in software.

Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was to see the 3D effect in person.  As with MOST items that claim to be “3D”, the effect isn’t so much “coming out at you” like old 3D movies from the 70s and 80s, but rather a perception of DEPTH that goes INSIDE the screen with minor protrusions coming out.  It really is akin to those Magic Eye posters where you have to kinda cross your eyes and you’ll see the sailboat (yes, I know – it’s a schooner).  Before I could “see” those, I always assumed 3D meant it would jump OUT at me.  Once I understood that it’s more depth than “coming out”, I could see the effect a lot better.

The 3D slider was set to FULL when I arrived at the kiosk, and being a tall guy, I was looking down at the 3DS with a very sharp angle and the effect wasn’t working as it should.  The result was a very nauseating glimpse of Pilot Wings.  Once I leaned down and put myself right in front of the unit as instructed by the kiosk verbiage, the effect stopped being nausea-inducing but still seemed “too much”.  Using the slider, I brought it down to about 1/3 and the effect was perfect!

I know you’ve heard it before – but I’ll say it again;  you have to see this effect to truly understand how amazing it is.  If I had to wear the glasses, it wouldn’t amaze me at all – but you almost feel a bit surreal seeing this effect without the shades.  It’s one of those rare moments when you brain is telling you that your eyes are being tricked and you just CAN’T be seeing what you think you are seeing.  After a few moments of adjustment, your brain gets in line and you can just enjoy it instead of questioning it.

The 3D slider is very smooth as is the transition effect – even going from “low 3D” to “no 3D”.  For some reason I expected something a little more pronounced when shifting from 3D to 2D, but it was smooth as butter.  One thing that did bother me was the fact that the “hump” in the slider between the 2D setting and the “lowest 3D” didn’t feel very … definitive.  I started imagining what it would be like if the slider “wore out” and you couldn’t dial in what you wanted.  That bothered me.

Once I got over the 3D effect I started to evaluate the unit from a hardware perspective.  The unit was totally locked down so you couldn’t pick it up and “feel” it properly – so all I could do was look and play with the controls.

I mentioned the 3D slider already.  The other thing that amazed me was the silky control of the analog stick or disc or nub or whatever it is you want to call it.  It responds to the lightest of touches and it’s so smooth it’s almost like not having a controller there at all.  Very sensitive to boot.  I really look forward to precision controlled games like racing games and flying games with this controller.

The buttons and d-pad are what you would expect from a Nintendo product, so there isn’t much to discuss here.  I will say I am NO fan of the buttons under the lower screen.  They don’t feel right at all  Sure, they are rarely used like START and SELECT, but they bring the overall quality feel of the unit down IMHO.  It’s hard to explain what they feel like, but I wasn’t pleased by them.

I cranked the audio all the way up and was disappointed to find that the audio seemed considerably quieter than I’d hoped.  I’m hoping this is due to the demo nature of the machine and/or the way the unit was secured to the kiosk.

What about the game?  I’m not a big Pilot Wings fan, so I didn’t play long.  I’ll give you a straight scoop of what I saw.

As mentioned before, the controls were tight.  The plane responded to my analog controller quick and efficiently.

Graphically speaking, it blows the DS out of the water.  It’s been said that these are close to Wii graphics – and with this game, I definitely agree.  Playback was smooth and unfettered with no hiccups or stutters – even when changing to and from 2D to 3D.  Gone are the jaggies and “hexagon” circles of the Nintendo’s DS product line.  Claims that it looks like between a Wii and a 360 might need their head examined.  Sure, it could just be this game …. but It isn’t taking on the 360 any time soon.  But portable Wii graphics?  I’m good with that.

Unfortunately, I only had time for a brief hands on, so that’s all I got to observe for you.  I shot a short video before I was accosted by a Best Buy employee, so I’ll put that below.

So my overall impressions?  Impressive.  MOST impressive.  The 3D effect without glasses makes me WANT to watch 3D movies on it – and I want Tron Legacy in 3D on the 3DS immediately.  You hear me Disney/Nintendo?  You should SHIP this unit with Tron 3D included (or downloadable).

I seriously recommend you head down (or call) your Best Buy and go get your hands on a 3DS to try before launch day.  I also believe they should offer this unit in “dead president green” because this unit is going to be printing money VERY soon.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

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