3DS Hardware Review

April 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Posted in Gaming Article, Nintendo News | Leave a comment
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It’s been nearly a month since I picked up my 3DS and so far Nintendo’s little box of 3D magic has hardly spent a minute out of my grubby little hands. The DS’ successor certainly has a lot of nice new features, not least the industry-first 3D screen, but are they enough for someone to spend £200 on?

So firstly how does the feature-set stack up against the competition? Obviously no other hand held gaming device can boast glasses-less 3D yet, but I’ll touch on that later. The 3DS certainly expands on its predecessor; housing larger screens with enhanced resolution, beefier speakers and hugely improved connectivity. It’s a major step up from the DS but not quite so impressive when put alongside the iPhone or PSP. The sound and wi-fi compete well enough, but my major issue is with the screen resolution.

Nintendo has put a lot of work into giving the 3DS the kind of graphical power that would entice those hardcore gamers and developers that relish fancy visuals. In terms of raw polygon-pushing and texture handling, the system is very nearly on a par with the Wii, and the launch games reflect this. What I find disappointing is these graphics would have been so much better had Nintendo chosen to go all out with a snazzy hi-def display. Maybe 1080p is a bit much to ask for but given that most new smart phones can handle some kind of HD, was it really much of a jump to give the 3DS a nice 720p to make the most of its excellent graphical capabilities?

Perhaps cost efficiency and battery power forced their hands, but it could come back to haunt Nintendo in a couple of years time when the NGP and next-gen handheld devices effortlessly provide HD content on the go. It could also hamper one of the 3DS’ greatest casual-owner-tempting hooks – delivering 3D TV and film clips. Which would be more attractive to the masses: Avatar in low-res 3D or full HD? It’ll certainly be interesting to see how popular the 3D video service is with consumers.

While the screen issue isn’t going to be an easy fix, my other gripes could be rectified when the inevitable 3DS lite XL deluxe version comes out in 18 months time. Numero Uno: I’m not a big fan of the look of the system. I can appreciate the reasons Konno-San and his team of designers chose the three-toned look, or stuck lights all around the unit, but it just doesn’t look quite as slick as the DS lite and DSi. It almost looks like someone has taken bits from various prototypes and hap-hazardly stuck them together the night before launch. Perhaps my apathy for the aesthetics will lessen given time. After all, the original DS was so ugly it nearly made me gouge my own eyes out when it was first revealed, but I’ve since come to love its oddly charming clunkiness.

I’d also like to see a slightly thicker unit, to reduce the cramp I keep getting while drifting in Ridge Racer. Some bumps on the circle pad would also be nice, as it keeps slipping from under my sweaty thumbs.

So now to the good bits. Firstly: THE. 3D. IS. ABSOLUTELY. AMAZING!

I may never understand quite how Nintendo managed to pull off such an amazing technical feat (I assume it involves quantum physics and pixie tears), but the results are very impressive. The 3D slider is a thing of genius; deftly altering the depth of the world before you. Sliding from 2D to full 3D and every degree in-between is quite entertaining in itself. It’s the equivalent of flicking your 3D glasses up during Avatar. Unlike films, this slider allows players to tailor the effect to their own comfort zone; essential given the differing levels of depth used from game to game, and people’s natural affinity for 3D.

Visually, the 3DS packs a punch. As described earlier, it’s as powerful as the Wii, but with vastly superior shaders and other such technical effects that’ll ensure the system doesn’t become too dated toi quickly. If launch titles Nintendogs, Pilotwings and Street Fighter are anything to go by, we can look forward to some real visual treats in the years to come. Even with the 3D turned off it’s hard not to be taken aback by just how good it looks in action.

But it’s not just the polygons and stereo graphics that impress.

Nintendo have bundled software with the unit designed to show off every single new feature available out of the box. Streetpass, the system’s wi-fi connection, allows players to swap game info just by passing within 100ft of each other. Taking your 3DS with you, even on short journeys, could net you a new high score to beat, track ghost to race or puzzle piece for your collection. Face Raiders allows players to take snaps of their friends and then shoot their disembodied heads as they fly around the room. It’s all in real-time and a great way of showing off the 3DS capabilities to newcomers. The augmented reality (AR) cards are another way to wow the crowds; six simple picture cards that interact with your games via the systems’ cameras. Projecting Mario, Kirby or your Mii into the real world is enough to turn any cynic’s head.

I should point out that some online features, like the browser and downloadable content, are unavailable at the time of writing, but I’m hoping Nintendo deliver these soon.

Given the hysteria the 3D visuals have generated among the mass media, I think I should mention my own experience with the stereoscopic sensation. I haven’t yet had to put the system down due to a headache or eye strain, but then I’ve been quite sensible with my play sessions. I haven’t played it while driving, or gone without the odd break every hour or so, and I’ve always adjusted the slider to suit the game I’m playing. During my ‘showing off sessions’ some family and friends have said it’s uncomfortable to watch for too long, although they seemed fine once I told them not to keep moving the system around. Maybe the quick-fire launch games aren’t a good measure; I guess the first real stamina test will be when time-sapping games like the Ocarina of Time remake come along.

So in summation, I am really, really impressed by what the 3DS can do. It looks incredible already, but I can’t wait to see how developers utilise its features in the future. The system lacks a real killer title at the moment so perhaps it’s not as essential now as it will be once the big Nintendo franchises hit. In the mean time I’m just enjoying flying around Wuhu Island, doling out tiger uppercuts and shooting balls at Keira Knightley’s face.

8/10

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