Small things, big changes
I'm not a wonderful person to give a handheld, I'm not that fond of them, the DS didn't interest me, the DS-Lite didn't float my boat and the PSP and so on just left me cold. But over the years I've kind of warmed a little after watching friends play various iterations of the handheld market and some of the games. So taking some time with someone's 3DS and writing a spotlight on it seemed to be a dangerous move.
So before you worry that I'm going to hate it, I don't. If I wanted to get a handheld, then the 3DS would actually be one I bought. Not particularly for the games, but the features are quite nice and the handheld itself has a nice feel to it. It's not too weighty and the controls are pretty easy to use, things that I presume go down well for a new user to the handheld market and those veterans that were playing handheld LCD Pacman games back in the days before the internet.
I'm also not going to do one of those prosaic in-depth gadgety reviews, this is more informal and it's more going to be a bunch of features as I think of them, ones that interested me or at least ones that should appeal to a gamer.
The biggest draw for me in the 3D regard, no glasses, it's all based on depth and I can see straight away where the games market could take this technology and how they can implement it. I had a crack at Face Raiders and after using the camera to take some amusing snaps of various people, I spent a while spinning around like an idiot and shooting them in their amusingly animated faces for points. The 3D here is really well done and the slider controls the intensity of the 3D on the handheld itself, you can shut it down completely if you want...but that would be rather defeating the point of having a 3D capable handheld though.
The stereoscopic 3D runs in the top screen and it's immediate, you get a good sense of depth and you can actually make better judgments in terms of positions of your game characters, making fewer mistakes and generally improving your hand-eye coordination. So that's a bonus right there.
This is basically a really neat little feature of the gadget, the 3DS takes the background for a game like Face Raiders from where you are, the cameras allowing you to see it in perfect 3D and the game superimposes the graphics atop of this, you move the environment around by shifting the 3DS across its major axis and shoot the oncoming evil faces and targets. The most impressive thing though is the reaction of people when they see the background, they can see the shop they're in, or the park, or the underground...their living room. It gives a deeper connection to the player than before.
You can also watch the various Augmented Reality cards change, alter and pop out when you point the 3DS at them. It's a feature I didn't spend overly long on since I was eager to rock out to some of the games, which played pretty well. Pilot Wings, Street Fighter and so on...it's all good stuff.
It's a pretty decent resolution camera and the 3D effects it can create are great fun, you can take stereoscopic 3D pictures and view them on the handheld. Having depth to a wedding photo or just a shot of your garden is something unusual, perhaps even a bit gimmicky but it's also pretty effective. I give this feature the thumbs up because I'm all for innovation and this actually has a use. I can see several uses; most of them do fall outside the realm of handheld gaming though.
Now this is something I am really not used to, but I can see the advantages of it on the 3DS and most of the DS' I've seen. It's useful having the main game screen up top and a Resident Evil style inventory or menu system down below. The 800*420 res top screen really makes for some relatively eye-popping visuals and supports the 3D very well. I'm told it allocates just over 400 or so pixels for each eye, and even though that's something that goes over my non-tech head...it still sounds impressive enough.
The 16.77 million colours (phew) 320*240 res bottom screen is where all the menu fun happens and so on, again it's crisp and delivers a nice resolution image that remains rock steady. Fortunately I wasn't made motion sick by the 3DS so I can't really comment on that, but I hear some folks are sensitive to that kind of thing.
Motion Sensor and Gyro Sensor
I had to do some research on this particular facet of the handheld, mainly because I'm pretty fond of the Kinect and PS Move. I quite like motion controls in general and the 3DS offers since it lets you spin and tilt the handheld to look around the screen, seen actively in Face Raiders and most of the camera functionality when setting up the 3D, via those adorable little cards.
The circle pad is directly above the +Control Pad. They control is also analogue and offers a good deal of feedback in the games. When you add all of this together with the regular buttons, motion controls above, microphone input and even the 3D camera and touch screen...you have a recipe for games that use a lot of unique controls to control the play and immerse the user into the game world a lot more. The developers haven't yet cracked the ultimate 3DS app...But I am sure someone will!
I was quite taken with Nintendo's quirky, stylish and pen-like adjustable stylus which offered a nice user-friendly way to change your stylus length, allowing various people to try the handheld and control the games the way they want to. It didn't feel cumbersome and it felt extremely natural, like holding a very expensive pen.
The 3DS also comes with a cradle-style charge dock, which lets it idle in sleep mode and communicate using SpotPass 24-7.
Included in the package is a handy 2GB SD Memory Card that lets you store all the photos, saves, sound recordings and everything you want on the 3DS. You can also expand the storage space via the SHDC card compatibility - yet another feature that I give the thumbs up to. Especially since Nintendo allows you to download and store games from its eShop...getting more space seems to be a must!
After taking a quick look around, the 3DS can play MP3 and AAC file formats too.
This comes in 2 flavours, one is:
SpotPass: The handheld can detect wireless hotspots or wireless LAN access points, it can obtain information from them, game data, videos, free software even when the system is in sleep mode, or charging idle. It was noted by Nintendo though that upon launch some of those features might not be available.
StreetPass: Taking a leaf out of social networking and the ever-present need for people to connect in new and interesting ways, StreetPass lets a sleeping DS sit in your pocket or bag, whilst it exchanges data with them in an invisible manner. It can pass on high scores, custom characters, Mii's and so on. You can fortunately control what data you share or disable it if you're uber paranoid. You can also set it to exchange data for multiple games at one time too.
This kind of connection is somewhat interesting, but also somewhat disturbing since I always like to know when I'm making connections to someone! It's only polite after all!
A lot to offer
With its sleek design, pleasing aesthetic and numerous features the Nintendo 3DS might just be one of the best handhelds on the market, when you add in the 3D that doesn't require overly priced glasses or various filters to work, you can seriously see that this package is actually worth the price tag of £200. With games like Street Fighter for the 3DS hitting the £30 mark and the offers that various stores push out, now is a good time to grab one.
It comes highly recommended from a newly converted handheld guy!