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February 6, 2011 / Alistair

Exclusive Nintendo 3DS hands on

The new age of gaming and entertainment is finally making a giant leap into the 3D world where those pesky glasses are not needed to experience the three dimensions of the virtual world. Guest writer Dan Fewell takes the Nintendo 3DS for a spin

Photo: Dan Fewell

The event

I went to the preview of the new handheld console from Nintendo; the 3DS. My exclusive hands-on took place at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick lane.

On arrival I was greeted by an array of lovely ladies, so Nintendo, you’re currently in my good books at this point, and I hadn’t even seen the console yet!

The first room I encountered was a lobby that contained a museum-like exhibit of the history of handheld Nintendos, which was once loved by the gamming community.  There was the Play and Watch, the Game Boy and the original DS.

Then the event began, the hosts showed us to a white mat where once you stepped upon it squares would appear at your feet, as more people stood on the mat, more squares appeared, which were all joined together with lines, symbolising the “Street Pass” System.

This system is a lot like the “Recently Played With” system shown on online service like Xbox Live and PSN. They are encouraging players to have their 3DS on standby so as you roam the streets and neighbourhoods, you share data such as your Mii avatar and achievements with other players

The affect that this ‘always on’ feature has on the battery life does concern me, and I have read on forums and news sites that the 3DS can last up to 4 hours without WiFi, which could be decreased by the uncontrollable use of the “Street Pass”. I am fairly sure that it can be disabled or if all else fails the console can be turned off fully. Also, I can’t imagine many users opting to carry the 3DS around with them all the time, like they would a mobile phone.

The event had several themed rooms, one with people performing martial arts in relation to Street Fighter, and another with actors who were infected with the ‘T-Virus’ from zombie-shooter Resident Evil.

Jonathon Ross was at the launch of the 3DS last month, and today he was back, albeit on television screens. Due to technical issues his voice couldn’t be heard, but thankfully our female host saved the day with some improvisation, gaining herself a round of applause.

Finally we were led to the consoles themselves in a room that felt more like a nightclub than an expo.

Hands on

The 3DS feels great in the hand, very comfortable and the buttons are all well placed, as you’d expect. The addition of an analogue stick is a welcome one, and it felt much more comfortable to use that the stick on a PSP.

The 3D use in the Pro Evolution Soccer was truly amazing and a good place to start my 3DS experience, it was so immersive and incredible. I could see the crowd in the background, I could see the scoreboard floating in the foreground; but it wasn’t the sickly feeling I had when I played GT5 in 3D with glasses for the PS3, which did feel really uncomfortable to watch.

The next game I played was Asphalt, which was a racing game with an eccentric style much like the Need for Speed titles, involving huge jumps and massive nitro boosts. Here, 3D was used in the menus to show statistics floating around each car, so you have to use the analogue stick to rotate the car to see the statistics in full, which in itself was very impressive.

I was so impressed with the 3D effects in Asphalt that I kept crashing from getting distracted by the impressive visuals. The HUD (Heads up display) was the thing that jumped at you the most and moved in accordance with the direction your moved the car, also the back end of the car seems to be the nearest object to you on screen, with my opponents moving “deeper” into the screen as they pulled away from me.
Next up was Street Fighter. I was greeting with some amazing graphics, the best I’d seen on a console of this size, very similar to those found on the Wii but ever so slightly better!

Before the selection of my character, I was surprised by a certain choice I had to make for my camera view, I had to choice between “Normal View” or “Dynamic View” and of course I picked the most interesting of the two choices. After selecting Dynamic View and my character I was now ready to take on my opponent.

The controls for the fighting were basic fighting controls you would expect from any game of this genre; punch, kick block etc. But the clever use of the touch pad is where the special moves were contained, instead of having to memorise button combination for an attack as if it was an exam, you could simple tap and wait to “Bring the Pain!!” which was so satisfying seeing a Japanese girl fly about 6 feet into the air before being burnt on the bottom by one of my many fire balls, which spawned from my hands, and yes I did restrain myself from shouting “KO!”

The 3D in Street Fighter was very similar to that in the other titles, but one place where it stood out was the loading screen showing your character pictures, and a dramatic background of the upcoming fight. It really felt good with the cell shaded cartoony look, much like a popup book like you used to read as a kid.

The last feature we were shown really showed off the pinnacle of the 3DS capabilities.

Reality, Jim, but not as we know it

The first activity I was treated to in this room was the AR games (Augmented Reality), which The set up for these games was very simple, a small card was placed in a well lit area on the desk which I had to locate and identify with the 3DS’s camera, and from this a box came to life in 3D on the screen.

From this I had compete view of the object, I could walk around this cube like reality and see every face and edge of this object as long as I kept the card in line of sight of the cameras. This then turned into a game where I had to shoot various targets where I had to physical move around this desk to hit the target correctly, the thing that impressed me the most about this feature was the card “sunk” into the desk and I had to lean over and shoot down a hole to hit the target, which felt amazing.

Then I had to fight this small little dragon creature and shoot him until he was defeated. I kept forgetting I could move around the dragon so I could shoot him in areas that I couldn’t when facing head on, and at the end of it all I put down the device and the card was still there. I had completely forgotten about it!

This augmented reality game is one of the many preinstalled features on the console, and to extend my excitement further the hosts said that there are many cards that come with the Nintendo 3DS, such as a Mario card which brings our little Italian friend to life and lets us experience him in the digital flesh.

Another preinstalled feature is a game called Face Raiders, which takes a photo of you and places it on various Japanese characters, which you could then control and use to shoot targets with.

This was a good feature but not the most impressive of the day, but certainly showed the potential for a wide range of games on the 3DS.

The Nintendo 3DS is able to take 3D photographs with the two cameras located on the back of the console. This produced great photos with good depth and I can see this really opening up the market for 3D photography!

We saw trailers for Metal gear Sold: Snake Eater, Mario Kart and Star Fox, all of which looked very impressive in their all-new 3D format.

To conclude…

In conclusion I truly enjoyed the 3DS and after experiencing it I can see why it’ll be priced at around £200, higher than the standard DS. The preinstalled software alone makes up for this price increase.

The only doubt I have with the Nintendo 3DS is whether the 3D will be seen more as a gimmick than a useful feature? Also, will the content of the game distract the gamer from the true beauty of the 3D effect?

Either way this is the big step in 3D that the entertainment industry should be paying attention to, with the photos becoming 3D I expect digital photo frame manufactures to truly embrace the technology.

Nintendo have really out done themselves this year and with the upcoming titles and the creative spark alive, it’s now down to developers to bring more interesting content to the table. I can see gaming on this device being a very enjoyable experience for any generation of gamer, which has always been one of Nintendo’s strongest assets.

 

Dan Fewell can be found on Twitter @directdan

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