Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Nintendo 3DS First Impressions

I managed to get a short session with the new Nintendo 3DS at a local game store, read on for my first impression of the console itself, the built in software and Super Street Fighter IV as well as my opinion on the much debated price tag.

The Nintendo 3DS in aqua blue.

I thought it would be more interesting to format this as a review, but as it was only a short session so I'll state up front this is biased. I've tried to make some educated guesses and speculation but I know I'd have to buy the 3DS for myself and have an extended play to truly make my mind up. Reading other peoples opinions did help me to notice things in that time that I may have missed though so I hope this does the same for anyone who else gets a chance.

The look: Personally I don’t find portability that much of an issue, even the DSlite which is significantly slimmer than the original DS doesn’t fit that much better into the average pocket on a pair of jeans. The 3DS is only slightly thicker and weighs in about half a pound (roughly 0.2kg) more than the DSlite so no complaints from me. Let’s be honest there will be a lite version come Christmas anyway.
The big distinction between the DS and the 3DS when it comes to the screens, beyond the obvious 3D capability is the wide screen. The top screen is 3.5” with a resolution of 400x240 as opposed to the DS’ 3.12” at 256x192 resolutions. Practically the size increase is beneficial, giving the much improved graphics and 3D effects room to pop but from an aesthetic point of view the fact the bottom screen is much smaller makes it look unbalanced. I’m not a fan of the stylus or button placement (as you will read latter,) but I’ve owned 3 generations of DS and this is always a strange adjustment at first.

Graphics and 3D: We’ve all seen the adverts or heard someone talk about it, and it’s true, it’s all pretty amazing on first sight, and the instantaneous development of the 3D as you slide the depth slider up will continue to impress I’d imagine. I played street fighter for about 10minutes (although the ridiculous placement of the power button saw me going back to the home page accidentally on two occasions.) Anyway, the visuals regardless of the 3D were really impressive and the frame rate was excellent. There was a slight graininess at times as bodyparts moved in and out of focus between foregorund and background when the 3D was low but the colours really popped.
How the Nintendo 3DS works.

Built in Software: AR (augmented reality) is something I can see being put to great effect if Nintendo commit. The idea obviously stems from the E-card Reader something that Nintendo never really made a decent push with. This is definitely one of the best ways to showcase the 3D as your effectively seeing the effect in the real world. I only had a brief play with this, the game consisted of using the built in gyroscope to aim at targets as the world warped around me. Face raiders was a similar game but much more fun, as you could move fully in 360° to shoot the super imposed pictures of your friend flying around the room. There is a mountain of potential here but I can’t help but feel a Wario ware game that utilized all these features could have been the real killer app of the console rather than having them appear more as tech demos. I still remember how much Wario ware Touched made me smile when I cracked it open on the DS release day.

This isn't a still image, and that pretty much sums up Augmented Reality.
More on Street Fighter IV: the fact that we can play this in a totally uncut format be it with the controls or graphics is amazing. The 3D is subtle but well done. For some using the touch screen to map special move shortcuts will be a nice touch but for me it’s too easy, an option to just display the commands would have been better. I’m not sure if in the harder difficulty setting the damage of these shortcuts is cut back or not but that would be a nice touch.
The dynamic camera angle really adds to the depth of the 3D.
The Price: the best price I’ve seen is £209 with any game at Tesco’s I think this is still a little steep even when it is £51 cheaper than the RRP but after trading in my DSi I wouldn’t begrudge paying it. I’ll probably wait for a few more games to get on the shelves and then take the plunge. The built in software softens the blow of the price tag a little but the fact Nintendo couldn’t get the Internet browser or virtual console ready for launch day is insulting. Rather than constantly developing something new for each console they need to roll out a reliable standard across the whole range. For example the 3DS Mii maker is much superior to what is on the Wii, but really that shouldn't be the case. They should be the same and should interact with one another.

In Brief
Style: 3.5/5 Love that flat analogue stick but not the home buttons under the touch screen or the slightly tacky looking 3D indicator.

Graphics: 4.5/5 Street fighter 4 looked beautiful from what I’ve seen the Resident Evil games are really going to show us what the 3DS can do. The 3D is very much subject to the environment in which you play it and the game itself but it’s definitely impressive.

Performance: 4/5 I noticed a tiny little bit of lag when face raiders and the AR game got a little manic but this understandably taxing, again Resident Evil looks to be the real test yet to come.

Value: 2.5/5 Very expensive for a Ninty console but if you have something to trade in it’s not so painful.

Launch Titles: 2.5/5 All the Built in software was fun but I’d like to see how long the fun lasts on extended play, it may just be a little too gimmicky. Street Fighter was awesome, turn based strategy games are a personal favourite so Ghost Recon looks great to me. Steel Diver, Nintendogs + Cats and Pilot Wings look like a lot of fun too, but I hear they lack depth. The rest of the line up does nothing for me.

The Future: The DS has been a great success; sure there are hundreds of tacky third party games aimed at children that have helped sales but there are a hell of a lot of great games out there too, especially in Japan. It’s a shame the 3DS isn’t region free cause those guys are going to do all sorts of crazy stuff that isn’t even going to see the light of day over here. If Nintendo focus, they don’t just use this purely as a stepping stone or  an experiment to cash in on a current trend before moving on, this could be something special. Lots of companies are backing Nintendo with great titles; Sega with Resident Evil: Mercenaries and Revelations and Metal Gear Solid 3 from Konami. It’s up Nintendo leads the way with great new games not just lazy ports. Of course we want updates of old IP’s, I’m drooling over the thought of a new Metroid; but supposedly the most innovative games company in the world must have a new character or two in the works.

Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D expands on the arcade game mode of Resident Evil 4 and will be packaged with a demo of Revelations and entirely new game also for 3DS.