I told you all before that I was really going to try and get back into Nintendo software and hardware. I felt that it was something I needed to do in order to balance out the content we offer here on COE. As such, when Ocarina of Time 3D hit the stands I knew the time had arrived for me to pick up a 3DS. So I did just that. The day after I placed my order, Canada Post decided to lock out all their employees who were on a rotating strike. That ended up delaying my package by a stunning 12 days! Isn’t that awesome? Yeah, I thought so too. My 3DS finally arrived on June 28th, but I couldn’t really get into the system because of my Legendary Journey (http://www.projectcoe.com/category/hands-on/legendary-journey/) articles. I figured it would be best to finish off The Wind Waker before jumping head first into the 3DS experience. I think that was the smart move because now I have all the time in the world to get into Nintendo’s latest hardware. So let’s jump right on in.
Before even opening the box the first thing that struck me was the size of the box. This sucker is as big as the original Game Boy box, or very close to it. Opening it up revealed a ton of instructions manuals, the 3DS, a charge cradle and an AC adapter. Oh and those nifty AR cards. I won’t bother talking about the AC adapter or the cradle, because…well…it’s a cradle. What more can I say?
The hardware itself looks very similar to that of the DSi, except the top screen is a sharper 16:9 screen and the top lid of the system sticks out slightly over the bottom panel. It’s kind of the reverse of the original DS. All the buttons are easily accessible, and I like how the stylus is hidden away right beside the game slot. I originally thought the stylus was tiny, but then realized it extended to a nice size. I do find the top portion of the system is a little loose compared to my DSi, but that could just be my system’s hinge isn’t as tight as others. It does make a click sound when I open and close it, so I think that’s normal. Let me know if yours is the same. Outside of that the only other big difference in controls is the new analog nub, and that works better than the PSP’s, but worse than an analog stick. The rest of the system feels nice with good button placement and a solid, but tiny d-pad. It also includes a 2GB SD card, which I didn’t even realize until I messed around with the system. That should suffice for the time being. Can’t complain about anything hardware-wise….except for the battery.
Having only just tested the system, the battery already needs to be recharged. That’s a little disappointing compared to the never-ending battery life of the previous DS models. I found the recharge time to also be quite a bit longer than my DSi, which surprised me. I’m not sure if the charging cradle decreases the charge time or not, but after 2.5 hours my system still isn’t completely filled. My initial play test found the battery to last around three hours and twenty minutes or so. That’s far worse than I thought, and I might just end up playing my games in 2D mode to save some battery power. Speaking of dimensions.
When I first booted the 3DS I was surprised by how the 3D elements are completely integrated into the dashboard and virtually every other feature in the system. That’s good because it’s the number one selling point of the system, it says so right there in the first sentence on the box. The slider works really well, but obviously whether or not you use the 3D will depend on you. I don’t get headaches like some people, but I do have to adjust the 3D effect slightly or else I find I get cross-eyed a bit for some reason. You really need to get used to it though as your eyes are working harder than they ever have before. There’s not too much more I can say about the 3D except that I like what I’ve seen thus far, and I’m not a huge fan of 3D to begin with so color me surprised. Even downloading games from the eShop has a nice 3D effect. I’ll give Nintendo solid points in the implementation department. Obviously if you aren’t going to use the 3D feature, well then just ignore what I said and enjoy your extended battery life.
Once you turn on the system the dashboard is clean with two options for separating the channels. You can have them all spaced out in a single line or you can double everything up. The channels here are small little icons, so for OoT 3D you see the Hylian shield for example. Right out of the box I updated the firmware so my initial icons included, Health & Safety Information (always useless, I mean useful), Nintendo 3DS Camera, Nintendo 3DS Sound, StreetPass Mii Plaza, Mii Maker, AR Games, Face Raiders, Download Play, Activity Log, System Settings, and the Nintendo eShop. Obviously I’ve got a lot more now, but these are the ones you start off with once you update the firmware. I think moving forward the system will get cluttered with so many icons, but for now it works perfectly fine. Think of it like a refined DSi dashboard.
The first software I tested was Mii Maker, which has a really nifty feature that lets you take a picture of yourself and make a Mii that resembles said pic. Mine came out pretty good if I do say so myself. You can then transfer that Mii into the Mii Plaza and turn StreetPass on. StreetPass is when you keep your system in stand-by mode and walk around with it. As you meet other people with the 3DS your Mii will be transferred to their system, and theirs to yours. At E3 apparently all kinds of people snagged Miyamoto and Reggie’s Miis. It’s just a cool little extra feature.
Next I tried Face Raiders, which was hilarious. Essentially you take a picture of your face, or someone else’s and the software wraps the face around a 3D sphere. It then opens the mouth of the face and you use the system to physically move all around your room, or wherever you’re playing trying to shoot balls at the face or the open mouth being launched at you. As the face rams into the screen, pieces of the screen start to break off, huge blocks come flying at you and so much more. Think of it like an old school shooter such as Gradius, but in first-person and in full stereoscopic 3D using your real environment and surroundings. It’s great for a laugh and is a perfect showcase for the system’s 3D effects.
After the fun time I had with Face Raiders, I decided to try AR Games, which Ahmed was going on about when I spoke to him about the 3DS. Included with the 3DS are six AR cards. One is a ? box from the Mario series, one of Mario, Link, Kirby, Samus, and some Pikmen. By placing the ? box on a flat, well-lite surface the 3DS is able to pick up the card and create a mini-game around the card. Blocks appear with a shooting gallery, all while using the card placed on your real-world surface. It was another excellent example of using the 3D effects in a smart and intuitive manner. Word of warning though, make sure you have the cards in a room that’s bright because otherwise the system will lose the card.
I also looked at the Activity Log, which basically works like the Wii reports, letting you know exactly what you have played on the system, how many steps you’ve taken with it in Standby mode, etc. Nothing overly special, but it does a nice job of keeping track of everything you’ve done on the system.
Since I upgraded the firmware right away I then tested out the eShop to score my free copy of Excitebike 3D which was pretty cool. It too featured great 3D effects, although there’s only so much you can do with an NES game after all. I found the backgrounds in particular had great use of depth that 3D offers. I’m eager to try an actual 3DS game, but that will have to wait until later. Outside of Excitebike 3D the eShop works quite nice, allowing players access to the Virtual Console for Game Boy classics, such as Super Mario Land and Link’s Awakening. There are also some great 3D videos up there, but Nintendo has said not all of this video content will stay online forever. This is clearly the best store Nintendo has put together, allowing users to easily find what they’re looking for. It’s not perfect just yet, but we’re getting there Nintendo.
There are also a few other features I tried out, namely Game Notes, Friend List, Notifications and Internet Browser. The browser is just that, a browser. Notifications are little updates that Nintendo passes onto your system, if you want them to, which let you know what’s going on. These notifications include store updates, new firmware features, etc. The Game Notes is kind of unique. At any time while playing a game you can press the home key to suspend your game and open Game Notes to jot down a brief note to yourself. It’s saved for later access, and you can simply return to your game. That feature is extremely useful for the next thing I want to discuss, the Friend List.
While not as deep as what’s featured on the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live, it’s a good start for a company that at one time dismissed online gaming completely. Basically you have to opt in, but once you do you only need to enter your friend’s 3DS code once. At that time he does the same and you both can see each others’ Miis as well as what game they’re playing and if they’re online. You can also select a game as your favorite from a list of everything you’ve played on the system. That’s about all you can do for now, but again, it’s a very good start for Nintendo. Add a message system and we’ll really be somewhere.
I think I’ve gone on long enough for now. My initial impressions are quite good. I think Nintendo has built a strong machine here and once I actually play through some 3DS software I’ll be able to judge the most important feature, how good are the games. For now, the technology is impressive and I can’t wait to get into Ocarina of Time. What do you think of the Nintendo 3DS?
For those interested my 3DS code is 3995-6621-5923.