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Review: Nintendo 3DS

logan j. fowler gives us an in depth look at Nintendo’s new handheld and two titles he picked up at launch …

Nintendo has pretty much had the upper hand in the handheld market for the past 20 or so years. With the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and the DS, all other competitors (for example, the Game Gear and the PSP) have fallen second to Nintendo’s slowly changing rotation of smaller systems.

The Game Boy, while advancing in graphical power over time, didn’t see much change for a long while between the Game Boy, Game Boy pocket, and Game Boy Color. Finally edging out the simple graphics for something more between sixteen and 32 bit, the Game Boy Advance brought sharper looking titles to the forefront.

When the next big step was approaching, fans and general users were left questioning how the new system-the DS-would work. Using a dual screen feature, how would companies make games for it? Would the bottom touch screen find creative usage, or would it flounder?

Thankfully, the DS flourished, and its library is broad, filled with quirky puzzle games, classic franchises, and fun adventures. Sure, some games didn’t find full use of the DS’ components, but they were few and far between. The DS raced to the top of the market, and left players wondering what the next move would be.

The 3DS was the next step in handheld gaming for Nintendo. At various conventions, players gave it a shot, and walked away claiming that yes, this was a 3D handheld that didn’t require glasses. Nintendo promised none needed and they did deliver. So for those lucky people, they got to see it early, but the general public (myself) had to bargain as to whether the investment was worth it.

The system dropped in North America on March 27, and as I was away on my spring break, I didn’t get to experience the thing fully until I got home. I picked up two launch titles which I will get into shortly, but first, let’s discuss the 3DS and its features.

My version was in cosmo black, as opposed to the other choice, the aqua blue. It is not much bigger than a DS lite, which is good for those who bought a DS carrying case of some sort. There is the traditional D pad, along with a new feature-an analog stick-, four buttons (X,Y,A,B), shoulder buttons L and R, a start button, a select button, and a home button. There is also a button to switch your wireless on and off. There is a standard volume button as well, and a power button near the bottom screen. Finally, the most important button and one that you will use a lot is the 3D slider bar. This bar will transition between 100 percent 3D and 100 percent 2D. I have shifted this bar multiple times, and quite frankly, midway between the two is my most comfortable setting.

It’s-a-me in 3D!

So, the big question is: Does the 3D work without glasses? Yes. It sure does. However, your eyes will constantly be straining to see the picture in its 3D glory, so proceed with caution. Also, you must look at the system dead on for the 3D to work. Shift it too much to the left or right and it won’t work quite right. I have a feeling a lot of kids who get this toy will be looking at it with full 3D on. Hopefully parents will exercise some restraint with their children using the feature but it’s going to wreck their eyes real quick.

On that note, Nintendo made it known that no child under the age of 6 should play it. Good call on their part.

The 3DS comes with a few features right out of the box. For instance, just like on its big brother Wii, you can create a Mii character based on your likeness, or anyone you want, really. There is a sound program which I haven’t tried out yet, but have been meaning to get to. There is also your standard settings program, as well as a friend code system (like the Wii) that will allow you to play games online against your friends. On a related note, the 3Ds features a program called “Street Pass” which will pick up the information of a fellow 3DS user if you pass by them. While the idea is semi nifty, the real question is if you yourself will get any use out of it. I can’t see doing it, honestly, and most people who have a 3DS that I know have already been added into my friend code system.

There is also a camera built into the 3DS which will take 3D pictures, which is a fun little feature. This feature plays a lot into the featured games built into the handheld, titled “Face Raiders (a game where you map your face onto a flying object and you have to shoot lasers at it)”and “ARGAMES (using the camera to take pictures of cards that came with the system).” I had trouble with “ARGAMES,” as I couldn’t get the camera to see the card. Might have been the lighting, but I’ll give it another shot.

In addition, there’s an SD card slot for games to download onto the system as well as your data from the games you purchased.

There is also an activity log and a Mii Plaza, a notification system, and an option for download play between friends. So, needless to say, the 3DS has a lot of options right from the get go; but what about the games?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ghs5assptA&w=640&h=390]

While the 3DS library in the future boasts some stellar titles (Ocarina Of Time, Star Fox 64, Dead Or Alive, Paper Mario, Mario Kart, a mysterious new Super Mario title), the launch selection was extremely weak, with no major Nintendo franchise game to back it up. I believe the DS was the same in the beginning, and it caught on in popularity, so maybe Nintendo spreading out the big titles was a choice that they made based on previous success.

With that said, let’s get down to the two launch titles I bought.

Pilotwings has been a scattered franchise for Nintendo. It got its start on Super Nintendo, and then had a release on Nintendo 64. Its return to (semi) glory can be found on the 3DS. Graphically, Pilotwings looks pretty good. It uses the same locale that was seen in Wii Sports Resort (even more, actually) and the 3D is impressive at 100 percent, but I slid the bar halfway down after some time in playing.

Pilotwings: Resort is very fun at points but very frustrating. The accuracy you try to achieve on some missions can have you hit an obstacle or do something incorrectly. I was in one of my first missions trying to land a hang glider and it took me several tries. While I have patience (I work with young kids …
so yeah), some gamers may not.

Despite that, Pilotwings: Resort is pretty much a leisure game. There’s no furious activity, no real extra pressure; it’s just a flight simulator on a cozy island. I will have fun with this game in some areas I feel, but not in all. Ultimately, Pilotwings: Resort is not for everyone. I think it should’ve been released as a demo for the system (like Wii Sports for Wii) to showcase the capabilities. It’s not worth a $40 price tag.

Street Fighter IV arrived on the PS3 and XBOX360 a while back. Ushering in a fighting genre rebirth for this generation, it had a follow up in Super Street Fighter IV for both systems. The enhanced version of the game had more characters and more modes, and now has made its way to the 3DS with Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition.


Right off the bat, I was amazed at how great SSFIV appears on the 3DS. It’s not any where near XBOX 360 or PS3 quality but for a hand held system using a cartridge it looks pretty damn good. The roster is robust, the backgrounds are active and full of life, and the fighters are as animated as they should be. Whether you are in 3D mode or 2D, I cannot begin to say enough about how beautiful it looks. It sounds great too, with all the voices and music being clear and crisp. I haven’t tried all the modes or played online yet, but rest assured, if you have a 3DS, this is pretty much the launch game to end all other launch game for the handheld (among the few that were released, anyway).

The game handles like a dream, once you get used to the control settings. The touch screen might anger some well trained players of the fighter, as it allows you to pull off moves by tapping a square with your stylus. So for instance, if you want to pull off a “Hadouken,” no need to learn the button combo; all you have to do is wait for the appropriate square to light up to be able to unleash the maneuver. Online I’m not sure this is fair; some players may cheat just to turn the tides of battle. It’s a cheap addition that overall is probably the biggest complaint I have with the game. Yes, it might make it easier for newcomers, but nevertheless, the touch screen option is not Street Fighter-worthy and it never will be.

Otherwise, the gameplay is solid, it has a great amount of content, and it looks spectacular. Recommended? You better believe it.

So in conclusion, is the 3DS worth your hard earned cash (all $250 of it)? 3D has become such a craze these days with movies and tv; will the function of a handheld work past the gimmick to deliver great games? I’d say for now…wait on it. While Super Street Fight IV is a damn fine game, it’s not enough to sell the system unless you are a diehard fan of the series (and most likely, you have its big brother on the home console by now anyway. I didn’t). The big games will be released in the summer and fall, but even then it’s tough to say it’s worth the money. Two big games announced so far — Ocarina Of Time and Star Fox 64 — are ports of older games. While I look forward to both (Ocarina Of Time is my favorite video game and Star Fox is a fun on rails flight simulator), will major franchises of ports be enough to lure the customers? I think the 3DS needs fresh content and the innovation that the original DS had.

What I can say for the 3DS is it graphically powerful. SSFIV: 3D edition proves that. But is it enough? And while the 3D is great and it does work, most buyers will not see the need to upgrade to the system unless the library makes them do so. A weak launch does not bode well for the handheld, and while Nintendo did ship out four million units on the system’s release date, every buyer has the option of trading it back in.

To 3D or not 3D? That is the question. As for now, my advice to you is hold back until the 3DS gets some better titles. As you have read I have too many questions regarding the future of the hardware, and while I have to wait for the big titles and the better content while owning the system, I can offer you, the consumer, the strong advice that the handheld may not be up snuff right now, but hopefully in time that will change and you’ll be able to make a better decision regarding Nintendo’s newest product. In any case, proceed with caution regarding your wallet — and your eyes.



  1. I want one of those!!!! I want to take a 3D pic and not be able to show it off in the internet

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