In a nice and clever touch, Nintendo has finally included games with one of its consoles out of the box, and they do a good job of showing off some of what makes the 3DS unique.
Face Raiders, which is just as disturbing as it sounds, takes a picture of your face (and those of loved ones, friends or colleagues) and plasters it onto a malignant floating 3D head, which you then have to shoot against the background of your actual environment (which is captured in real time by the twin rear cameras). You move your view not by using the controls but by moving the whole console, which tracks your movements very accurately using its built-in motion sensor and gyroscope. If you’ve ever seen Eliminate: GunRange on the iPhone 4 you’ll know exactly how this plays, except here the action gets really frantic and there’s a double dose of augmented reality in ‘real’ 3D.
The other title is AR Games, where AR stands for Augmented Reality. With your 3DS you’ll get a cardboard package containing six cards. Five of these contain 3D models of some iconic Nintendo characters like Mario, Zelda and Samus. However, one merely has a question mark on it. Put this card on a surface, wait for the 3DS to ‘read’ it and it will overlay a virtual world onto this surface. Creatures and stages will pop out of this physical card to make for some of the most entertaining augmented reality mini-games we’ve ever played. We’re really looking forward to what future cards might do.
We’re also cautiously excited about Nintendo’s launch lineup of full-blown titles. Highlights include Street Fighter IV 3D, Nintendogs + Cats, Pilot Wings Resort, Ridge Racer 3D, Super Monkey Ball 3D, Pro Evo Soccer 2011 3D, The Sims 3 and more. Unfortunately, none of them are original properties, but at worst they add an extra dimension to familiar titles, and at best they’re impressive showcases of just how far mobile gaming has come.
We’re very sorry to hear that 3DS games will be region-locked, where before Nintendo handhelds always let you buy your games anywhere in the world. This is a major step back, though it won’t affect a large portion of consumers.
Unfortunately, our biggest complaint with the 3DS has nothing to do with its 3D, connectivity or usability, but with its battery life – or rather lack thereof. On the DS Lite you could happily game all day, and then game some more; over 10 hours at a very usable screen brightness was easy to achieve. With the 3DS, you’ll be lucky to get half that, and that’s with the brightness turned down and Wi-Fi turned off.
Of course, this is more than enough for many, but Nintendo’s console is like modern smartphones in that you will need to remember to charge it every day if you intend to use it with everything turned on. Turning off 3D will also increase battery life, but then of course you’re missing out on one of the console’s main attractions. It’s worth noting that third party manufacturers are already offering extended battery packs.
When it comes to value the 3DS is a very reasonable proposition. Though there’s no MSRP in Europe since Nintendo is letting retailers set their own prices, at the moment £188 seems to be about the cheapest it is available at. Considering the DSi debuted at £150 and did far less to justify its cost, the 3DS could be considered a bit of a bargain.
It’s not without its faults and won’t be for everyone, but overall Nintendo’s 3DS does it once again: it’s a well-built and eminently usable console that offers unique appeal, stuffed with fun features and potential. The glasses-free 3D really works, and if you get tired of it you can simply use it in 2D, where you still get the most powerful dedicated portable gaming machine around. Considering its small premium over previous generation DS systems, it’s definitely worth considering if you don’t mind its short battery life.