Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hands on the Nintendo 3DS

by Angie

This week Katie and I got a chance to check out the Nintendo 3DS. As many of you know, this new device sports the ability to play 3D games without glasses. Unfortunately, we discovered some warnings on the box and in the accompanying literature that apparently 3D might be "bad" for young kids. The information I could find basically says prolonged viewing may interfere with the development of healthy eye-sight, and Nintendo is claiming the 3D features of the 3DS should only be used by kids over age 7. Fair enough, it seems like a standard legal disclaimer and probably decent advice. For anyone concerned, the system sports a whole host of parental controls, including the ability to password lock specific features (such as 3D viewing). We decided we weren't too worried about it, but we would make sure to limit 3D time for Katie. I explained it to her and she was in agreement, she suggested maybe only 10 minutes a day. We turned on the password protected 3D viewing just in case and were ready to play! Our test subjects were the built-in software that comes with the system and the game Rayman 3D.

Shoot My Face!

New... shiny!!! Worth it?

The first thing we did was try out the preinstalled game Face Raiders. Within minutes Katie and I were laughing so hard as we sat on our kitchen floor taking turns throwing balls at the 3D faces flying all over the room. This game is a 3D augmented reality game, and what that means is it uses the cameras on the 3DS to recreate in the game the actual physical environment you are in. In the case of Face Raiders, you take a picture of a face, and the game turns it into a 3D flying helmeted bad guy that is cruising around whatever room you are in, in this case we were being attacked by hosts of Katie-faced 3D figures in our kitchen. It's hard to explain how cool this is in words, but it was definitely a neat experience. The 3DS uses a built in accelerometer and you are basically swerving all over with the device and knocking holes in the virtual mockup of your environment. Jack came running in and took a look at the screen and said "Oh no, broke our kitchen!" then promptly ran behind the device, checked out the cabinets, came back and said "Coooool!! I turn?". I do wish it didn't make you turn around so much when fighting though. It was fine on the kitchen floor, but when I tried playing this game in the car I was simultaneously impressed at how fun it was to see the real-world environments (the gas station, the street, and Randy driving!) and also irritated that it kept having me be attacked from behind, which required physically turning around to get those enemies. It diminshed the otherwise crazy-fun experience into a neck craining and frustrating one. I didn't mind enemies in about a 180 degree arc in front of me, but anything outside that range seem like it would only be fun if you were standing up playing... which I rarely am. Another complaint is that it was very hard for us to get the camera-images to line up just right with the guide marks, and the end result was a weirdly distorted 3D effect on the faces. Low-lighting further increases the challenge, and apparently our house is pretty dimly lit. Overall though, Face Raiders is pure fun. Another one of those zany nintendo-style ideas that is always pushing video games further. I loved the laugh-out-loud silliness and fun factor, but I think it was the weird idea, the use of augmented reality, and smooth accelerometer controls that really made it fun more than the 3D effect.

Really Real?

We tried to play around with the AR cards included with the game, but apparently the lighting in our house made it difficult for the cameras to focus on the cards, and it seemed like we really needed to do it in a brightly lit room where we could walk around the card. Not my ideal playing conditions, so I guess I just gave up on it. Looks like that had some potential to be fun and cool, but the limitations on it made it seem so-so appealing to me.

Rayman.. in 3D

Not much to say here. I liked it when the butterflies flew out towards me. The rest of the game... not so much fun. I don't think the 3D effect made it worth the timewarp back to the early 90's when blocky "3D" platformers were all the rage. Clunky controls and camera angles.. etc. It wasn't a "wow"-me title. If you liked the game the first time around, it might be fun to revisit with the new effects, but after a few minutes I was completely checked out (and more than a little nauseous.).

3D, 3", $300 (Almost)

So, is the 3D awesome and worth the hefty price tag?? In my opinion, no. At least not yet. The launch lineup of games doesn't include any of the big system-selling titles that I would expect (Mario, Zelda, and their friends) and is overall not that impressive to me. Additionally, as someone who is prone to migraines I found the 3D effect to be somewhat nasuea and headache inducing. The 3D effects are only viewable from an optimal distance and angle. In other words, if you don't hold the device precisely at the "right" location, you'll be seeing blurry double-takes as if you were at a 3D movie with no glasses on. At least that's how it was to me. Now the thing I LOVE about a handheld system is portability of playing. I like to play in the car or lounging on the couch or late at night cuddled up in my bed. I constantly found myself having to adjust from my comfortable position to a more rigid one in order to properly view the 3D effects. Even when I get it to the optimal range I'm still seeing small flickers, so if you're one of those people who is sensitive to the flickering of flourescent lights (like I am) you might experience a bit of that with the 3DS as well. Overall, the 3D effect was kinda neat when I got it to work right, providing a good depth of field 3D effect without glasses and an occasional 3D pop-out effect. Pretty impressive really, if you're willing and able to hold it just right. Honestly folks, it's a limited viewable range... no looking over someone's shoulder or holding the device even a fraction of an inch off center. The 3D slider allows for some adjustment of the depth, and you can turn it off at any time. Some exciting upcoming features such as streaming 3D movies from Netflix sound like they might be cool, but I'm worried about the comfort and practicality of viewing a 3D movie on a 3 inch screen at approximately 14 inches from your face in exactly a straight line.

Play Time

The thumb stick feels pretty fluid and comfortable. Seems like a decent improvement. The device plays DS games, so that backwards compatability is always appreciated. My biggest disappointment is that when playing DS titles, the viewable screen area was smaller than the DSi. Not by a lot, but enough to notice. It was like taking a step back. After exploring the 3D features a little we ended up just playing our Pokemon Black/White games, and I found myself really wanting to just play on my DSi.

Final Verdict

Admittedly, I am a bit of a Nintendo fangirl. I think I've owned every single Nintendo console including practically every model of each of the handhelds. I've had at least one Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Pocket, Gameboy Advance, Gameboy Advance SP, DS phat, DS lite, DSi... did I miss any? As such, it pains me a little to say this... my final verdict on the 3DS is to wait it out. I'm sure there will be a new-improved version in a year or so, and/or a price drop. Once there's a decent game lineup and all features are fully functional I think this system has some potential, but right now it's just seems like kind of a "neat trick".

The end of the story... we traded the 3DS for a DSi XL and I'm totally happy about it.

GIANT screens!!!

Have any questions, or your own thoughts on the 3DS? Leave a comment!

Have you entered our Say Anything Family Giveaway? There's still time left! Check it out here: Say Anything Family Giveaway! 

No comments:

Post a Comment