Nintendo’s booth at PAX East was all about 3DS. There were a few regular DS games, and the poor Wii only had the recently released Mario Sports Mix available to play, but most of the booth was dedicated to 3DS, and many of the biggest launch games were present. Nintendo allowed anyone with a press pass walk into their booth without waiting in line, so I got a chance to play many of the games I was interested in, and I walked away impressed.
The system is slim and sexy. It’s about the same size and weight as a standard DSi, although the lower half felt thinner in my hands than a DSi, but that could just be my imagination. (Weight is also questionable, because its tether added weight to the system.) The top screen is slightly larger than a DSi screen, and the bottom touch screen is slightly smaller than a DSi screen. The slide pad feels good and finally introduces analog control to handheld. The graphics are impressive—even before you turn on the 3D effect—with some games looking better than most Wii games.
As for the 3D effect—the system’s biggest selling point—I’m a believer. With the 3D slider turned on, games have real depth with action clearly happening on different planes. It immerses you further in the game without sacrificing or dulling visuals. Your eyes, however, have to be positioned at a very limited angle for the effect to work. You certainly can’t view it be peeking over your buddy’s shoulder, and moving the system just a little bit can ruin the effect and blur the visuals. That said, the more I played, I had fewer instances of losing the effect. The 3D doesn’t pop out of the screen and float in front of your face like Disney World or Universal Studios attractions are capable of doing, but it looks better than any 3D movie I’ve seen in theaters, all without glasses.
The launch games are all visually stunning, but honestly, none of them got me really excited. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time certainly looks nice, and it’s very cool shooting the slingshot in 3D, but there aren’t enough changes to entice me into buying and playing it once again. The portion of Kid Icarus: Uprising showed off in the demo played similarly to an on-rails shooter like Starfox, and if that’s all it is, it’s not enough for me to buy. If there are other, more compelling elements to the game, my interest could be piqued, but I was never a huge Kid Icarus fan. (The theme on NES kicks ass; the game kicks my ass.) Resident Evil: Mercenaries looks amazing, and it’s fun, too, but it seems like it’s just a fleshed-out mercenaries mode from the recent Resident Evils. More than anything, it made me excited for the real Resident Evil game for 3DS, of which there has been little news. The release date hasn’t been announced, but it’s far off in the horizon.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play Steel Diver, Nintendogs & Cats, or Super Street Fighter IV. I wish I checked out Steel Diver. Fighting games aren’t my thing, but Fozzy tried out Street Fighter, and he said there were touch screen options for pulling off combos, making the game more accessible for noobs. As for Nintendogs, who really cares?
Probably the coolest thing I saw on 3DS (besides Mercenaries) was the augmented reality mini-games. Each system comes packed with these cards you can play mini-games with using the 3DS. It’s hard to properly describe, but you set one of these cards on a table, position the 3DS about 15 inches away from it, and then play games with it using the 3D camera. Virtual images pop out of the card, mixing reality with video games. I played with a coin block card. Little virtual coin blocks started popping out of it, and I had to shoot them by moving the 3DS around and lining them up in the crosshairs on my camera. The camera also altered the reality of the physical, real-world objects, at one point warping the card and table, caving them in. I would love to see fuller, more fleshed-out augmented reality games. There is tons of potential in the idea, especially when you add in 3DS’ accelerometer and gyroscope.
I’m not much of a handheld gamer, but 3DS is sexy, and I want it. The only thing holding me back is the lack of compelling launch software and the knowledge that a better model is surely on the way down the road. But having experienced the system, I doubt I’ll be able to resist for that long. I do know this—once Resident Evil Revelations releases, the system will be mine, whether there is a newer model or not. Then again, the pack-in augmented reality mini-games are pretty cool Damn you, Nintendo!!