If you're unlucky enough to live in Nottingham, get yourselves down to the Old Market Square. Nintendo have a booth down there showing off the Nintendo 3DS.
I did ask the lovely doorman if there was any chance I could go in and take some footage, as I have a blog and i'd help to promote the games and the system. Knowing that any footage I take will probably end up on a blog that no-one reads, the guy said no! I asked the lovely Nintendo girl, and she also blew me down, saying it wasn't allowed because "it's not released over here yet". I told her I realised that, but you can get footage/images etc all over the web, so she kindly told me to get them online then. Cow....
Anyway, I went in, past the gorgeous display of Nintendo handhelds old and new, and into the main area. There are several counters with systems on, and a variety of stand-alone units, all with beautiful young girls on hand to feign interest, moaning about how long they are on the stall for and to fend off the advances of stupid spotty gamers and work-dodgers fresh from selling stolen mobile phones from CEX. Anyway...on to the unit.
It's slightly bigger than the DS lite. Well set out, pretty much the same as the existing DS. Two cameras on the back, one facing forward, and the 3D slider to the right of the upper screen. I asked the girl behind the counter how the 3D effect actually works, getting the answer of "you move the slider up and down". Bowled over by that technological explanation, I dived in to the games.
Firing up the game I pushed the 3D up to the maximum level. The intro started and it didn't look 3D, so I altered the slider. Still nothing, so obviously the intro movie is just that. Getting into the game and I was actually startled by the 3D effect. It looked amazing. It's kind of halfway between 3D films and those lenticular cards you used to get in boxes of Coco pops when you was a kid....or still do if you're into that thing. Moving the slider up and down, the 3D effect increases the depth of field, making the characters stand out more. It is actually really well done, with the text and menus floating away in the air in from of what's going on. It controls well too, the analogue nub of the 3Ds feels very comfortable, and it's easy enough to pull out the moves. On the touch screen below there are 4 sections, two for supers and two for special moves. You can still pull them off using standard controls, but for beginners you can just take a short cut. It was a bit loud to be able to hear the sound quality, but the music and sound effects seemed spot on. After a few fights I put it down and came away very impressed indeed. The 3DS was off to a good start.
Turning around, I saw the Pilotwings logo. Moving straight up, I took the 3DS in hand and dove straight in. You can pick from a variety of modes, but I think some of them were locked out. Picking the Light plane, I jumped into the first mission. This sees you simply flying along going through rings that open up once you have passed through one. The first level was painfully simple, essentially I only had to move ever so slightly to get through the rings. I also tried the jetpack and hang glider modes, which were also as simplistic. The 3D effect, whilst good when you hit the spot, was absolutely awful. Any slight tilt of the screen sent waves across it, diluting the 3D effect...there is literally one spot that you can play the game in, tilt it off that spot and it all goes to hell, looking like the effect when you film a television screen when waves just make it look a mess. Oh dear.
It's Nintendogs, with cats in it, with a half decent 3D effect. The end.
Resident Evil Mercenaries.
It's a straight up 3DS version of Resi's mercenaries mode. At the start you get a choice of 3 characters, Chris, Claire, Hunk and Krauser. Choose your level and start the fight. The 3D effect is again well done, the character models are surprisingly good. Controls are a bit dodgy but after a while you get used to them, right bumper to aim, A to shoot, Y for melee attacks etc. Weapons and equipment are mapped onto the touch scree, so a simple tap sees you change your gun/equip grenades etc. It sounds good, looks great, and i'm sure it'll soak up several hours of playtime.
Dead or Alive.
A conversion of Techmo's fighting game, again it's a half decent conversion. It's fast, nippy, the controls are tight and the 3D effect on the backgrounds is very good. I'm not sure if I preferred this to Streetfighter, but I would definately purchase the game.
Probably the poster child for the 3DS. I've never got the fuss about Kid Icarus, the original NES game was shit. This however, is a different kettle of fish. Fans of Sin and Punishment and Panzer Dragoon will be right at home here. There are on foot sections, which while looking good, are somewhat let down by the controls. Obviously once you have it in your own hands and spend a bit of time with the game it may flow better, but stuck in a box in the Market Square with the great unwashed bumping into your shoulders doesn't really make for a great preview. The shooting sections are better, zooming into the screen, bullets flying around making you wince and the general pace is one that i'll enjoy getting my teeth into.
I also had a go on the built in software. I asked one of the girls if they had a unit running without any games to I could see the quality of the 3D pictures taken with the camera. She said no, but look at this. Instructed to take a picture, I took one of her face. When I was happy, pressing A saw said face mapped out onto a floating head wearing a Viking helmet. The head then shot off, and the girl told me that now it turns into shooting game. A number of balls with her face mapped onto them then appeared onscreen, and by tilting the unit you can move around, shooting the balls with the A button. This is overlayed onto whatever background is there, so as you turn the unit it shows the background, as in REAL LIFE, in realtime and the gaming elements super imposed on top. It was fun for around thirty seconds, once again the 3D effect going batshit crazy if you moved it a centimetre off the "sweet" spot....plus you also look like a grinning gonad, waving the unit around in the air, tapping a to shoot a badly rendered face. It's distracting, but you won't be spending any more time on it that an initial showing off to friends.
There were other games there, such as Pro Evo and Ridge racer, but at this time the amount of people and the smell of the general public were making me feel ill, as well as having to constantly refocus my eyes jumping from unit to unit.
So that's my brief (40 mins) look at the Nintendo 3DS. It's a nice unit, very well built, very comfortable to use and stylish. However, it's now gone from "I MUST HAVE THIS ON LAUNCH!" to "mmmmm.....i'll just wait until the inital rush is over". The 3D effect on Streetfighter IV and Kid Icarus is fantastic, on the other games it's a bit messy, which wandering off from the designated sweet spot sees the screen throw a tantrum. Apart from Kid Icarus, there is essentially nothing that you have ever not seen already, even though the games are solid enough. Indeed, turn off the 3D effect and all the games are just as playable....it actually improves Pilotwings, which is slightly worrying. Even listening to some of the people playing near me, they weren't acting like it was the second coming of christ....one woman after trying Pilotwings for several seconds put it down and told the booth girl "that's horrible!".
I'm impressed with the unit, and i'll definately be getting one. It's going to sell 80 billion units, and it'll probably be the biggest console launch in history.
I'm just not sure it deserves the hype it's currently getting.
The Nintendo 3DS and games will be released on the UK on 25th March, 2011.