Well, the wait is finally over. Nintendo's latest console, the 3DS, arrived on these shores last Friday, and now pretty much everyone the world over can get their hands on one.
With everyone in the world and their mum....and possibly their grandma...owning a DS console, it's a fair bet that the 3DS will see Nintendo once again claiming seventy trillion units being shifted over the next year. The DS has done staggeringly well for a handheld, but now, with the emergence of other devices, such as the iPhone and whatever other device you have, Nintendo seem to not have the playing field that they had when the DS was released oh so many years ago. So.....the important question....is the 3DS any good? Continue, dear reader, and hear my thoughts.
What I liked:
Firstly, you can't start a review of the system without firstly going into the 3D capabilities of the machine. It's the whole reason the system exists essentially, and not to cover this aspect first would be like reviewing Kelly Brook and starting with her fingernails. The first time you see the 3D effects is spellbinding. Even when you're just navigating the menus on the initial set up of the machine it's hard to fathom just how they have got those menus and words to float about like that. The Nintendo PR machine has been struggling to settle on a way to market the system, which is an impossible task really. Ninty have done the clever thing of basically just saying "see it for yourself". You can't show what it's like on a TV or magazine advert, so having to go and find a demo machine and seeing the images float around on the screen almost forces you to part with your cash for the system. It's a fallacy to think of the 3D as "popping out of the screen"....think of the effects more as one of those 3D cards you used to get, maybe still do, out of boxes of breakfast cereal, with a kind of multi-layered 3D effect that gives a sense of depth, rather than pointy things aiming for your head. It almost seems like there is a deep box attached to the back of the screen. You can adjust the effects with the 3D slider on the right hand side of the top-most screen, from a basic no-3D effect to one that you feel you can almost stick your hand into. The unit itself is constructed of the highest quality, with a layout similar to the DS lite, the slight change being the start and select buttons are now found at the bottom of the touch screen, with the home button wedged right in the middle. There is one front facing camera above the top screen, and two cameras on the rear, set up for taking 3D pictures.
In built with the machine are various little programs, so you can access the 3D camera, a 3Ds sound recorder, a Mii maker, the Streetpass Mii plaza, the augmented reailty game, another title called Face Raiders, as well as setting for adding friends, system updates...blah blah blah. The 3D camera does what it says on the tin....although it's not in a tin so that analogy falls down there. Take some photos and see them in 3D. The effect differs from shot to shot, but the overall effect is pleasing. As of yet i've managed to resist taking pictures of my penis ,but i'm sure after a drunken night at the local watering hole it'll seen like the funniest idea ever. The Streetpass idea is a great one. Essentially when in sleep mode, your 3DS will pick up the signal of any passing machines, either in a shop or by someone carrying it. It then downloads a Mii character to your console, which you can then play some basic adventure games with. I can already see the potential of Nintendo offering new characters for games, outfits for your Mii etc using this tech. The two best software additions are the AR games and Face Raiders. In the latter, you take pictures of your, or indeed a friends mug, which then gets mapped onto a floating head which flies around the screen and you have to shoot balls at it. The background for this battle is supplied by the camera, so if you're playing in your toilet you'll be shooting your friends in the face while that unflushed turd lingers in the background. After a few rounds of shooting, a huge boss head appears and you have to use explosives to take it out. That's about the jist of it, but it's quite fun, and it saves the faces of people you have taken pictures of, so every so often you'll snigger as a random friends head floats into view waiting for you to lob a ball into their mouths. The AR games are the most impressive of the bunch. Packaged with the system are a set of cards featuring characters such as Mario, Samus and the surprise box. You lay a card on a table, or bed, or a naked Thai hooker if you're so inclined, and the cameras pick up the box and the game begins. Targets show up which you have to shoot, and after several levels of this you get to a boss, which in the case of the surprise box card resulted in a dragon's head emerging from my table, waving from side to side with strategically places targets around it that you have to take out. I was a bit weary of this when I first heard of it, but I shouldn't have been.....the effect is phenomenal. I had to actually keep looking up at my table just in case it was actually there. I could sing praises to the Ar mode for ages, but as with the case of the system as a whole, you really do need to see it for yourself. It comes supplied with a 2GB memory card, which is handy, they stylus, made from a small bit of metal, feels nice and durable, and all in all the system is a step above the Nintendo DS.
What I loathed:
Starting again with the 3D effect. On the whole, when it works, it works well, but there is a definite sweet spot where if you try and view it from any other angle it all falls down. You end up holding the console in such a rigid way, wide eyed and tensed up, that for passers by it must look like you're trying to use superhuman powers to burn a hole in the screen by imagining laser beams shooting out of your pupils. At other times, you do get the odd second or so when it does just look like you're looking at two separate images that are fighting for your eyes attention, almost like two parents going through a divorce trying to butter up their only child. The battery life is absolute pump.....after the initial charge I set up the machine, played around with the apps (fuck you Apple) and settled down to get stuck into a couple of games. Less than an hour on each and the recharge light was flashing, so for any amount of decent play you're going to have to keep the system hooked into the mains. The launch line up is pretty rubbish, with nothing to really bowl you over apart from Pilotwings and SSFIV (reviews coming up later). And also, there are several promised additions that haven't made it to launch....the ability to browse the web, sending your friends messages and Netflix are all to be added at a later date.
The Nintendo 3DS is a great machine. Glasses free, 3D gaming in the palm of your hand. It's constructed well, it feels nice, and the 3D effects, when flowing, are a breath of fresh air. It's almost worth buying just for the games and apps (fuck you again Apple) that are built in to the machine. A lacklustre launch line up however, as well as missing features such as the online browsing and Netflix, occasional dodgy 3D and short battery life take the second coming sheen off the console. It's a great little machine, and it's going to sell trillions....it maybe could have just been held back by a few months to make the package an instant purchase, rather than the "wait until Zelda" recommendation i'd probably give it.
Console rating: 8/10
(Stay tuned for my reviews of Pilotwings and SSFIV, coming up real soon)