Nintendo has always had a way of drifting away from the established playing field to bring us products that enthrall. While the competition is busy trying to merge the hand-held portable with the smartphone, Nintendo blazes its own trail with the new Nintendo 3DS. The biggest draw of the 3DS is in the 3D glasses-free design, though only one of the two displays on the device is 3D-enabled. The 3.5-inch 3D screen has an effective resolution of 400×240 pixels, up from 256×192 pixels found on the older Nintendo DSi.
The 3D effects are made possible by the fact that there are two vertical arrays, with each column dedicated for the individual eyeball allowing users to see and experience depth of field along with three VGA cameras. Not forgetting the other 3-inch lower resistive touchscreen, also upgraded to a resolution of 320×240 pixels.
Other areas of improvement include a bump up to 2GB of internal storage, while the SD card slot is retained. The device can also connect to the internet wirelessly to make use of the built in browser, while infra-red connectivity is possible via its IR port. The on-board stereo speakers are nowhere near high fidelity, though you can always hook up a pair of earphones for better sound.
Being glasses-free, gamers can enjoy native 3D out of the box. On the other hand, with 3D enabled, any deviation from a straight head-on view leads to acute double vision and eye fatigue. Nintendo addresses the problem with a handy analogue slider that lets users set their own viewing comfort level by adjusting the intensity and depth of the 3D effects. In complete 2D mode the viewing angles are much wider allowing you to game your way through those long, bumpy bus rides without trouble.
With regards to looks and design, the Nintendo 3DS is a lighter but larger version of its older counterparts. The classic clam-shell design is still intact though the color scheme has shifted into slightly garish territory with a new, shiny finish. A nifty addition is the Circle (or Slide Pad) which lets you bring your dexterity, honed over countless hours of using other controllers, to the Nintendo 3DS. The textured rubber provides comfortable contact with the thumb, and with better damping, helps give the slide pad an added sense of precision.
There is a relative dearth of available 3D-enabled games for the 3DS, despite the device going on sale with titles such as Super Street Fighter IV, though developers and publishers should be flooding the market anytime now. Otherwise, games like Face Raiders lets you snap pictures of your friends and have them float around your actual surroundings as you pan around blasting them out of mid-air. Also included are AR Games, with options such as Star Pics that fulfill every little boy’s dream of having Mario materialize out of thin air at his side. As an additional bonus, the console is also compatible with games for older models.
The 3DS also allows you to shoot 3D photos, with shots showing impressive depth but also suffering from low quality and muted colors. This is likely more of a fun feature to use every now and then, rather than a primary selling point.
Bottom line, we like the 3Ds. The new 3D capabilities have that wow-factor which clearly differentiates Nintendo from the competition. The only thing left to hope for is a good selection of 3D games to play.