Nintendo have been touring the country, giving small audiences the chance to experience the console before it hits the shelves.
I got the chance to attend one of these events and would like to share my thoughts on the event and the 3DS were there to experience. Upon arrival, we were invited into a corridor lined with a small exhibit of Nintendo’s classic hand-helds, each displayed in it’s own glass cabinet. Starting with the Game & Watch at the entrance of the corridor, and a large Nintendo 3DS logo forming an interactive floor display at the end, it was clear that Nintendo wanted to position the 3DS as not only the latest in a beloved lineage of handheld consoles, but also as something genuienly innovative, not merely an incremental upgrade to previous hardware. They want to make it clear that the 3DS stood on it’s own.
After being greeted by a cheerful Nintendo representative, we were asked to move through a curtain to the right and into the next room, where the presentation would begin.
We were ushered into a darkened room with a rope barrier behind which stood a man dressed as Ryu. It was immediately apparent that Nintendo had more in store for us than a simple presenation. From the back of the set, a new challeneger appeared, dressed as Ken. Ryu’s music kicked in and we were treated a fantastic martial arts display, with Ryu and Ken trading blows, uppercuts and jumping roundhouse kicks, it was perfectly choreographed and great fun to watch. The fight culminated in Ryu and Ken facing each other, each preparing to unleash a hadouken, before a voice announced that the time was up and the fight was over. The whole thing took me quite by surprise. It was a great way to get people hyped up for what was coming next.
After being given a chance to have your photograph taken with Ryu and Ken, we were met by a Jill Valentine look-alike who informed us that there had been an outbreak of the T-Virus (thankfully localised only to the next room) and that if we were to stand any chance of survival, we would need to follow her exact instructions. Ducking down through a narrow doorway into a darkened room, we were told to run quickly towards a Chris Redfield look-alike who was locked in mortal combat with a chainsaw weilding zombie. It has to be said, the room was very dark, and it was a little difficult to appreciate the effort the actors were putting in, but it was exciting none the less, and the genuine enthusiasm exhuded by the actors really added to the experience.
The next room gave us time to chillout a little, comprising of a video display showcasing upcoming 3DS games. After a short introduction message by Jonathan Ross, we finally got to play with the console.
There were a selection of games available to play, none of which disappointed.
The console itself is very comfortable to hold. It felt marginally heavier in the hand than the DS Lite, but the build quality is superb. It feels sturdy and durable, and although I wouldn’t like to test it, I suspect it could survive quite a beating. The analog stick on the left-hand side of the console is rubberised and extremely comfortable, although it was hard to judge it’s responsiveness, as it seemed to vary from game to game.
What we were really interested in was the 3D effect, though. In short, it’s very good. There is a slider on the right hand side of the top panel that allows you to adjust the level of the 3D effect or even disable it completely. For most games, I found setting it to the maximum level was fine for most applications. There is a definate sweet spot that you must find in order for the 3D to really shine. I was initially concerned that this sweet-spot might be a deal breaker. I imagined it would be hugely irritating to lose the 3D effect with every minor movement of the console. Thankfully, in reality, the sweet-spot is quite large. Once you have found a comfortable sweet-spot, you probably won’t have any problems maintaining the 3D effect. Even if you do drift from the sweet-spot, it doesn’t render the game unplayable in any way. I was very impressed. Nintendo have chosen the tagline “Believe your eyes” to promote the 3DS, and it’s really quite appropriate. The 3D effect really is something you need to experience to truly appreciate.
There were a selection of titles available to play;
Cards on the table, I’m not a huge Zelda fan. There, I’ve said it. I don’t dislike the Zelda games, I just don’t have any paticular affection for them. With that in mind, I think I can say I was one of the few people were weren’t very excited about playing Zelda in 3D. The effect worked well though, characters and menus had a satisfying illusion of depth, textures were crisp and the colours were vibrant and bright. The depth of field shift when using Link’s slingshot was smooth and convincing. All in all, great use of the technology and if you’re a Zelda fan, then this game should be on top your list of launch purchases.
Fantastic fun. The 3D effect whilst flying around was truly breathtaking. I’ve never been good at Pilot Wings, however, and ejected soon after starting play, but seeing my character parachuting to safety in 3D made up for my embarrasment of failing at the game so spectacularly.
Resident Evil Mercenaries 3DS
This is the same as what you played in Resident Evil 5 but handheld, essentially. The graphics are among the best I have ever seen on a handheld console and easily hold their own compared with the 360 and PS3 versions of Resident Evil 5. Using the analog stick to run and shoulder buttons to aim felt natural, and if you’ve played RE5′s mercenary mode before, then it won’t take you long to get to grips with this.
Dead or Alive: Dimensions
Probably my personal favourite of the show. I got the chance to play through a few rounds using Hitomi, and can report that this game as an absolute delight. Characters handle exactly as you’d expect, and the 3D is put the great effect as you circle your opponents and push them down onto different areas of battle. The game apparently runs at an increased framerate when the 3D is disabled. I did disable the 3D, but didn’t notice a huge difference. With the 3D effect set to maximum, the game glides along nicely with no discernable slowdown at all. A fantastic game and one I can’t wait to play more of.
Kid Icarus: Uprising
I didn’t have much time to get to grips with this one. Certainly gorgeous to look at, the game controls were a bit tricky, requiring both the analog stick and stylus to be used. It looks like it could be good fun, but I’d need more time with it to give it a fair assesment.
Street Fighter 4
This is basically a straight port of Street Fighter 4. Graphics were excellent, frame rate was great, and it handled well. The 3D effect really shone whilst unleashing super-combos, but was fantastic during normal combat too. Gameplay wise, there is very little new here, but the 3D breathes new life into the game. Another day one purchase, if you ask me.
Cute. Unfeasably adorable. Great fur effects on the cute little dogs, and the 3D is used to great effect when playing your cyber-pooch. Picking up a ball and throwing into the distance is really emphasises the illusion of depth the 3DS can create. Although probably not a game that will appeal to the hardcore, as a demonstration of the 3D technology, this was among the best of the show.
There were a number of augmented reality games available to play, including Face Raiders, where you must scan the room and shoot down balloons emblazened with your, or a friend’s, face. Another AR game on display was similar in concept to Eye of Judgment. By scanning a supplied card placed on a table, the 3DS could render anything from shooting targets to large dragons. Starting with targets to allow you to practise your aim, the 3DS convincingly deforms the area surrounding the card, making it appear like the table is pulsating, or collapsing into a pit. Once you have practised your aim, from the card emerges a large dragon. You have to battle the dragon, but most impressively, by moving around the card physically, you can circle the dragon on screen. It’s a hard effect to describe, but it’s absolutely stunning. There is huge potential here. The 3DS isn’t the first console to use augmented reality in this way, but it’s the most impressive example of it I’ve seen yet, and given that the console can do this out of the box with no extra peripherals needed, we may see more developers put this technology to use.
There were a number of consoles set-up showing rolling demos of Mario Kart and Metal Gear Solid, but sadly both of these were unavailable to play.
The whole event was great fun, and after being given the oppurtunity to play with one I can say that nearly all of my skepticism regarding the 3DS has been washed away. It’s a great bit of kit, truly desirable, and with the hardware available, it’s genuinely exciting to think of what innovative developers could do.
Pre-order your Nintendo 3DS here right now.