March 26, 2011 at 5:52 PM ET
You’ve probably heard, Nintendo launches its new handheld game machine – the 3DS – on Sunday. And you’ve probably heard that this little device does something no gaming gadget has done before: offers 3-D gaming without the need for 3-D glasses.
I’ve spent the last week with a Nintendo 3DS and I’ve found it to be a really solid gadget that delivers a truly innovative gaming experience. (Check out Todd Kenreck’s video review above). But it’s not a perfect device and there’s plenty to consider when trying to decide whether you should make room for it in your budget.
Here are some of the things I love about the 3DS ... and some of the things I don’t. Take a look and decide for yourself.
I LOVE ... how much comes in the box. If you decide to buy a 3DS, you’ll be surprised how much you get for your $250. There’s the 3DS itself, of course, as well as a charging cradle, a 2GB SD card and six Augmented Reality cards. Meanwhile, the 3DS comes loaded with plenty of built-in software. There’s the Nintendo 3DS Sound app for goofing around with audio, the avatar-making Mii Maker, the Mii Plaza, a set of very cool Augmented Reality Games, the Face Raiders game and an Activity Log that can be used to track both your physical activity and your gaming activity. I spent more than an hour playing around with the 3DS and its pre-loaded apps before I ever even thought about opening up a boxed game.
I HATE ... the price tag. Yeah, you get a lot from the get-go for your $250. Still, $250 is ouch ... especially for parents looking to buy these devices for their kids and especially when the games will run you $30 to $40 a pop. The basic model iPod Touch (perhaps the 3DS’ most serious competition at the moment) will run you $230 but games for that gadget are about $1.99 each. Meanwhile, you can buy a Wii and a basic-model Xbox 360 for $200.
LOVE ... taking 3-D photos. With its two front-mounted cameras, the 3DS makes it fun and easy to snap hologram-like pictures of your friends. And it’ll make your friends go “wow” in a big way when they see their very own image in reach-out-and-grab-you 3-D for the first time.
HATE ... how low-resolution the 3DS’ photos are. The cameras on the 3DS only capture .3 megapixel snapshots. That’s the same resolution as the cameras in the older-model DS machines. And you’ll notice the low quality of the photos immediately once you try to look at them on your computer or email them to a friend. By comparison, my iPhone takes seriously sharp 5 megapixel photos.
LOVE ... playing games in 3-D. The device’s glasses-free, parallax-barrier 3-D screen delivers some serious eye candy. Play "LEGO Star Wars III" and you’ll love watching Yoda run and jump around a colorful LEGO-fied "Star Wars" universe that you feel like you can reach out and touch. Meanwhile, you’ll get all soft and mushy as you watch digital puppies practically paw their way through the game screen in “Nintendogs + Cats.”
HATE ... playing games in 3-D. Yeah, I know, I’m a flip-flopper on this one. But that’s because I run both hot and cold on the 3DS’ 3-D visuals. As much as I love the eye-candy, there have been plenty of times when I felt like it got in the way and exhausted my eyeballs. To see the 3-D graphics, you have to keep your head carefully aligned in front of the top screen. I found that difficult to do, at times, when playing games like "Pilotwings Resort" and "Super Street Fighter IV 3-D." As I moved, I’d find the visuals going jarringly out of focus and have to shut the 3-D off. Which brings me to...
LOVE ... the 3-D slider. Thank you Nintendo for including a "depth slider" which allows players to adjust the amount of the 3-D they’re shown or shut it all the way off completely with one quick and easy-to-access slider bar.
HATE ... the floppy lid. I don’t mind that the 3DS is slightly chunkier than its older siblings – the Nintendo Lite and Nintendo DSi. And I don’t mind that the clam-shell design is pretty much the same as what we’ve seen from Nintendo for the last five years (why change something that’s working so well). But I do have a nit-picky design issue with the clicky-floppy feel of the top screen. That is, the top 3-D screen seems to have a mechanism that snaps it into a wide-open position. But it’s a loose fit and wiggles about. Meanwhile, if I position the screen at a different angle, I sometimes find it flopping out of that position when I move the 3DS.
LOVE ... the analog stick. Nintendo calls it the Circle Pad and this rubberized stick for your thumb enables 360-degree analog input for more accurate and more comfortable game control. I like it! I like it a lot!
HATE ... the placement of the directional pad. To accommodate the lovely circle pad, the four-directional pad had to be moved slightly down. It’s not the most comfortable or immediately accessible location … which will primarily be an issue if you’re playing older DS games that only make use of the directional pad. Which brings me to...
LOVE ... the 3DS’ backwards compatibility. Nintendo says most of your old DS games will play on the 3DS. That is awesome news. Meanwhile, if you purchased downloadable games for your DSi or DSi XL, Nintendo will soon be offering a transfer system that lets you transfer DSiWare from those devices to your Nintendo 3DS system.
HATE ... the battery life. Oy! The 3DS feels like it sucks down battery power faster than a college frat guy sucks down beer. Be sure to keep your power adapter and docking cradle handy. Nintendo officially estimates the battery life at 3.5 hours. That’s not nearly enough time if, say, you’re depending on this device to entertain you (or your kids) during long road trips or on long flights.
But let’s face it ... there is far more to like about the Nintendo 3DS than there is to dislike. In fact, here's some bonus love to add to the list:
LOVE ... the improved screen resolution. The 3DS' two screens have been given a nice boost to their graphical output. The lower screen now offers to 320 x 240 pixel resolution – an improvement from the DSi's 256 x 192 resolution. Meanwhile, the top screen offers 800 x 240 resolution (though that’s split up to make for 400 pixels for each eye to enable 3-D viewing). Sure, the iPhone and iPod Touch look crisper with their retina display (at 960 by 640 lines of resolution) but the 3DS’ graphics look bright and crisp, and long-time Nintendo fans will certainly be pleased.
LOVE ... just how bright the future looks for the 3DS. Nintendo says that, down the road, we’ll not only be able to stream Netflix movies and TV shows, but also watch 3-D videos on the device and record our very own 3-D videos (which is super cool). The device will also be able to access a short-form video service with comedy videos, animated shorts and other entertainment content. Nintendo, no doubt, has other big plans in the works for the 3DS which means the device will likely become more feature rich, more versatile and more budget-worthy with time.
The question is, how do the pros and cons add up for you? Is a 3DS purchase in your future?
For more on the Nintendo 3DS, check out all of our coverage right here.
For a look at some of the newly launched 3DS games, check out: