2011-06-29

Nintendo 3DS – Is It Worth It?

by Yo Snyder

When Nintendo announced that their new hand-held device would display
3D images without the need for bulky glasses, people sat-up and took
notice. That sounds cool. When the device was finally released, it had a
solid first week, but sales have been fairly tepid ever since. However,
there werent exactly a lot of solid titles available to support the
system, and there certainly werent very many that showed how the whole
3D thing was more than just a gimmick, but rather a way to experience
games in a whole new way.
Many questions about the 3DS remain unanswered, but after this years
E3, it seems Nintendo is working on fixing that whole software issue. In
fact, what they showed pretty much convinced me that I should have a
3DS. Still, those games havent appeared yet, so Ive just been left to
play around with the system itself; so what about that? Is it as
impressive as it seems? Is this thing really worth the $250 price tag
(especially with the PSVita on the way?) Well, heres our closer look:

The System –

The design and look of the 3DS is nice. While its a little large to
fit in your pocket, it still can, however the best way to carry it
around is in its own case. Flipping it open, it doesnt quite lock into
place as solidly as my DS Lite. Theres a little give in the hinge which
can cause the upper part of the system to wobble just a bit; this can
be a problem since using the 3D effect requires some steadiness. The
layout of the buttons works well, although when you need to hold the
shoulder buttons for a game, your hands have to contort awkwardly and
its a little uncomfortable. The D-Pad has a nice clickiness to it, as
do the buttons. The circle pad is comfortable and responsive, although
it feels just a bit looser than Id like to the point where it almost
feels a little flimsy. The collapsible stylus is a nice touch, letting
you choose a size that feels comfortable to you. The screens are bright
and colorful, and the widescreen ratio of the upper screen looks great.
The touch screen is very responsive, making it easy to scroll and select
items with even a fairly soft touch. All in all, the design borrows all
the strengths of the DS with a few updates and it looks great.

The Functionality –

With the recent system update that introduced the E-Shop and Web
Browser, the systems feels more fully functional than it did right after
the release. The Web Browser isnt the fastest, and its a bit awkward
to navigate on small screens with the stylus, but it works and its a
nice added feature. One of the things weve enjoyed most is the
StreetPass. Walk by someone with your 3DS in sleep mode and it will
exchange data with the other persons and if you have a compatible game
in, it may even do a battle. We have the most fun with this with the
StreetPass Mii Plaza. Every day we make sure we pass each other so we
can earn new puzzles pieces and advance further in a simple little
adventure game. The possible applications for this simple feature are
pretty exciting, so Im hoping it gets utilized a lot. Theres also
SpotPass, which will download new info for the system and various
updates while the 3DS is in sleep mode.

The
layout of the user interface is clean and slick; much like it is on the
Wii. Navigation is easy and you can customize it for however many grids
you want displayed in a row. No matter what application youre running,
a game or something else, you can suspend it with a touch of the home
button and return back to the dashboard. Its a nice option, but I
havent seen a whole lot of practical application for it since you cant
run more than one application at time.

The cameras are fun, but limited. You cant share your 3D pictures,
which wouldnt work without a 3DS anyway, but itd be fun if you could
swap them with friends who also have a 3DS. The AR elements are among
the most impressive features. Its always neat to see Mario and Samus on
your desk, but again itd be nice to be able to capture pictures you
could share with someone. The motion capabilities are pretty cool, and
there are a few games that even put them to good use. Its fun to watch
someone playing a 3DS while spinning around in a room aiming at
something only they can see.

Its clear that Nintendo is pushing for more online connectivity with
the 3DS. The friends list still uses friend codes, but its not nearly
as much of hassle as it was on the Wii. It will automatically register a
friend code when youre both online and registering each other on your
friends list. Then you can see whos online and what theyre playing.
The download to play feature is a great one as it lets you play certain
games with a friend even if you dont both own it. Toss in the StreetPas
and SpotPass functions, along with E-Shop, and perhaps this is a bit of
hint of the direction Nintendo will take for its online plan for the
Wii U.

Battery life has been a huge issue for the system as it isnt exactly
the longest lasting. I havent had any issues with it, but then Ive
never been far from my charger. Using 3D eats the battery up rather
quickly, but with that turned off except for the times you need it, you
can easily get a solid 3 hours battery time from the system. Not the
greatest, granted, but for all except long travel situations, it works
just fine. There are some third party battery solutions to extend that
time if youd like it to last longer.

The 3D –

Speaking of the 3D, lets get right down to it and explore whether
the systems defining feature is all that its cracked up to be. I admit
that the look of it is pretty amazing. To see vivid 3D without bulky
glasses, and on the go no less, is pretty cool. However, the viewing
angle is severely limited; any slight deviation and youll get double
images and blurriness. With some games, that can make it harder to
enjoy, especially ones that use the systems gyroscope and motion
capabilities for gameplay. While the effect can strain your eyes and
give you a bit of headache, the slider is a nice feature because it
allows you to set the 3D effect to where youre most comfortable with
it. I usually only have it half-way up as that gives me a nice effect
without causing to much eye-strain or headaches. The side-effects are
more pronounced with first use, and lessen as you get used to it.

As for whether or not this will be a defining feature for games
remains to be seen. With some game the 3D effect can have a small effect
on making the gameplay better, like in Pilotwings. For the most part,
however, it still feels like a gimmick. Hopefully some software comes
along that shows how 3D can make for a better gaming experience and not
just be a gimmick. Luigis Mansion 2 especially looks promising for showing how 3D can add to the gaming experience.

Is It Worth It? –

All right, time to get brutally honest here. Is the system worth it? I
mean, $250 is a lot do drop on a handheld system, especially one with
limited battery power. On its own, Id say no, the Nintendo 3DS is
definitely not worth it. However, decent software can change that
opinion. With the right games, the 3DS goes from a gimmicky and
expensive gadget to a must have gaming machine. Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a step in that direction. With the slew of titles coming from Mario 3D to Starfox and more, that will become even more true.
The software makes the hardware, and thats just as true with the
Nintendos fancy little 3Ds. With the right games, this system could be
an amazing little gaming machine, but without consistent software that
play to the systems strengths, it will have a hard time achieving the
same success as its predecessor, or even going toe-to-toe with the
upcoming Playstation Vita.