Nintendo 3DS: First Look
This is none of your E3s, CESs, TGSs or Leipzigzigzigs, this is Glasgow on a cold wet and dreary Sunday morning in February. This is proper gaming dedication.
Nintendo started advertising these â€œExclusive Nintendo 3DS pre-release eventsâ€ over the past month, events where the average punter can have the chance to â€œexperience the 3DS magicâ€ – what this would entail is anyone’s guess. This was free and being that the only similar event I’ve had a chance to attend was the 2009 Edinburgh Interactive Festival which was quite frankly light on things to do and a bit pants â€“ I jumped at the opportunity to attend and registration was a relatively simple matter, I booked my tickets and off we went.
There’s about a dozen of us here at 10 in the morning, unaware of exactly what to expect and whether it’s actually a waste of time but frankly there’s a tingle of excitement in the air and along with my companion (a handheld gamer for the better part of her life whose recently upgraded to more intensive xbox 360 fun) we venture upstairs.
Tickets are scanned and we are briefly introduced to the history of Nintendo handhelds. You wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the event organisers exactly know their target audience, by that I mean it seems that just about everyone involved in the event just so happens to be slim, leggy, attractive women with ‘sizable assets’ and tarted up to high heaven (with skin tight clothes) â€“ Not that I was paying that much attention to them you understand. These ladies serve to be our guides for today but frankly if there’s a chance we actually do get to see the 3DS today I don’t think anyone would care if they all wore bags on their heads.
Our ‘guides’ start telling us about the 3DS, about its interactive features and how communication is more important than ever. Street pass allows the devices to constantly communicate with others in the vicinity, sharing game data, music playlists (apparently), Miis and so on â€“ nothing new learned so far but of course they can’t assume that everyone is a spotty bod like me.
We are led through to a small darkened room with a fella looking suspiciously like Ryu from Street Fighter, standing in front of a background with a few props to hand â€“ and yes, things do start to get a bit cheesy. Ryu and the newly arrived Ken started to fightâ€¦ to the sound of SF special effect sounds. I can’t help myself (even as writing this) but a massive grin creeps across my face. After the brief performance we have an opportunity for photographs with the stars and nearly a week on I so regret not getting mine taken.
In small groups of five we’re then bundled along a corridor with more actors â€“ It’s Chris Redfield and his sister Claire! â€œThere’s an outbreak of the T-Virus!â€ (I thought we were past that in the Resi franchise now) and they’re gonna lead us to safety. It felt like a short, cheap and cheerful Alien Walk â€“ especially when some ‘thing’ grabbed my ankle. It was stupid fun! even if a little inaccurate â€“ I’m sure I saw one of the chainsaw men, they’re Las Plagas creations, not T-Virus [/geek]
I suppose the point of it all was to show how we are no longer limited to the 2D plane and things can be more interactive than ever, or perhaps it was just to cheese us out big style but frankly I loved it.
Next up â€“ Wossy. Many years ago Iain Lee was the poster boy for videogaming in this country, personally though many feel Charlie Brooker is the contemporary equivalent â€“ except a million times better but JR seems to be the go to guy when something is needed whored or insulted for that matter. He’s on a giant TV spouting his usual brand of pish but this time with a Nintendo slant. He seems enthusiastic enough but I’m sure for the right price he could sell us on the virtues of blowing a baboon.
After a short video reel of upcoming games we are apparently going to get our hands on several different features of the Nintendo 3DS, which I almost cannot believe.
Firstly â€“ The games. Practically each machine has one of the aforementioned leggy/slim/tarted-up ‘guardians’ (with sizable assets and skin tight clothes) watching your every move â€“ asking if they can help like an over enthusiastic game shop employee. I’m not exactly the atypical speccy, nerdy, socially awkward gamer, but at the same time I don’t need or want to be bothered while gaming.
The machine is comfortable to hold and intentionally doesn’t seem too different from the traditional DS. As I’m sure everyone is aware the setup is much the same with a few minor changes. Start and select are along the bottom now, the new analogue nipple feels silky smooth and effortlessly glides at my will (nowhere near as elastic as the PSP’s). The 3D effect is quite impressive; as I’m sure many are aware it works by having a multi-layered screen showing slightly different images thus giving the illusion of depth. Last year I was initially irked to learn that the 3D effect only works when the device is held at the right distance and directly in front of you, but it felt very natural and comfortable seeing as I was just holding it how I normally would.
The 3D effect can be turned off from the depth slider and I constantly found myself doing this for a number of reasons. I was curious to compare how the experience compared going from ‘3D’ to ‘standard’ mode and my conclusion is that while the 3D experience is interesting I’m not too sure how it will fare long term and if game developers will make full use of the potential. The other reason for turning the feature off was more to do with my own comfort. At times I found it difficult to focus on the action when so much is happening at once and on more than one layer. This didn’t bother me as I found the 3D effect to be more impressive when I wanted to see it.
The games available to try were:
Ridge Racer: Pretty much as you’d expect with fun slip-n-slide racing with more boosting than you can shake a nitro at.
Dead or Alive: Watching boobs jiggle has never been so fun â€“ now in 3D! (oh God I hope no-one takes that comment on face value – Ed)
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries: Again it’s pretty much all that you can imagine â€“ Plenty of fun to be had especially if you liked the mercenaries mode in previous Resi games. Particular note goes to the analogue controls which made me feel like I was back playing RE4 on my Gamecube
Street Fighter 4: Impressive graphics and with the ability to pull off super moves with just a tap of the touch screen looks like even a shocking clumsy fool could have a lot of fun.
Pilotwings: Its pilotwings.
Kid Icarus: What was essentially an on-rails shooter seemed to demonstate a few interesting features. Firstly, while the flying and shooting can be controlled just by moving the on screen cursor, it was possible to use a combination of the touchpad and the analogue stick to allow separate flight and aiming controls, much like how the DS tried to use this mechanic for FPS shooters. It worked quite well here and will be interesting to see how fluidly it can be incorporated into other games. Secondly, the 3D visuals although constantly active worked less well with individual enemies flying at the screen and much better when faced by one huge boss attacking and flailing towards you. As said previously not all games will suit this technology and the ability to turn the 3D effects off is welcomed.
The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time: I don’t know many gamers who haven’t at least played this one but as ever, it was a joy to once again be back inside the Great Deku Tree. Inventory access is now via the bottom screen and as such the experience feels more comfortable. I think the 3D effects will be enough to get me to travel back to Hyrule to experience the world again from a slightly different perspective.
All the games handled very well and graphically look (somewhat) superior to the DS, while it’s obviously still not on par with PSP levels of graphics Nintendo never set out to match their rival in this way, infact I’m not even sure they’re competing with each other at all.
After a while we are shuffled into the next (more appropriately lit and without annoying thumping dance music) room. Here there are still games and demos to try but we look at some of the other 3DS capabilities.
Knowing very little about Augmented Reality (AR) technology I was interested to learn a bit more about it, unfortunately the ‘guardian’ could only go as far to say â€œyou put the card down and the game starts in a few secondsâ€. The programming for the game must be built into the system or on an SD card because as I understand it, the card only serves as an area for the camera and AR game to focus on. The games themself work very well; little more than mini games but hopefully opening the way for more innovative ones. I was shooting targets that I had virtually appeared on the table and then at a giant dragon swiping at me, all the while using the system’s gyroscopic controls to rotate around the virtual environment, aim and even duck and weave at the incoming attacks. Gyro-controlled games like these work great on the iPhone, so more on the 3DS will be a welcome addition.
Face Raiders is another simple yet enjoyable game that is great at showing off the machine’s features. You take a picture of your face which then spawns your face as enemies and using the gyro controls you aim and then fire balls at your face â€“ a surreal experience that Freud would have a field day over, all the while your grinning chops mock you from a few crude yet mirth-inducing expressions.
Here we also saw a few running videos on the system, MGS3 looks as fine as you can imagine and in addition to seeing some Sky Sports Ryder Cup action (which looked as crisp as it would on my iPhone) I am briefly told about the possibility to surf the web using the 3DS – unfortunately I don’t get to try it but the prospect is very appealing, a feature that never really took off with the original DS.
Things were wrapping up as I saw the camera station and as such couldn’t spend much time with it. From what I could garner the internal camera is very much on part with the current DS one. You’re not going to snapping sea turtles laying their eggs with it or anything so understandably the quality isn’t brilliant. From what I saw just before leaving the external cameras aren’t too different quality wise, the difference being that the positions of these cameras allow for taking 3D pictures.
Overall this event was a great experience for me and even my companion too. In one hour I was greatly entertained and best of all my curiosity about the 3DS has been partly satisfied but my impressions on the machine are still developing.
On one hand, it’s a new piece of tech from a tried and tested company, they’ve taken a new feature and already created a few interesting games with it. Online seems to have had more focus than before with a proposed easier way to connect to friends, share data, game online and hopefully as mentioned â€“ surf the web. While the device may not be released with all of its features such as the eShop, there’s still more than enough to keep people busy.
On the other hand, the technology is a bit gimmicky, I’m not too sure how many companies will take full advantage of these features â€“ that’s even if a decent software base can be established. With these new features the device hasn’t really had the chance to evolve graphically which may put some off. Pricing has caused some controversy and if the games move too far north in price the company won’t be doing themselves any favours. Oh and maybe I’m just plane thick but I honest to god couldn’t find where the stylus was. I doubt Nintendo will be going down the route of using their forthcoming eShop to release the kind of cheap and cheerful games we are seeing on more and more mobile phones, not if a recent quote from Reggie Fils-Aime is to believed. This could hurt them unless we see some really quality titles in the eShop, with a sensible price tag.
The hour is over, some HMV staff plead with us to pre order a Nintendo 3DS, we leave. I was impressed with the machine and the show put on in general and this is coming from a somewhat bitter and cynical gamer. In the lead up to launch it will be interesting to hear more impressions from people who aren’t quite like me â€“ is the price right, are the launch games good, what about that battery life, eh? My companion had her own opinion â€“ â€œextraordinary graphicsâ€, â€œunbelievably good 3D effectsâ€ but with a certain degree of possible â€œmotion sickness from the 3Dâ€, luckily rectified by switching to 2D mode.
I’m sure I will get a Nintendo 3DS this year but whether or not that’s at launch is still undecided. While everything I saw impressed me no end, games make a system so only time will tell if a Nintendo 3DS is a really worthwhile purchase.