Nintendo 3DS Impressions

A few weeks ago at South By Southwest, I stopped by Capcom’s booth where they were showing the new version of  Street Fighter 4 on a new Nintendo 3DS.  This was pretty cool for me, because this was the first time that I got to try a major new console before it was actually released.  I’ve been meaning to post my impressions of the device for some time now, and since it’s actually being released today I thought today might be a good time to do that.

I’ve already owned a Nintendo DS Lite and a DSi, which are essentially the same console with a little less horsepower and of course without the 3D effect.  Aside from those features and a few other, this is still basically the same handheld console.  The 3DS hinges on the 3D effect, which it does manage to pull off without the need of glasses.

So does it work well?  In my opinion, not really.  Once you do figure out the position that you need to hold the device, you do get a sense of depth.  But it feels somewhat like a hologram sticker on the front of one of those cereal boxes from the 90’s.  Sure, it looks like 3D.  But in an uncanny valley way that feels cheap and unrealistic.  Plus, the device itself goes out of the way to warn you about not using the 3D effect for too long.  I’m old enough to remember the Virtual Boy, which had all of those same warnings.  If you’re of my generation or older, you remember how well that console went over.

The 3DS does have some good things going for it, the extra graphics horsepower does allow for some more visual impressiveness, whether or not the games themselves are in 3D.  And while the 3D effect isn’t really that impressive, it does work a lot of magic in some of the camera and augmented reality functionality.  There’s a lot of promise in the hardware, it’s just up to Nintendo and the developers to keep up support for the device.  That’s not that promising given Nintendo’s lackluster history with the Wii and Gamecube, but we can still hope.

If you have no other handheld device for gaming and you’re looking for something, then I hesitantly recommend the 3DS.  It might be worth your time and money to look into a slightly cheaper iPod Touch, however.  The games are certainly cheaper on that platform.  However, if you already have a handheld gaming device of any kind, I can’t really recommend it.  For $250, it doesn’t really add anything that revolutionary or new that makes it worth that hefty price tag.

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