3DS: First Impressions

Is an hour or so enough time to get to grips with a brand new console? One that, above all else, ushers in a brand new bleeding-edge slice of technology that will present 3D gaming to the masses on a scale the likes of Sony and Microsoft can only dream about at this point.  The answer?  No, of course not, and we here at TheSixthAxis wouldn’t normally rush out a preview on a single game after such a short hands-on period, let alone a totally new games machine and a handful of games; but this is something else, something we desperately want to talk about.  Yes, this is the Nintendo 3DS.

First impressions?  It’s solid, strong, beautiful.  Consoles are always prettier in real life than in a thousand press shots, the obvious ability to find the perfect angle never a problem when it’s in your hands, and although I much preferred the black model to the slightly cheaper looking blue one, both look considerably better built than the previous DS iterations.  The controls are well spaced out, the new analog stick positioned perfectly and the touch screen remains as intuitive as ever, a swift downward tap with your thumb onto the slightly smaller lower window without prompting feels natural and obvious.

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But it’s the top screen, stretched horizontally to offer that all important widescreen appearance, that really impresses – but it’s not immediate.  Indeed, my first game was Street Fighter IV, and although the 3D effect was strong, adjusting your eyes takes a little while.  It’s a slightly odd sensation – and it’s not really something you can prepare yourself for – in front of you is what used to be a simple, flat display on an older console and suddenly you’re looking at something with depth, real depth, and it’s tricky to wrap your brain around.

Ryu, as you’d expect from a Street Fighter novice, lept, punched and hadouken’d his way through a good number of rounds before my eyes had adjusted to the effect – but once they had (and I’d got to grips with the slightly too easy special moves borne by the massive buttons on the touch screen) it was plain sailing all the way.  Capcom’s fighter is a slick introduction to the console, great demo material for the tech and looks great – the demo version ran at 30fps, for anyone counting, regardless of where that 3D slider sat.

Speaking of which, therein lies another oddity, and it’s a disruptive, illusion spoiling device.  The 3D slider sits to the right of the top screen and, via the power of a thousand Pikmin, translates whatever’s on the screen into something with depth on the fly.  Whilst this sounds like black magic, in reality it’s simply moving the two images further apart as required, meaning that things in the near and far fields become more so, something that wows at first but, again, requires a little mental adjustment on the player’s behalf to allow the effect to look natural again.  The trick: don’t waggle it back and forth, you’ll leave with a headache.

[boxout]3DTVs can suffer from the same effect, the eye’s natural attempts to try to pick out detail means that you’ll see a mild double vision until you relax a little – it’s apparent on the 3DS too, albeit on a lesser scale (and not just because of the size, the 3DS’ screen really does look the business) but it’s not something that lasts terribly long.

Screen aside then, until our more in-depth articles later in the week, it’s back to the games.  With Street Fighter my inaugral 3DS title, it was onto more traditional Nintendo IPs in the form of Pilotwings, Nintendogs & Cats and Legend of Zelda.  The former, a smart update of the N64 launch title, has stacks of potential.  The depth is there without being cheap, and the graphics are as chunky and primary hued as you’d possibly want – and, thankfully, on both the modes I tried out, the controls are pretty much perfect.  Smooth, exacting and potentially hugely addictive, Pilotwings is a standout.

Nintendogs & Cats looks like being a big hit, too.  The copy I demoed was in Japanese, but it didn’t take too long to get around the various menus, most of which involved the same basic environment for said duo, but offering up lots of trinkets and toys with which to adorn and tease the little critters.  The animals are cute enough, responsive to your actions and look great in 3D – in fact, Nintendogs & Cats was one of the best examples of the new technology – a convincing room effect made the whole experience much like peering into a miniture world.

Legend of Zelda, though, is as brilliantly perfect as you’d expect.  Running through the Deku Tree in 3D on a portable was a dreamy delight, Link’s agility just as refreshing as it was back on the N64, and the graphics are markedly better than the last time we ventured into this beautiful world.  I’m a massive Zelda fan, and although this title won’t be available for a few months yet, just the thought of playing through the whole thing is enough to convince me that this little portable could well be one to watch.

Elsewhere, I sampled a few third party titles – Pro Evolution Soccer really isn’t my thing, the over the shoulder viewpoint an obvious nod to the hardware rather than something that makes sense gameplay-wise, and Ridge Racer at 30fps seemed odd even though it controlled perfectly and felt just like a Ridge Racer game should.  Super Monkey Ball seemed nice, until I realised that I had to tilt the 3DS to move the ball at which point the 3D effect fell to pieces and made it unplayable – the analog stick will be a must for this.

Resident Evil and Dead or Alive Dimensions were both surprisingly good, however, both solidly done and showing off some great 3D effects, even though the gulf between 30fps and 60fps when you switched off the fighter’s 3D mode was massive.  Regardless of frame rate, Dimensions controlled well and looked great, and Mercenaries looks likely to offer up some much needed ‘adult’ entertainment values when it’s released, even if we’ve already played most of what the game is really dishing out.  And those tank-like controls really do need updating Capcom, this could have been the perfect chance.

The highlight, though?  Kid Icarus, Nintendo’s poster child (literally) for the device plays host to a stunning looking videogame with easily the best visuals on display at this point.  The 3D effect is great, it controls well enough once you realise you’re meant to shoot with the trigger and aim with the touch screen (whilst moving with the analog stick) and the gameplay – a mixture of a few modern Japanese games (with touches of Rez, Panzer Dragoon and Lost Planet adding to the mechanics) – looks like being a real show stopper.  It’s some way off, but it’s already really impressive.

There’s a real spread of games available during what Nintendo are calling the launch window, and we’ve not even touched upon the likes of Ubisoft’s Rabbids or Gameloft’s Asphalt, both games we’ll come back to once we’ve had more time.  And whilst we’d have loved a Professor Layton for day one, that’s on its way with hopefully a much quicker turnaround time than we’re used to here in Europe.  But it’s the console itself, with some brilliant built-in apps and some really clever touches, that wows the most.  The 3D is great once you’re used to it, but it’s everything else the 3DS can do that really sets it apart.

Stay tuned to TheSixthAxis for much more on the 3DS soon

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26 Comments

  1. Interesting to read your thoughts on it. Totally agree with your opinion of Kid Icarus, it has the potential to be amazing.

  2. The huge contrast in reviews really do give the impression of a ‘Marmite’ device. It is a case of love and hate, we equal love and hate being dished out. Looks like it will be one of those things you just have to try yourself before making a decision.

  3. My Mrs has a ds and its her birthday in May. Looks like I have her present sorted :-)

    • I was thinking the same thing, (but I’d trade her old one in to save a bit om money too :P)

  4. I would definitley recommend trying before you buy. When I gave PilotWings a go it gave me an awful headache after, put me right off it. Some people will react badly to it others will find there is no issue with the 3D.

    • I have to agree here, I have found that when I was younger, 3D was great, but as I age, I have found the recent 3D on tv and in cinemas to give me headaches and I feel ill afterwards, plus I can’t get that great 3d feel I used to.

  5. Dying to give it a try, might go and flutter my eyes at Gamestation!

    • I think GAME have some demo units in and are letting people try them out.

      • In my local GAME they do. I went there last week and i got to play Street Fighter which was brilliant. Don’t know whether it was just a one-off though.

      • Every time I go into GAME they shove it in my face. Really getting on my nerves.

  6. sounds nice, shame you have to choose between a high frame rate and 3d visuals though

  7. 3DS, fucking lefties up the ass since day 1. How the fuck am I supposed to use the analog nub with the stylus in my LEFT HAND? I’m really hating being a leftie since current gen. It all started with the Wii. F#%&n Wii games wanting me to have both the nunchuck and Wiimote in my left hand. Atleast the DS was symmetrical in the sense that the XYAB buttons could act like a D-Pad. …. I probably will still buy a 3DS tho…. f-ers.

    • Ok I understand the problem with the 3ds. But what prevented you from holding the wiimote in your left hand and the nunchuck in your right?

  8. Played PES 3D in GAME last week, the 3D effect was awesome & didn’t have to hold my head stationary to maintain the effect, it seemed to have a much larger region than has been out by the naysayers.

    Didn’t try anything else as the store was rammed

    • They showcased it on The Gadget Show yesterdayday evening. PES was the game they demonstrated, i was very impressed by the graphics (a big pes fan coincidentally), they commented on the impressive draw distance.

      Awaiting further news on yesterdays hack trelated thread, before i dust of my wallet.

  9. I had no idea that SSFIV didn’t run at 60 frames per second even with the 3D off. That is interesting. So I guess they did have to make some sort of sacrifice to get the game onto the system.

    I still want it…

    • This was an early build though, on a demo unit. Can’t say about the final game.

  10. did you get to see any 3d video on the 3ds yet?
    that could be a big selling point for the machine, if you can buy, or download, 3d movies.

    actually come to think of it, if you could use the 3ds as a 3d display for other devices, say plug your sky box or ps3 into it with a special adapter.

    it would be a cheaper, if much smaller, option.

    better patent that idea before datel make one. :)

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