Nintendo 3DS: Unwrapped, Unboxed, Uncovered

Away from the tethers and noise of a crowded demo station, a console like the 3DS can really breathe and start to flex its muscles; so when Nintendo dropped off a final UK retail unit recently – an unused, untouched blank canvas – we could really start to get to grips with everything this new, exciting portable offers.

There’s always a palpable sense of intrigue and excitment when a new machine launches and the 3DS is no different, despite clear roots in a lineage of evolving DS consoles over the years.  But this is something new, something that no other games machine around on the market at the moment can claim: 3D, proper 3D, without glasses, straight out of the box.


That box, for reference, is heavy.  You’ll see from the first batch of photographs that it comes with a couple of big, thick instruction manuals – yes, they’re covering multiple languages but even the English version is a considerable read, and despite the scare stories only a small part of the manual is concerned with those all-important 3D visuals.

Continuing the precedent set by the Wii, albeit a little less ‘Apple’ in form and design, the 3DS’ packaging is sturdy and functional, the top layer reserved for the manuals, a Nintendo VIP token and the AR Cards (which we’ll come back to) and the lower section housing the 3DS itself, the charging plug and a slightly quirky-looking and entirely optional charging stand.

Finally, the console is nicely wrapped, and has one of those thin strips of foam between the two halves of the clam shell to keep the screens nice and safe.

So far, so good. Whether you now decide to pause and read the manual probably reflects more about you than you might think – it’s not necessary, at least just to get started, but at some point it’s probably a good idea. Regardless, the initial start-up is a breeze, and will take barely a minute as the console guides you by the hand, asking a few questions and ensuring the date and time are correct.

As you start to move around the menus and dip in and out of the pre-installed applications, the 3DS will present occasional hints and tips that you’ll need to scroll through – don’t just skip these, they’re actually really useful, not least because there’s so much to learn.

The main interface menu, which you’ll recognise if you’re the owner of a DSi because it’s similar in design, is a series of boxes in the centre, with a strip of icons at the top and a few text boxes at the bottom – all on the lower screen – with a large, 3D image on the main top screen. Controlled either with the physical controls or via the newly extending stylus, the menus are a breeze to navigate and are actually surprisingly customisable, at least in terms of the icon size.

The icons are simple visual representations of the applications, and although they’re a little inconsistent in terms of presentation, it’s easy to identify each one even when they’re at their smallest. Like the iPhone, you can hold down on an icon and move and swap them around to your liking, which is a nice touch, and you can swipe between the pages in a very intuitive manner.

The top row of icons include controls for the brightness, the icon size, and four handy functions which let you jump to Game Notes, your Friend List, Notifications and the Internet Browser, although the latter wasn’t functional in the version of the 3DS’ firmware we were running (and no other version was available when we checked).

At the bottom are options to view the manual for the currently selected application and the ability to close, or indeed open, it. Finally, if an application is currently ‘Suspended’, you can resume it from here at you’ll see from the photos below. Suspending a program is actually really easy – just tap the Home button – and works with everything except regular DS (note, not 3DS) games.

It’s worth mentioning that all these menus and pre-installed applications run in full 3D, even the little previews as you hover over the icons. In fact, the menu system is highly likely to be the first time many 3DS players see what the effect is like – the way the pencils circle the Activity Log graphic is a genuine joy, the 3D solid and full of depth even before you start a game.

In addition to the preview on the upper display, there’s a strip of information at the very top which includes the current internet connection strength (and type of connection) the time and date, the battery level and an alternating round up of your current pedometer steps and your Play Coins tally. The 3DS tracks your movement when it’s in standby mode, and every 100 steps nets you a Play Coin (up to a sensible maximum per day) which can be spend on bonuses in games and applications that support them – a great idea to get people moving.

In terms of the actual applications, there’s enough here to keep you busy for a good few hours before you even insert a game, from the time-sapping Mii Maker (which now lets you start with an actual photo if you’re having a good hair day) through to the AR (augmented reality) Games, a series of technical novelties and diversions that show off the 3DS’ camera in expert fashion.

We won’t spoil things here – we had great fun playing through the AR Games and hopefully you will do too.

The really impressive stuff, especially bearing in mind Nintendo’s normally slightly distant approach to internet connections, is the way the 3DS interacts with other consoles around it, from the rather brilliant way other people’s Mii’s appear in your Mii Plaza to the way data is beamed back and forth with StreetPass, showing off your scores for the twelve most recently played games for example, on the fly.

In addition, the 3DS features what Nintendo are calling SpotPass, which fires notifications, updates, new content and – apparently – free software your way as you pass by wifi hotspots (which naturally includes your home setup, which worked perfectly). All this is very new for the Japanese developer, and potentially brings the 3DS to life in a way the other DS consoles never really did – we say potentially, as despite our best efforts nobody else seemed to be sporting the new device. Not yet, anyway…

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  1. I played on the 3DS in Arndale and it’s pretty good. All I got to do now is decide between iPad 2 and 3DS >_<

    • Did you come into my shop to play it?

  2. Shouldn’t it read:
    3DS: Unwrapped, Unboxed, Uncovered, Hacked

    • I was waiting for someone to say that.

    • Its a bit tasteless imo

      • tasteless? we’re talking about consumer electronics, not punching orphans…

      • Did I type something wrong?


      • Joe thats well out of order punching orphans.

      • Correct. That is in fact tasteless.

      • Otoh it’s ok to punch kids with parents, just make sure they don’t catch you.

      • haha yeah, screw those kids. with all their parents and stuff…

  3. Im still unsure about buying it now, ill probably wait for the next hardware revision as im pretty sure the 3d sweet spot will be larger on a 3DSi etc

    • Meh wouldn’t surprise me if there was a new 3DS in maybe one/two years.

      Well theres no store at its launch and I do not understand why I can’t copy Ghosts & Goblins and all of my Castlevanias & Megamans from the Wii to 3DS… I know some stuff would need to be updated but it shouldn’t be too much effort right? heheh

  4. Well written hands-on. Can I ask how long the battery lasts? My main concern with the 3DS is that, for such a portable console, the battery lets it down.

    • I`ll second that, battery life is probably the most important thing for a portable console, also, to test the battery life did you just keep the console on or play different games until it died?

  5. Detailed article :) Got to playtest one yesterday and was very impressed with the technology behind it all, but came away with a bad headache lol. As I say, clever tech behind it all though. Bound to sell well.

  6. Nofi, I believe we share the same carpet. I suspect ours is waaay more wine stained however.

  7. Face raiders sounds like a name of an ‘adult website’.

    • lol indeed. I think the missus will be getting one of these so I’ll have a play when she does. :)

  8. Had a brief look over peoples shoulders at one in GAME on Saturday. Nice looking piece of kit, but I really have no need of one. It’s nice to see a good line up of launch titles, the DSi was a real flop in my opinion there are only a handful of games I have seen that support DSi extra content, but Nintendo look to be on to a winner this time. It was interesting to see a mother covering her young child’s eyes so she couldn’t see the screens, it was like 2 minutes play would make the child’s retinas explode! The age warning could be a problem for Nintendo though.

  9. There was one moment where the 3DS really screwed my eyes over. We took a picture of a guy holding one of the AR cards and my eyes just couldn’t focus on either him or the imaginary Link that had appeared. I had to turn it off it was so uncomfortable.

  10. Had it been £50-75 cheaper and no 3D I might have been tempted. I just don’t want to pay for an expensive feature that I’m not going to use. I keep handheld games for on the move and it just doesn’t appear that the 3D in the 3DS works well enough and is versitle enough for on the move.

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