TSA’s Guide To The Nintendo 3DS

On Friday, Nintendo will finally launch the much-anticipated 3DS in Europe, with US and Australian releases just around the corner. Being the wonderful people that we are here at TheSixthAxis, we’ve compiled a little guide with everything you need to know about the shiny new console.


The 3DS? What’s that all about then?

The 3DS is Nintendo’s new portable console, but don’t let the name fool you, it’s not just another version of 2004’s DS. Whilst the 3DS keeps the dual screens of its predecessor, this time the top (non-touch) screen is capable of producing autostereoscopic 3D images – nerd-speak for glasses-free 3D. On top of that there’s powerful new internals, an analogue nub, and a 3D camera on the back of the lid.

[drop]How does this voodoo glasses-free 3D work?

The 3D effect in the 3DS is produced using something called a parallax barrier, which is basically a barrier with slits in it (kind of like a picket fence) placed in front of a regular LCD. The left eye and right eye can then see different parts of the image on the screens through the barrier, as illustrated to the left.

The main disadvantage is that the 3D effect only really works when viewed from a certain position, and a sudden jolt in any direction can cause you to lose focus – you’ll want to turn off the 3D if you’re on a particularly bumpy bus journey. It’s a similar effect to that produced by the lenticular covers you sometimes see on books, magazines and DVDs which show a different image depending what angle you look at them from.

Of course, just like other 3D technologies, it can cause your eyes to tire a lot quicker than a 2D image, so particularly long sessions aren’t advised.

Three cameras?

Unfortunately, the three cameras on the 3DS – two on the back of the lid and one on the inside just above the top screen – are the same low-quality 0.3-megapixel ones used in the DSi. Whilst that’s fine for use in games and the Mii creation tool (more on that later), don’t go expecting to get any decent quality photos out of them.

What’s inside this thing?

In terms of specs, Nintendo has been a surprisingly coy. The GPU is a DMP Pica 200, likely running at between 200 and 400Mhz, but the CPU has been unconfirmed – rumours peg the handheld as running dual ARM 11’s at 266Mhz. What does this mean in real terms? At launch you’re looking at graphics easily equivalent to, if not better than, the PSP and iPhone, and much better than the DS with a lot of room for more advanced effects like enhanced shadows, anti-aliasing and more complex lighting models.

What about those dual screens, eh?

The screens are just as much of a step up from the DS line. The DS has two screens running at a resolution of 256×192 – the 3DS’s lower touchscreen runs at 320×240 and the top 3D screen runs at 800×240 (400×240 per eye). In terms of size, the 3DS screens are 3.53 inches on the top and 3.02 inches on the bottom, compared to 3 inches on the original DS and the Lite, 3.25 inches on the DSi, and 4.2 inches on the DSi XL. The 3DS screens also support 24-bit colour compared to the 16-bit level supported on previous DS units.

Any other little extras I should know about?

Naturally there’s support for Wi-Fi (on the b and g bands), and the DS’s microphone is also still around. On top of that, there’s an accelerometer and gyroscrope for iPhone and SIXAXIS-style tilt controls, and a mystery IR port that’s likely for some kind of direct console-to-console connection. As for storage, there’s 2GB of internal flash memory for downloads, with support for larger SD cards (3DS games themselves come on 2GB cards, at least at launch).

What’s the battery life like?

Be prepared for a bit of a downer here if you’re used to the long battery life of the older DS models: compared to the 6-10 hours of the original version, and the up to 19 hours on the later editions, the official 3DS specs show only a 3-5 hours battery (dependent of course on brightness, Wi-Fi, volume and 3D). In DS backwards compatibility mode, the 3DS apparently manages between 5 and 8 hours.

When can I get my hands on it?

The 3DS is out now in Japan, and will be released in the UK and Europe tomorrow, Friday 25th March. A large number of stores are hosting midnight launches, including the majority of GAME and Gamestation locations, but you’re best off checking ahead of time if that’s your plan. The 3DS will then be released on Sunday 27th March in the US, and next Thursday the 31st March in Australia and New Zealand.

How much will it cost?

Oddly, there isn’t any set price in the UK or Europe for the 3DS, with Nintendo refusing to set a formal RRP for the console. Most retailers are pegging it at just below £200 – Amazon says £187.00, GAME says £196.99. “Shop around” is the best advice.

Are there any console and game bundles available at launch?

There aren’t any official Nintendo console and game bundles, however retailers have set up plenty of their own. GAME’s website, for example, lists no less than 36 bundles, combining nearly all of the launch titles with both colours of the console, sometimes with a second game chucked in there as well.

[drop2]I love colours. Lots of colours. Is the 3DS for me?

At the European and US launches, you’ll only be able to pick up the 3DS in two colour schemes, the all-black ‘Cosmos Black’ model, and the blue-console-and-lid, black-top-screen-frame ‘Aqua Blue’ model, pictured above.

However, Nintendo have already shown off a version with that blue swapped out for red, and going by the company’s track record, we’ll likely see tons more colour variations over the coming months and years.

What do I get in the box?

In the UK at least, as well as your console you’ll get a charger, snazzy charging cradle, new stylus (which is telescopic, extending up to four inches), a 2GB SD card for storing music and downloaded software, and six AR cards for use with the pre-installed AR Games (see below), on top of all the paperwork.

What games will be available at launch?

The UK launch games are as follows: Asphalt 3D, Dead or Alive: Dimensions, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, three Nintendogs + Cats variations (‘Golden Retriever’, ‘French Bulldog’ and ‘Toy Poodle’, each with ‘New Friends’), Pilotwings Resort, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D, Rayman 3D, Ridge Racer 3D, Samurai Warriors: Chronicle, Splinter Cell 3D, Super Monkey Ball 3D, Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition and The Sims 3. The US will also get Steel Diver, Madden NFL Football, Bust-a-Move Universe and Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D when the console appears on their shores.

What about further off – what are the highlights?

Naturally, there will be appearances from all the big Nintendo franchises; the company has already confirmed that 3D remakes of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and StarFox 64 are in production, with new Kid Icarus and Mario Kart games also on the way. From third parties, there’s two Resident Evil games, a Metal Gear Solid, a title in the Conduit series, Ubisoft’s Cubic Ninja, and Sega’s Thor and Captain America games already announced, with plenty more surely in the pipeline.

I can just about stretch to the console itself, but games might have to wait a bit – is there much fun to be had with the 3DS itself?

In terms of preinstalled software, there’s a decent selection. You’ve got a Mii Maker that can either import from the Wii or create a new Mii using the 3DS’ cameras. There’s the Activity Log that works in a similar way to the Wii feature, logging time spent playing games, and even functions as a pedometer that counts steps taken whilst carrying a 3DS in your pocket, accumulating Play Coins which can be spent on rewards (like statues in Street Fighter). There’s the 3DS Messaging Service, which is basically an updated PictoChat. There’s a music player that has an Excitebike visualiser and lets you randomly add in percussion with the shoulder buttons. And of course you can play your old DS games.

You also get a set of augmented reality games (named, simply, ‘AR Games’) preinstalled on the console. These are simple little games, and you start with access to only a few, but the more you experiment, the more you unlock. Once you’ve played through the first six, you gain access to a store where you can purchase six more using your accumulated Play Coins. They’re short little distractions like Face Raiders (you shoot disembodied flying heads!) or Archery, but they show off what the console can do. That said, they likely won’t keep you distracted for long.

Nintendo aren’t exactly known for their online support, is this any different with the 3DS?

Firstly, the good news. Friend codes are still around but are now per-console instead of per-game, and you still get the LAN and internet Wi-Fi multiplayer from the DS. There are new features called StreetPass and SpotPass, both connected to the 3DS’ always-on networking (even when sleeping). StreetPass is a form of passive connection between 3DSs that, for example, shares Miis between consoles as you come into near contact with them, with potential for game-specific uses too. SpotPass allows the console to look for usable Wi-Fi connections when in sleep mode to download updates and other content without any user input. All of this can be turned off.

Now the bad news. The eStore that will feature 3D Classics (older games given a 3D makeover), the new portable Virtual Console (featuring old Game Boy, Game Boy Color, TurboGrafx-16 and Game Gear titles), as well as movies and other video content in 3D, will not make it out at launch, and instead be added by a firmware update currently targeted for late May. It also unfortunately means that there will be no downloadable demos available at the console’s launch.

Can my DSiWare games be transferred over to the 3DS?

The official Nintendo answer at this stage seems to be “yes, probably, just not yet”. The same late-May firmware update that will bring the 3DS eShop will apparently bring a DSiWare ‘software transfer feature’ that will let you transfer over your DSiWare collection to your shiny new 3D console. On top of the wait, however, a Nintendo document from late last year seems to suggest that certain, unspecified titles would be exempt from transfer eligibility. We’ll likely see this one cleared up by Nintendo before that firmware update is released.

[boxout]Will the 3DS be backwards compatible with older DS games?

Keeping in line with Nintendo’s love for backwards compatibility, the 3DS will indeed play DS and DSi games. In fact, you can even use the Circle Pad to control older games, it’ll just work as a digital input like the directional pad. Keep in mind that the lower resolution images will be stretched to the newer screens, so might not be as crisp. Holding down Start and Select whilst launching those games will launch them in their original resolution, but that means smaller too – it’s a trade-off. In addition, you cannot suspend DS and DSi games to bring up the menu overlay in the same way you can with 3DS games.

Have we missed something you want to know? Please do ask away in the comments, where either the staff or our fantastic community will try their best to get back to you with an answer.

You can also keep up with all our other 3DS coverage here, and read our hands-on with the final UK 3DS right here.



  1. I’m picking this up for my wee sister today and it will be a birthday present for her. She won’t stop talking about 3DS lol!
    Can’t wait to see the look on her face =D

  2. Really not that impressed by the technical specs but I know Nintendo will crank out some instant classics at some point down the line that may make me want one some day.

  3. P.S. Ebay deals, zavvi outlet, 3DS for £186.99 if anyone is interested http://shop.ebay.co.uk/zavvi_outlet/m.html?_nkw=Nintendo+3DS+Console+3DS+Hardware&LH_BIN=1&_in_kw=1&_sop=1

  4. i wouldn’t mind a 3ds, 3d plus a ds that doesn’t randomly turn itself off, like my old ds has taken to doing lately, would be great, but i just can’t afford one at the moment.
    i’ll get one eventually, but not for a while yet.

  5. Useful guide for those, like me, who haven’t been following it too closely. I really want to see how nice the 3D is for myself though and I think I will pop into a store this weekend to see. If some killer games came out for it down the line I think I’d be very tempted.

  6. Hopefully the eStore will contain Pokemon Blue in 3D.

  7. The gaming line up has been very weak this time around. Caught a few friends saying so (without prompting either) and none of them are in any rush until the line-up is far stronger.

  8. I hear a lot of people on podcasts going on about the AR Cards and how clever and innovative they are.

    PSP did Invizimals over a year ago… ;)

    Or am I missing something, and the AR cards do something cleverererer?

    • They make Mario and Link appear on your belly.

      Go on.

    • Nope, from my limited experience it’s just the same as Invizimals (which only came out in the US a few months ago, I think) and the magic card in Eyepet.
      The only difference I can see is that there are several different AR Cards and they do different things and are required in different circumstances. Also, the 3DS has the camera right there in the lid rather than needing the little screw in USB one that the PSP has (which I was quite impressed with!)

    • It’s just like eyepet I think. I could be wrong I don’t use a DS but the 3DS is right here in my office. Unfortunately I cannot open them up as it’s for my wee sister. I prefer PSP lol.

      • nofi and colossalblue you guys are fast! Well mine was rubbish then.
        What they said ^

    • It’s just a shame that if an Invizimals-type game is released for the NGP, Sony will be slagged off for stealing ideas off Nintendo, when in fact they did it first on both PS3 and PSP. As you say, CB, the only difference is the camera is built in and not a peripheral. Oh, and 3D ;)

      • The only difference is Nintendo are shouting about it, whilst Sony seemed to let Invizimals slide under the radar with barely a whisper.

      • Not forgetting “Eye of Judgement” which was out about 3 years back.

  9. I’m definitely getting one of these eventually, but it is going to be further down the line. Battery is the biggest turn-off for me at the moment, so I’m going to wait for a more efficient version to be released.

  10. “you’ll want to turn off the 3D if you’re on a particularly bumpy bus journey” I’ve heard reports that the ‘bus journey’ doesn’t have to be that bumpy to get eyestrain.

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