The reason I bought a 3DS? It was new, 3D is (arguably) the next big thing and I didn’t want to miss out on the games. Oh, and I couldn’t say no to 3D updates of Ocarina of Time and Lylat Wars, could I? There was something else that slipped by, though; something that works really well and shows off the 3DS, something that I hadn’t thought twice about when I purchased the 3DS on Friday morning, something that should have been part of the reason that I bought the console; the included Augmented Reality games and cards.
In the afternoon of what I’m going to call “3DS day”, whilst sitting in a lecture hall beside my classmates, I decided to take a look at the other things included in the box, rather than just the system itself, and I found a little pack of AR cards. I had vaguely heard something about these, but never showed much interest. I placed one of the cards (the one with the Mario question mark block on it) down on the desk in front of me and suddenly, what I can only describe as a little golden man-box popped up on the screen… wait, he was on the desk before me! He asked me to shoot him, so I followed his orders and blasted him.
Suddenly, he multiplied into six; I took aim at the one in the bottom middle and fired. This initiated a shooting mini-game in which targets appeared on the table and in no time I got the hang of moving the system around, aiming at the targets and shooting them. Well, that was until I couldn’t find the fourth target. After searching around, I realised that the final target (in this section, anyway) was hidden inside the desk. Yes, the card had melted down into an alcove in the table and I was required to lean over and shoot down; it was simply brilliant.[drop]Further rounds included the table warping up and down as if something was trying to break through, with the targets moving with it, and even a boss that actually broke out of the table. Unfortunately, my first turn only lasted for just under two minutes, and each consecutive turn has been for even less. It’s still a great way to show off the console and there’s always the option of replaying it to get the quickest time possible. Other gripes include some major framerate issues present, which severely affected the smooth gameplay (reality doesn’t stutter, so why should AR?) and that the lighting and angle had to be near-perfect to get the system to work.
There are five other cards in the box – each with a Nintendo character on them (Mario, Link, Samus, Kirby and one involving multiple Pikmin). These are to be used in the “Star Pics” mode and each makes the character on the card appear on the desk before you, as if by magic! Their poses, sizes and positions can be changed, making for some amusing pictures. Another mode included is very similar to this, but rather than placing Nintendo characters you instead position your Miis, to create even more funny pictures.
If you’re not one for arranging Miis or Nintendo characters you can opt for the Graffiti mode, and turn your scribbles into 3D works of art! They appear floating above the card, wherever you want to put it, and if you move the system around the card, or move the card to face a different direction, the 3D doodle will appear to face that way. It’s a lot of fun; I decided to recreate the TSA logo as well as I could at 4am… with a stylus, and it looks pretty good, if I do say so myself! It’s even better if you view the image in 3D with a 3DS, as it gives a real sense of depth to the graffiti, rather than it just looking like you’ve drawn it on top of a picture (although the shadows do help to give the desired effect).[drop2]
Not impressed with any of this? There’s another two AR games built-in, too: one that involves fishing, in which you must move the system around, wobble it to entice the fish and then pounce and catch the fish. It’s a nice little idea, and the water effects on the table look sublime. In the remaining game, you move the system around to position a rod to hit a ball into the target area – it’s a mix of mini golf and pool, and definitely a good way to show off the system. The table that the card is placed on is warped and rises into something resembling mini golf, including lava, water and even moving parts. It’s then a matter of hitting the ball into the target without letting it fall off the edge. It’s a simple game, but it’s a lot of fun and there’s the option of replaying to try and complete it with fewer shots taken.
The Augmented Reality features of the 3DS really took me by surprise, and I have to say… I’m impressed! There are obvious problems, such as the framerate and lighting issues that I mentioned, as well as the camera being very low quality. However, overall the games included are a lot of fun and show off the system’s features in the same way that Wii Sports shows off the Wiimote, or Sports Champions shows off PlayStation Move. The included modes might seem like tech demos rather than games right now, but if Nintendo are prepared to release more cards and software, I’m sure that they could do something absolutely brilliant with it… perhaps something to do with AR Pokémon? Yes please.