Sunday, 3 April 2011

That Extra Dimension: A Procrastination Review

Hey all,

Seeing as how I've hit the inevitable wall that comes with writing essays, I've decided to review my latest splurge: the new Nintendo 3DS. I've had about a week and a half of playing around with it, so reckon now's a good a time as any to give my view.

First, some background. For those who don't know, the Nintendo 3DS is the latest hand-held consule to be released. It came out of the 25th March (the same day as the iPad 2, for those keeping track), and costs approx. £200: I brought mine for £230 plus a game, Super Street Fighter IV, from The biggest features are a massive graphical boost as well as the ability to register 3D without the use of glasses. For those who saw my rant of 3D, I'd like to point out 3D doesn't come out the screen as much as add layers to the game, which makes for a far more enjoyable experience and is less strenuous on the eyes.

For what do you get for this huge chunk of bursary? Well, in this review I'm going to look at the console only. Street Fighter IV could have its own review, and maybe it will someday...

First up is the actual contents of the box the 3DS comes in. As well as the console, you get a charger (handy!), a charger dock (basically a platform to rest your DS on which can also charge the console at the same time. Good for angling the DS, but essentially superfluous) and a selection of manuals thick enough to serve as a make-shift weapon when the machine inevitably rises up in some impending apocalypse. There are also various AR, or Augmented Reality, Cards for use with some of the software, which I shall touch on it a bit.

The console itself has two major changes to its layout. Firstly, there's the 'circle pad'. This is essentially a joystick for the DS, something that the PSP has used for a while. It's nice to see it on the DS at last, though as a left handed person there is one problem, and that's when games inevitably require you to use both the stylus and move your characters (such as the upcoming Kid Icarus: Uprising). You can operate the touch screen using a finger from your right hand, but this leaves horrible marks across your nice shiny touch screen. Before, you often had the option of using either the D-Pad or A-B-X-Y buttons (which are organised into a D-Pad shape) depending on which hand you favoured. These is a chance that this simply won't be an option anymore, and that could be a problem.
The second change is a wider top screen, which is also the one that uses 3D. This is a nice touch, and although older DS games don't take up the entirity of the screen, this is no major problem. It is also worth pointing out here that the graphics of older DS games is, oddly, downgraded on the 3DS, though if you don't really care about graphics on these games (which wasn't always amazing) then this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

The major software on the 3DS are the AR Games. There are two of these pre-built into the 3DS. The first is Face Raiders, a fantastic game that takes a picture of a person's face then transplants it into a shooter-game involving the 3DS camera. I must have showed this to half a dozen people, and everyone seems to have hugely enjoyed it. It capitalises on the 3D in a way that does not get in the way of the enjoyment, yet still shows it off. This is a great feature.
As for the other AR Games, imaginatively entitled AR Games: Augmented Reality, these use the cards mentioned above to place various game elements in the real word. These are fun, though less impressive, as they require the cards to be placed on a flat surface and constantly kept within the camera's view. I get the feeling that these were merely a test for something bigger, and Nintendo are trying to work them into future games.

For anyone who's played the Wii, you'll be happy/annoyed to know that Miis are back! for those unfamiliar with the Miis, they're essentially little models of the person playing, often usable in games. On the 3DS, players can either make one from scratch, or take a picture of themselves and have the console do all the work. I made one from scratch, mostly because the console version of me had really tiny eyes. The Miis are then used in StreetPass...

Mini-Mii. I think it works...

Speaking of which, StreetPass is an interesting little feature that becomes active when the 3Ds is put on Sleep Mode. When two 3DSes pass each other on sleep mode, then they exchange data. Miis are sent to each console, which can then be used in either a puzzle game where you collect pieces of an image from Miis you encounter, or an RPG in which Miis fight ghosts, levelling up the most you encounter the same Mii. So far, I've met 7, and it's really fun to open your 3DS and see that you've passed someone else. StreetPass is also used in a number of the major launch titles, Super Street Fighter IV included. It will certainly by interesting to see what future games do with this feature.
StreetPass also includes a pedometer, which counts the number of steps you've taken, and rewards you with up to 10 coins per day. These are used in various ways, such as hiring heroes and buying puzzle pieces in the games mentioned above, or unlocking features in games such as Street Fighter.

So those are the majority of the features on the 3DS, but there are also things like Friend Lists, a soon-to-be-added Internet Browser (almost typed Bowser there. Too much Nintendo...), a music player if you upload songs to the 3DS' SD card, and ever a 3D camera. But now it's time for the important element - the 3D itself!

As I've said, I've shown off Face Raiders to a number of people, all of them with 3D turned on. I don't think I've met a single one who didn't enjoy it to some degree - even my housemates, who I managed to coax an 'it's impressive' out of (they've very hard to impress technology-wise). The 3DS does come with a depth slider, which allows anyone playing to adjust how much 3D is used to a comfortable level. Some people have experienced headaches, and though I've had little issue myself, I can see why people might struggle.

So, all in all, I've probably give the 3DS a solid 8/10. There are some elements that feel underused, the non-Face Raiders AR Games in particular, but elements that really stand out such as StreetPass and Face Raiders (it really is good. Anyone who wants a go and they see me, let me know. I tend to take it with me most places). The price tag, however, is pretty high, especially compared to places like the USA. It it were £30 cheaper, I'd bump up the rating to around 8.5, maybe even 9 if I felt generous.

TL;DR Section.

3 Pros.
  • Good 3D.
  • Some great games.
  • Great fun to play.
  • Some elements seem a little tacked on.
  • Can be expensive.
  • Launch price a little too high.
Overall rating: 8/10.