Nintendo 3DS Preview

We get our dirty, dirty hands on Nintendo’s latest portable.

We get our dirty, dirty hands on Nintendo’s latest portable.

Nintendo has packed so many goodies into the 3DS, gamers will be finding new ways to play for weeks. Our own aqua blue bundle of joy arrived a bit early, so we’re giving you the low down on the tricks this puppy can do.

First things first, this is the first mass-market glasses-less 3D screen. Setting itself apart from the typical 3D effects that you’d normally find at your local movie theater (or on your home 3DTV, Daddy Warbucks), the 3DS uses autostereoscopic 3D that doesn’t pop-out but lets you peek in. Imagine a fishbowl. Now imagine that fishbowl has an epic battle between Ryu and Ken going on inside of it and you’re peering in. Now stop peering, you’re creeping your goldfish out.

The form factor of the 3DS remains largely unchanged from its DS brethren. However, Nintendo has taken the time to make some small improvements that optimize the experience. Primary among these changes is the addition of the analog stick, offering an alternative to the archaic d-pad-only setup and much finer control over games as a result. The telescoping stylus hasn’t changed in function but tucking it away in the inconspicuous cubbyhole feels like sheathing a sword after a battle and is oddly satisfying. 

There’s also a new SD-card slot that Nintendo has generously filled with a two gigabyte SD Card, more than enough for storing game saves, notes or 3D pictures…for now at least.

We do worry that, eventually, those two gigs won’t be enough for us because the sheer joy of taking and viewing pictures in 3D is a novelty that won’t wear off anytime soon. The 3DS is equipped with stereo-camera sensors on its top cover and a single, front-facing sensor opposite the other two. Pictures ranged from hazy to eye-popping but that largely depended on the lighting. Pictures were stored on the SD card and viewable, in 3D, on the handheld but could also be shared through the 3DS’s operating system.

The operating system is actually where some of the biggest changes have taken place. The 3DS boasts a more Wii-like interface with camera, games, settings and the likes getting the growable/shrinkable button treatment for easier accessibility than ever before. The OS also offers multitasking so you won’t have to quit that record-breaking game to make a note, create a mii, or find a friend (because you now have a friend list to make finding online games much, much easier).

Finally, there are a slew of new features thrown in by the guys that have been balls-deep in the handheld game since its inception. Augmented Reality games are integrated into the OS itself so even if you walk out of that Nintendo store without purchasing a single game (though why would you with a launch lineup like this?) you’ll still have some goodies to go home and play with. The system is equipped with wi-fi and Nintendo recommends leaving the 3DS on (stand-by battery life is somewhere in the “weeks” range, though not tested specifically) because the system features a new “streetpass” where 3DS units that pass each other will have packets of info jump from one to another. This streetpass info ranges anywhere from ghost runs in racing games to achievements and trophies from other 3DS owners with their systems turned on. Finally, Nintendo shows the love by including backward compatibility to most previous DS titles right out of the box (See Sony, you can still be a giant without being greedy) so there’s no reason to toss out your old favorites like Mariokart or Zelda…..until the 3D versions come out, that is.

The Nintendo 3DS launches March 27th for $249.99 and comes in Aqua Blue and Cosmo Black.

Check out our favorite games in the launch line up here!