Nintendo’s new 3DS handheld, the first gadget to allow 3D gaming without the use of special glasses, is its own best salesman. In much the same way as the Wii came bundled with the easy, accessible “Wii Sports,” the 3DS comes loaded with a few simple applications that beg its owner to share the device among a roomful of people.
Like a lot of gamers, I bought my 3DS shortly after it went on sale Sunday for $250. Since then, I’ve alternated between showing off my new toy, playing the included software and trying out a handful of retail games, which sell for $40 apiece.
The most fun to be had right out of the box comes from sharing Nintendo’s hardware with your family, friends and co-workers. As soon as mine was charged, I showed the desktop and basic functions to colleagues in the newsroom. While most aren’t “gamers,” the tech impressed. Those who do play videogames hoped I’d bring it back once I got a couple of titles up and running. “How’d they do that?” was a typical reaction. Non-gamers wanted to know what the 3DS could do besides play games.
The answer right now is, not a whole lot. Given the right light, the 3DS can take 3D digital photos, but, for obvious reasons, they’re only viewable on the device itself. Last month in San Francisco, Nintendo executives Satoru Iwata and Reggie Fils-Amie outlined plans for an iTunes-like 3D video distribution system, but lining up Hollywood partners and making them believe in the 3DS as a viable movie platform will take time. The 3DS plays music, but chances are you have a smartphone or MP3 player for that.
Still, if you’re interested in a dedicated, on-the-go gaming device, or are just a nerd for the latest cool gadget, you’ll have fun with the 3DS. It’ll play games from Nintendo’s older DS hardware, so there are already several fantastic non-3D games to amuse you while you wait for the truly great games to show up in 3D. The included software is also a lot of fun, and might be your best bet for convincing others you know to join you in the era of glasses-free 3D gaming.
The flip-open 3DS comes equipped with multiple cameras, so that users can take photos of themselves or others in the room without some complicated rotation and maneuvering of the handheld.
“Face Raiders,” a clever take-off on “Space Invaders,” uses all of the cameras. When you fire up the game, you’ll use the user-side camera to snap a photo of your face. Once your visage is scanned into the game, the mayhem starts. Players aim the DS’s backside cameras around the room while firing what look like tennis balls at weird, helicopter-like vehicles piloted by their own head. If you fail to fight off an attack, the floating head swoops in for a kiss. You haven’t lived until you’ve fired tennis balls at your own face to keep it from kissing you.
Other included software is the “Mii Plaza,” which lets you create avatars similar to those found on the Wii. On the 3DS, though, you can snap a picture of yourself and get the avatar creator started. By enabling the device’s “Street Pass” mode, you can share your Miis with other 3DS owners you happen to pass on the street.
Another type of software, “AR Games,” has you using the camera to view cards that come with the game system. They jump to life when you point the camera at them, enabling a number of simple minigames.
Of the retail games I’ve tried so far, nothing stands out as a great buy at $40. “Super Street Fighter IV 3D” (rated T) is the deepest, most robust title I have, but the 3D feels more like a gimmick and I found it easier to fight with the 3D feature turned off. “Pilotwings Resort” (rated E) is a great demo of what 3D gaming has to offer, but you can only fly three vehicles around a lifeless island for so long. “Nintendogs + Cats” (rated E) lets you raise virtual pets in 3D, but it’s largely the same game as “Nintendogs” for the DS.
Price will be a sticking point for many. Of the games I’ve yet to try, only tactical, turn-based strategy game “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars” has me truly excited. Fans of racing games might want to pick up Namco Bandai’s “Ridge Racer 3D,” and those who haven’t played the original might like “Rayman 3D.” Otherwise, who wants to pay $40 for a 3D version of “Super Monkey Ball 3D” when the 2D iPhone version costs $3?