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Nintendo 3DS review - Look mum, no glasses!

T3 India | Updated on August 17, 2011

Nintendo 3DS   -  BUSINESS LINE

3D SLIDERChoose progressively how much dimensional shifting your eyes and your 3D widescreen can handle with this real-time control   -  BUSINESS LINE

CIRCLE PADFull, 360-degree analogue control makes it to a Nintendo handheld for thefirst time. Sunk low into the surface, it’s a joy to use   -  BUSINESS LINE

DUAL CAMERASThey may be low-res but these VGA snappers allow you to shoot 3D pics and facilitate AR gaming. A cam inside takes 2D pics   -  BUSINESS LINE

GAME CARD SLOTNintendo has ensured the 3DS is not only instantly familiar to DS users, it’s also backwards compatible with DS game cards   -  BUSINESS LINE

LOWER SCREENSmaller and lacking 3D it may be, but this is a touchscreen, ripe for some telescoping stylus action   -  BUSINESS LINE

The 3DS has a great gimmick. More crucially, it has the makings of a great console. We all know what the main selling point is here: 3D that needs no specs. But that's by no means the only impressive aspect of the 3DS, successor to the 140 million unit-selling DS. The 3DS “autostereoscopy” effect is highly effective. Landscapes withdraw à la Avatar rather than jumping out at you like Captain Eo. It's put to great use by the preinstalled augmented-reality games, which incorporate your surroundings into the action via two exterior cameras. As you shoot acquaintances' faces as they loom evilly from train doors, you realise the device's potential.

Prolonged exposure to the 3D is more troublesome. Something like the upcoming Metal Gear Solid, which demands your close attention for hours on end, could make us fear for our retinas. There is also a nagging feeling with some games that, as with 3D films, the extra dimension has been tacked on to raise the RRP rather than enhance the experience. However, the 3D effect is not obligatory. A slider is on hand to reduce it or even turn it off, and the graphics still stand up in 2D, the customised PICA200 chip powering animations that look smoother than the Wii.

Peer blinkingly past the 3D and there are additions of greater substance here. A gyroscope and accelerometer add effective motion-sensing controls. Even better, there's a 360-degree analogue pad that's a joy to use compared to the PSP's bevelled thumb killer. You get built-in Wi-Fi for access to web browser and, eventually, eShop game downloads and other users' content via Nintendo's Street Pass concept. There are also some typically playful Nintendo touches – a pedometer that rewards you with extra in-game content if you walk around with your 3DS for long enough, for instance. And yes, this is backwards compatible with the DS, too.

With the NGP not out till “holiday 2011”, the 3DS's only real competitors are the old DS and smartphones. The big question here is, do you need a dedicated console with full-price titles when your mobile can rock PS2-quality games for cheaper ones, downloaded in minutes?

Consoles might usually claim better battery life than phones, but this one only lasts three to five hours with 3D full on – not amazing. Despite that, the 3DS will be a success. The 3D novelty will wear off if it's not used in engaging ways but you'd be a fool to bet against Nintendo doing just that. Furthermore, with AR, a wealth of control options and cracking graphics, the 3DS is by no means a one-trick pony. This and the NGP may well be the last hoorah for dedicated handheld consoles, but if so, it's quite a way to go out.

Love: Like all Nintendo products, it feels fun. Nifty 3D effect. Great analogue pad. AR has fantastic potential

Hate: Like all Nintendo products, it feels a bit toy-like. 3D effect causes tired eyes. Mediocre battery life

Rs 12,000

The 'S' in 3DS is for safety. Here's how to be safe:

Keep that head straight

The 3DS resents gazes that aren't committed. Letting your head wander from a direct, centralised view results in an unremittingly disorientating screen blur, akin to taking off your Buddy Holly specs mid-Avatar to “check the extra dimension is worth the £5 premium”. On the plus side, it also means none of your mates peering side-on will be able to see the full visual glory, so you can more easily get them to stop putting you off by gawping.

Don't be afraid to tone it down

The handy slider to the right of the upper screen can be used to adjust the depth effect to the level you want. We found the 3D just as impressive, yet less straining on our eyes, when set at a Phil Collins-esque, middle of the road level. Resist the urge to get all macho and competitive by turning it up to 11 and blowing your senses in minutes just because you can. Remember: the true warrior paces him or herself. Especially when playing Animal Crossing

Downtime is your friend

Nintendo recommends breaks of ten to 15 minutes every half-hour. Yeah, like that's going to happen. But at the very least stop and pause the game and look at actual 3D things more than a foot away from your face every now and then. Prolonged sessions resulted in one T3 team member feeling as if his “eyes were being sucked from his head”, but it must be said Nintendo gets its apologies in early, with a 1,000-word onscreen healthy and safety essay.

This material is translated or reproduced from T3 magazine and is the copyright of or licensed to Future Publishing Limited, a Future plc group company, UK 2011. Used under license. All rights reserved

Published on May 04, 2011

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