Nintendo DS review: system a mixed bag



I have to admit, I was skeptical. Can 3-D really work without glasses? With the Nintendo 3DS, the answer is yes.


Some might worry this is just another iteration of the DS line, but it’s actually an entire new piece of hardware.


Compared with the original, the 3DS has much more technology. The memory alone has been upgraded from 16MB to 128MB, certainly making it ready for the next generation of handheld games.


The graphics are also vastly improved. The DS offered visuals equivalent to the N64 while the 3DS pushes graphics similar to the Wii.


In order to get the full 3-D experience this device has to offer, you must first find the visual “sweet spot.”


At first I found it cumbersome to push the device back and forth toward my face. But once I found where I could see the effect best, muscle memory kicked in to remember.


So how does the 3-D effect look? Since it uses different technology than movies, it’s not exactly “Avatar.” Instead, it creates more of a “looking through the window” effect.


This form of 3-D feels a lot more realistic. In real life, unlike 3-D movies, things just don’t pop out in front of you.


A few augmented reality games are bundled with the system. These are basically little tech demos, there to show off your investment and build excitement for the future.


The first game works with the packed-in AR cards. Each card has a different Nintendo character, which you can lay on a table and watch come to life using the built-in camera on the 3DS. From here, you can take pictures and put them in different poses. It’s a good way to kill 15 minutes.


The second demo, called “Face Raiders,” is probably the most interactive feature you can experience right out of the box. Basically it’s a shooting gallery game that uses images of you or any other pictures you have. It has a quirky sense of humor and a simple learning curve.


As for actual retail games, there is much to be desired. Of the 16 launch titles, only three ride slightly above mediocre. The only games I can recommend are “Pilot Wings Resort,” “Rayman 3D” and “Super Street Fighter 4 3D.” The good news is that Zelda should be out by July.


Controls for the 3DS remain mostly the same as the DS, with the exception of the newly included thumb stick. From first time of use, it feels entirely natural thanks to its depressed design. Anyone familiar with the XBOX 360 analog stick should feel right at home.


As impressive and fun as the 3DS is, new technology is never perfect.


I found the Street Pass function unnecessary, though some might only find it an annoyance. It’s like trying to make friends on Facebook, except you have be to five feet away from the person in order to take their invite.


Also, the dreaded friend code is back. Even though you only have to put it on once, it’s not exactly a smooth online experience.


The biggest issue is that, as of this review, users are locked out of some built-in features. Apps such as the web browser and eShop will be unusable until a later date. It will be a couple of months before we know the machine’s full potential.


All in all, this is a mixed bag.


The 3DS is an amazing piece of technology with great potential that could finally bridge the gap for how the public sees 3-D. Also at $250, it’s probably the cheapest way to own 3-D.


On the other hand, launching with incomplete hardware and being tied to a familar name could damage its market penetration.


Grade: B

Photo illustration by Darcy Arizmendi


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