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Nintendo 3DS - Hands-on Impressions from E3 2010

Nintendo's 3DS is easily the most alluring device of this year’s E3.  All day, show attendees were waiting for up to an hour and a half just to get their eyes on the 3DS for just a few minutes.  
But what a fantastic few minutes they are.  While the 3D effect isn’t for everyone (some people experience eye strain), the effect is convincing, doesn’t require glasses, and can easily be switched off via a slider on the right hand side of the system.

To be perfectly clear; I liked the 3D, I can’t wait to play the system again tomorrow, and I’m impressed by how much innovation Nintendo consistently brings to the table.

That said, my brief time with the system taught me a lesson quickly:  you have to be right in front of the screen for the 3D effect to work.  If you’re slightly to one side or another, you’ll start seeing ghosting of the image on the edges.  Move just a bit more, and you’re looking at a blurry, unplayable mess.  Still, when you’re looking straight onto the device, the 3D is very good.  It’s as if you’re looking into a hole or into space, rather than having things actively pop out at you.  The effect seems to make certain elements “shiny.”  There’s no question about it; the Nintendo 3DS is definitely cool, but what was on display to play really wasn’t developed from the ground up for the system, so it’ll be hard to guess how developers will actually use the 3D capabilities.

The demos that were available were from static images and movies, scenes from classic NES games, to StarFox.  Several full games have been announced for the 3DS, but none were being shown.  One game that we know is coming to the 3DS is Sims 3. This was announced during a brief presentation we attended late in the day at EA’s booth.

While the 3D effect is the 3DS’ main selling point, Nintendo has a few more surprises for gamers next year when the system ships.  The big surprise will be “how powerful is this system?”  Nintendo isn’t talking much about the horsepower behind the 3DS, they want us simple journalists to focus on the games.  Screen real estate will be a gift to developers, as the Nintendo 3DS has a 16:9 top screen, and a 4:3 bottom screen.  Many console games are now being developed as wide screen games, so it will be interesting to see if developers are more tempted to port titles from other development platforms to the 3DS as a result of having a similar screen sizes.  The analog stick, which is implemented far more cleanly than the PSP, also came as a bit of a surprise, as the 3DS is the first Nintendo portable to boast that feature.  The 3DS also comes with a 3D camera, which will be a lot of fun to take pictures of friends, etc.  Since the camera will be integrated into every 3DS, and the 3DS is a new platform, it’s easy to imagine that the 3D camera will be more of an element in games than in the DSi (which also has a camera, but is more of a one-off version of the current DS).

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