I was going to start this with an unboxing video, but since those have been circulating the net since before launch it seemed a little overdone. I felt very compelled, on the other hand, to share my initial impressions on the hardware that has been gaining considerable hype since it became playable at least years E3. My First thought once I turned on the device was ‘elegant’.
The system itself is cased in a very sleek looking glossy finish, which complimented the black quite well. I am sure the blue one looks just as nice. If feels as if they took what worked about the DSi’s layout and upgraded it to near-perfection, the buttons and circle pad feel very solid and ergonomic. Though I do find it clumsy at times to switch between the circle pad and the d-pad, and having them a little closer to each other wouldn’t hurt, though I am glad Nintendo decided to opt out of switchable plates for those pads. The only buttons on the outside are the 3D and volume Sliders as well as the Wi-fi switch. The power and menu buttons are all protected when the 3DS is closed.
When you first turn on the console it takes you through the basic setup that anyone with a previous DS would be used to, where you set up the date/time personal profile and “calibrate” the 3D settings. After you’ve entered your birth date and opted in or out of Spot Pass then you presented with an already filled menu of ‘apps’ and options. You don’t even really need to buy a game and yet you can still have hours of enjoyment on the device, at least I did.
The first thing I did was hop into the Mii Maker to create my portable digital identity. It was very straight forward and easy to do, while allowing the user to take a photo of themselves and have the software generate the closest possible likeness, which in my case didn’t turn out perfectly, but it was still good enough for me to be satisfied.
Next I set up the Mii Plaza and allowed for SteetPass access to that so I could get some new Mii’s to help me in the integrated mini-game that is to rescue a caged Mii. Even if you don’t stumble across anyone in your neighbourhood with a 3DS you can still use the pedometer feature to accrue coins that allow you to hire help for that particular game, which is nice.
Of course I had to test out the 3D camera and I was not all that impressed as the quality of the images are on par with the DSi which was an abysmal 0.5MP camera. To be fair it is a 3D rendition of what ever it is you took a picture of in your environment and you there is a small bit of customization as well. Certainly not a feature I will be using unless in pure sunlight for optimal quality.
The feature I spent the most time one was the AR Games, which is an Augmented Reality application built in, which uses included cards that are read by the camera. It is really quite impressive how well the tracking worked when you move the camera around and as long as you ensure the card is in view of the camera the pop-up characters will be present. You can move the characters around and change their poses as well as take pictures of them that can be saved to your SD (a 2GB one is included). There is also an archery game and a ball launching game that both end with you defeating a dragon that is erupting from your floor or table or whatever surface the card is on. After you complete each game you unlock other features of the AR Games app. I will let you discover those for yourself.
Finally, there is Face Raiders which is essentially the only game that comes pre-loaded on the device. In this you take a picture of your face and it auto-detects your sex and age, which it pegged me as young female, the stubble on my face doesn’t quite agree. Then it uses that face to put it into some sort of space helmet that flies around your room as you chase after it with your 3DS to shoot it. Reminds me of the Gameboy Camera mini-game that does something quite similar. You can progress through 9 stages that get increasingly difficult. It is quite fun if you use another persons face to shoot at, best make it someone you hate, I am sure it will help you win.
Games are not the only benefit of the 3DS it also features 3D videos, such as Ok Go’s ‘White Knuckles’ music video that you get with an update that is available now. There is also the promise of Netflix and 3D trailers, that have been shown off at various gaming events.
Also the DSi Sound application is back and greatly improved. It supports .mp3 files for one and also includes an upgraded visualization set which includes a 3D flying ship and various game styled ones as well. You can also share your information over StreetPass with a custom playlist that will be passed to anyone nearby, if you choose to enable it. It provides them with play count of songs as of course the artist and song names in the playlist. You can create up to 100 playlists of your choosing, though I would suggest upgrading your storage to a 32GB card if you plan on taking advantage of that much music. On top of that there is still the voice recording feature and the ability to manipulate your voice or the music with various sliders.
The 3D ability is heavily integrated into every aspect of the device even the basic menus are presented in 3D to some degree. It works as well as I would expect a glasses free 3D screen to work, with a very limited viewing angle. Moving the device up or down doesn’t seem to disturb the image too much but moving or tilting it left or right completely distorts the image and if you had to do such movements for any game it would be unplayable with 3D enabled. I would not say it is bad by any means and generally would keep it enabled as it does add enjoyment to any game played, especially ones that forcibly take full advantage of the capability.
I say if you have been considering an upgrade to a DSi from a Lite then definitely grab this instead, if you have a DSi already stick with it until at least May when the eShop and various other features are enabled with the planned update. There also aren’t any must have titles at launch, unless you enjoy fighting titles, as SFIV 3D is really impressive, perhaps another reason to wait to pick up the $250 machine.