Review by Wiggis

"New handheld, new dimension, new ways to play"

The Nintendo DS was undisputedly a landmark system. It sold in unbelievable numbers, set world records and was home to top-quality triple-A titles. But even the greatest must retire at some point. So, while the Nintendo DS is getting ready to rest easy, the Nintendo 3DS aims to carry the same crown. But can it?

STORY: n / a

GRAPHICS: 9 / 10

Easily at least GameCube quality with certain games. Titles such as Super Street Fighter IV, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Resident Evil Revelations show just what this little handheld is capable of displaying. With the right games, it's completely apparent just how vast an improvement the 3DS's graphics are over the DS/DSi's.

Besides just being prettier, the 3DS's main selling point is the glasses-free 3D. As can be expected, the 3D effect is better in certain games than others. When executed properly, not only does the extra depth look great, but it eventually feels like the game should be played that way. The early trend leaned toward Nintendo-brand games (Ocarina of Time, 3D Classics: Xevious, Star Fox 64, etc) utilizing the 3D better, though third-party games have definitely been getting better with that as time has passed.

SOUND: 10 / 10

Nintendo have always known how to maximize sound quality from their handhelds; the 3DS only further proves this true. Everything that made the audio from the DS top-notch calls the 3DS home as well, only now it's enhanced by the new game generation and all the improvements that come with it. Even the surround sound works great, especially with headphones.

CONTROL: 9 / 10

Just like the DS before it, it has 4 face buttons, 2 shoulder buttons, a D-pad, Start, Select and a touch screen. Only now, we have an added thumbstick above the D-pad for optimal control in 3D games such as Super Mario 3D Land. Words cannot describe how much this little new feature was needed. Also new is the Home button below the touch screen. Anyone familiar with how the Home/Guide button works on the PS3/360 will know just what this button does, which is giving the player access to the system's main menu while temporarily suspending the title that is currently being played.

The 3DS stylus is arguably the best pack-in stylus Nintendo has ever offered. Not only does it fit into the handheld perfectly, but it's also telescopic, meaning it can extend to add comfort for extended gameplay. The ability to toggle the wireless mode on & off has thankfully been moved from an option in the DSi/DSiXL System Settings menu to a slider in the top-right side of the 3DS, giving the gamer much more freedom as to when it can be on or not. Lastly, there is a slider on the right side of the top screen that adjusts the amount of 3D to full-blast to none entirely. Everything fits very comfortably in the hand without needing to look at the button layout for where the thumb or anything else needs to go.

Yet, as sleek and ergonomic as it's designed, it isn't without flaw. I'll start with the Circle Pad Pro. It's a second thumbstick for the right hand that also adds 2 more shoulder buttons to give the feel of the Classic Controller Pro for the Wii. My complaint isn't with the design of the unit itself (though it DOES need it's own battery), but with the software application. When you look at games like Resident Evil Revelations or Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D, the Circle Pad Pro is almost required. Additionally, at the time this was written, if you live in the United States, this particular accessory is harder to obtain than it should be. As a GameStop exclusive, it isn't even sold everywhere. Adding more salt to the wound, all those GameStops are backordered for months. This will only get worse as more games release that utilize the Circle Pad Pro.

Other minor complaints are with the 3D slider and the Start and Select buttons. With the 3D slider, there are titles (mostly Nintendo Video clips) where placement of the slider makes no difference; there's merely 'on' or 'off'. But Start and Select aren't buttons like you'd expect. They're pads that lay flat into the system. It doesn't feel natural to press them during gameplay. Not that they're "action buttons", but they still hold the same function that they have for decades. Luckily, these last two misgivings are mainly aesthetic and do not harm the system layout overall.

GAMEPLAY: 8 / 10

Now that we've covered the basics, what can it do? A lot, actually.

First, it is 99% backward compatible with the Nintendo DS. The remaining 1% excludes the Guitar Hero games and specific DSiWare titles. But this is only a problem for the most hardcore game collector. But the vast, vast majority that do work without fail, multiplayer and all.

Speaking of multiplayer, the 3DS takes it to a whole new level. It does this by implementing 2 new features: StreetPass and SpotPass. StreetPass works by automatically sending data to and from anyone you happen to pass by who also owns a 3DS. The tradable content varies game to game and adds much more replayability to titles overall. SpotPass is similar, but works as an auto-download feature when near wi-fi hotspots. Just like StreetPass, SpotPass content is different depending on the games that support it.

Next up are the Play Coins. These are obtained by walking around with your 3DS on you. Every 100 steps taken earns you a coin, with a total of 10 coins obtainable per day. There are a great many ways to spend these coins, from content within store-bought games to downloadable titles.

The next selling point is in the built-in software. Every shipped 3DS comes with Nintendo 3DS Camera, Nintendo 3DS Sound, Mii Maker, StreetPass Mii Plaza, AR Games, Face Raiders, Activity Log, Nintendo eShop, Pokedex 3D and Nintendo Video. The Mii Maker and Nintendo 3DS Sound are exactly as they were on the Wii and DSi respectively, only they each have a few more features to them on the 3DS. AR Games is a series of minigames that are played with cards that come with the handheld. Face Raiders uses pictures taken as characters in a surprisingly elaborate minigame that also utilizes the gyroscopic features of the 3DS. The Activity Log records how long and how many times you've played each title, as well as how many steps you've taken with the 3DS on you. The Nintendo eShop is where to go to get new downloadable titles. Pokedex 3D is a SpotPass enabled guide for Pokemon Black & White. Nintendo Video is a constantly updated app featuring various 3D videos. But the cherry on the sundae is the StreetPass Mii Plaza. Out of everything else, I imagine the the StreetPass Mii Plaza being played the most. It arguably has the most content of all of them.

At this point in time, all of the built-in software have had enough updates that have made them better than when they were first released. The system has also been out for long enough to have high-demand, successful titles and the eShop's library is only getting bigger and better. Plus, all of the touch screen and gyro controls work great in all the games I've tested so far. If there was a true complaint anywhere, it's with it's battery and it's casing. The battery does not last as long as it should. Plus, things that push the system harder, such as playing online or with the 3D set to maximum, will only drain the battery faster. It's something I really hope Nintendo plans on fixing with the eventual next model of the 3DS (3DS Lite, perhaps?). The casing shows fingerprints much too easily. Unless you keep your hands meticulously clean, a lot of what's on your hands will most definitely end up on the system. Both sides, too, even if you never directly touch the top screen that often.

OVERALL: 9 / 10

The Nintendo 3DS is above and beyond further proof that Nintendo knows what it's doing when making handhelds. It's only a year old and we've gotten so much from it. One can only imagine what the future holds, especially when the Wii U releases and it takes advantage of the system-to-handheld connectivity.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/25/12, Updated 12/03/12

Game Release: Nintendo 3DS (US, 03/27/11)

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