Last spring I was at the Montreal launch of the Nintendo 3DS and after briefly testing it, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me. The steep price and the fact that all the demos were using 3D in maximum mode, gave me not only a headache but also made me cross-eyed, vomitous and possibly infertile. This along with the lack of any new Mario franchise games at launch, had turned me off the little console.
However, the recent release of Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land and Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D, coupled with a massive drop in street price, from the initial CDN269$ to the current CDN169$ normal price (the console can be found on rebate for as low as CDN139$) has made me pull the trigger on one. I picked up a blue console with the aforementioned games plus The Sims 3.
6 AR cards which I’ve only briefly tested because frankly, they are useless, a charging dock with a separate charger, a misleadingly thick instructions booklet, 4 quick start posters, a Nintendo Club card with a PIN that enables you to earn some free stuff and a 2Gb SD card inserted in the console are included.
Oh, and yeah, the console…
The 3D effects when used with the slider all the way up, are a solid way to induce vomiting, however I found a sweet spot just below the half point, that enabled me to play Mario Kart 7 in 3D, without wanting to throw up last year’s Thanksgiving dinner and all the blue Slushies I had eversince. They remain in your system you know? The Slushies. In the future, when the Alien Seeders land and find we’ve totally destroyed the planet with pollution by using spiral light bulbs instead of LED, they will examine our fossilized remains and they will exclaim: “Look, they had blue Slushies!”
Quick fact about the 3D slider; The Canadian Poison Control Centre doesn’t “actually” recommend using it to induce vomiting, but it does work, and it even has some staying power. Contrary to the classic “two fingers in the throat” approach that works more instantly, but where you actually stop vomiting within minutes, the slider will keep you vomiting for hours of fun.
Once the function is enabled on the console, everytime it’s in sleep mode (up to 3 days before the battery runs out) it will check with Nintendo Video for new short videos. Some are incredibly lame Smosh type shorts, however they do have 3D movie previews like Underworld Awakening 3D, which means that maybe one day, we could get 3D movies through Netflix.
Netflix is available on the Nintendo eShop but although the menus are in 3D, the movies are not. There is conflicting information about when 3D movies will be available, if at all. The issue seems to be that to implement them, Netflix would look at a considerable investment on the server side, an investment that might not be warranted given the low user rate on the 3DS. Hopefully, they’ll develop some sort of partnership either with Nintendo, or some third party 3D TV provider that will motivate them. It would be cool!
The last thing I’ll say about 3D on the console, is that glassless 3D is somewhat different from the normal 3D we’ve grown to know and love. At the movies, behind the wheel, or at home, with the 3D glasses on, the actors in the foreground appear to have depth, they have a roundness to them, you can tell they’re physically there. The 3D on the console is different, while watching the previews for 3D movies I came to realize that the actors in the foreground appear FLAT. It’s as if you were watching a cardboard cutout of an actor, superimposed on a dynamically changing background, and that all Nintendo have done, is add a parallax effect. It’s still visually amazing but not quite at the level of traditional 3D glasses.
The Mario franchise games have stunning visuals and strong sound effects, Mario Kart 7 includes Streetpass which enables you to exchange ghost and Mii data with random passerbys, this is an extremely cool function but that’s not what shines the most about the games. What stands out is that they are fun to play. Plain and simple. That’s always been Nintendo’s strength and it shows here. Whether you decide to play it in 3D or not, Mario Kart 7 is a stunning game, Super Mario Land 3D is absolutely gorgeous and playing Zelda is like slow dancing with your beloved wife on your 20th wedding anniversary. She’s still as attractive as she was on your wedding day, only now you’re not only in love with her, you have this fondness for her that fills your soul.
For those of you who are not married just go play Zelda instead…at least you have the free time.
The hardware itself is very similar to the traditional Nintendo DSi, except it has stereoscopic photography hardware included (two cameras for taking 3D photos) and the top screen is larger than the DSi’s but other than that, it’s not much different. The GPU of course is more powerful.
The main issue I keep having with the console, is that my enormous, thin giant, hands are too big to hold it properly and operate all the buttons at will. For instance, when playing Mario Kart 7, one of the important functions is holding your “use item” button to tow a turtle shell or banana peel behind you as you drive, this protects you from incoming red turtles and drafting opponents. They’ll still draft you but when they hit you they will spin out.
Sadly, with my mega-hands, I couldn’t consistantly hold the left trigger button down, and steer with the left thumb at the same time. Instead, I found myself constantly throwing bananas or turtle shells all over the place without actually meaning to do it. This is annoying. I couldn’t find any ergonomic adapters locally that would “enlarge” the console enough to allow me to work this properly, nor a menu option to change the button assignement. This seems to be an annoyance built into the menus of the console as well, since whenever I handle the console, if only simply to close the lid and enter sleep mode, I keep accidentally pressing one of the shoulder buttons, which launches the 3D camera app…
Nintendo should enable some menu option to change that button to a different one. The same goes with the “enter your birthdate” to access Netflix, the Nintendo Video, or any channel other than games. This is extremely annoying and there MUST be a way to disable it, but I couldn’t find it in the misleadingly thick instructions book. It’s thick because it’s in 156 different languages, but the actual English informations are thin and are mostly safety ramblings about epilepsy and other possible side effects of 3D gaming to children under the age of 7 years old. Nintendo themselves actually, and rightly so, recommend that children under 7, play the console with the 3D disabled.
Finally, if you leave the console in sleep mode and take it with you wherever you go, it will count your steps with a built in pedometer. It will also exchange data with other 3DS consoles that have the Streetpass function active, which means you might get messages, game save data or Miis from other people wouldn’t otherwise know, and who take the train or metro with you every day.
Despite the console’s drawbacks, the Mario/Zelda franchise games force me to recommend this console.
Overall score: 7/10
-Impressive glassless 3D
-Nintendo Club membership makes cool free stuff available to order
-Lots of stuff that happens magically while the console is asleep including 3D previews from Nintendo Video and Streetpass
-The charging dock is practical
-Analog stick and left shoulder button are placed too close for big hands
-3D effect is toxic if pushed too hard
-Lack of full 3D movies from Netflix (or any legal source for that matter)
-Forced to enter your birthdate whenever accessing a non game application, EVERY TIME!