We got our Nintendo 3DS systems on Tuesday, many days in advance of the machine's March 27 North American release. Today is Friday and, wow, have we been working hard!
We've had a few days to form opinions and notice some things about the 3DS that we love and some that we could do without. We need to share.
The 3D hasn't blinded me yet: The 3DS box warns that kids under 7 shouldn't use the 3DS' glasses -free 3D effect. I'm over 7 and my eyes are doing ok. When I play submarine game Steel Diver, I keep the slider at halfway and feel no eye strain. The effect gives the game a couple of inches of simulated depth "behind" the upper-screen and I can keep my focus just fine.
On the other eyeball, it's hard to keep good 3D focus on the flight-sim Pilotwings Resort. Rocking the system left or right just a tad kills the 3D effect and makes the image on the top screen blur. I've been getting around this by reducing the slider's intensity to about 25%, which still produces an effect I prefer to flat zero 3D. I like the effect overall and hope I can become more acclimated to it. I also hope that developers find ways to program increasingly comfortable 3D, if such a thing is within their means.
Loving the circle pad: The PSP's analog nub was the best substitution for an analog stick on gaming handhelds … until the 3DS' circle pad. I love this thing. I can effortlessly do quarter- circle turns in Super Street Fighter IV with it (and considering that I stink at Street Fighter, that's saying something). Better yet, the circle pad is backwards compatible with old DS games.
I've been playing Okamiden, a DS game, on my 3DS. Okamiden is a sequel to Okami, a PS2 game in which you controlled the three-dimensional movement of a wolf with an analog stick. On the DS, you'd have to do this with a d-pad, which produces all sorts of aggravation when trying to trot diagonally. On the 3DS, I make the wolf run in all directions with the circle pad. The circle pad is so good, it makes me want to find my copy of Super Mario 64 DS and play it the right way.
Been relying on cradle for the worryingly short battery life I've been worried about the battery life of my 3DS, which is supposed to last only about five hours. So far, I've not suffered an awkward shutdown, probably because I've been religious about putting the 3DS in its charge cradle when I'm not using it. In fact, I probably should let the battery get closer to zero before doing that, but I find the charge cradle an irresistible convenience.
Excited about Street Pass: I always liked the concept of Street Pass — of letting two sleeping portable game systems exchange data wirelessly — but it was almost impossible for me to experience it on the original DS. The feature required specific games to be in the system, and data could only exchange between those two. I prefer the 3DS' approach which allows up to 12 games or apps to exchange data.
I've set up a team of Ryu, M. Bison, Vega and two other Street Fighter brawlers to automatically battle any other 3DS Street Fighter team my system sniffs out. I've set up my Mii Plaza to absorb nearby Miis so I can recruit them to battle through the light role-playing game Find Mii. I do love the idea of my 3DS exchanging data with hundreds of 3DS-owning New Yorkers, but for now it's all hypothetical. Nintendo could transform my expectations for portable gaming if this catches on.
The 3D hasn't wowed me yet: I too remain sighted after days playing 3D games on the 3DS, but I also remain mostly unimpressed. It's not that the 3D doesn't deliver that third dimension adequately, it's that it hasn't yet made the visual argument to convince me that it is at all necessary. I had high hopes for LEGO Star Wars III. I expected that the latest in the LEGO franchise, which has historically struggeled with platforming because of the lack of depth, would finally fix the issue. Unfortunately the 3D hasn't really helped. While the effects in most of the game I play can add a bit of depth to play, I'm still waiting for the game that's going to show me why 3D isn't just neat, it's required.
I'm a fan of the controls: The circle pad is a wonderful, sublime addition to the 3DS' control suite. The direction pad and X, Y, A and B buttons all remain functional (if not a tad stiffer), but none preform as well as that oversized faux-thumbstick. I was delighted to find how easy it was to play games like Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition and pull off moves with almost no problem. I do find the Home, Start and Select buttons a bit off-putting, but they're so rarely used that it doesn't bother me that much.
Suspending software is a necessary pain: I love the idea of suspending a game, allowing myself to hop right back in without worrying about save points, but I hate the limitations and extra button pushes that entails. Every time you press the Home button to return to the 3DS main menu you're warned that the game is suspended. Every time you try to start virtually anything else you're warned that you're going to lose your suspend. It would have been nice if they had allowed for multiple suspended games. [Note from Stephen: ... or just allowed us to quit an application instead of suspending it!]
The joys of a pedometer and Street Pass: I'm really loving the few things I've been able to test out with the Street Pass and built-in pedometer. I love the notion of a gaming device that doesn't just ask you to get outside, walk and mingle, but rewards it. Hopefully there will be a lot more to come as developers sink their teeth into these new tools.
Slow transitions drive me insane: The 3DS seems to take its time transitioning between the menu and anything. It's a minor delay, but it's already starting to bug me. Hopefully an update or tweak can iron this minor nitpick out.
The built-in games are the best: From the fabulous AR Games to Face Raider to that fun little Mii-centric role-playing game, the tiny little freebies that come with your 3DS are the best choices for gaming so far on the system.
The cradle is sexy: I love this things cradle. It has pins on the back that allow you to drop the 3DS down without having to worry about plugs and just instantly start charging. I also love that it's designed, seemingly, to allow you to play the system as it sits in the cradle, there's even a little access panel on the back so you can swap out games without lifting the portable up. What I don't love is how often I seem to need to sit the thing down because of a low battery warning.
A stylus-dependent touchscreen is annoying: I've got an iPhone and an iPad. That means I'm officially over using a stylus to do things on a touchscreen. Unfortunately the 3DS' screen doesn't seem quite ready to ditch the stylus. You can use your finger still, but the games I tried that on weren't that responsive. So I find myself digging around behind the console, pulling out the stylus, extending it and then using it, all in the middle of a game like LEGO Star Wars III. Not good. [Note from Stephen: Agreed! In this iPhone era, my reflex is to touch a touchscreen with my fingers, not a stylus. I keep forgetting and smudging my 3DS' lower screen.]
What's missing: Internet browsing and the e-store still isn't here. Nor is the ability to transfer your purchases from your DSi. They're promised, but not yet delivered. I'd also love to see a built in video player on here and maybe a music player that has a better user interface then does the one found on the DSi.
Those are our impressions so far. We'll continue to have more on the 3DS as we approach its March 27 launch in North America. If there are things we haven't covered that you're curious about, let us know.