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Nintendo 3DS Review

3DS reviewThe Nintendo 3DS finally fell into my hands when I returned from Romania and I have been enjoying it every single day since then. I took some time to write up an officially review, but it is finally here. I full break down of just about every single aspect of the Nintendo 3DS. I have also included a full 20 minute video review of Nintendo’s new glasses free 3D handheld. There is a lot to the Nintendo 3DS that you might not have known about, and even if you have purchased a 3DS already I think you might learn something new about your new purchase. So read on for my full review!


Parallax_BarrierAs the official successor to the Nintendo DS/DS Lite/DSi/DSi XL (Nintendo loves revisions), the Nintendo 3DS if full of great new features. As implied by the name the Nintendo 3DS is a dual screen system with a touchscreen on the bottom screen just like it predecessors, but this time the top screen is in full glasses FREE 3D! To pull this off Nintendo has upgraded the top screen to 800×240 pixel resolution and with a Parallax Barrier effect allocates 400 pixels fully for each eye to generate the 3D effect. 3D isn’t the only thing the 3DS is packing. It also has a Motion Sensor & Gyro Sensor which at this point is mandatory since just about every cell phone has this built in. Just like the DSi, which had 2 cameras built in, the 3DS is packing an inside camera and now 2 Cameras on the outside which can be used to take 3D pictures and in the future 3D video.

WP_000327Something found on the PSP was an analog stick, which Nintendo likes to call a Circle Pad. Unlike the PSPs analog stick which was absolutely horrible the Circle Pad on the Nintendo 3DS is absolutely wonderful, and since the 3DS can play all DS games you can use the Circle Pad on DS games as well. Additionally packed into this package is your typical stylus (which you really don’t need since the touch screen is really nice), microphone, Wi-Fi B/G, IR port, SD card port (2GB included), headphone port, and plenty of flashing lights.

All together this package expands on the DSi and adds tons of new features. However is this enough to make it worth the $250 price tag? Read on to find out more.


WP_000324If you have ever held a GBA SP or any of the Nintendo DS systems before then the clam shape design will be familiar to you. The reason Nintendo has stuck with the clam shape is because it is simply amazing. It allows for the multiple screen setup and to be fully protected at all times when the system is not in use. It also nicely fits into your pocket, and it just looks extremely nice. With all this said, I am a bit disappointed by the 3DS design as it doesn’t feel like an evolution to the system, more like another upgrade. Don’t get me wrong I love the 3DS, but it is a tad bit larger and heavier than the DSi and the DS Lite. This isn’t such a problem as it is still fairly light, but this just signals a re-design in the future.

WP_000321The system is comprised of 3 different layers and colors which is something different than any system Nintendo has launched before. It is an interesting design choice as it looks like a layer cake, which is nice, but the top layer has a bit of a muffin top on it that isn’t 100% aligned with the rest of the system. The Nintendo 3DS is really cool though as it has 4 different lights on the system all for different notifications from charging, power, Wi-Fi, and Street Pass notifications. This really makes the system look cool when it is sitting in the included docking station. Also something cool with the docking station is that it actually doesn’t plug in to charge, but just rests in the station with little retractable prongs that are used to charge the system, which is a nice touch.

Inside the system you have your standard fare of buttons, d-pad, and speakers. As mentioned earlier you also get a nice Circle Pad, which is extremely well built and so far works great in all games. It is placed on top of the d-pad which I thought would be weird since I mostly use the d-pad, but I have not found it to be a problem thus far. On the back of the system you will find the cartridge port, IR ports, and the stylus. The stylus location is very similar to the original Nintendo DS and many people have been complaining about the placement, but to be honest I have only used the stylus two or three times as the touch screen is much more responsive than its predecessors. The touch screen is resistive compared to most smart phones today which have moved on to capacitive touch screens, but I do not feel this is a downfall to the system. I have used many resistive touchscreens and this one, while you do have to press, is extremely responsive even without the stylus.

The 3D Effect

WP_000325So here it is GLASSES FREE 3D!!!!! This, by far, is the big selling feature of the system and is what everyone is talking about. For the first time in a mass produced product you are able to play games, watch videos, and take pictures all in 3D without any crazy glasses on your face. The big question is does it work? Of course it does as Nintendo wouldn’t have released it if it didn’t. There are two reasons the 3D works. First is because it is a Personal Handheld game system, which means it is just one person focused on the screen at all times. This allows the player to stay focused and find that sweet spot that works for them. The second reason is because of the 3D slider that Nintendo has built into the system. This allows the player to really tune the 3D to their liking for each game they are playing or just turn it off completely.

As stated you do need to find the “sweet spot” and this will vary per player. Luckily for myself I have absolutely no problems at all finding this spot and I can move the system as far or as close to my face as I would like and I can see the 3D perfectly. If you do tilt the system too much or slip out of the sweet spot you will be seeing double images, but you usually can find the spot again easily. I used the 3D effect all along my flight from Chicago to Munich, in the car, and lying in bed in the dark and I have had no issues and no headaches! This will vary per person and Nintendo does recommend taking breaks, but I haven’t really found anyone with a lot of issues, and if worse comes to worse you can slide the 3D effect off.

Each game implements the 3D effect in a different way so each game will be different, but one thing similar between all games I have played is that the 3D effect isn’t like movie 3D effects that are popping into your face, but are more like reaching into the background. This really compliments the games and adds an additional layer. It is like nothing I have seen before and I will say I am really impressed.

Built In Value

promo_builtinSo let’s talk about the Built in Value of the Nintendo 3DS. First off Nintendo has packed in anywhere from 3-10 games depending on how you look at it. First you have Face Raiders which is a full interactive game that makes use of the camera, gyro sensor, and augmented reality. Basically you take pictures of your friends and then fight them in 3D space. It is really neat, but not as cool as the built in AR Games. With the Nintendo 3DS you get 6 AR card that can be used with the system which actually bring our reality to the games. Using these cards you can play and unlock a bunch of games which make will morph your surroundings into the video game experience. The games also take full use of the 3D cameras and gyro sensors. They are really cool and hard to explain just how cool they are.

Nintendo didn’t stop there as they also brought back the Camera feature which allows you to take pictures and manipulate them, but this time in full 3D. They also added a brand new Sound/Music application which allows you to listen to your favorite music via the SD card, but also manipulate them and create new music and sounds with the built in microphone. They also added brand new visualizers that are actually interactive which is really cool. Finally we have our Miis on a handheld system as Nintendo has add a new Mii Plaza and also a Mii creator which is similar to the Mii maker on the Wii, but allows you to take a picture of yourself and it will generate a Mii for you. There is also an Activity Log which tracks each and every move and game you play on the system, and of course DS Download Play is back, which allows you to play multiplayer games with only one cartridge if the game supports it.

WP_000322I am not even done with other things built in to the system. There is now one unified “friend code” which is now used for all multiplayer games. You also have a friends list where you can see if your friends are online and what they are playing. There is no text messaging yet, but we can only hope that a future update will allow this. There is also a “note” taking application which will allow you to pause a game, take notes, and resume your game. I think this will come in handy with RPG games, but I have not found a real need for it just yet. Nintendo is also planning more features including a Web Browser, Nintendo eShop to download DSiWare and original Gameboy and Gameboy color titles, along with a game transfer service to transfer your downloads from your DSi to your 3DS. I feel like these features should have been ready when the system launched, but I guess I will just have to wait.

Social Gaming

What really makes the 3DS different besides the 3D part is the social gaming that Nintendo has built into this system. With any other handheld there was no real reason for me to take the system with me when I went to work or to the mall unless I was going to play games on the system. However with the 3DS there are two unique features that makes you want to bring it with you EVERYWHERE you go. First is that it has a built in pedometer which tracks your steps throughout the day. By itself this isn’t that amazing, but for every 200 steps you take with the system you earn Game Coins which you can build up and use inside of the built in games or retail games to unlock new content. The potential here is HUGE, and since Nintendo has limited the amount of game coins you can earn per day to 10 it will allow games in the future to take advantage of this feature.


The second and most important feature is Street Pass. Nintendo has been pushing Street Pass a lot lately and for good reason.


When the 3DS is being played or is in sleep mode Street Pass will be enabled. If you happen to pass people on the street, in a car, or at a friends house, data will be transferred between the two systems. Street Pass functionality is different between games, but for example in Ridge Racer you will download the other person Ghosts so you can race against them. In Street Fighter you unlock trophies and create a team to go up against others when you Street Pass. The included games also have Street Pass functionality including a full blown RPG and a cool Puzzle Trading game. Your 3DS glows bright green when you get a Street Pass and is something really cool which no other system has ever done before. I think this is the coolest feature of the 3DS, but might also be the most complicated part of the system. Each game has a different way of enabling this functionality and sometimes they are buried inside of Options menus. It seems like there should have been a setting just to auto enable all Street Pass content. Even with this downfall it is still really cool, and while basically no one in Romania owns a 3DS I still bring it with me everywhere I go to try to get a Street Pass.


WP_000326The Nintendo DS had a pretty mediocre launch and so does the Nintendo 3DS. There doesn’t seem to be that must own game which might be the biggest problem for the system right now. I picked up Ridge Racer 3D and Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition. I am really enjoying the 3D effects on the games and playing them makes me realize just how powerful this system is. It blows away the DS and N64 by far and this is only the first round of games. There are a lot of big upcoming games though including Zelda, Mario, Star Fox, Kid Icarus, and many more, but nothing right now is a must buy. What is more impressive are the games built into the system, as you almost don’t even need to buy any retail games and you could just play the built in games until Zelda comes out in June.


WP_000320The 3DS has a LOT built into it, but it is also the most expensive system Nintendo has launched in a long time. I have stated on podcasts before that Nintendo could put any price point on it and I would buy it, and that is still true. I am not most consumers though, and I feel that $250 is just a bit too much for a handheld device, especially when you can pick up a Xbox 360 or a Wii for under $200. I think Nintendo might have missed the mark for the first time in a while. Do not get me wrong though as I feel that with the built in games, Street Pass, internet features, 3D, and future updates that this system is well worth the $250, and I would highly recommend it to each and every person. If you are thinking about buying a Nintendo DSi or DSi XL you might as well pick up a 3DS instead as it is the future.


So is the 3DS everything I want in a handheld system? Yes. Does it have great software and plenty of potential in the future? Yes. Does the 3D blow my mind and make me want to play all games in 3D? Not really, but it is really cool. If Nintendo put an original DS in a box and hand wrote 3DS on it and sold it for $500 would I buy one? Of course I would. I am a fanboy after all, but I will say that the Nintendo 3DS is a well built, stylish, and sexy system all around. There is a lot built into this system, and I would buy it for Street Pass alone as I think it has so much potential it isn’t even funny. Go buy one! Support Nintendo! If you want to add me as a friend post your friend code below or enter mine:
Nintendo 3DS Review


Video Review

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About the author

James Montemagno


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