Review: Nintendo 3DS
Considering it has been available for quite some time the Nintendo 3DS still looks a tempting proposition – but in this world of downloadable apps on smart mobile devices is there still a place for a dedicated handheld gaming system?
Nintendo seem to think so, particularly as the company has recently launched an XL version of the popular system and it was also awarded the Stuff Gaming Gadget of the Year in 2011.
In The Box: Nintendo 3DS
In the “Ice White” pack you get the 3DS System, charging cradle, power adapter, an extendable stylus, and a 2 GB SD card for storage (both a pre-fitted into the console).
In addition you also get six Augmented Reality game cards, customer support leaflet, Club Nintendo PIN, parental guidance leaflet, quick-start guide, and a detailed operations manual.
As this particular pack is part of a bundle you get a Super Mario 3D Land game cartridge. If you have ever played a Super Mario game (or other side jumping collector game) you should be familiar with this style of game and in this version the more open world lifts the game from the usual flat dimensions of a side scrolling game.
The 3DS is also pre-installed with a base system with software including configuration settings, Internet web browser, Mii Maker, StreetPass Mii Plaza, AR Games, Face Raiders, a Sound application for recording sound and playing music from the SD card, and a 3D Camera application.
The main screen is around the size of a typical smartphone at 3.5” inches (with a resolution of 800×240 which effectively drops to 400×240 due to 3D operational requirements) and it is framed quite heavily by the top cover.
The touch enabled (stylus supplied) lower screen is slightly smaller at around 3 inches and has a resolution of 320×240. The lower screen offers access to the built-in menu system whilst the top screen is the primary application location however some applications, such as the browser, utilise both windows to extend the display. Both screens are able to display 16.7 million colours.
Sound is well catered for through two front facing speakers located either side of the primary display screen with a volume slide on the left side of the unit – the same side the Micro SD card slot is located. A wireless toggle and indicator are located on the right hand side of the unit whilst the headphone socket is placed across the front side of the unit together with a blue power indicator and charging indicator. On the rear side of the unit is located the power socket, game slot, stylus, infra-red, and two shoulder buttons.
There are two cameras on the 3DS – the main 3D camera (which uses two lenses) and the facing camera which is only a resolution of 640×480
In Operation: Nintendo 3DS
The 3DS plays DS and DSi games but not Game Boy Advance, or earlier, cartridges (thought some of these games are available through the Virtual Console).
Fortunately, I managed to pick up a new DS game for just £2.97 from a local electrical goods retailer although I haven’t tried it yet! Cartridge games vary quite a bit in price from around £9.99 for Super Street Fighter IV, through £17.98 for Sonic Generations, to £28.99 for Mario Kart 7. Super Mario 3D Land, the game bundled with this unit, is currently around £29.19 (all prices checked 9th September 2012).
The internet connection is used for accessing the Nintendo eShop for downloadable software, SpotPass which can exchange data with other units with supported applications, playing games online, and for the web browser. Using the web browser is useful but can be a struggle given the size of the screen and the resolution of the display but for occasional use it certainly seems to do the job.
Regarding the internet connection I initially found connecting the 3DS to a BT Home Hub 3 was tricky as the 3DS seemed not to consistently detect the SSID of the hub using the “Search for an Access Point” option, and when it did the connection did not last very long. Curiously, renaming the SSID on the Home Hub seemed to largely resolve the problem. After some experimentation it appeared that the hyphen in the default BT supplied SSID might have been the cause of the problem as removing it improved things dramatically and the internet connection has been consistent since.
Once you get the internet connection working games, and other applications, can be downloaded from the Nintendo eShop but these are not the typical price you might expect from say the Apple AppStore. For example Plants vs. Zombies is £7.20 for the 3DS but only £1.99 for the iPod touch and iPad. Cut the Rope is similar at £4.20 for the 3DS but only 69 pence from the Apple AppStore – quite a hike in price.
The 3DS isn’t all about gaming though – an MP3 player is on-board so you can put your music tracks onto the included memory card and play them when you are out and about.
Dragging MP3 tracks from a computer onto a memory card seems a little old fashioned these days and it is a shame tracks can’t be synced through an application however all of the MP3 tracks I tested worked well – from music tracks to audio books.
If you do plan to listen to music this way you might want to invest in a larger capacity memory card as the supplied 2GB card fills up pretty quickly. Also, the 3DS does not come with any kind of earphones so you will need to invest in a set unless you have some laying around the place.
During playback the on-screen visualisation is neat, and there are plenty to choose from, during playback and there are plenty of controls for navigating through tracks and for fiddling around with music (for example drum accompaniment, changing the tempo and visualisation). Playlists are also available which allow you to organise your music how you wish.
The killer feature of the 3DS is undoubtedly the 3D which needs no special glasses and it does the job reasonably enough. As the manual highlights the 3D feature is not suitable for children aged six and under and there are a number of other safety guidelines which are all explained in the operations manual – you should read these thoroughly.
The activity log is a useful feature, particularly for parents, as it keeps track of the amount of time spent using applications – but it also provides access to the pedometer feature which counts the steps you take when holding the 3DS and rewards you with virtual coins. Other parental controls are available including settings based on software ratings, enable/disable 3D, friend registration, and distributed video restrictions.
In Summary: Nintendo 3DS
To be honest I thought my kids wouldn’t be too interested in the 3DS as they are already quite happy with their iPod Touches, and my iPad, but I was quite wrong. They really like the 3DS, using it primarily with the 3D mode switched off, but they have taken quite a shine to the 3D Camera – whether this a passing phase only time will tell!
Battery life isn’t great, at just a few hours, but that should keep most people happy as there is a power saving mode when the lid is closed and at least charging is pretty quick. The charging cradle is a nice touch and something the makers of the iPod touch, and other devices, should take careful note of.
Although the 3DS has recently been usurped by the larger 3DS XL, the 3DS is still a fun gadget to while away those hours, and keep the kids quiet and it can be picked up for a reasonable price (£159.99 bundled with Super Mario 3D Land from Amazon – price checked 7th September 2012) and this is likely to fall once the XL version takes off.
Interestingly, this 3DS pack is also one of the “free gifts” on offer from Dialaphone when you take out one of their monthly plans including the BlackBerry Curve 9320, Nokia Lumia 610, and the Samsung Omnia M (deal checked 6th September 2012) so the argument over smartphone versus a hand-held gaming system is a non-starter as you get both.
The unit used for this review was supplied on behalf of Dialaphone however the views expressed in this article are my own.