Eyes-On with the Nintendo 3DS

The problem with trying to get people excited about 3D is that they really have to see it to understand it. You can’t experience 3D visuals on most TVs at home, so Nintendo’s way of getting around this is to bring the 3DS to the public via a series of events around the country. I was lucky enough to be one of the first to take the company’s latest handheld for a spin in Manchester.

After a lengthy wait out in the rain I was finally invited inside the Cube Gallery. There was a definite buzz in the group as we were lead to a pseudo-museum of Nintendo handhelds. A couple of generations of gaming were represented in glass cases along with a brief timeline while we waited to get our hands on the console.

Inside the next room there were no 3DS consoles; instead, a stage. Street Fighter came to life in more 3D than even the 3DS can manage as a real-life Ken and Ryu tussled before us. The guys finished with a trademark hadouken before posing for pictures. Meanwhile, the sounds of shouting and growling were drifting in from the next room. We were all getting excited now, almost as curious about what adventure we were going on next as we were itching to play some games.

Passing through another black curtain, we entered a dark room. A man yelled at us to get down. I looked up to see Chris Redfield of Resident Evil fame giving the orders. On his go, the group made its way through a dark graveyard, while zombies moaned as they grabbed at us. The whole experience was very energetic, especially dodging a chainsaw-wielding Dr Salvador.

Escaping the Ganados, we found ourselves in another white room. Jonathan Ross gave us a quick video introduction and we were sent on our way to the games room. The place was quite dark, each 3DS podium initially pulsating with colourful lights. Music played, counting down the time until the staff let us loose. At long last, the showmanship ceased and our collection of stirred gamers took to the games.

I made straight for Steel Diver at the closest console, where I got my first taste of glasses-free 3D. It took a second for me to adjust. My little submarine was sitting right up in the foreground, with the deep sea stretching out through the screen. It truly was like experiencing cinema quality 3D without the use of specs. Steel Diver itself started life on the original DS at preview events, but never made its way into a full title. Now it returns in the form of a complete 3DS game.

One half of the game has you using a set of controls on the touch screen to help navigate your sub through the sea, travelling through underwater caves and past enemy cruisers and mines along a 2D plane. It’s a thoroughly engaging challenge, one that takes some thought as well as timing. Other sections task you with manning the periscope. It’s here that the game makes use of another of the 3DS’s features; the gyroscope. Hold the console at eye level, and physically turn yourself around to aim at the enemy ships on the surface. Line up your shot and fire the torpedos to protect your own vessel. I had a lot of fun in my time with Steel Diver and look forward to playing it again in future.

After putting down Steel Diver, I found my way over to Dead or Alive Dimensions. It was here that I realised just how much of an impact the 3D has. Flying fists and feet appeared to pop right out of the screen. The depth-enhanced visuals becoming a natural addition to action on display. Dimensions was great fun to play and very much like it’s predecessor on the 360, even leading me to believe it matches the quality of the visuals. The control scheme was effective, allowing the player to either punch in combos manually or alternatively use the touch screen to select from a command list and have their character automatically perform some neat combos. Purists may not like this approach but it will appeal to players who aren’t familiar with the series and its controls. In online brawls players who prefer to not have the touch screen involved can choose to only fight each other, ruling out the concern of touch-screen spammers.

Following this I found the booths for Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. The other games I had tried seemed to be close to final retail versions, whereas this was just an eight minute demo. Regardless, I selected my character and went straight to fighting off the infected villagers of Residen Evil 4 and 5. The maps were as you’d remember from the previous games, expansive and filled with plenty of hidden bonuses and weapons. Visually, again, Mercenaries 3D was very impressive. Here, I wouldn’t say it surpassed the visuals of Resident Evil 5 but for me it easily trumped its Game Cube predecessor. It was smooth and crisp, with most of the HUD kept to the touch screen, which also allowed you to select weapons and items at a quick touch. The ammo counter on the other hand hovered in 3D above the action.

In the next room were mostly demonstrations of the software that comes pre-loaded on the console. I grabbed myself a console at the augmented reality card section and got going. A card was placed upon the table, and after a few seconds of aiming the 3DS at it, it came to life on the screen. The 3DS was making it appear as though the action was taking place right on the table before me. One section had me moving around an archery range, trying to find the hidden targets, the last of which had been hidden in a deep hole in the table. I then had to take on a dragon, physically dodging its attacks and moving round it in real life to attack all parts of its body. The 3DS will come with six Augmented Reality cards in the box.

I stopped by a Nintendogs and Cats console on my way round. I couldn’t get too much into the game, but it seemed very reminiscent of its predecessor on the original DS. The pets themselves were more detailed and more realistic. New features include the ability for pets to recognise their owners purely by seeing their faces via the forward-facing camera of the 3DS. Three versions of Nintendogs + Cats will be available from launch day.

The last few things I saw included the Mii Maker and a short advert for Sky television. The Mii Maker has been improved over its Wii counterpart, using a photograph of the user to make a Mii which you can then edit to your liking. There are more options for hair styles and the like, which currently renders them incompatible with the Wii console (although hopefully a quick Wii update will fix that). On the Sky TV video, I saw some wonderful sport highlights in 3D and a quick trailer of Toy Story 3. The potential of the 3DS to bring 3D videos to the masses is clearly not being wasted.

And with that, my time with the 3DS was brought to a close. The console blew me away throughout the day and is sure to be a success when it launches across Europe on March 25th.