Nintendo 3DS review:

Nintendo 3DS

It took a couple of months after launch, but now most of the 3DS' online functionality has been activated. Instead of Nintendo Points, players can pay directly for items in the eShop with a credit card. Apps other than games and demos are also available, including the recently launched Netflix application and video marketplace.

Setting up an Internet connection is much less painful on the 3DS than on past DS units. The 3DS is compatible with 802.11 b and g interfaces on the 2.4GHz band. We easily searched for access points, entered our password, and connected in under a minute. Multiple SSIDs can be saved on the 3DS, and the console will switch connections when they are in range.

Making their unwanted return are 12-digit friend codes, but fortunately gamers will only need to input another player's code once. The player is then stored in the friends list and can be accessed via the Home screen or in-game where applicable.

New for the 3DS are the local and Wi-Fi services, dubbed StreetPass and SpotPass, respectively. StreetPass notifications turn the notification LED green, whereas SpotPass ones glow blue. These features require the 3DS to be powered on at a minimum of Sleep mode, which the 3DS will automatically enter when closed. It's clear Nintendo is encouraging owners to keep the 3DS on all the time, which probably explains the inclusion of the drop-and-charge dock.

StreetPass doesn't require Wi-Fi and automatically connects (once enabled) to other 3DS consoles to exchange Miis, set up local multiplayer, and exchange other information.

SpotPass can sniff out Wi-Fi while in Sleep mode to download gaming content and other information. When awake, it can be used for multiplayer gaming and access to the eShop.

At launch, owners of DSiWare content were not able to transfer their items to the 3DS. However, this functionality was included in the June update that added the eShop accessibility as well.

Most of the time, the 3DS is a zippy machine, easily suspending games and apps and allowing multitasking. Some games take a few seconds to load, but we've yet to experience any gratuitous lagging. That said, original DS games happen to load more slowly on the 3DS than they do on their native systems. We're not totally sure why, but CNET sister site GameSpot thinks it's because of software emulation hiccups.

Battery life is something the 3DS has already taken a hit for simply because its predecessors have such impressive performance. In our testing, we found Nintendo's claims of 3 to 5 hours (depending on screen brightness) to be spot-on. It'll take the 3DS roughly 3.5 hours to fully charge.

The included charging dock reinforces Nintendo's push to have the 3DS on at all times. We really like the dock and its ease of use, especially since we'll need to charge the 3DS more often than any of its predecessors.

The charging dock provides a quick drop-and-charge solution.

With the introduction of augmented reality and various motion-sensing technologies, some games require the user to physically move around with the 3DS. Historically, mobile gaming consoles never offered such range, so it'll be interesting to see how gamers respond when being asked to circle 360 degrees the next time they're playing a game on, say, a subway train.

The Nintendo 3DS launched on March 27 with a launch lineup of 16 games (not including those preloaded on the system) priced at $40 each. Support from major third-party developers has been announced, and we're really looking forward to titles like Super Mario 3DS, Mario Kart, and Resident Evil Revelations.

Interestingly enough, the 3DS won't launch with any major Nintendo first-party players like Mario or Zelda, though a 3D remake of Ocarina of Time arrived in June. Overall, the launch titles left a bit to be desired, but here they are for your viewing pleasure:

  •    •  Pilotwings Resort (Nintendo)

  •    •  Steel Diver (Nintendo)

  •    •  Nintendogs + Cats (Nintendo)

  •    •  Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition (Capcom)

  •    •  The Sims 3 (EA)

  •    •  Madden NFL Football (EA)

  •    •  Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D (Konami)

  •    •  Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (LucasArts)

  •    •  Ridge Racer 3D (Namco Bandai)

  •    •  Super Monkey Ball 3D (Sega)

  •    •  Bust-A-Move Universe (Square Enix)

  •    •  Samurai Warriors: Chronicles (Tecmo Koei)

  •    •  Asphalt 3D (Ubisoft)

  •    •  Combat Of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D (Ubisoft)

  •    •  Rayman 3D (Ubisoft)

  •    •  Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Shadow Wars (Ubisoft)

Nintendo was nice enough to include some of these titles with our review unit, so we've written a few words on the games we've spent some time with.

For a hands-on demo of AR Games and Super Street Fighter IV, check out this video from preGame:

Steel Diver: What began as a tech demo is now a fully featured game, but though the 3D effect here is nice, Steel Diver doesn't do much to captivate an audience. Gameplay is lethargic and the action is almost always anticlimactic. The periscope mode is fun, requiring full 360-degree movement, and is actually best played sitting in a swiveling office chair.

Pilotwings Resort: We really enjoyed the use of 3D here, though when maxed out it can be a little jarring. Flying in a plane, jetpack, or hang glider around this tropical island never gets old, and the various missions make for plenty of replay value. We can't stress enough how satisfyingly the sensation of flying is conveyed here, making Pilotwings Resort one of the 3DS' killer launch apps.

Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition: Here's the game that made us realize how delicate the 3D viewing angle is. Smashing buttons during our gameplay really made the 3DS shake, which in turn caused the 3D effect to dip. We don't think this is a deal breaker, however, as we're sure it'll take some time to get used to playing while ensuring the game doesn't fall out of 3D.

AR Games: As we mentioned earlier in the review, this is the first game you'll want to show your friends. It's easily one of the most impressive bits of technology the 3DS is capable of, and considering all the processing and calculating that's going on, it actually does a really good job of superimposing a game onscreen using a static backdrop.

As mentioned earlier, the 3DS can play original DS games, slower loading times and all. The 3DS cartridges are gray with a tab in the upper right corner, most likely to prevent anyone from sticking them in older models. These flash cards can hold up to 2GB of information.

Comparing the 3DS and original DS game cards.

When it was priced at $250, the 3DS was the most expensive portable system Nintendo had ever debuted. That said, it's also the most technically capable. Though a weaker-than-usual launch lineup and inactivated online functionality dampened the 3DS' start, the future certainly looks bright. Now with the company slashing 32 percent off the original price and a holiday season that should see a solid crop of 3DS games, the overall package is definitely more attractive.

Who should buy the 3DS? Anyone who wants to have the absolute latest and greatest the world of portable gaming has to offer. The 3D effect is absolutely eye-popping the instant it hits; it opens the door for developers to innovate and impress. While the list of launch titles could use some help, there's plenty of fun to be had with the preinstalled software and the eShop library, which grows regularly.

Who shouldn't buy it? Gamers who are on the fence about the 3DS need to decide if the novelty of 3D gaming is worth the plunge. For those who are content gaming on the DS with its infinite list of great games, it may be worth holding off on a 3DS purchase. This aside, we can't promise that those who wait will see another price drop anytime soon. Those who are easily disturbed by 3D should also try a 3DS in the store before purchasing.

Overall, we think the 3DS will slowly but surely become a worthy successor to the original DS family. Though 3D portable gaming certainly takes a bit of getting used to, Nintendo has once again set a precedent and paved the way for innovation. With a totally different and constantly evolving mobile gaming landscape in place, it'll be interesting to see if this will be enough to keep Nintendo on top.

If competition from Apple and Android weren't enough, Nintendo will need to face Sony. While the competing portable system was just announced and won't make this year's holiday season, the 3DS will need to weather the storm early next year when Sony is set to release its next portable powerhouse, the PlayStation Vita.

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