[Tech Review] Nintendo 3DS

After months and months and months of painful waiting, the biggest day of the month of March of the year of 2011 finally arrived. I sat with baited breath, eating up every bit of information regarding Nintendo’s 3DS handheld gaming console I could get my chubby little sausage fingers wrapped around. I read tons of articles, watched hours of video, and stared at countless photographs, dreaming of the day I would finally get my hands on the one thing I wanted more than just about anything else, and I finally have it.

You’ll have to excuse this review for being so late, as I secured my 3DS on its North American launch date but am just now rolling around to doing a write up on it. However, that’s not because I haven’t been using it enough to write a proper review. In fact, it is the exact opposite.

Since purchasing the system, I’ve not let it travel more than 20 feet away from my body. If it hasn’t been in my hands, it has been in my pocket. If not there, then in my bicycle trunk. If not there, then sitting safely on its charging dock. I’ve seriously invested more hours into the 3DS than I have school, work, eating or blinking for the past few weeks.

The funny thing? I’m struggling to write this review because I desperately want to play with it some more.


Since this review is a few weeks past any sort of responsible deadline any self-respecting blogger would set for himself, I’m going to keep this short and sweet. Anyone who has an interest in the system has likely already read a dozen reviews, so I’m going to tread lightly with my take on the system and simply offer up my opinion.

I love the 3DS. More than I thought I would, honestly. I was excited for the release, but that was simply because it was a new system from Nintendo, and I am a huge Nintendo fan. I mean, I have two Legend of Zelda tattoos. Big ones, too. I’m an inexcusably enormous nerd who elects to spend his time playing Smash Bros and Metroid instead of, say, going to work or doing homework. However, I had many reservations about the system.

Regardless, nearly everything about it has blown me away. The preloaded games (Face Raiders, Mii Plaza, and AR Games) are an absolute blast, the hardware itself is a sexy upgrade over past Nintendo handhelds, and, most notably, the 3D technology actually works. And it works very well. So well, in fact, that I find myself simply looking at the 3D icons on the system menu and being completely entranced in the magic of stereoscopic visual effects.

The system is comfortable to hold in the hands, with a new slide pad that is easily the best handheld analog control input piece I’ve ever experienced, and clicky buttons that are all satisfying to press. The top screen is gorgeous with the bottom screen becoming almost exclusively a medium for control input now.

However, there are many negatives I must list. The battery life isn’t the best, the launch lineup pretty much sucks, a plethora of online features are still locked away and inaccessible, a single analog stick as opposed to two presents many gameplay restrictions and a few hardware design quirks keep the system from being perfect.

I’ve had no problems with battery life, since I do any elongated gaming sessions (3 hours plus) near an outlet. However, many people do complain about not being able to game during long plane rides (planes have outlets), train rides (trains have outlets) or long drives (cars have outlets). I haven’t had any issues and I honestly doubt many people ever will. If you are going to be away from an outlet and doing heavy gaming, simply turn the brightness down and plug in some ear buds.

The launch lineup is lacking in any true stellar software and is instead composed largely of mediocre or awful games with a few gems tucked in there. Street Fighter is the best of the currently available software, with Pilotwings, Ridge Racer and Ghost Recon also ranking higher up on the list. The rest? Forget about the rest. None of it is worth your money.

My biggest complaint is the lack of two slide pads. This keeps the 3DS from being a truly up-to-date gaming console and restricts the kinds of games that will play well. Like shooters, for instance, or games that require the player to control a camera. It could have been added, and would have opened the door for all sorts of successful and popular games.

However, the system will never thrive for certain genres. The upcoming Kid Icarus reboot suffers the most from this design choice of any software so far, as left handed people like myself will not be able to control it well using the touch screen to aim.

The design flaws include the raised lower screen that leaves marks on the top screen when you close the system, scratching it over a period of time, and a top shell that’s bigger than the rest, making it an awkward fit for a pocket. Digital volume buttons would have been nice, and the d-pad is less than great.

Final Words:

Despite its shortcomings, the 3DS is an amazing piece of hardware that I fully recommend to anyone. The 3D is amazing, the upcoming games are to die for, and the soon-to-be-utilized online features are going to help the system become a piece of tech that is useful for much more than gaming. However, the glaring omission of a second unit for analog input is very hard to overlook, especially considering the workarounds developers are going to have to use to put hardcore 3rd party franchises on the system instead of offering a fuller, more traditional experience.

3D cameras and the possibility for Netflix and streaming 3D movies is also very exciting. I recommend buying one now, but no one would blame you if you wanted to wait for Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D or Ocarina of Time 3D. It’s worth every penny whether you spend it now or later.

Score: 8.5/10 (Great)

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