Everything is all about the 3 D’s these days, Sky are offering 3D football, every movie under the sun is “Something Something 3D” hell, I have a sneaky suspicion that the entire world around us will soon come in 3 whole dimensions. So when Nintendo made the announcement that their next handheld console would be 3D…some cynics would have called bandwagon jumping. But this is Nintendo afterall, supreme ‘funnovators’, the guys who took the casual gaming world by storm with motion gaming in the shape of the Wii. Sony has already introduced us to 3D gaming on the PS3, this meant Nintendo had to do something special. That something special was 3D gaming…without glasses.
Now we all have a vague idea of how 3D works, and it involves glasses. Which, to some, look silly and are an annoying distraction – even more so if you need to wear glasses under the glasses. And nowadays they’re not even red and blue so you don’t have that retro charm that made you look like Biff Tannen’s pal in Back to the Future. You just look like a guy with sunglasses on indoors, cheap plastic sunglasses. I say cheap, but that’s only at the cinema. Anyone who’s bought a 3D television will know that most employ active shutter glasses that cost a ridiculous amount of money. I digress. The point is that up until now, 3D displays need to be supplemented with glasses in order to trick our brains into seeing the 3D image on screen. The technology is there for glassesless 3D, and there are even some TVs capable of doing so. However not only are the expensive, they also require users to sit at specific positions at correct distances from the screen in order to experience the effect. Herein lies Nintendo’s genius, they took this tech and put it into a screen where there is generally only one viewer with an intensely focused, fixed, viewing position – giving us the 3DS.
The only problem is – you really do need to see it to believe it! Cue Nintendo’s marketing machine under the slogan ‘Believe Your Eyes.’ In the run up to the March 25th UK release Nintendo will be holding roadshow events much in the same way it did with the Wii to help generate a buzz and give potential customers hands on (eyes on?) experience with their latest offering. This marketing blitz began, almost secretly last week, as Nintendo invited club members to special preview events in Bristol, Manchester, London and Glasgow. I went along to the Glasgow event held at the Lighthouse on Mitchell lane and I can tell you now…
The 3DS is stunning.
Even if we took the 3D display out of the equation, the 3DS would be a wonderful successor to the DS/DSi. The processing power is much improved, it’s akin to that of the Gamecube and the Wii – which on a handheld looks wonderful. That additional power also allows for vastly improved augmented reality gaming over the DSi with inbuilt games like face raiders and AR card games that will astound you. Then there’s the addition of gyroscopes and accelerometers to enhance those AR games and give you the same kind of motion control afforded to you with the Wii Remote. To top it all off there’s wifi connectivity with 2 very special features in the form of Streetpass and Spotpass. Spotpass will have your 3DS searching out for free wireless hotspots when you’re out and about so that it can constantly update game. For example, unbeknown to you, Mario Kart could be updated with a new racing challenge whilst it sits in your bag. When you’re next ready to play, the update is already there and you don’t have to worry about wasting time downloading it. Then Streetpass – this system will have your console seeking out other 3DS’ as you walk about. They will then exchange data like high scores. They can even perform automated battles between you and that user – without you having to do a thing. There’s a great emphasis on community gaming, creating new friendships and connections though your 3DS – although you won’t make many friends if you try to play augmented reality games on the bus, flailing about as you shoot down invisible spaceships. Basically though, it’s the kind of hardware upgrade you’d expect given the kind of tech we’ve been spoilt with in smartphones.
Then there’s that 3D, glassesless display – the Pièce de résistance of the 3DS. Quite frankly, magical is the only way to honestly describe it. On games where the 3D effect works well, it truly is amazing. Removing glasses from the equation draws you deeper into the effect, connecting you, almost emotionally, with the 3D world. Games come to life in front of your eyes, as though you are watching a play being performed on a tiny stage just for you. There are instances, beyond all reasoning, where you think you could actually reach into the display, or where characters just jump off it. It’s like being a child again, discovering a whole new world. We don’t think twice about the actual three dimensional world around us but years of 2D displays have conditioned us to think in a very specific way about what to expect from a screen. Then Nintendo put this screen in front of you and your mind does a back flip – you know it’s not actually real, but the effect is so wonderful it beggars belief. I think that’s why, as I looked around the event, there were so many smiles as we all shared in this magnificent experience for the first time.
Now I mentioned fleetingly in the previous paragraph that 3D is stunning on games where it works…because on some, not many, it doesn’t feel quite right. The most noticeable being one of the launch titles, ‘Pilotwings Resort’. You’d expect a flying game to give a wonderful array of depth however the 3D effect you get is focused more on your vehicle than the scenery in which you fly. This results in a very lovely effect where it looks as though your plane is hovering over the screen, but when you really want to feel like you are up in the sky – it’s rather disappointing. There are also some concerns as to how people will cope with the 3D effect, with fears of headaches and nausia. But of course all of this is understandable seeing as this is a new machine with new technology. And one must also remember that all games can be played with the 3D effect turned off, negating any of these issues whilst taking away from some of the fun.
Back to the positives, one thing that will be magnificent on the 3DS is the prospect of 3D video and movies. Nintendo have promised that blockbuster 3D movies will be available on the console, as well as 3D sports highlights in a deal with Sky Sports as well as a host of other non-game treats. This could be the tactic that proves the winner as it opens up personal 3D experiences to the masses. If, for example, you have 2 children and they wish to watch ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ in 3D, you would need a 3D Blu-ray player and a 3D television as well as those expensive active shutter glasses. For considerably less, you’d be able to buy them a 3DS each and they could then experience the movie in, arguably, a much more immersive way.*
*plan also applicable for big kids!
Finally, I should once again mention the event that made this article possible. In true Nintendo style we were taken on a quickly little adventure deep into the world of the 3DS. We were thrown into the games with a live action Street Fighter bout taking place in front of our eyes before being escorted to safety from hordes of zombies by Resident Evil’s resident brother and sister Zombie killing team, Chris and Claire Redfield. (Unfortunately one of the zombies did get at my leg so there is a high percentage chance that I’m infected with the T-Virus. This suspicion was reinforced on my second visit when the zombies left me alone…obviously sensing one of their own. Thanks a lot Redfields!) All the staff were all lovely, friendly and enthusiastic – not to mention attractive. It is quite hard to talk to a bevvy of beautiful ladies, openly flirt and play this wonderful new machine at the same time, I managed though…just about. I’m a simple man after all – I’m weak. But, as the kids say, massive props to Nintendo for the event (what do you mean the kids don’t say that?)
Nintendo are holding more events, open to everyone, over the coming weeks. You can find out where on their website – www.nintendo3ds.co.uk. Alternatively you can find out more information on their Facebook page – because, you know, everything is on Facebook these days.