Enter the 3DS, the new handheld gadget with more bells and whistles than you can poke a stylus at. I purchased one of them a while ago, and can say that it was $190 well spent. I myself chose an XL model because my hands aren’t made for the tinier standard, so if some of my descriptions sound a little off, you know what’s up.
First of all, the 3D. That’s the key feature here. Do you remember those neat little cards that change images as you turn them and make squeaking sounds if you scratch them?
That’s the gist of the 3D you’ll be experiencing. By placing your eyes about six inches from the screen, looking straight on, the upper screen presents two images angled to meet your eyes in a way that provides you with depth of view. It’s really quite clever, but can give you a headache if you use it for too long. You can adjust the magnitude of 3D via a slider-bar on the side of the screen. Less is more, in some cases.
The pre-installed features are interesting for a few minutes, but overall a collection of throwaways. Trifles, really, designed to capitalize on the 3D aspect of the handheld. If you enjoy shooting distorted versions of your or your friends faces inside a captured panorama of your surroundings, more power to you. Though I myself didn’t have fun with such features, you very well may.
Moving on, the layout of physical features (and features themselves) has changed significantly enough to warrant mention. You have your A, B, X, and Y buttons on the right side, and accompanying your D-pad on the left side is a flat analog stick. Smoothness of control and magnitude of movement are important in some games, after all. The 3DS XL’s microphone has shifted to the lower right of the bottom screen, meaning you can huff and puff without having to tip your head too far. The start and select buttons now line the lower edge of the bottom screen, with a Home button stuck in the middle. With this button, you can suspend any game or software you have going to check your home menu. Convenient, eh?
To those of you who purchase a 3DS XL and hope for a telescopic stylus, I am deeply sorry. Only the itty bitty standard 3DS models get those. You could always buy one from some online gaming parts surplus, I suppose.
As the modern era of gaming is infatuated with micro-transactions, each 3DS will also serve as a sort of digital wallet. By connecting to a wifi source and offering up a prepaid Nintendo 3DS card or a credit card, you may add funds to your 3DS with which to purchase various bits of downloadable content. Not necessarily a desired feature, but it’s hardly unexpected, eh?
Finally, the deal breaker. The caveat that will absolutely destroy the dreams of the clean-screen freaks among you who prefer the larger 3DS. The upper screen of the 3DS XL is not embedded, like the smaller version, and some factory slip-up caused a thing of nightmares to occur on a fairly regular basis: Dust UNDER the screen. That is correct. If you purchase a 3DS XL and do not live in a dust-free environment, you WILL experience tiny particles of dust somehow slipping under your upper screen, despite the apparent lack of access to said area.
If you don’t mind, good on you. If you do, apply a screen protector as quickly as you can after removing your 3DS XL from its packaging. I didn’t realize that the upper screen would be faulty, so I did not do this in time. But I can relay the message to you.
So, with all that in mind, let’s wrap things up:
Does the 3DS meet the “next-gen” standards? Survey says… yes indeed! The 3D feature adds a lot to your gameplay experience and aesthetic enjoyment if used in moderation, like during cutscenes or boss fights. The micro-transaction bullshit is kept to a clean minimum, though I can’t yet say if most games rely too heavily on it. We’ll see.
Does the 3DS impress out of context? I give it an 8/10, nicking one point for the poorly designed upper screen, and another point for complying with the “everything must have DLC” dogma that plagues the gaming industry in this day and age. The button/feature layout is excellent, the menu is easy to navigate, and the entire design just seems up-to-date and clever. Another milestone for Nintendo handheld consoles.