Game System Review: Nintendo 3DS: Part 1

The Hype:

Introducing the Nintendo 3DS system. Experience incredible gameplay, featuring real 3D graphics, with no need for special glasses. Nintendo 3DS is a breakthrough in portable entertainment, a truly cutting-edge piece of hardware. It has to be seen to be believed.

The Reality:


This fourth version of the Nintendo DS, originally was released in 2004, now has autostereoscopic three-dimensional function for 3D viewing without glasses. The sharp design, smooth finish and continuous functions will prompt discovery and some new game habits. Plenty to do while awaiting a key eShop/Internet update in late May, which will also feature an “always on” background connectivity system.

The 3D technology splits the effects to each eye so elements are visible at a lower resolution on the top three-inch screen, so the 800 x 240 pixel resolution reduces to 400 by 240 for each eye. The smaller lower touch screen has a 320 x 240 resolution.

The 3D experience impresses, but only for one person. Any other viewer cannot get a good look until users can adjust back to 2D using the 3D depth slider on the top screen right side. Closing the top screen does not accidentally press the home button even though it seems slightly raised in the center compared to select (left) and start (right). The power button now rests at the previous start/select button spots on the DSi, released April 5th, 2009, so prepare for some adjustment.

Users must find a special spot for optimal viewing. The depth and graphic resolution impresses, so hopefully game developers can incorporate more cinematic visual techniques.

Both screen halves lock in two positions when the middle joint grooves line up with the hinge grooves. One position is basically straight for camera functions and the other is a very low angle for surface play. A 45 degree angle option would be nice – a possibility for a foam peripheral to place behind the screen.

Along with the sizable paper manual (with translated language sections), users can access separate manuals. Text scrolls across both screens and the onscreen keyboard button are big enough without the stylus for small fingers and even fingernails.

Nintendo has a parental control system similar to the Nintendo Wii not necessarily for content or even Web access/connectivity, but to disable the 3D effects due to recent eyesight concerns. The American Optometric Association recommends moderation of 3D viewing, especially for children ages six and younger. Frequent breaks are recommended but common sense helps too. Viewers do not watch 3D movies continuously for more than five hours, so why would games be any different.

Cannot wait for the upcoming photo posting options, but transferring the included 2 GB SD card to the NDSi works fine for now. Printing 3D photos is possible using a special 3D printer (accessing from SD card).


Recharging the non-user-replaceable 1,300 mAh battery using the charger station or direct plug in (AC adapter works in both) takes a little over three hours typically with an approximate five to seven hour battery life depending on functions used. Hard core gamers can expect daily recharges while third party developers will surely take opportunities to provide more power.

Developers wisely allow users to switch off 3D, wireless, turning down the volume and other functions to save power. Nintendo DS gameplay also takes up less power. The station has a back game hatch. Inserting and movement usually interrupt the charge unless you have a steady “Operation”-like hand.


New internal components include a motion sensor, gyro sensor, and embedded microphone located to the right of the new select/home/start button strip in the middle of the bottom screen. The included shooting game Face Raiders depends on these sensors. Similar to the Nintendo DS game System Flaw, players also produce their own environment through the camera.

The sensors are also essential for the built-in pedometer. Nintendo rewards health habits by offering one Play coin for every 100 steps with a 10-coin maximum for each day and 300 total. Use these coins in the StreetPass Mii Plaza, playing card game AR (augmented reality) Games and others.

The wireless switch can disable wireless functionality even during game play and has an indicator light. The new 3DS Messaging Service replaces the traditional PictoChat.

New “suspended” options allow players to switch between two functions. “Secondary” or “reserve”, or “background” might have been a better term for this feature that provides a continuous entertainment flow. The only real interrupter is accidentally hitting the power button, which presents two options – sleep mode or powering off. Select sleep mode or just close the 3DS. The pedometer, StreetPass, and SpotPass still function in sleep mode.

The game slot (back center) expands a bit for the special notch on the right side of 3DS games. Normal backwards compatible gameplay viewing remains the same size with black bars appearing on the sides. Holding the start and select buttons while starting the DS game fills in the screen during gameplay.

Optimizing main functions through the other settings menu (3D screen check, sound, mic test, outer cameras, and upcoming system transfer) is essential. The activity log tracks statistics while the game library keeps a complete catalog for up to 256 games (32 pages – 8 on each). Hardcore gamers need the 8 GB SD cards and higher for the best data management.


The new movement controls on the left feature a new 360-degree circle pad (a.k.a. analog stick) above the directional pad. The stick reduces hand stress controls, which was long overdue, and the soft rubber-like material grips nicely. The L/R buttons get a thinner, more durable redesign. The new telescopic stylus works well for all hand sizes and extends to almost 4 inches long.

All these controls combine into outstanding shooter/action game experiences. For example, the Nintendo DS game Goldeneye 007 mimics a large console experience except players here use the stylus on the touch screen to aim instead of a second analog stick.


The Nintendo DS camera is a unique, underrated feature that still has no zoom or flash option, but the photo functions still features extensive picture manipulation. Options like face morphing remain from the NDSi as the 3DS shifts towards more practical options in the Nintendo 3DS camera feature. Users still have basic pencils, stamps and erasers plus a new 3D tool option for freehand indentations or protrusions and raised/lowered stamps.

A built-in level (red line) and white crosshair graphic (down arrow on directional pad) and copy/delete all option make management much easier. Taking 3D photos between 12 and 39 inches from the subject is recommended. Pictures also appear in other games while keeping the originals safe. Navigation through the photo archives includes simple plus and minus buttons zooms (also use circle pad lower left to zoom out and upper right to zoom in). Photos can be collapsed by date by just clicking on date or selecting it with the A button.

Press the lever visual in the lower right for an even deeper three-option experience. The focus option can adjust manually for some impressive effects. The X button resets the auto focus (arrows expand when you switch between 2D and 3D). The timer option has 3 second, 10 second and voice activated picture-taking options. The camera option includes merge, dream, low light, pinhole, and sparkle (blow into the mic). One additional camera option, mystery, provides a great practical tour guide, but users cannot see the subject in the upper screen until after taking the photo.


The booming sound capabilities offer mono, stereo, or surround sound-like outputs from the two top screen side speakers that blend in perfectly on the dark black edges. The headphone jack in middle is great for listening to music when the 3DS is closed. Nintendo 3Ds sound handles music files while manipulating recorded sounds, which archive 180 erasable sounds and 18 non-erasable sounds. The upcoming StreetPass feature within Nintendo 3DS Sound offers compatibility and hit parade features.


A separate 3DS user profile would be nice, especially since some games only allow one profile, but Miis now step for player profile use. These little people avatars get a more prominent boost with an improved face capture process using Mii Maker. Produced Miis (maximum of 100) can always be edited, have their own unique friend code, and can be sent to others through special QR codes (special pixilated data graphics). Miis on the Wii transfer to 3DS, but unfortunately, the 3DS Miis cannot be transferred to the Wii. The StreetPass Mii Plaza will have additional online features and currently features an in-game Mii mini adventure (using coins), puzzle piece swaps, searches, and various items.


The games are plentiful and cost about $40 each. Each 3DS game cards hold up to 2GB of game data and are the same size as current DS games except for the right side notch. The North America 3DS is listed as region-locked, but some N.A. games play in the Japanese system. The DSlite is the only remaining region free system since the Nintendo DS is now discontinued.


The upcoming Nintendo eShop will include a video service, re-mastered 3D classic video games, and an extensive game catalog that will eventually include demo downloads. The DSiWare service will still be available as well as a robust Virtual Console service including game from Game Boy, Game Boy Color, SEGA’s Game Gear and NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 systems. The Nintendo eShop will use a cash-based system instead of points and will release in late May. StreetPass, SpotPass, and system transfer modes will also be available then. A Netflix service feature will also be available this summer for no extra charge for memberships at $7.99 and up. This feature can also compatible with the Nintendo Wii.

Nintendo has not announced a specific date for this essential online update that will also involve the Internet Browser, viewing trailers for Hollywood movies in 3D and several other features. The internet browser will work through wireless connections (WEP and WPA).

The recommended wireless distance is within 98.4 feet. Hopefully, more games will incorporate the Wifi hotspots into gameplay (e.g. Treasure World) along with the sensor, 3D, and camera features. The Nintendo DSi had a few system exclusive game releases like Foto Showdown along with many more in-game applications.

Online uploads and downloads will be faster with the 3DS on the charging station. The recommended option on the Wii Nintendo channel is not yet available for 3DS games or any games through the 3DS.

The Nintendo 3DS is now available in North America (aqua blue or cosmo black), Japan, Europe and Australia. Club Nintendo members can register their Nintendo 3DS system for a free 90-day extended warranty and earn 160 Coins. 3DS games can also be registered for points.

Where to Buy: Amazon

Price: $249.99

What I Like: Circle pad, immense options, increased durability, 3D effects/screen options, sensor gameplay incorporation, continuous play through “suspended” feature, augmented reality game, and high discovery experience even without online features.

What Needs Improvement: High price, flash/zoom camera functions, short battery life, and “update” fatigue – the Nintendo DSi was released only two years ago.

Categories: Gaming, Reviews


4 replies

  1. Game System Review: Nintendo 3DS: Part 1 | Gear Diary: Optimizing main functions through the other settings menu…

  2. <b>Game</b> System Review: Nintendo 3DS: Part 1 | Gear Diary

  3. So many microphone applications including watching the MiiMaker/Plaza menus spin super fast on a windy day. Look for Part 2 when the online features activate in the late May system update. :-)


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