Friday, April 1, 2011

Nintendo 3DS: Impressions

Not an April Fool's joke...I'm finally back!

I came.

I saw.

And partway to conquering.

What did I arrive at? A new chapter of video gaming. What did I see? I've witnessed an entirely new form of playing games. What have I only begun to conquer? Comprehension.

Setting the pretentious fluff aside, it's obvious as to what has occurred. The Nintendo 3DS has arrived.

It's strange how my anticipation for video games work now. When I was a child, I would bounce off the walls without pause, eager to ravage my latest game. Now? I simply wait in silent patience, secretly daydreaming of the games of the future. Despite being an exuberant person, my enthusiasm has dulled as my youth came to end, as I now percept games at a blunt value. My love for video games, however, has never dwindled.

And that was how I woke up on Sunday morning, realizing I could not wait any longer. These days, it always seems to be the day before (or in this case, the day on) that I get excited for a new video game experience. I suppose this was born after having a dream on Friday, in which I was playing a port of Zelda: The Wind Waker on the 3DS. I didn't care what the bitter crowd on the internet thought of the console. I needed this new system, and I needed it now.

It's now been about five days. I suppose it's time for some impressions.

I'll just come out and say it: The 3DS is amazing. While I wasn't skeptical regarding its promised achievements, I'm sure most of the more cynical Nintendo fans out there (i.e. what makes up 99.8% of the current fanbase) weren't convinced. I mean, seeing a three-dimensional effect popping out of the system without the contemporary method of glasses? A load of baloney, some would say. But yet, it works! And best of all, it sucks you in the moment it begins a countdown to its first display of 3D.
How does it work, though? Well, after playing it all week, I've found that there's numerous versions of the 3D effect that span throughout the console's games and built-in system modes. Let's explore our first example with one of the system's launch titles: Pilotwings Resort. It's difficult to describe my experience with the game, as the serene nature of the title clashes with its eye-grabbing detail. Pilotwings Resort is a title that takes place on Wuhu Island (a location previously explored in Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit) and has the player, who is in control of their customized Mii avatar, fly around the island via planes, jetpacks, and hand gliders.

The game is fun by itself, but what amplifies its potential is the 3D effect. While most of game's content doesn't pop out at you, you'll notice that your character and his/her vehicles of choice are much more vibrant and expressive than they would be with the effect turned off, and it's as if they're slowly coming out of the screen! It's amazing how I'll slowly cruise around the island with a handglider, and yet my eyes my focus on the character's legs, which dangle just about an inch off the screen. Call it a gimmick all you want, but I believe it's an engaging method of absorbing you further into the game. I even tried to touch the characters to make sure they weren't alive!

Many online critics have said that launch games for the system aren't the best example of the 3D effect, and they're probably right. While we'll no doubt see some amazing displays from upcoming titles such as Kid Icarus: Uprising and the Metal Gear Solid 3 port, you would be surprised to learn that the best 3D effects come from the wealth of options offered in the 3DS hub, which leads us to example two: The Augmented Reality Cards (or AR cards, for short). These cards, which come with the system, are embedded with a special code that reacts to the 3DS' camera. Once activated, the cards spring to life through the camera!

Lemme tell you, it's surreal to see some of my favorite characters on top of my furniture. What makes this so engaging is that not only can you change their sizes, but each character has several sets of poses, such as Mario assuming his Mario Galaxy flight pose and the Pikmin carrying a number pellet. Despite some limitations, there's an endless amount of possibilities to set up the characters, and I'm having an awesome time making them take group photos and interacting with my Nintendo stuffed animals. I sense a Facebook album coming...!

Also, I get the nostalgic fuzzies whenever I hear the Kirby's Adventure sound effect when Kirby pops out of his card.

So how does the 3D work here? While there are a couple of cool effects (Watch out for Samus' beam cannon), the Archery mode is where it's at. The camera succeeds in tricking the player that the archery playground has more depth then it really has, as it forces you to angle the system around to succeed. Impressive stuff! The only downside? There's not a lot of variety after the first time. Here's to hoping for DLC, Nintendo!

Speaking of game modes, I'm surprised at how much there is to do with the system itself. Frustrated that the online store isn't avaliable yet? You'll forget about that instantly the moment the system opens up with a hub of various modes that exploit the system's 3D capabilities. The camera, music player, AR Mode, Mii Plaza, and Street Pass are all avaliable out of the box, and several have garnered extensive playtime from me.

I'm impressed by the music player in particular. Believe it or not, the 3DS comes with its own SD card, so you can install your favorite songs on it right away. The music player has a ton of options to fool around with, such as several sets of percussion buttons, which include a guy yelling and animal noises. You can also alter the music currently playing with effects such as echoing (great for orchestras) and radio (complete with crackling!)

And the visualizers! I've only really been exposed to the usual set from Windows Media Player, but these are just outstanding! They range from a retro space shooting simulator to a Game and Watch styled soccer game, and what truly makes them stand out is their interactivity. For example, in the space shooting sim, pressing the percussion button will make it shoot at floating tiles! Some of them even react to the music playing, such as a homage to Excitebike, where the ramps and bumps form depending on the intensity of the track played. And yes, the 3D effect is there the whole time (check out the Space Shooter/Stair Climbing ones!) While the sound quality doesn't quite nab the caliber as, say, an iPod, the features included make it well worth a listen.

Just like the original DS' Pictochat, the 3DS contains a built-in minigame by the name of Face Raiders. It works like this: You take a picture of someone's face, and suddenly that face equips a diabolical flying helmet and attacks you with multiple versions of 3D! How do you fight back? By shooting balls smack dab in their face. It's a simple concept, but the absurdity of the execution makes it far more amusing than it should be.

What enhances the experience is the 3DS' camera, which records where you are and imprints that location for the game. For example, if you're playing the game in your house, it will be the real-time background for the assault! It's awesome pretending your home is under attack by an evil version of your psychologist, which is aided by constant explosions ripping holes into the space-time continuum. Dad, if you're reading're next!

An interesting feature is promised in the form of Street Pass, which is entwined with both the system and several of its games. Let's say you're at the mall and you have the mode turned on in your 3DS. Even if your system is closed, if you walk pass another user's 3DS, you'll receive some of their data. For example, you can acquire a Mii, a puzzle piece, or even a challenge in Street Fighter! Unfortunately, I haven't encountered anyone yet, so I'm planning on making a trip to the mall soon!

So...I guess I should mention the backwards capability on the system. That is, playing your old DS games on the new system. Complaints regarding blurriness of the screen and long load times have popped up, but it doesn't seem to be a big deal. I tested out Pokemon White on the system and while the character sprites are indeed blurred, I actually enjoy it more thanks to the wider screen and broader sound! god! Mario Kart DS! Fans of the game have to try it out on here, as the game looks way more crisp and runs at an incredible fluidity on the 3DS! I'm planning on trying out some other DS titles to see how they've handled the transition.

While I would like to do a full review of the 3DS, the absence of certain modes would leave it a little bare-boned. As such, I'll make up for this by penning a dual-review of Pilotwings Resort and Super Street Fighter IV at the end of this month. Look forward to it!!



A little shorter than I planned it to be, but I hope the dual review will make up for it! Expect Pokemon White in a few days.

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