The Shell

Aesthetically, the 3DS is quite a sexy little machine. It comes in a sleek Cosmic Black or Aqua Blue skin, and with all of the features of the DSi: an outer camera (two of them this time!), an inner camera, + D-pad, A, B, X, Y, L, and R buttons, plus Start and Select buttons. Start & Select have moved down below the Touch Screen alongside a new Home button. Also new to the hardware is the Circle Pad analog stick. It offers full 360-degree analog controls like those of Nintendo’s home consoles since N64. We see the two screens of the previous DS return – with a 10% wider top screen. On the side we’ll see the return of the SD card slot – and the 3DS comes with a 2GB card for you to use for data storage.

Beneath the surface there’s a gyro sensor as well as a motion sensor, so some games may use shake controls and we’ve already seen a couple (Ocarina of Time and the brand-new Face Shooter key among them) with tilt control.

3D Features and Graphics

Nintendo 3DS is the first-ever handheld game console to feature support for stereoscopic 3D – and it does this without the need for specially-made 3D glasses. Players can switch the 3D effect on or off with a 3D Depth Slider, as well as adjust the “3D volume” to suit their eyes’ needs. The 3DS is touted as the only device in existence that offers this feature – other 3D products don’t offer a whole range of 3D intensity. 3D is not a required feature – developers can choose to make games that don’t use 3D effects at all should they choose. Only the top screen uses 3D effects; the Touch Screen on the bottom is simply a more advanced version of the previous DS’s trademark hardware feature.

The 3DS comes with two cameras built into its outer shell that, when aligned carefully, can even take 3D photographs! It’s another unique feature that hasn’t been available before for general consumers.

The 3DS promises to have the most advanced graphics hardware to hit a Nintendo handheld ever by far – 800×240 resolution for the top screen, 320×240 for the Touch Screen. With processing power on the same level as Wii, it’s no surprise. Check out the screenshot of Resident Evil below for proof of just how great software can look on 3DS. And all this plus the 3D visuals!

Nintendo’s got remakes of a couple classic N64 titles in the works: Ocarina of Time and StarFox 64. The before-and-after comparison really shows how far things have come since the 90s, and even since the original DS.

Preloaded Software

It all starts from a Home menu that takes cues from both the DSi and the Wii, complete with channel-like applications such as a Mii Creator – with updated features including one that lets you transform photo portraits into Mii doppelgangers – an e-shop after that of the Virtual Console and DSiWare shops that will feature recreated GameBoy and GameBoy Advance games, a series of “AR Card” games making use of a set of Augmented Reality cards that the 3DS’s external cameras can interact with, as well as a Web browser. Pretty much everything else follows straight from software available on the DSi.

The 3DS also features full backwards compatibility with DS and DSi software, so you don’t have to worry about trading in your old brick or Lite. Obviously they won’t have 3D support, but I doubt anyone cares that much.

Wireless Connectivity Features

New to the 3DS in terms of wireless are StreetPass and SpotPass. StreetPass is an upgraded version of the DS’s local wireless that allows your 3DS to communicate with other 3DS users as you pass them on the street – hence the name. It can do things like exchange Miis, tell other people what you’re playing, and some software will even make use of the feature to unlock bonus content. And you don’t even have to be using your handheld for this feature to work – if you choose it can communicate via StreetPass while in Sleep mode.

SpotPass works in a similar way. As you enter wi-fi hotspots, your 3DS can automatically download system updates, new features, and so on – and it can also do this in Sleep mode. Some preloaded software will require updates post-launch to function fully, so that’ll be a great opportunity to see SpotPass work its magic.

Of course, we’ll still have the same local and global wireless features the original DS offered. Thankfully, Nintendo has simplified the Friend Code process for 3DS – you only have to register your Friend Code once, and there’ll be no software-specific codes, just a single hardware code. Code-exchanging occurs automatically during local wireless play, so you don’t even have to lift a finger.

Battery Life

The 3DS is reported to last for about 3-5 hours while playing 3DS software (although it’s unknown how this relates to screen brightness and 3D intensity), while standard DS games can keep it going from 6-8 hours. The 3DS will come with an AC adapter as well as a wireless charging cradle – the latter of which seems to exist to alleviate the short battery lifespan. This may not seem like much, but you kids shouldn’t be playing games continuously for that long anyway.

The Launch

In Western territories, the 3DS will launch just before the end of Nintendo’s fiscal year: March 27 in America and March 25 in Europe. That’s just one year after we learned of the system’s existence in the first place, at a small press conference last March. The U.S. will see a MSRP of $249.99, while European retailers have limited freedom to set their own prices. So far we’ve seen prices ranging from £229.99 to £299.99. This makes the 3DS the most expensive Nintendo handheld to date – and it’s tied with the Wii as far as all Nintendo hardware goes.

Is it worth it? It certainly sounds like it, but only time will tell. So far there’s only a limited launch lineup – more games than the original DS, to be sure, but the most-wanted games like Zelda, Kid Icarus, and others haven’t got solid release dates as of now. Check out the games due during the launch window below:

Nintendo: Pilotwings Resort, Steel Diver, Nintendogs + Cats

Ubisoft: Rayman 3D, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D, Asphalt 3D, Rabbids 3D, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes, Driver Renegade

Temco Koei: Dead or Alive Dimensions, Samurai Warriors Chronicles

Capcom: Super Street Fighter 4, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries

Altus: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked

Square-Enix: Bust-a-Move Universe

EA/Sports: Madden NFL Football 2011, The Sims 3

Konami: Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D

LucasArts: LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars

Sega: Super Monkey Ball 3D, Crush 3D, Thor: God of Thunder

Namco Bandai: Ridge Racer 3D, Dual Pen Sports

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