Nintendo 3DS Aqua Box

With the Australian release of the Nintendo 3DS on Thursday March 31st, Nintendo’s revolutionary new console has now completed its triumphant launch around the world. It started here at Zelda Informer with Matt’s review hot off the European release, and then Nate’s unboxing the 3DS video as it hit the States. As a follow up to my review of the 3DS from a preview event over a month ago, I’ve gotten quite acquainted with my little aqua beauty over the last 24 hours, so read on for my thoughts.

As I couldn’t make it to the midnight launch and had to wait until I’d finished classes before I could make my purchase – it was a long day. The radio on the bus in the morning rubbed in the fact that I didn’t have a 3DS yet, and the only thing that really got my attention in class that day was how many times the phrase ‘DS model’ was said. That’s the Demand-Supply model for you uneconomically trained, but of course, those initials mean so much more for us. Once the time finally came, this beast was hard to track down. For those without the security of pre-orders, the Nintendo 3DS is one that customers of all ages are lining up for. Some shops are already resorting to backorders.

Once I was finally home and unpacking the box, there were a number of treats to be found inside. As well as the expected charger, instruction books and whatnot, there is also what the box calls a ‘charging cradle’, which is more or less just a stand. I like to think of it as a podium for the 3DS to sit in honour – as it rightly deserves. With fan-boy worshipping now behind us, we can really get into things. Also in the box were the AR (Augmented Reality) Games cards which I’ll come back to in a bit.

Getting closer to the actual 3DS itself, I came across the new extendable and metal-finished stylus, which is now stored up back next to the game slot. Already inserted into the system is a complimentary 2GB SD card, which is absolutely fabulous (even more so than the show). It’s a boost to the memory for the console, and provides the immediate ability for those previously without SD cards, such as myself, to get audio and images onto their consoles – assuming your computer has an SD card slot which is a fairly standard feature these days.

And now for the console itself, it sure is a little beauty, to use the full meaning of the phrase. It’s especially little if you’ve been using a DSi XL, as it’s around the same size as the standard DSi, but packs in the goodness. Of course, it’s a beauty because of its lustrous shiny finish. Getting yet closer I was mostly satisfied. All of the classic DS’s interface button’s are here, along with the new thumb-pad, which as I said when I first trialled the console, is extremely comfortable. It allows for the ultimate 360 degree precision control, and is something that I hope to see implemented in future home consoles. That’s right, to replace the control stick – the time has finally come.

The new location of the Start and Select buttons is underneath the touch screen along with the new home button, which are welcomed changes. The touch screen is also of a higher resolution than in the past, so touch controls are even more accurate. It’s all fantastic. You can toggle wireless communications on and off as well. The volume is controlled by a slider, which is a downgrade from the DSi’s buttons in my opinion, but it barely matters.

For those who play on the go, there is the battery life concern, but the idea of the ‘charging cradle’ is that you charge him up every night so he’s all ready for the next day. Battery isn’t a concern in my opinion, so I don’t have much to say on that. As for the wireless connectivity and features – that is truly impressive. With sleep mode, this console is pretty much always connected. Friend lists, new notifications, updates, street pass and on and on. The social aspect is a striking feature of the 3DS, and is only likely to become increasingly impressive as new software is released.

3DS Charging Cradle

Now for the selling point – the 3D. With or without the 3D even on, the graphics are impressive. With it on, they are far beyond impressive. Even the crisply redesigned home menu pulls off some impressive 3D with just text and the basics. The slider is there for you to control the intensity of the 3D that suits you, and I’ve found that as a person with double-vision and long-sightedness, full 3D is too blurry. Around 70% intensity I’ve found to be my equilibrium. It is also true that extended amounts of play can make you a little whoosy, and it is blurry if you don’t hold it in the right spot. The feature is overall extremely impressive to hold in your own hands, so the little things don’t matter. I do wonder, however, if they are a novelty that will slowly ware off with time. Without continuously releasing software that drives the feature and makes full use of it, beyond just being in 3D, I fear that it will become taken for granted – a bit like movies. Time will tell, because the potential for so much more is there.

Moving on to the software that comes pre-installed on the console, there is a fair amount. The redesigned home menu allows for higher customization, and there’s even the ability to run some applications and games simultaneously. Features include a notepad for taking ‘game notes’, a friends list, notifications, more settings options than the DS, Download Play and an activity log which logs your steps (like a pedometer) as well as your playtime (sort of like on the Wii). The console itself contains manuals and the health and safety instructions, making the printed documentation even more useless then it usually is.

Both the sound and camera features of the DSi make a return, but with massive overhauls. For starters, the camera is 3D so taking pictures of some pretty standard stuff manages to be exciting. Who would have thought that seeing things on a screen like we see them in everyday life would be so amazing, but it is. Lemon trees, pets, even paperwork on a table has so much depth. Expect standard cameras to be all over this 3D image stuff pretty fast. 3DS sound also has heaps of tools to edit your recorded sounds or to play with your audio files, whether it’s removing lyrics, playing it backwards, changing the pitch, changing the tempo or heaps of other features. The best bit is that the 3DS takes MP3 files, not just AAC like the DSi did.

The rest of the pre-installed software manages to be quite addictive and time occupying. There’s the Mii Maker – which allows for the traditional design method, or using the camera you can quickly whip up a half-decent doppleganger of yourself. In the Street Pass Mii Plaza you can collect other people’s Miis, play a puzzle mini game, or a RPG based around rescuing your Mii. Both require collecting lots of Miis via street pass. QR Code is also really quite awesome, and something you should check out. It’s where you can convert your Mii to a boring looking black and white coded picture. You can then send this to friends who can take a picture of it with their console and like magic, your Mii is now on their 3DS. You can also quickly wirelessly port over your Miis from your Wii, but unfortunately you have to create a separate one to be your personal Mii, and can’t sync it with your one on the Wii. Not a major problem.

The two most notable pre-installed titles are the AR Games and Face Raiders. Face Raiders is a game where you take pictures of faces – your own and other people’s – and then have to shoot them down as they attack from all directions. You use the gyroscope feature to aim 360 degrees around you, as they destroy the walls of the room to get at you. If you’re one of those people who leans to try and see around the corner while playing Mario Kart Wii, then this is as close as you can actually get to succeeding at that endeavor. Unfortunately I haven’t yet come across anything that users the motion sensing controls. In the Augmented Reality Games you aim the camera at the Nintendo character cards which leads to a number of mini-games. One of them has you making Nintendo characters run around your table. Others have you shooting targets, catching fish and playing a hybrid of pool and mini-golf – all on your own table, or whatever it might be, distorted in the third dimension. Augmented Reality features in other games too, such as Nintendogs + Cats where you can bring your friends into the real world – well, kind of.

Augmented Reality Games

That’s it for the bundled software. The internet browser and shop are slated for a future update, however there is no sign of Pictochat – which brings a moment of sadness. The amazing features that the console can pull off without any of the launch titles are really tempting me to go out and get Pilotwings Resort and Nintendogs + Cats. It’s a shame that there is a bit of a wait before we start seeing games like Ocarina of Time and Kid Icarus that simply must be had. As is my case, none of the launch titles would usually appeal to me, so they aren’t worth the money of a student’s budget, meaning the 3DS might have to go unused for a while. Its backward compatibility will make sure it’s not completely neglected though. Also note future software’s possibilities to fully utilize the consoles features, like the camera. In the past DS games couldn’t do this because DS and DS Lite users would miss out, but now the playing field is equal. Also makes you wonder how long until we see a new version of the 3DS, if at all.

Another turn taken by Nintendo with 3DS is an environmentally friendly one, which is warmly welcomed. The game cases are less bulky, and with their ‘breathing holes’, use a lot less plastic to manufacture. Little things like this and everything else all come together to make an extremely impressive console. There are so many features, so many surprises and so much more that’s still to come. Just as I checked my 3DS now a new video update was available that was over a minute of natural visuals in full 3D. The splashing water was especially cool – which it really isn’t when you just read this. Lots of features are promised for the 3DS and this video nicely alluded to the many things to come.

Wrapping it all up, what I can say is that “wrapping up” the 3DS as a present for someone is probably one of the nicest things you could do right now. Even as a console alone – it’s just that good. With so much great software to come, it’s only going to get better for those with a 3DS as time rolls on. People can complain about the price being too high, but you’re paying for what you get. The ads say you have to see it to believe it, and once you’ve seen it, price isn’t an issue. The old clichĂ© says that money can’t buy happiness, but the Nintendo 3DS proves that money sure can buy things that make you happy. To say the 3DS is too expensive is to put a very small monetary value on your own happiness.

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