Nintendo 3DS handheld games console (preview)

Nintendo's latest handheld will launch in Australia on March 31 for $350

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Nintendo Australia 3DS

Pros

  • We like the 3D slider, the 3D effect is fun and novel, it's a bit cheaper than we were expecting

Cons

  • The 3D effect isn't always great and only works when you're viewing the 3DS from the right angle

Bottom Line

Nintendo's 3DS is a solid upgrade from the previous model, with more powerful processing and the intriguing novelty of glasses-free 3D gaming. Unless you're a portable gaming tragic we don't see a pressing reason to upgrade from your existing DS, but new buyers should be well served by the 3DS's evolution and expanded games library.

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When we got the chance to play around with the Nintendo 3DS at its Australian launch, we had mixed thoughts about its 3D capabilities. It's the most advanced and most well-rounded product Nintendo's released to date, though, and we're sure it will sell like hotcakes. Delicious hotcakes.

Nintendo 3DS: Design

The Nintendo 3DS is a side-step of sorts from the massive-screened Nintendo DSi XL, but it's a definite upgrade from the slightly earlier DSi. The top screen is the only one that can show 3D — the bottom touchscreen quickly gets smudged with fingerprints, presumably sending your eyes crazy trying to work out 3D — and it's a whopping three and a half inches in size with a widescreen aspect ratio. This may seem small when it's up against a 60in 3D LED TV, but you're able to hold the 3DS right up to your face to see the 3D effects.

Otherwise, the Nintendo 3DS is functionally very similar to its predecessors. The two screen concept is surprisingly easy to grasp and the control layout is similar. There's a nifty new analog control stick — a hat-tip to the Nintendo 64 — which provides a much-needed degree of fine control to 3D games (we mean games with polygonal graphics, not the 3D effect), which we appreciated when playing a demo of Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. There's also a 3D camera setup on the back which takes 640x480-pixel 3D pictures, but you can only view them on the 3DS's screen.

Nintendo 3DS: 3D and 3D games

We played the Nintendo 3DS at arm's length and found the 3D effect added a bit of extra immersion, and the effect got stronger the closer we looked. It's blurry and indistinct unless you're looking at it straight on though, which makes gaming with a couple of friends out of the question. The 3D slider is an excellent touch, allowing players to tailor the effect to their tastes.

After downing a beer or two at the console's Australian launch, we had no problems viewing the 3D at full blast — it didn't make us queasy, and the effect itself was perfectly visible. 3D is a bit of a risky business in the first place, and Nintendo has warned off children under six from playing in 3D, but we think the vast majority of users will find it a pleasant novelty — as long as they're viewing the screen straight-on.

Thirty 3D titles at launch gives Nintendo 3DS purchasers an impressive repertoire to choose from, and we're sure developers will jump aboard the bandwagon quickly. The novelty effect will likely be used to gimmicky effect in some titles, but any number of games is a welcome addition to the already stellar back catalogue of DS and Gameboy Advance games (via Download Play, since the 3DS doesn't have a GBA slot). Augmented reality games are another nice extra.

Nintendo 3DS: Price and conclusion

The Nintendo 3DS will be selling in Australia on March 31 for $349, although it's pegged at $20 cheaper in most stores already. We were expecting Nintendo to sell it for around $400, so the price is fine with us. Sure, you can get it cheaper if you buy it from the US, but you'll be waiting a few days for it to ship and you'll only be able to play games from the US region. To be honest, the high price of games concerns us more than the price of the console.

We think the Nintendo 3DS is a good product — it's an impressively well-rounded gaming device. Our main concern, the 3D effect, can be dialled back or switched off completely. We're keen to get our hands on one and put it through plenty of gruelling 3D gaming tests soon.

In other news, I want hotcakes.

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