Nintendo 3DS review: Is the latest version of Nintendo's handheld games console worth buying?
- Solid build, 3D effect is fun (if not revolutionary), some neat little incentives to take it out and about
- Nintendo is still stuck in the '90s when it comes to online connectivity and socialising
Ultimately the quality of a console is the sum of its games. The Nintendo 3DS has all the potential in the world to do as well as the DS, but some irritating flaws have not been remedied.
Price$ 348.00 (AUD)
The Nintendo 3DS is not a revolutionary console, but with a sturdy design and a 3D effect that does indeed work, it's a gadget that will no doubt be hugely successful.
Out of the box, the 3DS feels study, and it is actually heavier than the previous Nintendo DSi model. This works to its favour — the DSi often felt like a toy, and the right and left shoulder buttons were prone to breaking. We'd be surprised if the 3DS suffers similar problems.
The buttons inside the console feel study, too, and click nicely as you tap them. The console features the same basic layout as the previous Nintendo DS hardware, with the obvious inclusions of a circle slide pad and a 'Home' button at the bottom of the second screen.
The circle pad is really comfortable, and it's great that Nintendo has finally woken up to the value of analog controls in handheld consoles. The downside to this is the traditional D-pad has been relegated to a very awkward position at the bottom of the frame. For those games that do control better with it (including many DS games, which the 3DS is backwards compatible with), it's a problem.
The Home button brings up the main hub of applications and games — even when you're in the middle of the game. This is something we're used to by now on the home consoles, but being able to check which friends are online, surf the Internet for FAQs and hints, and make notes without actually quitting the game is a nice development for handheld consoles.
Yet in other ways, the 3DS is remarkably backwards. Friend codes return. It's now just one friend code per console, rather than per game, which is more manageable but not as intuitive as simply trading screen names with friends.
And, once you have traded friend codes with someone there's very little you can actually do with them. You can check when they're online, and see what game they're playing, but otherwise communication is restricted to extremely short status messages. That's right: There are no game invites and no messaging. It's limited and frustrating, and unless some games down the track find some workarounds (none of the launch titles do), your 3DS friends list is going to be all but useless.
One nice little feature is StreetPass. In short it lets you trade Mii (your personal avatar) data with people that pass nearby you as you walk around. The 3DS just needs to be in sleep mode for this to work, so you'll pop the 3DS in your bag or pocket, head out for the day, and when you get back home you'll have made some new friends.
Those "friends" can help you complete a couple of minigames preinstalled on the 3DS hardware itself, and depending on which games you've got, can give you extra in-game goodies, ghost data to compete against in racing games, or characters to fight.
Unfortunately the feature was designed with Japan in mind, where large numbers of people tend to congregate in concentrated areas. In a city like Sydney, we're not sure how many 3DS owners you'll pass by on a regular basis.
The 3DS also features a pedometer which rewards steps with 3DS coins — a virtual currency that can be used for more in-game unlocks and rewards. It's more encouragement to get out and be active with the console, but you'll only need to walk 1000 steps to earn your maximum daily allotment of coins, and while it may sound like a lot, that's little more than a wander down to the local corner shop.
I've deliberately avoided mentioning the 3D top screen until the end of this review, because if we're being completely honest, it doesn't do a whole lot to add to the games the 3DS plays. It's a nice bit of visual magic, but the games still play like they would on anything else. It's also worth noting that the 3D technology is somewhat limited — the effect reaches into the screen nicely, but fails completely at 'popping' out at you.
That means that certain cut scenes where objects are heading towards you need to be edited to cut to the next scene quicker than they would otherwise. I'm sure as developers become accustomed to that limitation, it will be worked around, but for now some games feature cut scenes that look distinctly amateur.
It's also worth noting that for a console that's meant to be taken out and about, the battery life of about three hours (on optimal settings) is unforgivable.
So the 3DS is a mass of contradictions. It's a nice console with spectacular presentation and the upgrade in power will be something that DS developers will love to sink their teeth into, but Nintendo's failure to create a robust online and social experience will be an opportunity I don't anticipate Sony's NGP will miss out on.
Become a fan of GoodGearGuide on Facebook
Follow GoodGearGuide on Twitter: @GoodGearGuide
Stay up to date with the latest reviews. Sign up to GoodGearGuide’s Gear Daily newsletters
Join the newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 ASUS TUF FX505 (Ryzen 7) review: Tolerable trade-offs
- 2 Oppo A5Xs review: Cutting corners
- 3 Garmin Fenix 5 fitness tracker smartwatch review
- 4 Panasonic Blu-ray recorder PVR set-top box review
- 5 Xiro Drone Xplorer V by Rapoo review
Latest News Articles
- PAX Australia, PAX West and EGX are teaming up for 9-day online event
- Razer buff stereo headphones to surround sound with new THX Spatial Audio app
- PAX Australia 2020 postponed into 2021
- Bungie tease the next three Destiny expansions
- Fans score refund after ACCC complaint over Fallout 76
PCW Evaluation Team
This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.
It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.
As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.
The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.
This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.
Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications
- Sonos Arc review: The Main Event
- Soundbars: Why they’re worth it and which one should you buy
- Buying a laptop this EOFY? Here's a cheat sheet
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies