With the hoopla over the Nintendo 3DS dying down and the hard reality of the thing clear, it’s time to take stock and assess if the 3DS is right for you and/or your family. First off, I’ll say I’m a fan. It’s a wildly fascinating device and the 3D effects are amazing – when done correctly. I believe the 3DS has legs and will maintain sales at a steady clip over the next few years and I also think Nintendo has set a new level of interactivity and creativity in the creation of this new handheld. This isn’t just an upgraded DS, it’s a new handheld console.
Let’s go through a few reasons why the 3DS is worth picking up – and a few caveats before you buy.
1. It’s fun. The analog stick makes gaming much easier and it’s quite portable. StreetPass is clever and everything about it – from the AR system to the pedometer – adds to the mirth. It is a pure gaming device. There are no distractions, no bum notes. It’s a pure gaming experience.
2. It plays DS games. Everything about the 3DS is backwards compatible and, best of all, some older franchises may get 3D support over the next few months – although this does not mean that DS games will gain 3D features. However, because you can play DS games, all your old games will still work on the 3DS and you’ll be able to play the new 3DS games. Win-win!
3. You know that the 1st party games will be worth the price of admission. If the PSP had one fatal flaw it was a lack of “blockbuster” games. Sure, we can argue this point all day long (“But what about God of War?”) but you have to agree that Mario, Zelda, and Donkey Kong games will quickly change the 3DS from “Meh” to “YEEEAHHH!” the second Nintendo announces them.
4. The 3D is an amazing effect. Much has been said about the 3DS’ 3D effects and I’m here to tell you they are amazingly impressive. Sometimes they are, to be sure, a distraction from poor gameplay and graphics, most of the games I played wholly benefitted from a soupcon of 3D. 3D isn’t the 3DS’ defining feature but it’s definitely a strong draw.
5. The best is yet to come. The 3DS is changing and growing. Nintendo invested a lot in its handheld line and 3DS is just a first step along a new format. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next few years brought a flood of phone-based copycats and at least one copycat from a major game OEM, including Sony. It’s fairly primitive now, but this is where 3D is headed and it’s brave of Nintendo to take that first step.
1. The (non-professional) jury is still out on 3D’s health effects. When I spoke to an ophthalmologist for my original review he noted that there is no way to damage your eyes permanently by looking at the 3DS’ screen. That’s all well and good, but in today’s litigious and hysterical parenting atmosphere, we are sure to find a few screamers claiming that the 3DS struck their little Rupert blind. If you’re worried, don’t get the 3DS for your kids. It’s as simple as that.
2. Launch titles are a bit weak. Except for PilotWings, I’d say the 3DS launch titles are surprisingly weak. I was most disappointed with Ray Man 3D, a romp through a 3D world done absolutely wrong.
3. Bundles may make the 3DS more compelling this summer. There is some talk of a new Mario title as well as a bundled 3DS/game package coming in June, around E3. It may pay to wait until then to pick up the console.
4. Apple is taking over the “casual gaming” space. My kids are definitely better at Cut The Rope and Angry Birds than they are at Legend of Zelda. They’re familiar with the iOS interface and they love playing one off games with my iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. I worry that all this iGear in the home could overshadow the value of a standalone Nintendo device.
5. The PSP 2 is coming soon. Sony is planning multiple improvements to the PSP 2 and rolling them out over the next few months. The yet unnamed “next generation” portable will be much flashier than the 3DS and will play many of Sony’s well-known Playstation games with graphics that are said to be staggeringly impressive. What does that mean to the 3DS? Not much, but it should give hardcore gamers a bit of a pause. The 3DS is, arguably, sorely underpowered. With 128MB of RAM, it won’t be able to hold a candle to what Sony has up its sleeve.
The Bottom Line
As I noted in my review, the 3DS is an impressive piece of hardware and a very exciting improvement to the world of Nintendo and to handheld gaming. Is it worth picking up if you’re a Nintendo fan? Absolutely. Is it worth picking up if you’re a gamer? Potentially. Is is worth picking up if you’re looking for a quick game of Crush The Castle on the train? Probably not. But it’s definitely worth looking into just to understand the future of gaming and the future of 3D.