I have been trying for over a week now to figure out the right words to describe the experience of the 3DS, previewed at the Nintendo E3 press conference. Anyone who has talked to me since that event knows that it has been a difficult task. The problem arises because the instant I start talking about it, I start getting excited all over again and end up tripping on my words. As you can imagine, this makes it difficult to describe.
In short: The Nintendo 3DS is simply an amazing device, and will change portable gaming forever.
The 3DS’s primary display is a 3.5″ widescreen with 3D capabilities. The standard touch-sensitive bottom display is in place, along with the expected user-facing camera and controls. The 3DS also adds a “slide pad” which can be used to control objects in 3D space.
The real kicker about the screen on the 3DS is that it does not require 3D glasses to experience the effect. Let me state that again so we are sure I am 100% clear on this: You do not need 3D glasses to use a 3DS. One more time, in case this hasn’t sunk in yet: NO GLASSES.
At first, I was a bit skeptical. I have seen a lot of technology promises that turn out to be rather flat. Most of the time, the promises are qualified with a *, which leads to a long disclaimer that essentially negates the promise while not breaching any legal boundaries.
I was pleasantly surprised when I first got my hands on the device to take a look. Now, when I say “pleasantly surprised”, I should probably clarify that I actually mean “dumbstruck, and only able to utter ‘Oh, wow’ under my breath for several minutes”. It’s right there in front of your face, 3D images without glasses. 3D images as good or better than you would expect from a 3D movie, but in a handheld device.
The demo at the press conference was limited to a display of a few 3D models and action sequences. The actual Nintendo booth on the show floor, however, had several stations with different games and software to check out. The most impressive of these was a 3D augmented-reality game that showcased the power of the little device. Additionally, a 3D trailer of an upcoming Disney movie (a take off of the Rapunzel fairy tale, titled ‘Tangled’) was on display. Nintendo has announced partnerships with several studios to have 3D movies available for the 3DS sometime after launch.
Nintendo is currently trickling out news of 3DS exclusive releases, but it is difficult to say when anything will be available, as they have not yet announced a release date for the device. By the look of the number of units on hand for E3, we can probably expect a release sometime later this year, or early 2011.
Finally, I thought it would be nice to just give a rundown of the vital specifications:
Main Screen: 3.5″ widescreen LCD. Total resolution of 800×240, effective resolution of 400×240 (400 pixels for each eye). The main screen also has a slider to adjust the depth of the 3D effect, which can also be turned off completely.
Camera(s): 1 user-facing 640×480. 2 outward-facing 640×480 (capable of shooting 3D images).
Communications: 802.11 (b/g/n not specified) with WPA/WPA2 capabilities. Also able to make peer connections with other 3DS devices, presumably able to create mesh networks. Able to maintain wireless connections while in sleep mode.
Standard controls: Lower touch screen, A/B/X/Y buttons, DPAD, L/R buttons, Start/Select buttons.
Additional controls: “Slide Pad”, motion sensor, gyro sensor (allows detection of movement in 3D space), 3D depth slider.