Friday, 25 March 2011

Nintendo 3DS Review: Why This Could Really Be The Best Handheld Console Ever...

"The 3DS is so awesome, it just blows your mind..." 
[Mini Gamers Blog Reader]

First Impressions:

From the minute that we removed the new 3DS console from its box here at Mini Gamers HQ, it was clear that we were holding something pretty special. Its bright metallic finish means that the Nintendo 3DS console is sleeker than any of the previous Nintendo handhelds, which just adds to its immediate sense of excellence.

Nevertheless, it is only when the console is switched on for the first time that you get to see how brilliant it truly is. The old adage of "It has to be seen to be believed" definitely applies to the 3DS. From the moment we calibrated the 3D sensors, we couldn't believe our eyes - the upper screen just seemed to burst into life.

Each of the menus included in the console contained some amazing floating icons, which served as our first introduction to the three-dimensional world of the 3DS. We were really impressed with what we saw, and we had not even tried any software yet!

The Mii Maker Studio and Mii Plaza:

One of the first things Mini Gamers did after inputting the basic settings, was to create our very own Mii characters. We opted to use the 3D camera to help us construct a reasonable likeness and then added a few minor tweaks. The 3D camera function definitely proved easier than creating a Mii from scratch like in the old days of the Wii and Nintendo DSi. It only took moments to create a good (and very lifelike) Mii.

Once our Mii characters were created, we decided to examine the Mii Plaza. This was similar to the Nintendo Wii's Mii Plaza, but with some noticeable differences - in the 3DS version, we were offered the chance to use the new StreetPass function to scan for other players Miis, and we were also allowed to try out a Mii Plaza Mini Game, in which we hunted for puzzle pieces that would eventually create a 3D picture.

The idea is that the more players we connect with while out-and-about with the 3DS, the more Miis we can collect, and the more puzzle pieces we will find. The mini games help to  give the 3DS Mii Plaza an extra sense of enjoyment which sadly seemed to be lacking in the original Wii version, and besides, the games are really great fun to try.

Face Raiders:

Face Raiders was next on our list of 3DS preloaded software to investigate. This preloaded mini game had some intial problems: It took a long time before the 3DS camera was able to accurately detect a face in Face Raiders (mostly to do with low lighting conditions at the time,) which was a little bit frustrating.

Nevertheless, once we had snapped an acceptable picture, our chosen face was placed in a 3D vikings helmet and went darting around on the screen, this was so funny that we forgot our earlier frustrations and really started to enjoy the game.

For those of you who haven't experienced this zany bit of software for yourselves yet, Face Raiders turns your chosen face into a fast-paced intergalactic enemy. You must move the 3DS around and shoot at the spinning and darting heads in order to gain points. There is even a chance to face-off against 'Boss' heads in order to progress to the next level.

The 3D heads have a variety of attacks to use against players, including throwing heavy items, firing laser blasts and even trying to kiss you to death! Players can follow the cartoon indicator to locate the direction of new heads on screen, but they tend to disappear and re-appear very quickly, so players have to be fast in order to defeat them all.

The on-screen health meter goes down further with each successful attack. If it reaches the end before all enemies are defeated, then the player loses the game and must replay the level from scratch. If you are successful however, your chosen head gets placed in the 'rescued faces' section and can be re-selected at any time.

Face Raiders can only be described a totally crazy game, but it is a lot of fun if you have a few minutes to spare and it is also a good test of the 3D graphic capabilities of the new console.

 AR Cards:

The AR Cards, and the six mini games included on them, posed a similar difficulty to the Face Raiders game in that it took a while to position the card in the correct place and with the correct lighting conditions in order for the card to be detected by the 3DS.

As some of the games involved moving the 3DS around, the console's ability to detect the AR card was sometimes lost during the mini games as well, which proved to be quite annoying overall and interrupted gameplay. Nevertheless, once we had located an area with an adequately flat surface and good lighting, we were able to play the first mini game, which was target shooting on a Desert island.

The AR graphics were breathtaking. It was amazing to watch this compact little box unfold to reveal a 3D tropical island complete with four shooting targets to aim for. The actual game proved quite difficult to master at first as it was difficult to spot all the target boards, but after a few practise goes, it did begin to get easier to lock on and shoot each target in turn.

Each of the AR games has to be completed with a successful score in order for another game to be unlocked. The AR character cards (such as Mario, Link, Kirby etc) are used to create 3D model characters that players can interact with in some of the games.

If you have a 3DS console, but have been too busy playing one of the 3DS launch title games to really bother with the AR cards for the time being, then you really are in for a treat. The Augmented Reality Games software was one of our favourite features of the 3DS console overall.

Launch Game Software:

After testing the pre-installed software, Mini Gamers thought it was finally time to examine some of the 3DS launch title software. We chose The Sims 3 (3D) and Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. We won't go into too much details about the games themselves at this point, as we don't want to spoil the surprise for other gamers, nevertheless, it is true that the graphics on both games was absolutely stunning.

Furthermore, both games seemed to utilise the 3DS features and effects in slightly different ways to create two very interesting games. The Sims 3 (3D) had vastly improved graphics from the original DS version. Sims now look much more lifelike and there is a real sense of depth and space when moving between rooms in your chosen house. Furthermore, objects appear more solid than in previous handheld versions.

The internal 3D camera can also be used to 'morph' a 3D image of their own face onto the Sims 3 avatar, supposedly making it easier to create lookalike Sims than ever before. We tried to do this. However, the result was not entirely accurate and we still had to do quite a few facial tweaks to get a reasonable lookalike. Nevertheless, it was all part of the fun and we were delighted with the final results.

Lego Star Wars III on the 3DS was equally impressive. The landscape really had depth. The desert rocks looked so real in the opening scenes that we felt we could reach into the console and touch them! Even the traditional scrolling text, which we have seen in the Star Wars Films and other Lego Star Wars games looks fantastic in 3D.

The overall game appears to be sharper and brighter than in the other titles in the series. Characters seem to be much more detailed and the cutscenes are almost movie-quality to watch. The 3D enviroments make it even easier to become immersed in the action than ever before.

Obviously, the 3DS launch games will all respond differently to the 3D effects, but if these games are anything to go by, then gamers are truly in for a treat over the coming months.

The 3D Depth Slider:

A lot has been written about the 3D Depth Slider recently. As Mini Gamers discovered earlier this month, some games respond differently when the 3D effects are set to maximum, which can lead to distorted images and poor gameplay. In our hands-on with the 3DS we found that most of the software features worked best with the depth-slider set to the halfway point.

Most of the pre-installed software graphics were unclear when the slider was on full, and some of the game images also started to 'ghost' - an unwanted effect which is known to cause headaches and dizziness if viewed for too long without correction. 

Battery Life and Charging:

According to the 3DS instruction manual, the 3DS takes about 3 and a half hours to charge, but in our experience it only took around two hours to complete its first full charge.

The battery has a lifespan of 3-5 hours with all the settings on maximum, but this can be increased by setting the screen brightness to minimum and lowering the 3D Depth Slider. Setting the Power Save settings to ON can also help to increase the battery life.

The 3DS Charging Cradle (pictured above) is very handy when trying to charge the console. it also makes it easier to continue gaming whilst charging and is a good way to save battery power when the console is in Sleep Mode.


It is very difficult to describe the amazing 3D effects of the Nintendo 3DS console to anyone who has not experienced it for themselves, but we were truly impressed with what we have seen of the console so far.

The pre-installed software is enough to keep most people entertained for a few hours at least, and when you consider the wide range of launch titles on offer in the shops at the moment, it is certain that the 3DS is going to remain popular for a long time to come.

Having seen the console in action, Mini Gamers is in no doubt that the 3DS is currently the best handheld console to date, and could quite possibly be the best handheld console ever produced ever... If you are a handheld gamer then the 3DS is a must-buy. You won't believe your eyes! Overall rating: 10/10.

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